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Easy Homemade Meal Ideas to Last All Winter Long

Easy Homemade Meal Ideas to Last All Winter Long


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It’s common to dine out to try new foods, meet up with friends, or to avoid having to cook, but preparing your own meal at home can be just as enjoyable, and it can save you money to boot.

Below are a few delicious homemade recipes that not only taste great, but can be made ahead of time or preserved for use in future meals this winter.

Homemade Bruschetta

Homemade bruschetta will have you and any dinner guests feeling like you’re at an Italian restaurant. You can make and enjoy this tomato spread immediately or prepare a larger batch and preserve for later.

Source: Rural Mom

Pesto

A big bowl of pasta is a classic comfort food during the cold winter months. With just a few basic ingredients likely found in your refrigerator, you can whip up a batch of savory pesto to top your favorite noodles, or even to use as a spread on garlic bread.

Source: Food in Jars

Wheatberry Salad

If you’re looking for a healthy salad option that’s still filling, try this Wheatberry, Feta, and Dilly Tomato Salad recipe from Top Chef Judge Hugh Acheson. Nutty, fresh, and healthy, wheatberries are an easy grain to prepare, and, when made in a large batch, you can have plenty for leftover lunches.

Source: FreshPreserving.com

Slow-Cooker Peach Dump Cake

Craving a sweet taste of summer in the cold winter months? Instead of splurging on five-dollar ice cream pints, whip up a batch of this Slow-Cooker Peach Dump Cake and serve in 16-ounce or 8-ounce Collection Elite Jars. Best of all, you get to use your slow cooker and just a handful of ingredients (no fresh peaches needed)!

Source: The Country Chic Cottage

For more inspirational ideas, visit www.Pinterest.com/BallCanning


Preventing Frozen Dinners From Getting Excess Ice in Them?I sometimes get frozen dinner items for our Grand Children to eat on the run. Tonight they opened an Alfredo meal and it was covered

Freezer Meal Tips and RecipesOne way to help organize your busy schedule and still have delicious home cooked meals most nights is to prepare them in advance and freeze. This page contains some helpful freezer meal tips and recipes.

Freeze a Month of Dinners in One AfternoonBy spending several hours on an afternoon you can prep and freeze enough meals for an entire month. This not only saves time when heating or cooking them later, but you may also save on food costs by buying enough of some ingredients to use for more than one meal while it is on sale. This is a page about freeze a month of dinners in one afternoon.

Freezing CasserolesThis is a page about freezing casseroles. Making and freezing casseroles ahead of time can help make meals easier and faster on days when your schedule is overly busy.

Make Your Own Frozen PizzaThis is a page about how to make your own frozen pizza. Make your own frozen pizza and experience the convenience, but not the expense, of store bought frozen pizza.

Various Meal Ideas From Homemade Beef SoupPrepare your own favorite basic beef soup recipe. I normally make mine with bite-size pieces of lean pot roast in a huge soup pot so I can make enough to freeze and last me all winter long.

Soups to Last All WinterEvery fall, I pull out my large crock pot and start cooking. First I make 2 pots of chicken soup, then 2 pots of vegetable beef soup, then 2 pots of chili.

Robbyn's Friendly Freezer?What happened to Robbyn's Friendly Freezer? I need the recipes. I miss the site and can't find it anywhere!

Freezing Meals Containing Cream Soups?I am expanding what I cook to put in the freezer and have a few questions.

Meals For A Freezer Swap?I am going to a freezer swap on Friday. I am looking for easy, cheap, relatively healthy meals that can be frozen, and then shared with friends. Thanks in advance!

Grandma's Comfort FoodsI am going to pass on some of my mother's and my aunt's "secret recipes" that they used to make for us. All can be made and frozen then reheated.

Making Your Own Frozen Meals?My family really likes eating the frozen pre-packaged meals like Voila! or some of those Banquet meals found in the frozen aisle. Often times I have thought that I could make them on my own .

Freezing Sides To Go With Pork Chops?What "sides" freeze well? I am making pork chops to freeze and exchange and was thinking about stuffing and a vegetable.

Ground-Beef MixGround-Beef Mix. Make up a few batches of these when you can, then on extra busy days you can quickly prepare a main course. . .

Recipes You Can Freeze?Does anyone know any quick recipes that you can freeze? That would be a great help!

Cook Two CasserolesWhen making a casserole, double the ingredients and make two. Cook one and store the other in the freezer.

Creating A Freezer Meal Exchange Group?There are a few of us in my community that would like to start a freezer-meal exchange where 5 of us make four recipes and excange with the others to have enough freezer meals for weekdays for a month. I would love it if anyone involved in a similar group could offer any tips for making this a success!

Why buy frozen biscuits when you can do it yourself?When I make biscuits I usually make about 20 to 30. I bake what I need at the time and then I put the others on a baking sheet covered with wax paper and place them in the freezer for a few hours. When they are frozen I just put them in a freezer bag. Then we have homemade biscuits in about 20 min.

New Contest! Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a MonthFrozen Assets is small in stature, but jam-packed with meal-planning advice. It contains recipe ideas, plus detailed instructions on how to get the maximum value from your food dollar, while also slashing meal preparation times.

Cook An Extra Meal and FreezeWhen preparing a meal (it doesn't matter if it is a breakfast casserole or a dinner), try doubling the amount you are cooking. Freeze the second part.

Make Your Own Frozen FoodsI use my stock pot to make huge pots of soup, or chili, or spaghetti sauce to use for one dinner and freeze the rest in meal-size portions and use one a night when there is not time to cook and you still need a hearty meal.


How To: The BEST Homemade Hot Cocoa Bar

Are you looking to create a homemade hot cocoa bar that will WOW your guests? These easy styling tips and 4 simple cocoa ingredients make a delicious display that will last all winter long!

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The Hot Cocoa Bar

A hot cocoa bar has become a staple around our house during the cold winter months. We typically set it up the week before Thanksgiving and let it roll through early March.

I used to make a small, minimal display but with the kids getting older its so fun to go all out! Whether you choose to go simple or extravagant – my styling tips, topping suggestions and cocoa recipe will please even the toughest cocoa critics.

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Hot Cocoa Toppings

We prefer to store our (non liquid) toppings in glass vessels to make them easy to access and identify. I typically choose mason or spice jars so lids can easily be added or removed. We use plastic squeeze bottles for sauces and small serving dishes for extra treats.

Topping Ideas:

  • Marshmallows
  • Whipped Cream
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Caramel Syrup
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Crushed Peppermint
  • Candy Canes or Peppermint Spoons
  • Sprinkles
  • Cinnamon Powder
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cookie Sticks
  • Milk Straws
  • Seasonal Chocolates or Truffles

Hot Cocoa Bar Sign

Every great hot cocoa bar needs a great hot cocoa bar SIGN! In the past I have framed a Microsoft Word document or used a vintage sign from a local thrift store. While they were good options at the time, this year I wanted something that was more my own.

Luckily, I have an amazing artist friend who helped me to create a collection of printable hot cocoa bar signs to share with YOU! Simply purchase, print and frame! You can use code HHL20 for 20% off!

Hot Cocoa Bar Styling Tips

Create A Base Display

Use a single large tray or several serving trays and pedestals to display the cocoa bar. This year I made a footed tray out of a piece of leftover 12″x24″ tile to achieve a tiered look! You can find the tutorial for my DIY Footed Tile Tray HERE.

I completed the bottom tier of the display with THIS ACACIA SERVING TRAY.

Decorative Touches

An optional but fun element is to use cake stands to anchor the sides of the base display. Work with a variety of velvet and bottle brush trees (or other seasonal decor) to bring texture and color to the space.

Storage & Serving

Chocolate candies are held in MINI STRIPED SERVING BOWLS and sauces are stored in PLASTIC SQUEEZE BOTTLES

Our cocoa mix and marshmallows are stored in large glass airtight containers with pull off lids.

I suggest to add toppings to clear glass jars with lids. This way each topping is easy to identify and can be sealed when the bar is not in use.

Don’t Forget MUGS!!

Mugs are another must have! We use a versatile plain white but feel free to have fun with it if your style desires! Ours aren’t pictured but I have them displayed on a tiered tray between the cocoa bar and our Keurig machine for easy hot water dispersion.

Here are a few simple and holiday inspired mug ideas.

Finishing Touches

I love adding paper straws and little stir spoons as finishing touches. Display them in glass containers a little shorter than length so they add a fun pop of color!

THE COCOA RECIPE

I have been using this cocoa recipe for the past 4 years and it is truly the BEST mix out there!! The ingredints are easy to find at your local grocery store and make a HUGE portion! We typically double or triple the recipe to make it last longer!

Feel free to modify proportions if you want a sweeter, creamier or more chocolaty cocoa.


  • Step One: Combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder, white chocolate, powdered milk, salt and cornstarch in a mixing bowl. and incorporate evenly. (Photo 1 below)
  • Step Two: Working in batches, add the mix to a food processor and pulse until the white chocolate is finely ground (Photo 2 below)
  • Step Three: To make cocoa, mix 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix with 1 cup of hot water or milk. (Photo 3 below)
  • Step Four: Top with mini marshmallows. Enjoy your delicious Homemade Hot Chocolate! (Photo 4 below)

LOVE Homemade Hot Chocolate RECIPE? TRY THESE FAVORITES

Looking for more? Check out all of the Quick and Easy Recipes on It Is a Keeper.


Holiday decor to last all winter long

Our rustic natural front porch decor

When decorating the front porch for the holiday I know that the decor will most likely stay out until the end of January at least! For us here in Michigan the snow comes heavy in January and February, and no one wants to be out in it! Knowing I won’t be out in the freezing cold to change up the decor I try to use decor to last.

This year I have taken a rustic approach to the porch- flannel, pinecones, trees, little metal houses, and snowflakes!

Kind of a cabin feel, don’t cha think?

DIY Snowflakes can last all winter long

I had to make the famous DIY craft of the season- A Paper bag Snowflake! These are so easy to make and are everywhere on Instagram this year. The shape and color look great for the rustic theme I have going and can stay out for the whole winter season.


Which Food Storage Method Should You Start With?

My advice (as with all things gardening related) is to keep it simple. Take a look at the meals you eat and the groceries you buy on a weekly basis and come up with a list of five things you’d like to have as ingredients for cooking during your garden’s off season.

That’s where you should start.

I walk you through how to start setting your priorities for filling your pantry for winter in the free mini-course listed below.


How to Make Pesto From Your Garlic Scapes

The scape is the curly, green stalk that emerges from the middle of the garlic plant about 4-6 weeks before harvest. If left on the plant it will eventually flower.

Most people cut them off in order to force the plant to put its energy towards making a bigger bulb instead of making a flower.

I harvest mine when they start to curl themselves into a circle (see photo above). The longer you wait, the spicier and tougher the scapes become. I either snap them off by hand or use a knife to cut them.

Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

Recipe by Bjorn Bergman (one of the ski trip members!)
Makes 1 ½ cups, or not quite two half-pint jars

2 cups garlic scapes, roughly chopped*
½ – ¾ cup of olive oil or sunflower oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (feel free to leave out if you don’t eat dairy)
½ cup walnuts or sunflower seeds or pepitas
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

*Note: feel free to mix in other herbs like basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, or even kale, to make the pesto milder. We love garlic, so we don’t mind the strong taste, but here’s your warning that you will have garlic breath after eating!

Step 1: Add garlic scapes, Parmesan, walnuts, salt, and black pepper to your food processor and pulse until well blended. (We invested in this 11-cup food processor many years ago and have used it several times a week since then.)

Step 2: Turn processor on and slowly add ½ cup oil. Once added, stop and scrape the sides to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Step 3: Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If pesto is too thick, add more oil while the processor is running.

Optional: If you don’t like the taste or it’s too strong, mix in other herbs and/or kale from your garden to tone it down.

Step 4: Process pesto once more until it is creamy, about 1 minute.

Step 5: Load the pesto into your preferred containers and store in your chest freezer for up to a year. I use these half pint jars.

I like to store my pesto in half pint jars in my chest freezer. You can also freeze it into discs or ice cubes and then store in a freezer bag. Don’t forget to label the jar with the item and date. Frozen food is best if eaten within a year.


Use duck meat instead of ground beef and layer into nachos for your next game day treat.

Crisped in the oven or on a grill, shredded duck confit is perfect on a salad. Our recipe for Crispy Duck Salad with Thai Chile & Lime Dressing is bright and refreshing.


Repurpose Old Wine Bottles

After hosting holiday celebrations, you might be left with a lot of wine bottles. Instead of recycling them, opt to repurpose them instead. This gold glitter centerpiece from Delightful Details is a great way to give bottles a new life. Use a bit of spray paint and some glitter and voilà: You have a centerpiece perfect for any New Year's Eve party that will also look beautiful all winter long.


Easy Vegetarian Crock Pot Refried Beans (without Lard!)

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When I first saw Crock Pot Refried Beans making the internet rounds a while back, I got kind of excited. I mean, I’m a fiend for the Crock Pot, surely I’ve made that clear by now. But the first time they really truly landed squarely on my radar was when the wonderful Simply Scratch posted a great-looking recipe for them. And even though they look terrific, unfortunately, they have lard. No-go for a vegetarian.

So I set out to make my own version of Crock Pot Refried Beans. My criteria was pretty simple: they must use dried beans, they must be super duper easy, and they must taste amazing.

Honestly? It took me about seven tries until I got these just right. I’d like to think that confession will inspire confidence in my recipe rather than doubt …

This recipe is so, so easy. While I’m usually all for fresh veggies, I love that this particular recipe takes no chopping – no peppers, no onions. Just a few whole cloves of garlic, a couple glugs of olive oil, some vegetable broth, and spices. And beans, of course.

Some versions of Crock Pot Refried Beans don’t include soaking time. This isn’t one. I’ve read that soaking beans is an important step in reducing the gas-causing compounds, and, well, I’ve found that to be pretty true. So I’m a bonafide always-soaks-beans kinda gal. Besides – it takes, like, two extra minutes of hands-on time to soak. Okay, and a tad more planning. Totally worth less discomfort and, um, you know. Noise and stuff.

So. First, I soak the beans in the Crock Pot overnight. In the morning, I drain and rinse the beans, then return them to the Crock Pot and add the other ingredients.

Then they cook. 8 hours or so.

Then I break out my immersion blender and blend the heck out of them. And then I let them cook in the Crock Pot, uncovered, for another 30 minutes or so to thicken up and get even more refried-ish.

And then there you have it. Creamy, perfect, frugal, oh-so easy refried beans. Now you can make tostadas. Or tacos. Or just eat a bowl straight up with some cheddar cheese melted sprinkled on the top. That, my friends, is the perfect snack.

You can also freeze them. I measure cups into zipper bags, label them, flatten them, and throw them into the freezer. Then I can just pull one out whenever I want a snack or we decide we want some super-easy tostadas for dinner.

So there ya go. Refried beans in the Crock Pot with no lard, no chopping, and hardly any work. Vegetarian, vegan, healthy, delicious. These easy Crock Pot Refried Beans are a happy new staple around here.

Oh, and here’s a little cost comparison for giggles.

  • 1 pound of pinto beans = 6 cups of refried beans = $1.50 (roughly $1 per pound of beans + 50 cents for other ingredients)
  • 3 15-ounce cans of vegetarian refried beans = $4.50 (assuming a decent price of $1.50 per can)
  • Homemade from-scratch refried beans only cost 33% of what canned beans cost – a 66% savings!

I love saving money – not to mention knowing exactly what goes into my food.