Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Smokey Potato Corn Chowder

There’s no denying that potatoes and corn make a darn good chowder.  This one has a few similarities to my Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder, but this one brings some heat and smokiness!  Winter is alive and well here in Michigan at the moment, so this chowder is the perfect thing to warm us up!

Smokey Corn & Potato Chowder


2 1/2 lbs yellow potatoes, cubed
1 cup diced yellow onion
4 oz diced green chiles, undrained 
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt*
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp chipotle chile pepper
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup milk or cream**


1.  Place the potatoes, onions, chilis, and seasonings in a slow cooker.  Allow to cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the potatoes are tender.

2.  Once the potatoes are tender, remove about a cup and process until smooth in a blender, then add the purée back into the slow cooker. This step is optional, but will result in a thicker chowder.


3.  Add in the corn and milk/cream and continue to cook the chowder, with the lid vented, for an additional 30-60 minutes, or until desired consistency is achieved.  Want it even thicker?  Remove 1/4 cup of broth and whisk with 1-2 tbsp of cornstarch until smooth - add to the chowder.

4.  Once the chowder has thickened, taste and adjust your seasonings if needed.  Serve as is or add some cheese and/or sour cream and serve!

*The amount of salt will depend on the sodium content of your broth.  My homemade broth contains no added salt.  If yours does, you may need a lot less salt.

**This can definitely be made vegan/dairy free by omitting the milk.

~ Sara :)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Vegetable Stock

One of the easiest things to make from scratch is broth/stock.  I canned a huge batch of veggie stock this year.  It’s the perfect base for homemade soups, pot pie, gravy, and so many other things!

The easiest way to make veggie stock is with veggie scraps.  I keep gallon bags in the freezer just for this.  Ends of onions, zucchini, celery, asparagus, carrot peels, mushroom stems, etc.  Throw them in a bag in the freezer and once you’ve filled a bag (or four!) simmer in water, strain, and voila!  You’ve got homemade, flavorful stock to use, freeze, or can.

Homemade Vegetable Stock


Veggie scraps
Salt, pepper, herbs (optional)


1.  Fill a large stock pot with veggies, seasonings* and cover with water (I use a 30 quart pot with a strainer).

2.  Allow the veggies to simmer for two to three hours and, using a potato masher, gently mash the veggies to release more flavor.  Continue to simmer for an additional two to three hours.  You’re looking for a dark golden color and a rich taste.

3.  Once your stock has finished simmering, remove the strainer basket (if using) and place it in a large pot to thoroughly drain.  Alternatively, line a colander with cheese cloth and carefully pour or ladle the stock into the cheese cloth.  You can also use the potato masher again to get as much flavor out as possible.


4.  Once your stock is strained, you're ready to use it immediately, refrigerate up to two weeks, freeze up to six months or use a pressure canner (continue to step 5) to store it indefinitely. 

5.  To pressure can:  Clean canning jars (quarts or pints), rings, and lids.  Bring the stock back to a boil and prepare pressure canner.  Carefully ladle the stock into canning jars, using a cheese cloth-lined funnel.

6.  Once jars have been filled, sealed, and placed into the pressure canner, close the pressure canner and process the stock at 11 pounds of pressure - 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.  Once finished, remove from canner, cool, remove the rings, and store.

* I choose not to add any seasonings - no salt, no pepper, no nothing.  This gives me lots of seasoning freedom when using this delicious stock in a recipe!


~ Sara :)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Maryland and DC 2017

Waaaaayyyyy back in August, we made a trip to Frederick, Maryland.  Jason was headed there for work so the kids and I tagged along too.  We took this same trip last year - I love it because I have so many great memories in MD from when we lived there part time back when Redmond was a baby.  The kids love it because we live in a hotel with a pool for a week :)

To kick off our trip, we went to Jason's company's summer picnic.  They are always so fun with lots of activities to keep the kids busy.  The had face painting, a photo booth, and these hilarious inflatable horses to bounce around on.


Once the picnic was over, it was time for the after party.  Jason's boss hosts this every year complete with fresh crab and homemade fries.  The fries are aaaaamazing!!  I, of course, passed on the crab, but Jason dug right in!

Also, just look at this gorgeous view and sunset taken at the party.  Total view envy going on!!

Not long after the sun set, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.  We had a BIG day coming up in the morning!

In Kindergarten last year, Redmond learned about presidents, the White House, and Washington DC.  He talked about it all year - specifically the White House.  We decided that this trip would be the perfect opportunity to take the kids to DC.  First stop?  The White House of course!

My sister, her family, and my niece who was staying with her for a couple weeks drove to meet us and walk around DC with us.  Love this picture of all the cousins together at the WWII Memorial.

We saw a few of the main attractions - The Washington Monument, The Smithsonian, the WWII Memorial, and everything in between. 

We did a lot of walking.  According to my Fitbit, we clocked in approximately 8 miles!  The kids did awesome, but gladly accepted piggyback rides from their older cousins (and us) at any point.

After lunch, we made one more stop.  My brother-in-law told us about the old Post Office and how it offers the best views of DC.  So, we trekked a few blocks over and, after a hilarious trial and error adventure of trying to figure out how to get to the top (it involved us looking like complete fools in the Trump hotel...), we finally made it.  And, he was right - the views were awesome!

It was hard to get a good, clear picture due to all of the screens/bars over the windows, but I was able to get a few.


After that, it was time to head back to MD.  We said our goodbyes to my family and headed to the Metro station.  Yes - we rode the Metro to/from DC!  It turned into much more of an adventure than we had planned due to a large chunk of the Metro being shut down for repairs.  So, each way we ended up riding the train, getting on a huge accordion-style city bus, then back on the train.  It was pretty cool to have the kids get a true big city transportation experience.

We finally made it back to our car and we were no more than out of the Metro parking lot before this happened:


What a great, exhausting day!!

The next day was Monday and Jason had to head to work :(  So, the kids and I went to one of my favorite places in Frederick - Baker Park. 


The kids got bored playing at the park pretty quickly, so I decided we'd go for a walk instead.  I wanted to show them this cute little covered bridge about a half mile away.  I used to push Redmond in a stroller on this path seven(!!!) years ago.


I didn't take a whole lot of photos the rest of the week, but it pretty much consisted of swimming, eating, playing, and the occasional donut and ice cream :)


We loaded up the car Friday morning and headed on our next adventure.  We decided to stay the night in Pittsburgh.  The first stop once we got there was the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.  Oh my gosh, y'all.  This place was amazing!!!!!  I seriously can not put into words how incredible this museum is.  Nor can my photos give it justice.  So many awesome exhibits.  So much fun!




After the museum, we headed to our hotel to check in.  One of the reasons we wanted to stay in Pittsburgh was because they kids have never really experienced skyscrapers.  We've done lots of traveling, but had never stayed in a big city with the kids.


We headed out to grab some dinner (and margaritas ;) then went out to explore the city.  The kids loved all of the golden bridges.


We were all pretty exhausted so after we walked around, we got some dessert and headed back to the hotel.  We explored the hotel a bit then went to our room, zoned out in front of some cartoons, and went to bed. 

The next morning we grabbed some breakfast in the hotel, loaded up, and headed home.  We had a great week full of adventures and relaxation :)

~ Sara :)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hot Pepper Jelly

This is a great, versatile recipe that you can make as hot and sweet as you'd like.  As long as you have between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of peppers, you'll have success.  You can use any combination of peppers that you'd like.  For this particular recipe I used 1 small green bell pepper, 1/2 red bell pepper, 2 small jalapenos, 4 habaneros and 1 7-pot chili pepper.  I seeded and removed the ribs of all peppers, but keep them in if you really like it hot. And please wear rubber gloves when dealing with hot peppers.  Don't try to be a hero.  You'll regret it.  Trust me.

Two of my favorite ways to eat pepper jelly is in Baked Brie with a fresh baguette or simply drizzled over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers.  

Hot Pepper Jelly
Makes approximately 6 1/2 half-pints

1 cup bell pepper, chopped small
1/2 - 1 cup hot peppers, minced
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
5 cups granulated sugar
3 oz liquid pectin


1.  In a large pot, combine the peppers, vinegar and sugar.  Dissolve the sugar and bring mixture to a full boil.  Boil 5-6 minutes, stirring often.

2.  Remove from heat, add pectin and combine.  Transfer jelly to warm canning jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove, wait for the 'ping' and cool.


~ Sara :)