Quick Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Muffins

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I opened a large can of pumpkin last week and experimented with an old recipe out of a cookbook from the 80’s.  I converted it to gluten-free, and also cut the sugar down.  To use up the rest of the pumpkin, today I made a double batch, and made them dairy-free as well.  I will use some of these now, and freeze the rest for the upcoming holiday season, where they will be handy to grab and take with me to various gatherings, or make a quick meal when I’m in a hurry.  They are quick because they use pancake mix as their base, along with pumpkin pie spice rather than 3-4 spices, so there are less ingredients to buy, find and measure.  That is especially helpful when you are doing gluten-free baking, especially if you are new to it, or just taking something gluten-free to a gathering.  Then you don’t have to clog your cupboard up with several kinds of flour to make muffins.  (When you cook gluten-free, you always use a blend of flours.  It works better.  The pancake mix has already blended them for you.)

(I doubled this)

2 cups gluten-free pancake mix. (I used Pamela’s)

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup pumpkin puree (or mashed winter squash)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (last week, I used regular milk, it works fine, this time I used coconut milk, as that was what I had open in the fridge)

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life)

Put ingredients in bowl. Mix until just blended.  Spoon into greased mini muffin tins, or regular muffin tins lined with papers.  Bake the mini muffins for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, and the regular sized ones for about 20-22 minutes, or until done.  Place on rack.  After cooling for 5 minute, remove muffins from pans and let them finish cooling on rack.  They are very moist and it works best to just freeze any you are not going to consume within 1-2 days.  It’s very easy to remove a couple mini muffins from the freezer and let them thaw on the counter or in the microwave for a quick breakfast or to go with soup.

A double batch made 36 mini muffins, and 12 regular muffins.  I decorated the larger ones with additional mini chocolate chips, and will freeze those to take to a holiday meal, gathering, or for a time when I’m having company over.

 

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Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes–2018

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This year, we signed up for one morning to help at the drop-off for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  My husband and I, 1 daughter, 2 nieces and our nephew all joined others at our church which was a drop site for the first time.

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We had a slow trickle of people bringing boxes all morning.  Most people brought in from 1-6 boxes.  Some of those were individuals, and some were small church groups.  One group brought over 100, though, the entire back of a pickup truck full.

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Michaela especially enjoyed helping the volunteers that were packing the boxes into huge cardboard boxes and they had her write the number of small boxes contained in the big box on the side, in the designated place, each time.

It was our first time volunteering at a drop-site before, and we quickly learned to check the boxes for labels, have the contributors sign the correct form, and how to pack them up.  We had a really good time and it was good for the kids to help.

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We had 2 families working together on 2 boxes.  We let the children choose what ages/gender we wanted to make boxes for.  They chose toddler girls.  Patsy helped sew this skirt, and I finished it and another one for the other box.  I was glad we could work on her sewing skills for such a good project.

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I would like to say the rest of the things were hand-made from ideas off of Pinterest, but they weren’t.  I struggle for time.  We hit up the school supply sales in late August, the Dollar Tree, super sales of t-shirts from the internet, and got a few things at Fred Meyers.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, although I’ve seen some really cool ideas out there, which would be loved, I’m sure.  The children are grateful for whatever they get, and I’m happy to be a part of the project as we have been for many years.  When we had to look into some  boxes to determine who they were for because they were not labeled, I noticed a vast difference in the amount and kinds of items in the boxes.  Each one is individually packed by a person or family, and they vary greatly.  I was told that if a box is really lightly packed, they will add a thing or two at the warehouse, but will never remove items from a full box.  (One of the ladies I worked with today had spent time volunteering at the large warehouse in California)

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Everything fitted!  The special boxes were at a restaurant my husband went to with a friend.  We would have used empty shoe boxes as we have always done if he had not stumbled upon these.

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Rob went on the internet and paid for the shipping.  He signed up for tracking for our boxes.  Hopefully, we will remember to look and see where they go!  The only other time we did that option, last year, we forgot to look, as we were so used to just sending them off with a prayer and never knowing where they went for so many years before:). This is a newer feature that is available.

There is still time if you haven’t filled a box this year, but wanted to!  They are collecting all week, until the 19th of November.  The internet is chock-full of ideas, both easy and time-consuming.  It’s a way to bless a child that you will never see, and share God’s love with them–something everyone needs to know, whatever their age, wherever they live or whatever their circumstances.  God uses all of us to spread His love to those little ones He cares for so very, very much.  I’m happy I got to be a part of that this year.

 

 

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–November 10, 2018

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These are only part of the jars we emptied this week.  It’s that time of year when we start using lots of the home-canned products.  I still buy groceries.  It would be hard to imagine what my grocery bill would be without my food storage. I’m glad to have it and am committed to using it.

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Turkey-Vegetable soup is one of the things I made.  I used frozen chunks of turkey, frozen green beans, canned carrots, broth and tomatoes, an onion, potatoes  and the rest of a sad stalk of celery.  I seasoned it with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.  Simple, but good.

We also used home-canned taco sauce, salsa, jam, various fruits, canned green beans, frozen beef, and some French bread I had gotten for free and frozen a while back. (For Patsy).  Not long ago, I made spaghetti using my home-canned pasta sauce.

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Some of the family went to a great party at my friend’s house.  The girls helped little Danait frost pre-purchased cookies with icing and toppings, we feasted on Eritrean food, potluck items, root beer floats, and visited with lots of interesting people.  We were celebrating Harnet’s recent citizenship and her new apartment.  It was really fun.  Although many of us didn’t know each other, or had only met once or twice, it was a very eclectic, interesting crowd.  She has a lot of very nice friends.

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Danait loved decorating cookies, all the while wearing the purple mittens I got her at the Dollar Store.  My niece, Alissa, and I found the cookie kit on the clearance rack at Fred Meyers, and it was worth every penny of the greatly reduced price.  It kept Danait busy until her little friends arrived at the party, and then boy did they have fun!  Bless those big girls for helping look after them.  At one point, I guess the group of children were smuggling bowls of candy into the bedroom, and eating it all, and my big girls, who were kind of looking out for the kids, finally shut down that smuggling ring when they brought the 3rd bowlful into the room:). Kids!  After all, it was a party:), but still…..

I also got several other items on the “Whoo-hoo” rack.  The best deal was boxes of steel-cut oat packets.  They were $1.59 and there was a $1.50 rebate from Ibotta on each box.  I bought the 5 allowed, bringing the cost to 9c for each box.  There are 5 packets in each box, so that’s less than 2c each.

I spent over the $50 I wanted to spend, and got my first turkey for  47c/lb.  I plan to do that at least one more time, maybe 2 times.  It depends on what I can use to fill the gaps in the pantry–if there are good enough deals of things that I need to spend that much.  I’ll look at the sales.  Right now, celery and bread are all that are on my list, but I know it will grow. It always does:). Because I want at least one extra turkey for the freezer, I’d rather go more than once and get them for 47c/lb than spend the $150 all at once to get a free turkey.

We are not finding the low ham prices I got last year.  I’ll keep looking.  If I find them, I’ll buy several.  Last year, I got some for 99c/lb and some for $1.29/lb.  The are quite a bit higher so far this year.

The strangest thing we did to save money this week was get a security system.  We were offered a deal from X-finity/Comcast if we bundled our internet, t.v., with an added security system the monthly payment would be lower than what we were paying for what we had already.  So, we did.  We are signed up for a 2-year contract, and there is a penalty if we don’t keep it that long.  However, we were told that all we had to do was keep 1 X-finity product, if we need to cancel for some reason and we would not have to pay the penalty. We have no plans to move, or stop having internet, at this time, although we have discussed stopping the tv service if we ever need to, so that was nice to know.  And, for now, we have it all for a lower price than we would have paid if we left things the way they were.  We did not add any “extras” but just stuck with the basic package that they were offering for free, plus a discount.  So, should any burgers want to steal my home-canned tuna, they’d better watch out!  They won’t get away with it:). We are secure!  (Now, I just have to learn how to use it, but it looks pretty simple and can be done from my phone)

This was a week of doctor’s appointments for me–using parts of 3 days.  Mine were all routine, including the dentist, but it is good that I’m caught up for now.  Rob got his appointments done, finishing up one set of physical therapy.  Again, we were very thankful that we have insurance!

How did your week go?

 

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Nov. 4, 2018

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I went out to the garden and was amazed to pick these items!  Since most of the garden has been pulled out, and there are only a few bushes left, AND the weather has been so rainy, AND it was Nov. 2, I was amazed and happy!

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I made a stir-fry with some marked down mushrooms, an onion and the boc choi.  It was great!

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Thought I was done canning?  So did I.  Until, Rob realized how fast he was scarfing down the tuna, and we decided to go back down to the docks and get some more and can it.  We did that Wednesday.  The tuna season is almost over, so it was now or never.  We had a date day, but Patsy had an orthodontist appointment right after school, so it was a quick trip.  We did get to go out for lunch, though:). It was a great day.  Then, I filled the jars and Rob sat by the canner all evening, with me spelling him to drive Patsy back and forth to church for her event, and for me to hand out candy to the handful of trick-or-treaters we got at our door.  My 2 small bags of sale candy were more than enough and I was glad I had put them away in the shop so they were still there on Halloween night.

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Michaela spent the day on Saturday.  She helped me make apple-blackberry crisp for Sunday Family Dinner.

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Then Rob took her to the horse ranch where she volunteers, and then rides.  The horse was dressed in a costume of a blue cheetah for Halloween week.

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Jake had been with us since Friday morning.  We did quite a few things, including a science experiment, making Krispie treats, jello, and watching the Lego Star Wars movie twice.

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Rob and Patsy worked in the shop for a while.  She has a project she has been wanting to do.

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I put on a huge pot of beans to make refried beans.  We have eaten most of what I had frozen.   Patsy loves, loves, loves beans.  I also am going to make a nacho for a party this coming week.  We will use what we can, and I will freeze the rest for later when I’m in a hurry.

Another thing we finished this week were the little baggies of cooked brown rice I had frozen for quick meals.  Hopefully, I will get another batch cooked this week.  Making things ahead in large batches and freezing them in smaller portions saves me time and money.  Rob boiled a ham bone, and has broth and bits to freeze and make ham and beans from sometime in the next few days.

We have spent quite a bit of energy this week, getting our daughter, Lovana, off on her next big adventure.  She has flown away to Hawaii, and plans to live and work there for a while.  This opportunity has come up for her, a job was offered, and a couple of girls were available to share an apartment with.  While I will miss her, I am super happy for her. This is a time in her life where she is free to do something like this.  She has been planning and organizing for quite a while now, and it was finally time for her to go.  She had a friend travel with her (bless you Michelle) and they each checked 2 huge suitcases, plus the carry-ons they took.  That’s what she has from here.  She ordered some things from Amazon already, and found a store and bought basic groceries.  They even tried out a new church this morning already.

I have spent some time gathering some things she forgot, or needed, and have already sent one package, and another one goes out tomorrow.  I saved a lot of money by using a flat-rate box and stuffing it very full.

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One thing I sent in the box that went out Friday was spices.  I buy them in bulk from Azure Standard or bulk bins mostly, and they are very inexpensive.  Rob had these little plastic bottles.  It is worth the postage for her to have them, since she plans to cook her meals and not eat out.  Since she eats vegetarian for the most part, but adds seafood as well at times, spices will really make her lentils and beans and rice taste better.

They are settled into their apartment, as of last night, but have quite a few things to gather up, yet.  I’m very excited for her, and so proud of her bravery in trying a new thing like this!

 

A Fun Science Experiment With Jake

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Jake spent the night last night.  We were looking for a fun activity bright and early this morning.  He had checked out a book of science experiments at the library a little while back, and decided that he wanted to do one of the experiments.  He looked through the book until he found one that seemed like it would be fun, and that Auntie had all the ingredients for.

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Once we taped the spoon to the clothespin, and then down to the board, it was time to add the marshmallows.

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It was very fun and satisfying and fun to fling the marshmallows from the spoon.  They flew everywhere.  He was very diligent to pick them up because it just felt so naughty to him to be throwing them around the room.

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Pretty soon, Patsy came stumbling out to see what the fun was about.  It wasn’t long before they discovered that given just the right “flick”, the marshmallows might land in the teacups.  Or a dish.  Or on the beautiful table runner my aunt made that I’d gotten out for the fall season.  Pretty soon they were giving points to each other when the marshmallows landed in difficult cups, dishes, etc.  They truly had a good time.  They were laughing their heads off as they flung them around.  Over and over and over.

I made sure to pack the experiment in his suitcase to take home.  I made sure his mother knew where he got it from.  After all, what are sisters for?

(Note:  The book states that energy is stored up in the spring of the clothespin, and I add it is also stored in the flexible spoon.  When it is released it makes the marshmallow fly up–I did say that several times during the process, but really….he just had fun!!!!)

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–October 28, 2018

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I was given a very nice assortment of gluten-free items, and some baking supplies.  (Some has been put away already–there was more!). It was a very nice gift and I’m very thankful and am already planning some good things to make from it!  In fact, my oldest daughter was mentioning a wonderful recipe using coconut flour and I told her to send it to me–I had a bunch now:)

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I’m officially done with canning season!  I got the last 2 things done this week–more pasta/pizza sauce and the green tomato Salsa verde.  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I have a passion for canning and other food preservation.  But, let me tell you, even I am absolutely DONE for a little while, at least.  I am ready to move on to other projects, but am thrilled with what I got.  It really is amazing to me how much produce came from that little garden in the back yard.

We have been thawing items and opening jars right and left, starting to put all this goodness from the summer to good use.  I used the extra Salsa Verde that I did not can to make a green enchilada casserole for lunch today.  I paired that with canned green beans and a salad.

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There are a few more soup bones in the freezer I’d like to make broth from, but that can wait until I’ve had a little break from canning.

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Free entertainment!  Jake was licking the last of the whipped cream off his plate (I am the auntie, you know, so let him had some when he asked).  He sure enjoyed it.  It was the  end of a can from a LONG time ago, I didn’t even know I owned it, but it must keep, because he found it way in the back of the fridge, and loved having it.  (I tasted it, and it was fine!) He declares he is the best plate-licker in the nation:)

Rob was given some cedar boards to use when he helps Patsy make a bird house.  He spent quite a bit of time yesterday, cleaning in the shop.  It’s an on-going project, stemming from when we moved here with way more things than we could fit into our much-smaller house.  Every time he spends time out there, I can see a big difference.  We are at the place where it won’t be long until he can actually use the shop for his tools!  Hurray! !

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I spent an evening and a morning helping my friend move to a different apartment.  Her daughter was greatly amused by Patsy during the evening, which was a big help to us,  and she loved “swimming” while Rob hooked the tv back up to the VCR the next morning.  At one point, I heard her asking, “Uncle Rob, can I sit on you?”  It was so cute.  She just meant she wanted to climb up onto his lap.  At that point, he was perched on a sturdy coffee table, working closely with the cords and wires, and wasn’t able to oblige her, but enjoyed all her chitter chatter while she “helped.”  Thankfully, lots of other friends were coming by there after I left, as we did not get it all done, but we made progress.  I could not help at all beforehand, so was glad I could help afterwards.  I grabbed some taco ingredients to take, and we ate that while we unpacked, thereby cancelling the need to get pizza or anything else during the move.  I had come cookies in the freezer (out of sight, out of mind for us), and took them, and some soda, which she gave to the 2 young men who were driving the truck.

I’ve been choosing small areas to deep clean! Now that it has started to rain, I feel like working inside.  Boy, do I have a lot of messy areas!!  But, each place I clean makes me feel better, and I will get it done little by little.  I’ve even got a little of the garage cleaned up!  At Thanksgiving, I will seat several family members out there at the big, old table we kept, and I would like it to look a little tidy. (It won’t be perfect, I’m realistic)

I shopped mainly for protein and cheese this week, along with some items we finally ran out of.  I haven’t been at the regular grocery store much lately, but it was time, and I’m sure they were happy to see me:). Cheese was so inexpensive–$4.99/2-lb loaf of Bandon cheese, which is the same as Tillamook–so good.  I get several, and some shredded Lucerne cheeses as well.  I stuck to one store, and got what I needed.  I did redeem a couple of dollars from Ibotta.  I got 1 dozen eggs for free, but that’s all the freebies for this week.  I had a choice of a free item, and I chose eggs because we eat a lot of those and can always use them.

How did your week go?

 

 

 

 

What Did We Eat? October 26, 2018

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I tried a recipe for French Onion Chicken.  It was from Cooking Light magazine, but I did tweak it a bit.  First, you cooked a lot of onions.  I used a little bit of butter, a small amount of beef broth, and about 4 huge onions and used a non-stick pan.  I used even less butter than the magazine called for and no cooking wine.  They got nice and cooked in about 15 minutes.  I put 1/2 of them on a baking tray, and the other 1/2 I used to make some French Onion Soup. I used chicken thighs I got on 30% off instead of the whole chickens that were called for.  I put down a layer of cooked onions and some carrot sticks (my addition) and laid the thighs on top and sprinkled them with fresh thyme.  I did not make herb butter and put under the skin, although I’m sure it would be delicious.  We don’t need those extra calories around here right now.  I decided to set my oven at 425 degrees.  That was hot enough for me, even though the recipe called for 450.  Then I baked them until they were done, about 40 minutes.  (They were not super cold as I had returned from the store and made them a little while after that without putting them in the fridge for hours as would normally happen.).  They were really, really good.

I made French Onion Soup with the other 1/2 of the onions.  It was good with little pieces of bread (some regular and some gf) with cheese slices melted on top.

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I made another batch of zucchini muffins, with a cinnamon-sugar topping. Everyone liked those!

We have had lots of vegetables–tons of salads, canned green beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc.  My aunt gave us some low-calorie salad dressing that Rob has been loving.

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I used some of the last zucchini I will be getting.  There is a tiny bit left, but the bushes look like they are dead or dying, and the fall rains have finally started, so they won’t get better:). I’m trying to use up the garden odds and ends while I still have them.  There are still cherry tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers out there, at least there were a couple of days ago.  I’ll bet they are cracked after all this rain we’ve had yesterday and today.  Their days are numbered, too:)

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I made baked pear slices with cinnamon sugar and raisins.  They were great!

I went out to breakfast with a couple of friends, and had an omelet.  It was good.  I ate half for breakfast, and the other half several hours later for a late lunch.

We ate many other things, of course, but those were the most exciting ones!