Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello 2012!


For many years I resisted the whole "New Year's Resolutions" thing, probably just because I'm stubborn like that. But lately, I've seen beauty in making year-long plans. Here are a few of mine for the coming year. They also qualify as prayer requests, and it'll be fun to look back and see what God has done at the end of 2012. 
  1. Read the Bible through again. I think I'd like to read portions of the OT and NT each day, and I'd love to add some daily journaling/written prayers to that.
  2. Have some babies! The hubby and I are turning in paper work for adoption very soon, and oh, how I would love to meet that child this year! (or children, I'm just saying.)
  3. Do something a tiny bit funky: Maybe get a new earring and a strip of red hair??
  4. Go on a trip (cost efficiently, of course) with my two roomies from college. It's been too long, girls, it's time for some major re-connecting and a lot of girl FUN!
  5. Have more dates with my older kiddos. I would really love to take each of them out on a special date at least twice this year. I spend a lot of time with the youngest while the oldest two are at their tutorial (4 days a week, 3 hours a day), but I rarely take just the oldest or just the boy out.
  6. Write and publish a children’s book: Who Loves You the Most? to raise money for adoption. More details coming soon.
  7. Have a huge yard sale/bake sale/craft sale to raise money for adoption.
  8. Follow some of those healthy suggestions that are floating around out there (see Pinterest!) Eat fewer sweets, work out at least twice a week at the Y and maybe make a walking date with a friend? Watch portions, sleep well, make a big deal out of sitting down with my family to eat.
  9. Honor the hubby. I'm usually going goo goo over him (he's very, handsome!) and all that, but I know he feels less than honored when I have a hard time believing his "I love you's." 
  10. Worry less, rejoice more. Complain less, give thanks more. Say yes more than I say no. Enjoy my children. Laugh more. Basically I'm calling for more sanctification here, Lord!
So those are a few of my New Year's prayer requests/plans for what it's worth. 
Have a wonderful 2012!
"Then the Lord said..."Now you will see what I will do..." Exodus 6:1

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Zucchini Recipes

One last "Best of" Recipe List:
So this week's obsession is zucchini. Probably because summer is coming and I love vegetable stands and great prices on in season veggies...or maybe just because I found a lot of zucchini recipes this week that are calling my name. Either way, here are ten mouth watering recipes that all center around that famous herbaceous plant.
1. Summer Garden Pasta Zucchini turns pasta into a side dish extraordinaire!
2. Sweet Potato Zucchini Bites Healthy + yummy + sweet = AMAZING!
3. Zucchini Tomato Pie Where has this summer staple been all my life? I'll certainly be "tweaking" this recipe soon--maybe adding some chopped ham?
4.  Zucchini-Olive Couscous This zucchini recipe has the added bonus of being something my family will actually eat without having to be coerced! They will eat anything with green olives!
5. Zucchini, Mushroom, and Ricotta Salad Okay, so the fam wouldn't touch this one, but yum, does it sound good to me!! Maybe I'll have to have a girlfriend over as an excuse to make it. : )
6. Zucchini Grinders Part veggie lasagna, part sandwich and all yummy!
7. Apple Zucchini Squares These are pure genius! And you've gotta go read the first comment in which the blogger's hubby gives them a five star rating. (and I think that's pretty sweet!)
8. Squash and Zucchini Casserole Plain and simple gets my vote every time!
9. Picnic Zucchini Bean Salad Beans=protein, so this one could be a whole meal, don't you think?
10. Chocolate Zucchini Cake What better way to end a list of ten on Of Such is the Kingdom than a chocolate cake?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: Fall Freshen Up

Looking back at this post is reminding me that I really want to "freshen up" the porch for each season. Maybe you'll see another post like this decorated for winter in January.

It's nothing really super exciting, just moving around some porch furniture, buying a few pumpkins ($6 for 3 at Aldi!) and spending $13 at Michaels for some silk leaves, foam pumpkins, and silk flowers. But I feel for once like our porch actually reflects our family's love for the season!

Best of 2011: Chocolate Cake

I need to write an ode to chocolate cake! Oh, how I love thee!
If you've read any of my Top 10 Recipe Posts, then you probably know that I love chocolate cake. So today's Top 10 will be ENTIRELY made up of the wonderful, the chocolatey, and most of all the cake!
Recently a friend suggested the Hershey's Kitchens site to me. How could I have missed this? On doing a little bit of exploring, I discovered that they have 100's (maybe even 1000s!) of chocolate cake recipes! Wow! I think it's my dream website!
Here are ten of those hundreds that I can't wait to try.
1. Deep Dark Chocolate Cake--this is a classic, moist dark chocolate cake. The recipe calls for buttercream frosting, but I might serve it with vanilla ice cream and thisDeep Dark Fudge topping.
2. Lavish Chocolate Cake--This one calls for both a mousse filling and a ganache and features raspberries. Yum!
3. One Bowl Chocolate Cake--Yeah for easy chocolate cake recipes! This one features an orange frosting. I might try it with that, or go for that buttercream frosting from the Deep Dark Cake above.
4. Celebration Chocolate Cake--With sour cream in the recipe, this one promises to be very moist! It definitely makes me want to celebrate!
5. Chocolate Swirl Cake--This one is a little bit lighter on the chocolate side (hey, even I can understand that some people need a slight break from heavy chocolate every once in a while!) but is heavy on the wow factor.
6. Passover Chocolate Banana Cake--Yes, this might just be a healthy chocolate cake! It looks like snack to me!
7. Black Magic Cake--Here's a little coffee for those coffee lovers out there; I'm not a huge coffee person, but I do love the name!
8. Festive Chocolate Mint Dessert--This one isn't technically listed as a cake, but we've got to get the mint in there, don't we? I LOVE chocolate and mint together, and this dessert looks heavenly!
9. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes--I don't think I have much to say about these except a resounding, "Yum!"
10. Mocha Molten Chocolate Cake--This one fits my highest chocolate cake requirements: lots of chocolate and served warm.
So serve a little chocolate cake, and have a great week!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: 9 Dates Wedding Gift


Give dates as a wedding gift!
Give all nine or break them up for smaller gifts. 
(Or perhaps just go out and buy some of this stuff for yourself!)
From the top:
1. Mix-it-up Drink Date
2. Movie and Popcorn Date
3. Play a Game Date
4. S'more Lovin' Date
5. It's in the Cards Date
6. Candlelit Dinner Date
7. You're My Sugar Rush Date
8. Spa Date
9. Let's Go to the Park Date
I wrapped all of mine and plopped them in one of those large plastic (ice) bins. 
At $3-10 a date, this made a nice gift for some close friends. Any combination of these dates could be used depending on how much you would like to spend.
Happy gift-giving!

Best of 2011: Food Remixing

I was a bit proud of this idea, so this is a favorite post I would pick as well:

Food Remixing Repost

Here's a post first shown on Of Such is the Kingdom on Feb. 22, 2011and worth reposting. Maybe it'll simplify summer cooking for you!

Have any of you been keeping up with the new movement in the fashion world called "remixing"? It's actually a trendy bringing back of the very old idea of mixing up your clothes. This blogger is the queen of remixing and is sponsoring a "30 for 30" challenge right now. If you take the challenge, you can only wear a carefully chosen 30 items of clothing (and shoes) for 30 days. Pretty interesting, right?
Well, last night I got to thinking. This is exactly the way I cook! I get hooked on about 30 items and use them over and over in different ways. So, today's post will show you how to do that. Here are 30 main ingredients that will make you at least 30 (3 x top ten!) different meals.
Along with baked or grilled meat with a starch and vegetable on the side, this is what I cook for my family. Here's how to make this remixing chart work for you:
1. Choose a meat, a starch, and a veggie.
2. Decide on presentation: casserole, pie, cold salad, etc.
3. Decide on a topping (opt.)
4. Start mixing.
Chicken and rice with cream sauce and frozen peas is what we had for dinner last night (and it got rave reviews from everyone.) 
*Try mixing ham, pasta, cheese sauce and broccoli and baking for 20 minutes for another yummy casserole. 
*Mix tuna and chopped boiled eggs with mayo for a cold salad. 
*Saute chopped, cooked pork (or chicken or ham) with cooked rice, peas and carrots, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce for a yummy stir fried rice. 
Get the idea? I've never thought of it this way before, but this is basically all I do to feed our family for the 300 or so nights that I cook each year!
*Cream/cheese sauce. Melt 2T butter over medium heat in sauce pan, add 2T flour and whisk until just brown. Add 2C of milk and stir constantly until thickened. Add 2 bullion cubes and stir until dissolved. For cream sauce, reduce milk to 1 1/2 cups and add 2/3 cup mozzarella. For cheese sauce, add 2C of sharp cheddar. I make mine like this because I'm lactose intolerant and I can use soy milk instead of regular milk. If I weren't lactose intolerant, I might make my own or I might cheat and use cream soup!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011: Top Ten Frugal Meals

Including a grocery made this list stand out a bit from other lists of foods:

Top Ten Frugal Meals

I'm going to try something a little different today for my top ten recipes. I'm giving you a grocery list (with approximate prices) to go with ten very frugal meals. This list will include everything, but most of you will have many of these very simple ingredients already.
To make
1. Cheeseburger Pie Make your own pie crust.
2. Sloppy Joe Buns just fill buns with 1 lb. ground meat mixed with sloppy joe sauce. 
3. Whole chicken  (cover with oil and italian seasoning, bake for about 3 hours until juices run clear)biscuits, and broccoli. Pick all leftover chicken off bones and reserve for chicken soup.

4. Pancakes and Sausage
5. Mac and Cheese with ground turkey and broccoli
           Boil 1 box elbow macaroni according to directions. Melt 2 T butter in sauce pot. Add 2 T AP flour and whisk. Cook on medium just until brown. Whisk in 2 cups milk. Stir until beginning to thicken. Add 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until all cheese is melted. Mix cooked macaroni, cheese sauce, 1 lb. cooked ground meat and 1 1/2 cupped cooked and chopped frozen broccoli. Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
6. Homemade pizza Use this recipe for the crust. Bakeat 425 degrees for about 10 minutes. Take out of oven and spread pizza sauce, 1 bag of mozzarella cheese and pepperonis. Bake until cheese is melted.
7. Grits Casserole
8. Chicken Soup Put 1  cup uncooked rice, leftover chicken, bag of mixed veg, italian spices, and bullion to taste in a pot with about 8 cups of water. Cook until rice is done and vegetables are tender. Serve with leftover biscuits or saltine crackers.
9. Black Beans Burritos--substitute regular rice and make your own flour tortillas
10. Lentil Soup--cook lentils according to package directions. Add 5 chopped carrots, 2 chopped potatoes, and chicken bullion to taste.
For these ten recipes you will need:
2 lbs. ground turkey (about $2)
1 lb. ground beef (about $3)
       (when you get home from grocery store, cook all 3 lbs. ground meat together. Put in three    separate baggies. So each bag will have 2/3 ground turkey and 1/3 ground beef.)
1 whole chicken (around $4.50)
2 lbs. ground sausage (about $4)
1 bag pepperonis (about $2)
1 bag lentils (about $2)
1 can black beans (about $1)
1 can yellow corn (about $.75)
1 can tomato sauce (about $.50)
1 jar pizza sauce (about $1)
1 box of saltine crackers (about $2)
1 bag rice (about $2)
1 jar chicken bullion cubes (about $3)
1 can sloppy joe sauce (about $1.50)
italian seasoning (about $1)
dry mustard powder (about $2)
canola oil (about $2)
worcestershire sauce (about $2)
1 box elbow macaroni (about $1)
1 huge bag frozen broccoli (about $5)
2 bags frozen vegetables (for sides, about $2)
1 bag frozen mixed veg-carrots, peas, and corn (about $1)
1 deep dish pie crust (about $1)
1 bag carrots (about $1)
2 large potatoes (about $2)
onion soup mix (about $2)
1 green pepper (about $1)
3 8oz. bags of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 8 oz. bag of mozzarella
and 1 8 oz. bag of mexican blend cheese (got these for $1.25/bag at BiLo=$6.25)
1 5 lb. bag AP flour (about $2)
1 5 lb. bag whole wheat flour (about $3)
1 small tub vegetable shortening (about $3)
1 small bag of white corn grits (about $2)
1 bag light brown sugar (about $2)
1 container baking powder ($1)
3 envelopes rapid rise yeast ($4)
1 gallon milk (about $4)
1 dozen eggs (about $2)
1 box butter (about $3)
1 jar salsa (about $3)
sour cream/yogurt (for black bean burritos) (about $2)
Total $89.50--- So if you have absolutely none of these in your pantry, you could fix these 10 meals (and have lots of the supplies left over) for under $90! And if you use coupons and shop deals, I'm sure you could even cut this total down by $15 or $20!

Best of 2011: Cake Balls and Meatball Soup

This one is really cheating because it was originally posted in 2010, but I think it got more views when I reposted it!

Cake Balls and Meatball Soup

I have been wanting to try these since a friend made these for her boys' birthday party, so when we needed a treat to make the oldest's birthday special at school, we dove right in. And I do mean that literally. The fun thing about cake balls is that you really get to use your hands! The oldest really enjoyed helping!
Step 1: Bake a cake mix according to directions and allow to cool. 
Step 2: Dump that cake into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a whole container of icing.
We used a strawberry cake mix and a strawberry icing.
During this process I caught myself complaining that the little flakes in the strawberry cake mix were actually strawberry candy and had absolutely no nutritional value. Then, abashedly, I realized these cake balls are for fun and are not meant to be anywhere near healthy!!

 Step 3: Form icing and cake mix into small balls (an inch or inch and a half in diameter).
Step 4: Place cake balls in freezer for an hour or more to harden. 
Believe me, you don't want to leave this step out! I couldn't figure out why my cake balls were falling apart, so I called the friend I mentioned above. She soon set me straight, and the frozen cake balls were much easier to work with!
 Step 5: Melt chocolate chips on the stove top according to the directions on the bag. Place cake balls into chocolate and gently roll with a spoon. Scoop out of chocolate, place on wax paper or foil. Stick a lollipop stick into the top and sprinkle (if desired) with colored sprinkles.
There are tons of variations for these out there; I can imagine these as a big hit at any party!
And as for real food this week, how about a little meatball soup? (I guess I'm in to eating round items this week!) I put this together with some corn muffins last night for a great rainy day meal:
Meatball Soup
1 pound turkey
2 t Italian seasoning
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
Mix ingredients for meatballs, form balls and brown on the stove.
1 gallon water
2 cans diced Italian seasoning tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
6 beef bullion cubes
8 oz. elbow pasta
3 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen corn
Bring water and next 3 ingredients to a boil. Add carrots and meatballs. After 3 minutes add elbow pasta. After 3 more minutes add frozen corn. Quickly bring back to a boil. Simmer all ingredients for another 10 to 20 minutes.
For the rest of the week we'll be having leftovers, homemade pizza, zucchini bread, green beans and baked chicken, and taco salad.
Have fun and enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Specific Carbohydrate Recipes

This week I'll be reposting some reader favorites of 2011. I'll let the page hits do the voting...
First (by a mile) is this post on Specific Carbohydrate Recipes. Re-enjoy!

10 Basic Specific Carbohydrate Diet Recipes

A friend of mine recently found out she had a condition that required her to follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). When my friend first told me that she was cutting grains and starches of all/most kinds out of her diet, I was floored. "What do you EAT?" I wondered. And the truth was, she wasn't eating much. Salads and plain slabs of meat kind of lose their wonder after about the 100th day! After a while she began searching out recipes, and the challenge of finding recipes safe for her to eat began to entice me. So, here's a list of recipes she's given me and recipes I've discovered (or am suggesting) for SCD. I'm going to skip the ones heavy in substitutionary flours because those flours can get expensive. I'm also going to skip the (sometimes quite wonderful) things you can do with just cooked meat or just cooked veggies. This hunt is about finding recipes that use mostly regular ingredients with only small amounts of those substitutionary flours. Oh, and I am relying heavily on this listing of legal vs. illegal foods for those on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
So here goes:
1. This first one is a suggestion that I've shared with readers before as edible play dough. This is definitely fun to play with, but, it could make a great sweet, healthy snack as well. Peanut butter is (so I've read) something that those on this diet should not take in too much of, but this recipe could also use almond butter or cashew butter (yum!).
Peanut Butter Balls
Mix 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk, 1 cup peanut butter, and 3 T honey. Form dough in small balls and enjoy.
2. Here's a recipe from an SCD Recipe site that my friend recommended:
Egg Noodle Soup
Blend 3 eggs, 1 t water, and 1/2 t salt. Spread on heated and greased frying pan and allow to set. Flip to cook other side slightly. Flip out on a towel and cut into strip. Add these noodles, 1 cup chopped chicken and 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables to 6 cups chicken broth. Season to taste.
3. I found this one here and I think it would be a standard go-to if I were following this diet. Even though it calls for some unusual (and therefore expensive) ingredients, it doesn't use very much of any of them. The great thing about these is that you can leave out the honey and vanilla and add a pinch of salt to use them to wrap savory ingredients (see suggestions below.)
Crepes
6 eggs

1 tsp coconut oil

½ tsp vanilla essence

1 Tbs coconut cream

1 tsp honey

3 Tbs coconut flour

Combine the eggs with the coconut oil, vanilla, coconut cream and honey and whisk until light and frothy. Add the sifted coconut flour and combine. The consistency of the batter should be the same as normal crepe batter. It should coat the back of spoon but be quite thin.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan on medium and pour about 3 Tbs of batter into the pan. Lift the pan by the handle and roll the batter over the surface of the pan until the whole surface is covered. It only takes around one minutes for the crepe to brown on one side. Turn it over and brown on the other side.
4. Savory Crepes: Make the above crepe for savory ingredients. Choose one kind of meat, a cheese, one or two veggies, and one of these home made salad dressings. (There are 9 different kinds to choose from!) Examples might be ham-swiss-spinach-poppy seed dressing/chicken-cheddar-no sugar bacon-zucchini strips-italian dressing/turkey-carrots-green leaf lettuce-ranch dressing. These all sound yummy and easy to me.
5. Sweet Crepes: Make the above crepe for sweet ingredients. Chop and heat 1 peach in a bowl with 2 T water and 1 t honey. Bring just to a boil. Pour peach mixture into crepe and fold crepe over. Top with SCD safe yogurt. (I am making myself very hungry.) 
6. I love casseroles, so I was especially looking for some that my friend could put together. Here's one from this site that sounds very yummy to me.



Zucchini Egg Casserole 
1/4 C water, 1/4 t salt, 1 lb. zucchini (coarsely chopped) 1 T butter, 1 C sliced fresh mushrooms, 1/3 C chopped onion, 4 eggs beaten, 1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese, 1 2-oz. jar diced pimiento (drained), 1/8 t garlic powder, 1/4 t salt, 1/8 t pepper 
Boil zucchini in water and salt for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Drain well and set zucchini asisde. Saute mushrooms and onions in butter until tender. Add remaining ingreients and zucchini to sauteed vegetables and mix well. Pour into a greased baking dish. Bake at 350 F (180 C) until eggs are set.
7.  This is just a group of vegetables, but since the combination makes me salivate just thinking about it, I thought I'd share: Mushroom Broccoli Medley has the wonderfulness of being cooked in bacon grease and tossed with bacon. I know the SC Diet recommends not too much bacon, so you'd have to make this a different week than #9.
8. Here's a recipe my friend says she's been enjoying a lot lately. They strike me as something every momma would want to have around the house for the kiddos (and herself too, of course. If I were making them I would use 2C whole wheat flour and 2C AP flour.) This recipe is also from scdiet.org. This is my token high substitutionary flour recipe.

Almond Flour Cookies
4 C of almond flour, 1/3 C melted butter, 1/4 t baking soda, 1/4 t salt, 1/2-1 t SCD-legal vanilla, 1/2 C honey, 1/2 C raisins, 1/2 C unsweetened coconut flakes, 1 T natural peanut butter, 2 eggs 
Cook dough balls of this mixture on two cookie sheets at 350 F degrees (180 C) for 6-8 minutes and then flatten them with a fork. Lower the temp to 300 F (150 C) for another 10-12 minutes. Every few minutes alternate the two sheets on the oven racks. Use heavy duty cookie sheets that are extra thick to help avoid burning.

9. I'm sure that those who are on the SC diet do A LOT of tweaking recipes. This recipe for Chuck Wagon Stew could easily be tweaked for this diet.  I recently put rutabaga (legal according to this list) in a beef stew instead of potatoes. You could do the same for this hearty comfort stew. Chop it well and it will take just a little longer than potato to cook.  Use frozen green beans (put them in when after rutabaga has cooked about 20 minutes.) And chop a fresh tomato to put in about 10 minutes before serving the stew.
10. How about ending with an appetizer/ calorie booster? These Green Bean Bundles sound very yummy. Leave out the sugar, use homemade bullion,  and make sure the bacon is low sodium, no sugar.
So I'm certainly no expert, but even just making this list has given me a huge admiration for those of you who have to follow any kind of strict diet. It would be hard to look for recipes you could use just because you have to weed through so many (that sound yummy and) that are full of taboo foods. I hope this helps a teeny bit--even if it's just knowing that someone else sympathizes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 “ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
      Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, 
      Yet out of you shall come forth to Me 
      The One to be Ruler in Israel, 
      Whose goings forth are from of old, 
      From everlasting.” 
       Therefore He shall give them up, 
      Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; 
      Then the remnant of His brethren 
      Shall return to the children of Israel. 
       And He shall stand and feed His flock
      In the strength of the LORD, 
      In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; 
      And they shall abide, 
      For now He shall be great 
      To the ends of the earth; 
       And this One shall be peace. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What We're Actually Eating for Christmas

A lot of times when I publish my lists of food, they are I'd-love-to-make-this-some-day lists. Or maybe they are my tried and true recipes that I'm sharing with you. This time it's an actual, sure-fire menu. Here's what we're eating Wednesday night when my parents come to shower the kiddos with gifts:

1. A large, hickory smoked ham (that I'm going to toss in the oven with some foil and prayer)

2. Mashed Potatoes--the smooth kind my hubby loves. His mom taught me how to make them. Slice and boil desired amount of potatoes until very soft. Drain water. Use hand mixer to blend with butter and milk until soft and smooth in consistency.

3. Sweet Potato Casserole--I love this but rarely make it because just baking a sweet potato is so good and so much easier. It takes a holiday meal to make me get off my lazy bum!

4. Chocolate Cake--(mentioned first in this list of chocolate cakes) This one was actually made for a party on Sunday, but since there is more than half of it left and I really (really) don't want it just sitting around my house, I'm hoping it gets completed on Wednesday.

5. Pumpkin Pie--Occasionally I remember to actually ask my hubby what he would like to see on the table during or after a meal. When I did this time pumpkin pie was the first thing out of his mouth. Perfect--I have all the ingredients and it's relatively easy to make.

6. Apple Dumpling Cake--When I broadcast the question to the kids, the oldest answered that she would like to have apple dumplings. I've never made these--I think she read about them in a book. Thinking about prep time, I chose this dumpling cake instead. It looks like the oldest will be able to help a lot. Maybe this could be something she makes for the family often.

7. I usually make these rolls to go with meals like this because they are easy and yummy. (I have mentioned them a lot of times, once here.)

8. We will have lima beans (the boy's request), green beans (more the crowd pleaser) and baked mixed vegetables as sides. There is something about having more than one vegetable on the table that just screams "Holiday!" to me. : ) For the baked vegetable: pour frozen vegetables into a large glass baking dish. Sprinkle with garlic, italian seasonings, and olive oil. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. The roasted taste to these really makes the time (and oven space) worth it!

These two recipes won't be served on Wednesday, but I've already made them numerous times this Christmas for parties and gifts:

9. Easy Granola Bars--I first found these when looking for good things to take with us camping. I LOVE them! They are easy, wholesome, and cheap. I don't think I'll buy pre-made granola bars ever again. Yesterday I made a quadruple batch (half with dried fruit and nuts and the other half with chocolate chips) and took them to friends and neighbors in cute little bags.

10. I've made this Ham and Swiss Braid (with cheddar both times) for two different parties and it was a hit at both. My head is spinning with the possibilities for seasonings and fillings. This looks sophisticated, but let me tell you, it's super EASY! Easy enough to get off the couch at 5:15 and have it ready by 6! If you make it by the recipe, make sure to spread lots of mustard inside the sandwich and be quite generous with the cheese. I recently saw a recipe for a braid like this made with crescent rolls with broccoli, chicken chunks and cheese! Yum! This bread would work for just about anything you wanted to stuff it with!