messes

There is nothing like homemade sauce and meatballs.  They take some work, and things can get messy… but in the end, they are worth it.  
Friendships are like that.  Parenting is like that.  Marriage is like that.  Life is like that. 
Today I am thankful for the messiness that is in my life… in my kitchen, in my relationships, and in my heart.  I am also thankful for the grace that comes with it.  

super easy sweet potato fries

 We made these twice yesterday.  Twice.  I made a little batch for lunch for myself and after stealing a few,  my family asked if we could have them for dinner.  They really were good and super easy.  

You will need:
5 sweet potatoes 
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
thyme and salt to taste

Slice the potatoes into small french fry sized pieces. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Put it aside to cool to the touch.  You don’t want to burn yourself when mixing the ingredients.  

I had my sweet Sammy harvest the thyme leaves off the stalks.  
Mix the sweet potatoes, melted coconut oil, thyme and salt in a large bowl.  Spread onto a cookie sheet and cook at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until you can easily put a fork in the potatoes.  
I don’t have a finished photo.  They really disappear that quickly.  

sammy’s peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are so easy, they could be in a “your mama” joke.   They are the first cookies I usually teach the children to make.  They only have four ingredients, three if you leave out the chocolate chips. My youngest daughter, Sammy, loves them… and so do I.

You will only need

1 egg
1 cup of peanut butter (We use crunchy, but you can use creamy. Sammy says that extra crunchy doesn’t work as well… and I would believe her. She is the expert at these.)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Set oven at 350.

Mix all ingredients well.

We use a cookie scoop to dish them out.  If you don’t have a cookie scoop, place 1 tablespoon balls onto the cookie sheet.  It makes 12-14 cookies.  Cook at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Let the cookies set for about five minutes.

Enjoy with a glass of milk.

Even clean up is easy with these.

Joy’s Super Easy Chili

Joy, my bonus mom, makes the best darn chili.  About twenty years ago, she gave the recipe to me and now among my friends, it is my chili.  It is so super easy, I wondered if I should even post it here. But after a very scientific facebook poll, I thought otherwise.   
So, here we go. 
1-1.5 pounds of ground meat.  (I used turkey today, but you could use beef.  I have made it with out meat and it is still pretty good.)
5 garlic cloves 
1 large yellow onion (I usually use any onion I have in the fridge.)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending how spicy you like it.)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2  15.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 15.5 oz cans chili beans
1 15.5 oz can black beans
1 15.5 oz can pinto beans
1 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans
1 15.5 oz can kidney beans 
Most of the players.  I left out the meat.  I just couldn’t find his good side. 

Chop the onion and crush the garlic.  Put the garlic, onion, meat and seasonings in the pot.  Put the lid on the pot.  Let it cook on a medium heat. You will need to stir every so often to get the meat properly cooked.  Just remember to put the lid back on.  All that onion, garlic, and seasonings will really blend together nicely. 
Meat, onions, garlic and seasonings. 
While you are cooking up the meat and onions, you can now begin the most difficult part of this recipe… opening all the cans.  Open all the cans and do NOT drain the juices.  Every thing, even the juices are going to go into the pot.  When your meat is all cooked, go ahead and add all the cans.  Give everything a big stir.  Now let simmer. 

 Everything added and simmering. 
Ok… that is it.  This chili tastes best if you let it simmer for a few hours.  However, there have been times when I only let it simmer for an hour.  Read- I forgot to make dinner and I had all the cans of beans and an onion. 
I have learned that as long as you have four types of beans, you are good.  So if you don’t like garbanzo beans, don’t use them.  If you like something else, use that instead.  Also, this makes a huge amount of chili.  With this batch I am going to feed my family of five and two guests.  It does freeze really well. You can make a batch and freeze half of it.  

Jambalaya

I almost didn’t post my chili recipe because it is so simple to make.  However, I did get a large response about how easy it was… so I thought I would give you another simple and very cheap recipe.  This is my jambalaya recipe.  I am sure it isn’t close to anything made in New Orleans, but it is a snap to make and a winter go-to recipe for my family.  In fact, it is one of the first dinners my daughters learn to cook.  Sammy has been making it since she was 10.
You will need
2 small onions (or one large onion- I just didn’t have one in my fridge)
6 cloves of minced garlic
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
5-6 sausages
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy!)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 large (29oz) can of kidney beans
2 regular (14.5oz) cans of diced tomatoes
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups of rice
c8f56-jambalayablog
In a large pot that has a lid, put in the oil, chopped onion, minced garlic and all the seasoning.  Turn it up on medium and get everything nice and yummy like this.
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Layer the sausage on the bottom of the pot and put the lid on it.  I have ten in here because my daughter is having her boyfriend over for dinner.  I always thought my girls were good eaters, but now that two of them have boyfriends, I see that boys can really put it away.  You can just layer the pot with the 5-6 sausages.  Unless, of corse, you have boys.

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After about 5-10 minutes you flip the sausage.  Put the lid back on the pot.

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While the sausage is cooking I get my liquids ready.  Mix the three cups of vegetable broth and two cans of tomatoes- with the juice.

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Now we will start layering the rest of the ingredients.  Don’t worry if the sausage isn’t cooked through. It will be cooking for another hour or so.  Add the can of kidney beans. Do not drain them, just pour them in, juices and all.

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Now add the rice.

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And now your broth and tomatoes.

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Put a lid on the pot and cook until everything is simmering.  Once it starts to simmer, reduce the temperature your lowest temperature.  Cook for at least 40 minutes.  This dish is very flexible.  You can let it simmer for up to 2 hours, but much longer turns the rice to mush.

I serve this on its own, and I sometimes offer a nice slice of bread with it.  You can make this dish with chicken as well.  I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  You cook them up the same way as the sausage.  My girls prefer the sausage, and it is usually cheaper.

drunk butternut squash soup

I love soup. Soup is forgiving and easy to leave or add an ingredient, depending on what you have in the fridge.   In fact,  I am a little afraid of this blog becoming a soup blog.  Don’t worry, I will try hard not to let that happen.  That isn’t true, I am just going to cook and see what happens.  This is a butternut squash soup that my kids love.  Because  butternut squash is the main ingredient, it is a little on the sweet side.  You can serve this as a starter or as a tasty lunch.
You need to gather:
1 butternut squash
5 tablespoons of  butter
dash a salt
a pinch of thyme
1 large red onion
1 tablespoon garlic
4 medium carrots
1cup white wine
2 cups of vegetable broth
1-2 cups of water

butter is good

Start by slicing the squash in half.  You can see here, I didn’t quite get it in half. Do your best with out loosing any fingers.  Sprinkle with salt and thyme.  Slice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place on top of the squash.  Put in the oven at 350 for one  hour.

chunky onions and carrots

Meanwhile, you can work on the drunk part of the recipe.  Roughly cut up the onion and carrots.  You can see here, they can be chunky pieces.  You are blending this later, so don’t bother peeling the carrots.  Unless you have a child near by that gets into trouble or you need to hear their secrets.  Peeling carrots is perfect for both of those.  Add the last tablespoon of butter, garlic, onions and carrots to a hot skillet.   Mix well and simmer until the onions just begin to wilt.

drunk onions and carrots

While the pan is still hot, add one cup of white wine.  Let the wine come to a simmer then turn the heat to low.  Let the wine reduce.  Really, this just means to cook until most of the wine evaporates.   At this point, your drunk carrots and onions should look like  this.  Turn the stove low and put a lid on your pot.  Now you can wait until your squash is done.  For me, this means do some dishes or change the laundry.  For you, it might be more exciting like inventing a jet pack or fighting a lion.

roasted goodness
When your squash is soft enough to put a fork in, take out of the oven and let cool.  You just want it cool enough that it doesn’t burn your fingers.  Gently scoop out all the yummy middle from the skin.  Sometimes it is easier to peel the skin from the squash.  Do what is easiest for you.  If there are any large pieces of squash, cut them into smaller chunks.    Add all that yummy goodness into your drunk carrots and onions.

everything mixed together

Add the two cups of vegetable broth to the pot and give every thing a good stir.  Put a lid on it and let simmer for a half hour.  Turn off the heat and let cool.  You want to be able to blend or put the mixture into the food processor.  I don’t have a large food processor so I need to do mine in small batches.

pureed
When it is all blended, it looks like this.  It is a little think, almost like mashed potatoes.  This is when I add the water.  Don’t worry about loosing taste, you won’t.  I add a half a cup at a time and whisk it.  Depending on how big your squash and carrots are, you will need more or less water.  Add water until it is creamy… you know, like butternut squash soup.  You can serve now, or if you aren’t quite ready for dinner, put in the oven on a low heat until you are ready for dinner.

thinned and ready to eat

I serve this with croutons.  I did not get to photograph this until the next day, so all my croutons were gone.  You could also serve with a dab of plain yogurt or sour cream.  This heats up nicely the next day for lunch.