How to Freeze Peas

I’m getting myself in the mode to do lots of freezing and canning this summer. I’ve already done up some jellies, but was pretty excited to see peas come into season around here. We had run out of them over the winter and our family was definitely ready to have some good old green peas around again. I froze a few bags yesterday and am waiting to do more within the next week. Here’s the method I follow to freeze peas and other veggies:

After shelling them all, wash really well. Start to heat up water in a pot. I have one specifically for blanching veggies that is pretty handy. You want your water to come to a nice rolling boil.

What is blanching, just in case you don’t know?

Blanching is the process of scalding veggies in boiling water or steam for a very short time. Then you stop the cooking by cooling them quickly before freezing them. I just read in one of my preserving cookbooks that  blanching serves several purposes. It cleans the surface, helps brighten the color, and helps with loss of vitamins. The scientific explanation is that it slows or stops enzyme action that causes loss of flavor, texture, and color. So basically blanching is necessary if you want your veggies to actually stay nice while being frozen. Oh, and it also softens them up a little bit as well.

So there. Not that you may have ever wanted or needed to know that info, but I’m a big nerd at heart and thought I’d fill you in on what I learned.

As your water is coming to a boil, get prepared by laying out labeled freezer bags and fill a big bowl with ice cold water. I also use a big slotted spoon to transfer my peas into the freezer bags, so have something like that ready too. Also make sure you have lots of ice available as you will need to refill that ice water bowl frequently.

Once the water is at a boil, drop a batch of peas into the blanching pot and let them go for about 2 minutes. You really don’t need them in there longer than that. They will start to look something like this.

Transfer peas from pot to the bowl with ice water.

Let them in the ice water for about 2 minutes, then use slotted spoon to place them in freezer bags. You want them well drained and no extra air to be in the bags before sealing them.

Pop into your freezer and they will taste delicious this winter.

This same process is used for freezing many other veggies, but the blanching times vary a little depending on the vegetable.

Pops of Pink Desk Makeover

So I’ve been working on this project off and on for the last week. Actually, my best friend gave me this sweet desk back in the winter and it’s been sitting in my garage, just waiting for a little TLC. She has 2 boys and thought it was too girly for them, so I inherited this cutie for my daughter.

I loved the design of this desk and thought I could spruce it up a bit. Here’s what it looks like now:

The whole thing cost me about $4 to re-do since I mostly used up materials that I had on hand already.

The first thing I did was to clean it up and spray paint the exterior and interior white. I don’t have a picture of this part, but I also painted the back this hot pink color. I wanted a nice pop of pink on the inside, so I just painted the one little section on the inside a matching hot pink using a sample can that I had around.

Since I especially love the little cubbyholes in this desk, I thought a little Mod Podge and printed paper may be the ticket to dressing them up. I measured the size of the holes, cut out the paper to size, and Mod Podged it to the bottom part of the cubbies.

I thought a little curtain of some kind may be the way to add some cuteness to the bottom portion of the desk. Digging through my fabric stash yielded this cute floral print that I’ve been wanting to use somewhere.

Sewing up a basic panel to cover that part was a snap, so all I had to do was put it on a small tension rod to hold it in place. This was the only item I actually had to buy and cost about $4.

As you can see, my daughter already put some books on the shelf that the curtain hides. It sort of gave me a chuckle to see that she put Hardy Boys books in there. A little bit of a contrast to the whole girly girl look of the desk, isn’t it? Oh well, she does have 4 brothers.

Her My Little Pony collection is now residing on that hot pink shelf. Too cute.

Not too shabby for 4 bucks.

Have a great week everyone!

Rachel

Cherry Fluff

Summer is lurking right around the corner. Today I am sharing a recipe I’ve used many times for taking to summer parties, picnics, and covered dish meals.

Cherry Fluff.

It’s sweet and creamy with a little bit of other textures mixed in.

Oh, and fluffy too. Hence the name Cherry Fluff.

I love it because not only is it sinfully good, it’s super quick and easy to make.

Basically you gather your ingredients, dump them in a bowl, mix it up, and you’re good to go.

Here’s what you need:

1 can cherry pie filling

1 container Cool Whip (thawed)

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional, but I usually add them)

*After mixing everything together, this is best if chilled for a few hours before serving.

10 Fun Uses for Pool Noodles

Pool noodles are everywhere this time of year and are usually sold pretty cheaply. Here’s a list of fun and creative ways you can use pool noodles outside of the pool this summer:

Use coordinating colors to make a fun headboard for a kids’ room.
familyfun.go.com
This is a cheaper alternative to buying wreath forms–bend pool noodles into a circle and tape securely. From tatteredandinked.blogspot.com.
Cut slices of pool noodles to make big beads for little ones to lace. From bluegrassmamas.com.
Use slices for painting pictures. From playcreateexplore.com.
Tape a bunch of circled pool noodles together for a backyard obstacle course. From parents.com.
My little boys would love this idea since they already use noodles as pretend swords–fashion light sabers out of lengths of noodle. From muddybootsblog.blogspot.com.
A fun idea for a summer party! Give each child a noodle and set them loose with a number of balloons to try and get into a goal or basket.
This is one of my favorite ideas. Cut noodles in half lengthwise and make racetracks for matchbox cars and such. Found at ramblingsfromutopia.com.
Use chunks of noodle along with toothpicks or golf tees to make your own silly creatures. Idea from 4herreras.blogspot.com.
Set up as arches in your yard as hurdles, to kick balls through, or as a giant croquet game. Also from parents.com.

Nautical Striped Pillow & Bag

I have a navy and white bedroom which I adore. However, I had a throw pillow on our bed which was getting a little worn and tired looking.

So, a couple months ago I dug out this awesome fabric I scooped up at Goodwill and gave it a crisp update.

I had plenty of this striped fabric left over, so while I was in the mode I sewed up this pretty tote bag, lining it with denim.

Since I like little pops of red with my navy and white, I added a little decorative stitching along the top as well.

All in all, I was pleased with my new navy and white striped goods. It pays to shop at Goodwill đŸ™‚

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures as I was making them or right afterwards, so no tutorials this time around. Also, these are what they look like a couple months after they’ve been made, so they’ve been well-loved already. The pillow has been used in making forts and by little boys as a weapon and the bag has been hauled to school a couple days by a 7 year old and by me for several occasions.

Painted Bobby Pins and Barrettes

This DIY idea is so simple that once I saw it I had to try it. I first saw it on Pinterest, then on Lines Across blog.

Who knew you could take fun colored nail polish and spruce up plain old bobby pins?

I sure didn’t.

I tried it out, then took it a step further and painted some plain silver snap clips as well.

Here’s the almost laughably easy process. Anyone can do this–yes, even you who claim you’re not crafty.

Bust out your Sally Hansen, Revlon, Wet ‘n Wild, or whatever nail polish you want to use. Even the really cheap stuff worked for me.

Line up your bobby pins or snap clips. I attached mine to the card the bobby pins came on to hold in place. Then, just paint it on like you would your nails. As you can see, you definitely want something underneath as it can be a bit messy. I ended up using two coats for each color. It didn’t take really long for them to dry.

The result? Cute new pins and barrettes for my little girl (and me!) to wear this summer.

Why I Shop at the Bent and Dent Store

There’s an absolute gem of a grocery store a mere 15 minutes away from me. It seems that everyone in our area has heard of it and has a strong opinion about it. They either love it and shop there frequently or they can’t bring themselves to shop there for whatever reason. I fall into the first category and swear by it to help keep our grocery bill low, shopping there at least twice a month. Actually, I usually leave with a cartload of goods and rarely spend over $50.

Sound too good to be true? Wonder why others can’t bring themselves to shop there? It’s what I would call a “bent and dent” store, or maybe it’s classified as a grocery “salvage” store. Packaging that is dented or not in mint condition, items that are out of date, and other such issues are why these groceries are going so cheaply. I personally don’t have a problem with most of that stuff and my family has never gotten ill or had really any quality issues with the products. As you can tell, I am not a super picky person and am not put off by a dented box or can, or even something that just hit its expiration or sell-by date. Here’s an example of a shopping trip I made there just last week, spending just under $45 for the following items:

1 dozen eggs

1 pkg. cream cheese

1 box Special K crackers

2 Lg bags kettle corn

3 boxes Barilla pasta

1-8 pk Motts for Tots juice

2-10 pks Capri Sun juice pouches ($1 a box)

1 bottle Wish Bone dressing

2-6 pks Motts Berry Applesauce

1 Lg can crushed pineapple

2 cans cranberry relish

2-6 oz packs Ocean Spray craisins

1-3 lb bag onions

1 pk oyster crackers

5 packs Kool Aid

1 bottle Balsamic vinegar

1 bottle White Tea

1-4 pk Izze sparkling juice

1 bottle Suave for Kids shampoo

1-4 pk Softsoap bar soap

1 hand sanitizer spray

3-20 oz bottles juice

1 Motts Plus apple juice

1 Juicy Juice

1 3 Lt Ocean Spray Juice

1-5 lb bag flour ($1!)

4 cans Spaghetti-O’s

2 loaves bread (99 cents each)

1 pkg Chips Ahoy cookies

1 pk Lance Peanut Butter crackers

2-2 Qt cartons Dole juice

1 Lg box Cheez-its

2-1 lb bags noodles

1-12 pk Austin Peanut Butter crackers

Whew! I know I would have spent at least double what I did at any other store, even if I did use coupons. As you can see, this specific trip was heavy on the juices and packaged snacks, mostly because I was almost out of lunchbox items and snacks to take to kid events. The inventory there is always changing, but you can usually find some of the same items each time. They also have some pretty off-brand and oddball items, so it’s sort of like a treasure hunt when I go. I’m not sure if you have a store like this in your neck of the woods, but if you do, it’s worth trying out.

Keeping a Well Stocked Pantry

I have to admit something to you all–I didn’t always keep a well-stocked pantry. In fact, up until my twins were born a little over 5 years ago, this is something I didn’t do well. My husband came from a family of 4 boys, so their household almost always had a good supply of cooking and baking essentials. One of the best things he did for me the week after our twins were born was put up an extra shelving unit in our garage specifically for food storage. Up until then I had just utilized our pantry closet in the kitchen and that was it. Therefore, unless I was at the store at least once a week, it seemed like we were always running short on something. Now I have a pantry closet (which I made over last fall), garage shelving, 2 chest freezers, and some shelves in our basement for things we’ve canned.

The closet pantry in our kitchen.

I’m not an advocate of hoarding. However, I do think it’s pretty handy to have a good supply of essentials on hand at all times. It makes meal planning so much easier and if you have to quick whip up a snack or meal to take somewhere, you don’t have to panic. (Plus we have lots of growing bodies to feed around here!) This is not a die-hard list, and yours may look a bit different than mine, but this is what we usually try to keep on hand:

Baking Supplies

white flour

whole wheat flour

white sugar

brown sugar

confectioner’s sugar

baking powder

baking soda

salt

shortening

yeast

cornstarch

corn syrup

cinnamon

cocoa

white vinegar

apple cider vinegar

balsamic vinegar

vanilla

cornmeal

food coloring

assorted spices

coconut oil

olive oil

vegetable oil

cooking spray

oatmeal

raisins or craisins

assorted nuts

assorted chocolate chips

Nutella–not an essential, but good to have around. I have a little love affair with this stuff đŸ˜‰

Other Pantry Items

rice

assorted pastas

dried beans

assorted canned beans

peanut butter

Nutella

cream soups

boullions

honey

molasses

pancake syrup

Bisquick

assorted cereals

bread crumbs

tea bags

coffee

juices

juice boxes

crackers

snack foods

Refrigerator

milk

chocolate milk

eggs

butter

cream cheese

sour cream

assorted cheeses

yogurts

ketchup

salad dressings

mustard

mayonnaise

jellies

fruit

salad veggies

Freezer

assorted veggies

bread items

applesauce

berries

freezer jams

boneless chicken breasts

ground beef

bacon

whole chicken

sausage

other meats

butter

cheeses

frozen soups

extra freezer meals

Basement Storage

assorted jellies

tomato juice

tomato sauce

salsa

whole tomatoes

stewed tomatoes

peaches

pears

applesauce

potatoes

onions

pickles

grape juice

There may be a couple of things I have forgotten, but these are the basics for us. It seems like a lot, but I can tell you that it saves me from making extra trips to the store and has helped me be a little more organized with planning our meals. Basically, when I’m making up a store list, I just go over these areas and see what I have to replenish. Unless there’s a new recipe I’m trying or something like that, this covers most of the bases for me. As I mentioned before, your list may be different than mine, and that’s fine by me. However, for someone who wants to start keeping a better stocked pantry, hopefully this list helped you out.

My Love of Lemons

I love lemons.

I love the smell of them, love the taste of them in certain foods, and their yellow color makes me happy. In fact, one of my favorite decor ideas in the spring through summertime is just to have a glass bowl of lemons in the middle of my table. Not mind-blowingly creative, but it always looks fresh and pretty! Here’s some other beautiful ideas that I’ve stumbled across using lemons in decor, whether it’s for everyday or for a special event.

Lemons in a bowl with a blue ribbon tied and pinned around their middles. Photo from blog.amyatlas.com.
A gorgeous wreath made of lemons. Photo courtesy of creativedecorations.com.
Lemons paired with bright pink blossoms and some greenery make an elegant centerpiece. Photo from theknot.com.
Using lemons as place card holders for a wedding or special event. Other fruits would work nicely too! Courtesy of stylemepretty.com.
I love the look of these in a simple blue bowl. Photo from themeadowbrookblog.blogspot.com.
How easy is this? Stack a few in a tall glass and add water.
You wouldn’t even need a special event to use this idea. Arrange lemon slices in a mason jar and use for a flower bouquet. So pretty! Photo courtesy of cowboy-takemeaway.tumblr.com

Lastly, since my family loves to make a lot of fresh-squeezed lemonade in the summer (and year round), I had to throw this one in. I would love to have a big ole’ dispenser like that!

Photo courtesy of classichostess.com.