Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up #4

It's time again for Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up. :) Last week we had many wonderful recipes shared, and I am looking forward to another week with lots of inspiring recipe posts!

This week my recipe post is a simple side dish- Oven Roasted Jo Jo's with and easy Homemade Aioli dipping sauce. This side dish goes with many meals and adds a lot of "comfort" factor to any meal they are served with!

I am looking forward to reading all of your wonderful posts!

April's Homemaking


    An InLinkz Link-up

Oven Roasted Herbed Jo Jo's with Homemade Garlic Aioli

This week we all had a great spring vacation, and spent a few days at the coast in Seaside, Oregon. I will share more about our mini beach vacation later this week. I thought I would share a very yummy side dish that I made earlier in the week. Oven roasted herbed Jo Jo's with a delicious easy to make homemade garlic aioli.

 Making your own oven roasted potatoes is easy. First cut your potatoes into wedges, for average sized potatoes I usually cut them into 8 wedges. Put them into a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over them to thinly coat ( I was a little heavy handed this time), then shake in some Italian herb blend (add to taste and according to how many potatoes you are cooking), toss until all potatoes are coated in oil and the herbs have been somewhat evenly distributed. Then transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Once they are spread out into a layer on the baking sheet give them a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, I like to go easy on the salt, you can always add more later. Bake at 450 F. for around 45 minutes to an hour, until they are cooked through and golden brown, check them and turn them a few times while cooking.

Here they are, all roasted up and ready for dinner. I served these along side some steamed and herbed chicken and broccoli, with freshly made garlic aioli dipping sauce.

I love garlic aioli, and have enjoyed it in restaurants with various dishes, I had always wondered how to make my own, it turns out the recipe is very simple. Mix one cup of mayonnaise with two freshly pressed cloves of garlic, roughly 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a bit more lemon juice if you need to thin the sauce a bit. Stir until the ingredients are all incorporated, then chill for around an hour. We all enjoyed this sauce, and knowing how easy it is I have a feeling it will make regular appearances around our meals!

Here is another batch of garlic aioli I made up today for lunch.

My family loves roasted potatoes, the flavor is wonderful and they make a wonderful side dish to many different dinner, as well as a nice lunch side dish. 

I am hosting week 4 of my new link-up party, Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up, I hope you stop by and check out all of the wonderful recipe and meal planning ideas that everyone shares, as well as link up any of your recent recipe posts! I hope everyone had a nice weekend!

April's Homemaking

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up #3

This week the kids are finally off for spring break. We all enjoy a little time off for much needed rest and relaxation. I am looking forward to spending more time with the whole family, and hopefully spend some time on a family outing or two.

Last week we had another wonderful Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up, lots of wonderful ideas were shared. I am looking forward to another great week, and being inspired by the wonderful recipes you all share!

This week I made a yummy pasta dish, Smoked Sausage, Mushroom, and Kale Alfredo, it was delicious. I love kale it is one of my newer favorite things to cook with, and mushrooms are always welcome in our house. This was a nice easy dish that everyone loved!

April's Homemaking


    An InLinkz Link-up

Smoked Sausage, mushroom, and Kale Alfredo

This week I made a delicious pasta dish, Smoked Sausage, Mushroom and Kale Alfredo. This was an easy dish to make, and the smoked sausage added a nice earthy smoked flavor to the Alfredo that paired really nicely with the mushrooms and kale.

I started with the three main ingredients, fully cooked smoked sausage (I chose a nice Angus beef variety), mushrooms, and kale. I cleaned and quartered the mushrooms, cut the sausage into coins then cut those in quarters, then cleaned and tore up the kale in to bite sized pieces, removing the stem. Meanwhile I was also began heating up water in a large pan to cook my pasta.

In a large skillet I drizzled a small amount of olive oil, and melted a third of a stick of butter over medium high heat, and began by sauteing the mushrooms (they take the longest), I also added a clove of minced garlic to the mushrooms as well as a little thyme.  I also added the pasta to the boiling water to get it cooking, I wanted to use orecchiette pasta, but our grocery store doesn't carry it so I used another sturdy looking pasta, you could also use a penne pasta.  When the mushrooms were cooked down, and looking cooked through and browned, I added the smoked sausage, and cooked that until it began to lightly brown and heat through. Lastly, I added the kale, I wanted to steam it down, so I added a ladle of the pasta water into the skillet to help steam it down. I continued cooking until the kale was softened, but not overcooked, and the sausage was browned to my liking.

Then is was time to make the alfredo sauce, which is very easy.  I added a cup of heavy cream right into the skillet with the mushrooms, kale and sausage. Then gave it a stir to incorporate everything, then I added a cup of shredded parmesan cheese, and stirred until the cheese was completely melted into the sauce. I added fresh ground sea salt and pepper to taste.

Then drain the pasta and add it right into the skillet with everything else, and toss until everything is combined (I have a nice large skillet, if yours is too small you could always toss it together in a bowl or large pan). Then serve it up. I also topped this with a very light sprinkling of shredded parmesan.

This was a perfect mid-week meal, everyone loved it, and this recipe made a lot, we had enough for lunch the next day. I served the pasta with a nice bunch of grapes for lunch and it was just as good as the night before.

I will definitely be serving this meal again, as well as experimenting with other veggie and meat combos!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Please make sure and stop by Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up tomorrow morning and share your recipe posts. :)

April's Homemaking

Friday, March 21, 2014

Layered Pudding Cupcake Parfaits and St. Patrick's Day Potato Planting

This past Monday we had a very fun St. Patrick's Day celebration. We celebrated with friends, had a nice dinner and a fun St. Patrick's Day potato planting ceremony. We finished out the day watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People and enjoyed delicious layered pudding cupcake parfaits.

Our potato planting ceremony was fun, the kids were good sports with my goofy idea. :) I have always liked to plant potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, many years it is just too rainy and I have to wait a week or so, but this year there were nice sun breaks, so I decide to have a little fun with our planting. I had ordered some dirt from Ireland to sprinkle in with our potatoes, which we grow in potato grow bags. The kids each took some of the seed potatoes and planted them in the grow bags, then we all got a handful of Irish dirt and gave each bag of potatoes a sprinkle. It was silly fun and I hope we have a nice mini crop of Red Pontiac potatoes!

Then to add to the fun and goofiness of the event, I brought out our little leprechaun, the kids picked this out years ago when we saw it while shopping, it sings and twirls it's shillelagh. So we ended our ceremony with a concert from our little leprechaun. :)

Our St. Patrick's Day dessert was easy and delicious. I knew I wanted to make a layered cupcake of some sort in my jelly jars, so I came cup with this fun combination.

I started by baking a batch of devil's food cake cupcakes, making sure to not overfill the cupcake papers so the cupcakes wouldn't be too wide to fit in the jelly jars (the cupcakes that were too big I did trim down a bit). When the cupcakes were cooled I chose twelve and sliced each one in half. Then I made a whole pint worth of whipped cream, using heavy cream and a few tablespoons of sugar, and green food coloring, and beating on high until it was a nice green bunch of fresh whipped cream. Last, I mixed up two large boxes of chocolate Jello-O instant chocolate pudding and was ready to assemble the parfaits.

I filled each jelly jar with a layer of chocolate pudding, then half of a cupcake, then I piped in a layer of whipped cream (I put the whipped cream in a gallon sized freezer bag and cut off the bottom corner to use as a piping bag), then added another layer of pudding, then the top half of the cupcake, and topped it with whipped cream, and a sprinkle of green sugar. They looked wonderful and were delicious! What a fun way to have a cupcake! I will definitely be making these again, and I look forward to trying different flavor combinations for different holidays!

So that was our fun St. Patrick's Day, a fun celebration with family and friends!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up #2

Last Monday was the first week of my new linky party, Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up, and I was so happy with all of the wonderful recipe posts that were shared. I am really looking forward to another week of reading through all of your delicious recipes!

This week I made a delicious Easy Crockpot Swiss Steak, I love old fashioned classic recipes like this, the whole family really enjoyed it.

Today I am busy in the kitchen preparing our St. Patrick's day feast. Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes, Irish Soda Bread, and a yummy dessert I hope to share with you later this week. I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick's Day.

Looking forward to another fun link-up!

April's Homemaking


    An InLinkz Link-up

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Easy Crockpot Swiss Steak

Yesterday I made a delicious and easy dinner in my trusty crockpot. My grandma used to make us Swiss steak for dinner when I was growing up, I hadn't made it myself in years, but the other day as I was picking out some value cuts of beef that were on bargain prices, I saw a nice tray of inexpensive steaks, and knew they would be perfect for Swiss Steak. My grandma cooked Swiss Steak on the stove top, in a deep skillet, but I thought I would use my crockpot and let it cook all day. Here is my easy recipe.

Easy Crockpot Swiss Steak

A value pack of inexpensive steaks, like chuck or round, enough for the whole family and maybe a couple for left overs
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Salt and Pepper
1 clove of garlic
3 cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes 14.5 oz cans
1 bag or frozen sliced peppers
a little olive oil
2 medium onions halved and thinly sliced sliced

In a skillet drizzle a little bit of olive oil, and brown the steaks over high to medium high heat, season steaks with salt and pepper and Lawry's to your liking, brown on both sides and edges if the steaks are thicker. When steaks are removed, add one cup to a cup and a half of water to deglaze the pan, reserve liquid for crockpot. I cooked the steaks in two batches, deglazing after the last batch was done browning.

In your crockpot pour one can of diced tomatoes in the bottom of crockpot, add a layer of steaks, then pour half of a can of tomatoes on top of the steaks, then layer one of the thinly sliced onions on top of that, then the rest of the second can of tomatoes, then the rest of the steaks, topped with the last can of tomatoes and the last medium onion thinly sliced, this way the flavors are layered throughout the crockpot. Then pour the reserved liquid from the frying pan over all of that, which will give it enough liquid to really get cooking as well as add in that delicious flavor.

These were the fire roasted tomatoes I used, one of my new favorite pantry essentials!

Cook on high for around four hours, then add a little salt and pepper as well as a crushed, minced clove of garlic (I use my garlic press), and add the bag of frozen bell pepper strips. I love using frozen bell pepper strips, I try to always have them in my freezer for Italian sausage rolls and any dish needing bell peppers, it is a time saver, and that way they are always on hand when I need them.

Definitely a great item for the freezer!

After adding the bell peppers and garlic let the Swiss steak cook for an additional two hours, until the peppers are cooked through, and the meat is almost falling apart tender. Before serving prepare a pot of rice with enough servings for everyone. I make rice often, and find my rice steamer one of my most favorite kitchen helpers, I have had mine for nearly 5 years, and should probably pick up another one to have as backup because it is my favorite way to make rice, my rice cooker was an inexpensive one made by Oster, and it has worked wonderfully all this time. Just add rice and water and shut the lid and turn it on, and it will let you know when it is done, and keep it warm while you get ready to serve dinner. ( I am partial to Golden Star Jasmine Rice, much better than your standard white rice, we buy it by the 20 pound bag, and it is well worth the price)

Serve the steak over rice, and top with the tomatoes, onions, and peppers, and a nice spoonful of delicious broth. Wonderful and classic dinner, everyone loved it!

Join me tomorrow morning for Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up bring some of your favorite recipe posts and join my linky party, lots of wonderful recipes were shared last week!

April's Homemaking

You may also want to stop by and check out my post St. Patrick's Day Round-Up post to get inspired for Monday's St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Round Up

I am looking forward to St. Patrick's Day on Monday, St. Patrick's Day is a favorite holiday around here. We love our delicious Corned Beef Dinner with all the fixin's and whatever fun green dessert I plan each year. Today I put out all of our little St. Patrick's figures in the dining room bookcase.

In addition to all of the leprechaun's ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with us, I have purchased some very special dirt all the way from Ireland. I plan to add some to our potato patch that we will be planting on St. Patrick's Day.

Here are links to some of my past St. Patrick's posts, this one includes a link to my favorite Irish Soda Bread Recipe.

This post includes the recipe for my yummy green Easy Lime Jello Cake that I made last year, and some delicious Corned Beef Hash I made with left over corned beef.

And this is a post I wrote a few years back about all of our favorite St. Patrick's Day children's books, which we all still love even though my children are now practically adults!

Time for us all to pick out our green outfit for Monday!

I would also like to say thank you to everyone who joined me for my new link-up party this past week, Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up, what wonderful recipes everyone shared! If you haven't had a chance to look though some of the recipes that were shared, I would encourage you to check them out, lots of wonderful ideas to help you plan your meals! I will be hosting Meal Planning Monday again this Monday I hope you come by and share some of your favorite recipe posts. :)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up

I am excited to start my very first link-up party! I love finding wonderful recipes and ideas for meal planning when I am reading through blogs, and I enjoy sharing my own recipes here at April's Homemaking. I am looking forward to hosting Meal Planning Monday Recipe Link-Up!

This past week my favorite meal was a delicious and hearty soup. My whole family loves soup, so I try to make a nice pot of soup as often as possible. This week's soup was a Beef, Kale and Mushroom Soup, and I loved the addition of the Kale, definitely something I am going to add to my soups more often. Here is my recipe.

Beef, Kale, and Mushroom Soup

Beef Broth (either homemade or a good boxed variety)
a pound of beef stew meat
1 bunch chopped celery
1 large chopped onion
1/2 bag of frozen crinkle cut carrots
1-2 cartons fresh slices white mushrooms
1 bunch cleaned and chopped Kale (stems and harder ribs removed)
salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste
Worcestershire sauce
a little olive oil for browning meat
1 box Acini di Pepe small round soup pasta, or Orzo

In a large soup pot, add a little olive oil to the bottom of the pan, and brown the stew meat, until it has a nice brown color, then add beef broth (I used half of the beef broth I had made from boiling beef bones you can read how to make that through a link to my Beef Stock Post, and supplemented it with a box of beef broth, if you don't have any homemade beef stock or broth on hand use two boxes of beef broth), and add two cups of water, a chopped large onion, and some sea salt, fresh ground pepper and about a tablespoon if Italian Herb blend. Bring soup to a low boil, then reduce heat to a medium simmer, and cook with lid partially on for an hour or two, until meat is soft enough to cut apart. Remove meat with a slotted spoon, and cut into small bite size pieces, and return to the pot to continue cooking. Stew meat requires a good amount of cooking time to soften up, and my soups usually cook on the stove for at least four hours, if you want to save time you could use left over beef from a pot roast or left over round steaks that have already been cooked and chopped, but cooking the meat in the soup will add a nice amount of flavor. Once your meat is back in the soup pot in bite sized pieces, add the chopped celery, crinkle cut carrots, and washed sliced mushrooms. Check the flavor of the soup, add a little more salt, pepper, and Italian herbs to taste, as well as a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. Continue cooking on a medium simmer until all veggies are cooked through, check frequently to adjust heat and stir, if the soup liquid is evaporating add a little more water as needed. Mushrooms can take a bit of time to cook, another time saver if you are in a hurry is to pre-saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil until they are cooked down, and then add them to the soup. When your veggies are cooked to your liking, and the meat is tender, check the seasoning of your soup, I usually add seasoning at the beginning, middle, and end of the soup. The last veggie I added was my cleaned and chopped Kale, this cooks down rather quickly so I add it last, let it cook until it is cooked through.

When your soup is just about ready, cook up the soup pasta in a separate pot. I loved the little Pepe round soup pasta in this soup (see below) , most often I use Orzo pasta in soup, which we all love too. Cook pasta until tender, and drain, and serve in a bowl along side the soup. Scoop in a serving of soup pasta in to your soup bowl, then ladle soup on top, this way the noodles don't get soggy, and everyone can take as much or little as they desire in their soup. Serve with fresh crusty french or sourdough bread.

Soup is always a welcome meal in my home, and I always feel happy to feed my family all the good veggies that are in soup!

What did you cook up this week? I would love to read your favorite recipe post, new or old. :)

April's Homemaking

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Homemade BBQ Sauce

This week at the grocery store I found a wonderful deal on pork shoulder, so I bought a couple, one for the freezer and one to cook this week.  I decided to make pulled pork sandwiches, and try my hand and making BBQ sauce from scratch for the first time. Everything turned out great, so I thought I'd share the recipe.

I got started on the pork nice and early in the morning, and had it in the crock pot by 8:00 am. I put the pork in the crock pot with about a cup of water and a can of cherry cola, I also gave it a little sprinkle of garlic powder, not much just a few pinches. I let the pork cook all day, I kept it on high for the first six hours then turned it down to low until dinner time.

During the day I made the coleslaw, I love BBQ dishes with coleslaw. It's better to make the coleslaw in advance so it has time to chill and let the flavors bloom. I shared my apple slaw this past fall, which would also be good with this meal, but I decided to make classic coleslaw.

Classic Coleslaw Recipe

1 bag shredded Coleslaw mix
1/2 an onion finely chopped
1 cup mayo
3 T sugar
1/8 cup milk
2-3 teaspoons white vinegar (apple cider vinegar also tastes great)
dash of sea salt
pepper to taste

First I combine the coleslaw mix and onion in a bowl and set it aside. In a smaller bowl I combine the rest of the ingredients except the pepper and whisk them together until combined. Usually it needs a little tweaking, perhaps a bit more sugar or vinegar, if it is too thick another splash of milk. The sauce should be sweet with a kick of vinegar, when the sauce is too your liking, pour it over the coleslaw and stir until combined, then add freshly ground black pepper to your taste, I like a medium amount, some people like more or less, my children like their coleslaw more mild, so I tend to go easier on the pepper. Stir until combined, then cover and chill.

About an hour and a half before dinner I started the BBQ sauce. This was my first attempt at making my own from scratch and it turned out yummy, so I will definitely be making it again and experimenting with different flavors. Here's how I made my BBQ Sauce.

BBQ Sauce Recipe-

2 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 table spoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke (more to taste)
1/8 cup yellow mustard (more to taste)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder (more to taste)
1 teaspoon onion powder (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup cherry cola

I combined all ingredients except the cherry cola in a sauce pan and mixed together over medium heat, when the sauce came to a very low boil I turned it down to simmer. After all the spices were combined I added the cherry cola and stirred that in until combined. I had quite a few tasting spoons nearby and added a bit more of what I thought it needed until it was just right. This was a mild sauce, nice and sweet with a little bite, my family likes things mild, but you could kick this up a notch with a couple dashes of hot sauce if desired. I definitely added a bit more garlic and onion powder and a little more mustard and molasses, it is important to taste as you go and adjust flavors as needed. If it gets too thick you could add a splash more cherry cola. Cook over low heat for around an hour, stirring frequently. I kept the sauce warm to serve it over the pork, but it could be cooled and saved for later.

When the pork was done I removed it from the crock pot with tongs and a large slotted spoon, into a roasting pan. I removed the bone and fat, then using two forks shredded the pork. I covered it with foil and prepared the buns- I gave the buns a light coating of softened butter and browned them on a flat griddle pan until they were a nice golden brown. Then it was time for dinner.

I served it assembly line, buffet style. Grab a bun, top it with shredded pork, top with sauce, then either top it with coleslaw, which is the way I love it, or serve the slaw on the side. Since BBQ pork and coleslaw is a filling meal all by itself, I served it with a simple side of grapes, fruit salad would also be good.

Slaw on the top, or slaw on the side, both delicious options!

I had plenty of left over pulled pork, it made delicious left-overs mixed with BBQ sauce thinned out a bit with some added soy sauce and more cola, along with plenty of sauteed onions, served over steamed jasmine rice. Sauteed bell peppers would be nice with this meal as well, and as I was eating the left overs I thought roasted pineapple chunks would be a really nice flavor addition as well. All around a great bargain cut of meat, it fed two adults and four teenagers two full dinners, as well as multiple lunches. We will definitely be having this meal again throughout the spring and summer.