Thursday, December 22, 2011

As promised - Homemade Mix Recipes

Why buy it when it's so easy (and healthier) to make it from scratch?

This is my largest mix recipe.  If you don't want a gallon of it, I suggest you scale down the recipe!

8 Cups powdered milk
6 Cups corn starch
1-1-2 Cups powdered chicken or vegetable bouillon (or 64 bouillon cubes that have been pulverized - I use my Magic Bullet and it works great)
8 TBSP onion granules
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
3 tsp ground black pepper

Mix well and store in airtight container.  To use:  Combine 1/3 Cup mix with 1-1/4 Cups or cold water.  Put in pan and whisk while heating until it thickens.  Soup will be thick as if it just came out of a can (thus the 'condensed' part of the name). At this point, just use it as you would use a can of condensed soup.  You can also add ingredients to make flavored soups.  The first time I made this, I sauteed some celery and added it to the soup with some milk and it was delicious cream of celery soup.  Other times I have added mushrooms, chicken, or nothing if I was just using it in "Special Chicken".  Some people call it "crock pot chicken", let me know if you want the recipe.  It's my kids' favorite meal, and it's super easy to make!

Time saving tip: I write the name of the mix along with the usage directions right on the jar - either on the lid or on a label on the side.  Yes, masking tape does make a pretty good label!

4 TBSP chili powder
4 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP ground cumin
2 TBSP coarse sea salt
1 TBSP ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp granulated onion
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (this is for mild taco seasoning, add more if you like it HOT)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp granulated sugar

Mix well (I whirl it in my Magic Bullet) and store in airtight container.  To use:  Add 2 TBSP plus 1/2 Cup water per pound of cooked meat and simmer until water evaporates.

Money saving tip:  To stretch ground beef, turkey, etc. -  Reconstitute 1/2 Cup TVP in hot beef or chicken broth and add it to the meat.  Just make sure to add a little more taco seasoning, too.  I have been doing this for years in tacos and spaghetti, and my kids don't even know!

5 TBSP garlic powder
5 TBSP granulated onion
5 TBSP granulated sugar
5 TBSP dried parsley
3-1/2 TBSP coarse sea salt
3 TBSP dried oregano
5 tsp lemon pepper
5 tsp dried basil
1-1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp celery SALT

Mix well and store in airtight container.  To use in recipes:  2 TBSP equals 1 packet of store bought mix.  To make zesty Italian dressing:  Combine 2 TBSP mix with 1/4 Cup vinegar, 2/3 Cup vegetable oil, and 2 TBSP water.  Shake well.

This is my smallest mix recipe.  I find that it works better to make this in individual batches, so I either make it as-needed, or I make up several batches, each in their own small zipper baggie.  If you like the old "Uncle Dan's Southern" mix, you will like this.

1 TBSP dried parsley
1 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp MSG
1/8 tsp garlic powder

To use as dressing:  Add mix to 1 Cup mayonnaise and 1 Cup milk or buttermilk.  Mix well.
To use as dip:  Add mix to 1 Cup mayonnaise and 1 Cup sour cream. Mix well.

5 Cups all purpose flour
2 Cups powdered milk
1/2 Cup cornstarch
13 pulverized chicken bouillon cubes
1-1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp cracked black pepper

Mix well and store in airtight container.  To use:  Combine 1/3 Cup mix with 2 Cups milk or cold water.  Put in pan and whisk while heating until it thickens.  This is good on mashed potatoes (and chicken fried steak - yum!) or add cooked sausage and serve this over biscuits (also yum!).

This is basically the same as my country gravy mix, but without the spices.  Use it in place of a roux when starting a white sauce.  I love it for bechamel, cheese sauce (think: macaroni and cheese), and Alfredo sauce, especially.

5 Cups all purpose flour
2 Cups powdered milk
1/2 Cup cornstarch

Mix well and store in airtight container.  To use:  Combine 1/3 Cup mix with 2 Cups milk or cold water.  Put in pan and whisk while heating until it thickens.  Add salt, pepper, and other spices to taste.


7.5 Cups all purpose flour
3/4 Cup vegetable shortening
1/4 Cup baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar

Combine all ingredients until shortening is completely incorporated.  You can use a pastry cutter, but I find that it's faster and easier to just use clean hands (take off your jewelry first!).  You'll know you're done when you can't feel any shortening and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it into a ball.  Store in airtight container.  To use:  use in place of store bought biscuit mix (ie: Bisquick) in any recipe.

I have more recipes, but they are on my old computer.  If you want them, let me know and I'll pull 'em up and do another post.


What I've been up to lately - Saving Money!

I have a blog.  I do not update my blog very often.  Why not?  I guess it's because I live a modest life and don't think people would be interested in reading about my day to day activities.  Once in a while something big will happen and I'll think "I should blog about that".  Then, if I happen to have some kid-free time to blog while Tom is taking a rare break from playing Words With Friends, viola!  A new blog post is born.  This is one of those times.

This post is about money, or the lack thereof, and how I have dealt with this challenge in the area of feeding my large-ish family.

First:  Where has all the money gone?  It's not just that the price of food has been steadily rising while package sizes have been shrinking.  There have been extra considerations in our house this year.  For instance, we put Em in full-day Kindergarten this year.  She is doing great and loving it, but it's been hard on the budget.  Between yet-another-pay-cut from Tom's job and Em's almost $300.00 per month tuition, well, did I mention it's been hard on the budget?

Second:  I am a stay at home mom.  I do not want to be a working mom (been there, done that!), and luckily at this time I do not have to work.  I am grateful for that and I don't want you to think I am complaining about our trials.  We have a good life and are very rich in other ways, just not the cold, hard cash rolling in dough way.  That being said, I do my best to stretch the money as far as possible, and that is what I have been up to lately.  My most recent discoveries?  Bountiful Baskets (see previous post), Smith Brothers Dairy, and homemade mixes.

Smith Brothers Dairy:  During the Summer I signed up for home milk delivery from Smith Brothers Dairy.  Their milk is hormone free and not ultra-pasteurized, and somehow it just tastes SO much better!  The downside to this it that it is more expensive than buying milk at the grocery store.  The unexpected upside?  Between all the fresh fruits and veggies we get from our Bountiful Basket (, Baking my own bread and having our milk delivered weekly, I have found that I hardly EVER go to the grocery store anymore!  We are also eating a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables these days than we ever did before.  Healthy!

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Having expensive milk delivered is saving me lots of money!  I spend approximately $45.00 per week on fruits, veggies, bread, and dairy products (6 gallons of milk per week).  I scour the weekly grocery ads for meat sales, and only go to the grocery store when there's a screaming good deal (like IQF BS chicken breasts for $1.49/lb at Safeway today), and then I stock up, because we eat meat just about every day around here.

Every couple of months we make a Costco run for essentials (flour, rice, pasta, etc.), but for the most part, I have cut my grocery budget to about $250.00 per month.  I don't really know what other families of 7 spend on food, but there is a show on the Food Network called "$10.00 Dinners", where the host promises you can feed your family of 4 a delicious and healthy meal for only 10 bucks.  I think this is funny, because I could feed my larger family dinner every night for $10.00, but then they wouldn't get breakfast or lunch!  

Homemade Mixes:  To combat this, I have been developing "mix recipes".  I already had some good recipes for things like ranch dressing and onion soup mix, but I wanted to be able to replace all the store bought mixes that I like to use in my cooking (taco seasoning, zesty Italian dressing mix, country gravy mix, etc.) as well as the canned condensed soups that have gotten so expensive over the last few years (cream of - you name it!). I have spent a lot of trial-and-error hours working on these over the last few months, and now I think I have finally perfected the recipes (at least for our tastes).  I will share the recipes with you in my next post, and if you are looking for ways to stretch your grocery dollars, I hope you will find them helpful.  Also, if you have any money saving recipes you'd like to share with me, I'd love to try them!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bountiful Baskets: Here at last

You may have heard of Bountiful Baskets food co-op before.  I first learned about it last year from my good friend Dani Dooley.  At that time, the closest pick up was in Lacey, WA.  That was a little too far away to make it worthwhile for me.  Recently, another friend started up a branch in our town.  I was so excited that I signed up immediately.  

It works like this:  You sign up for a free account on the website:, then follow the directions to place an order for your town on Monday or Tuesday.  The co-op then pools the money (about $15 per basket) to buy (mostly) local fruits and veggies, then volunteers (sometimes you) distribute them to other co-op members at a designated place and time.

I think this is a wonderful program.  The savings are substantial, and we think it's exciting to see what shows up in our basket each week.  Here's what we got this week:

2 apple-pears
7 large bananas
2# broccoli
1-1/2# carrots
7 ears white corn
4 red bell peppers
1 head of green leaf lettuce
3# new potatoes
7 limes
7 gala apples
2# red seedless grapes
7 large red plums
1 pomegranate

If I were to buy this basket of groceries at the supermarket, in season and on super sale, I would have paid approximately $25.00.  The food is fresh, the savings are great, and I like the idea that there are always things in the basket that are not on my standard list.  Since I refuse to let anything go to waste, I am forced to try new things and expand my family's fresh food palette.

Check the website to see if it has come to a town near you.  I think you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


After 21 long months of waiting, we are happy to announce that we finalized the adoptions of Emily and Michael on May 20, 2011.

It was a beautiful sunny Friday morning when we headed to the Pierce County Juvenile and Family Court House and joined with members of my family to await our turn to see the judge.  Since there were so many people there that we got lucky and were picked to go first.  It was a fascinating and exciting experience to be told that we were now the parents of these two precious children of God.

The very next day, we gathered Tom's family and many of our friends and headed up to Bellevue to have Emily and Michael sealed to our family in the Seattle LDS Temple.  It was a nice day, and we were so fortunate to be able to share both experiences with so many of our loved ones.

We are so happy to finally be a "real" family.  Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate with us and everyone who helped us get to this point in our lives.  We are very blessed!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Talk in my pocket

Yesterday I was asked to give a talk at a baptism about the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The person being baptized was a 10 year old girl that my daughter has recently become friends with.  I felt a little panicky because I only had about an hour to prepare and I didn't know what I was going to do!  I ran home from church at 4pm and prepared the talk, then got back to the church at 5pm, right when the baptism began.

After the baptism, several people asked me for copies of my talk, so I'm going to post it here.  Being the internet scavenger that I am, some of these ideas came from there, some came from my experience, but mostly they came from what I could find around the house on short notice!

I got permission from those attending to sit down so I could be on the same level with the baptizee, because I wanted her to feel like I was really talking to her about the Holy Ghost and not just giving a "talk".  I started by congratulating her on making the decision to be baptized and how great it must feel, etc.  Then I told her that some people compare the Holy Ghost to the sun, because he can be in one place but his influence can be felt everywhere, he illuminates things for us, and comforts us with his warmth, but I prefer to compare him to the wind, because you can't see the wind, but you can hear it and feel it.  Sometimes it's soft, sometimes it's strong.  Sometimes it's gentle and sometimes very persistent.  You can't see it but you can see the results of it's influence (like the roads of Lakewood after a storm), etc.  Then I said that the Holy Ghost is often called a "gift", because it is something Heavenly Father gives us to make our lives better, etc.  I then presented her with a "gift", a box wrapped up and tied with ribbon.  When she opened the box, I asked her to take out the items one at a time so I could explain why I gave each item to her and how it relates to the Holy Ghost.  I also put a copy of the list in the box for her to refer to later on and be reminded of all the things the Holy Ghost can do.

The Holy Ghost can:
  • Speak to you in a still, small voice so only you can hear.  (Q-tip, or wax lips)
  • Warn you of danger.  (Lighthouse or lifesavers)
  • Have healing power in your life.  (Band-Aid or a pill bottle filled with skittles)
  • Remind you of right from wrong, good from evil, truth from lies.  (Ribbon or string tied around your finger)
  • The Holy Ghost can cleanse and sanctify you through repentance.  (Soap or hand sanitizer)
  • It will inspire you and light your path as you go through life and help you understand sacred things.  (Candle or flashlight)
  • He can teach you.  (Ruler)
  • Guide your footsteps back to Heavenly Father.  (socks or footprints)
  • He can strengthen your hold to the iron rod.  (Glue)
  • Let you know in your heart that God lives and that he loves you.  (Heart)
  • He can help you understand spiritual things (Scripture Bookmark)
  • And finally, the Holy Ghost can testify of Jesus Christ.  That Jesus died for us so that we might gain eternal life.  (Picture of Jesus)
I finished by bearing my testimony of how the Holy Ghost has helped me in my own life.

There you go, I hope you can use it if you are ever called upon to give this talk for a child, not sure it would have the same impact for adults.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Today is Easter and boy, am I tired!  I enjoy Easter, and all the other "kid holidays", but it seems that the more kids I have the longer it takes me to prepare and the less sleep I get leading up to the happy day.  This year I procrastinated making the girls' dresses until just a few days ago, so that was my own fault, but also its hard to find free time to sew with everything else that's going on around here, so maybe I'll blame it on the big family after all......

These are my Easter girls.  Since we are adopting E. and M. next month, I asked the girls if it would be OK if I made their dresses white this year so that they could also use them when we go to the temple to be sealed.  They thought that was a great idea, so I let them pick out the fabric and patterns and made colorful sashes and also white ones for temple day.  You can't see it in this picture, but they have big bows on the back that are very pretty, just like my girls!

This was the 8th Easter dress I have made for H., but only the 1st for E., since she wasn't always with us.  Is it strange that I am sad for the dresses I didn't get to make for her before?  Anyway, now I can make her all the pretty dresses she wants, and believe me, she loves to wear pretty dresses!

I missed going to my Mom's house for Easter this year, it is always good to get together with my family and catch up while sharing the holiday, but most of the kids are grown up now and Mom is very busy, so we went to Tom's parents house instead where we had a very nice Easter dinner and family birthday party.  Between H., E., M., J.B., P., and B., there are plenty of little kids there to celebrate with!