How to Make Croutons

This last week, we had a loaf of bread that got stuffed back behind a few other bread products and I didn’t notice it was even there. By the time I realized it, the bread was fairly stale. In the past, I probably would have fed this to our wild birds or worse…even tossed it. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, there’s usually a way you can use things that aren’t still the freshest, but are still safely edible. I’ve turned stale bread into bread crumbs before but I wanted to try to make some croutons this time.

I found a real basic Crouton Recipe on AllRecipes.com. This one was just for regular croutons with a little garlic flavoring. You could probably toss in some spices if you want more flavoring.

1) The first thing you need to do is to cut off the crusts of your bread. This will give you a typical crouton. If you want to leave them on, I’m sure you could.

2) Next, you need to butter both sides of the bread with melted butter. I had my kids help with this. They kept saying they were “painting bread.”

3) Once buttered, cut the bread into cube shapes. If you want them to have a garlic flavor, sprinkle them lightly with garlic salt. Then place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

4) Bake them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until browned. If you want, you could flip them over halfway through for an even cooking, but I didn’t and they turned out just fine.

That’s it. Simple and a great way to be sure any stale bread you have doesn’t go to waste. I put these in a Ziploc bag and we’ll be enjoying them on several salads we’ll pick from our garden.

I’m hoping that if you come across things in your house that aren’t the freshest but are still safe to eat, that you’ll find other uses for them, too. If you need some inspiration, I love to follow Teresa from Money Saving Maine-ac in her “Yucky Stuff is the Lucky Stuff” series. She always has such great ideas!

This was a fun little activity for me and the kids. I got a good laugh over when I told my kids that we were going to make Croutons and my son said, “We’re going to make Coupons?!” Can you tell Coupons are a big part of our life? :)

How To Make a Dump Truck Cake

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my son is completely in love with trucks right now. So it was no surprise to me when he told me he wanted a dump truck cake for his birthday earlier this year. My first instinct was to call a bakery and have them make up some fancy design but I wanted to take a stab at making one myself.

Those that know me know how hilarious that might sound because I have no talent when it comes to making cakes. But this one is really easy. REALLY easy.

The first thing you need to do is plan ahead and find coupons for a cake mix and frosting and match them with a hot sale to get it for Free or close to it. OK, sorry, I couldn’t just let you pay full price now could I? But seriously, try to plan ahead so you get a good deal on it.

You can use any store bought cake mix and make it according to box directions. I usually go with a Funfetti one as my kids get a kick out of the colors inside the cake.

I then wanted frosting that looked like a dirt color—chocolate was too dark so I lightened it with a Buttercream one. Just mix and blend until you get the color you want then spread it over the cake AFTER it cools. Important or you’ll rip the cake. Yes, I know this from experience. A few times. I get impatient as there’s always too much to do before the guests arrive!

Next, position some trucks around the cake. I found a great set of 5 little trucks at Walmart for around $5. (I only used 3 on his cake.) I’m not sure if they sell them still but keep your eyes open especially around the holidays, if you are planning ahead, as they have cute sets then.

I then added some chocolate rocks around the cake to look like something a dump truck could haul or diggers could dig up. Don’t forget to leave space in the middle for the birthday message. You can even stack a bunch in one corner to look like a rockpile. Some specialty candy stores sell the chocolate rocks. I ordered mine online from Nifty Nut House. I saved some of the rocks and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

The hardest part is the birthday message. Just go slow and take your time writing it and you’ll be OK. I also added a numeral candle to mine as I found it at our dollar store.

Overall, the cake is pretty easy to make and if you plan ahead on your materials, it shouldn’t cost an outrageous amount. If your family prefers cupcakes, you could maybe find a larger dump truck toy and fill it “dirt-colored frosting” cupcakes with the chocolate rocks on each one and have a cupcake holding your candle in the middle–and the rest of the cupcakes around/behind it.

As for the extra chocolate rocks I saved—I used those as party favor gifts for everyone. I just put some in a Sandwich-type bag, hole-punched some paper with a thank-you message and tied it on with ribbon that I got in the dollar bins. For the little kids, I gave them each a truck filled with chocolate rocks .

And that’s the easy way to make a dump truck cake. I hope your child enjoys it as much as my son and our family did–the chocolate rocks were a big hit with everyone! And what’s nice about this one is–they still have truck toys to play with from the cake when the party’s over.

Homemade Pretzel Recipe: Conveniently At Home


Welcome to my series called Conveniently At Home. The idea of this series is to slowly transition myself from buying pre-made or processed foods and eventually make most of my foods “from scratch.” This will be a slow journey but one worth the wait!

My kids absolutely love pretzels! I was really excited to see that my Make-A-Mix book had a recipe in there for them. What’s cool about this book is that it will give you a Master Recipe for something, and then share several recipes you can make from that one mix with additional ingredients.

For the pretzels, you need to make their Hot Rolls Mix. (They also give you 19 other recipes you can turn the Hot Rolls Mix into!) The Hot Rolls Mix makes 22 Cups but you’ll only need 5 Cups for the Pretzel Recipe. I just save the extra for another day or another recipe.

Prep Work: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease the cookie sheets that you’ll be using.

Hot Rolls Mix
5 lb. (20 cups) of all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk

Mix all of those ingredients together in one bowl:

After making the mix, then proceed with the recipe for Pretzels. Here are the  ingredients you’ll need:

5 cups of Hot Rolls Mix (above)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 of the 1/4-oz. packages)
1- 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, about 110 degrees
2 eggs, beaten -in one bowl
1/4 cup veg. oil or melted margarine
1 egg, beaten – in a second bowl
2 tablespoons of coarse salt


1) In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Then stir in the 2 beaten eggs and add the oil or margarine.


2) Add 5 cups of the Hot Rolls Mix and stir well. (You can add more Hot Rolls Mix if you want to make it a softer dough.) You’ll then knead the mixture for 5 minutes until the dough is fairly smooth.


3) Take parts of the dough and roll them into ropes about 1/2″ diameter and about 18-24″ long. (The kids did these. They had so much fun rolling them!)


4) To form the pretzel shape, you make a circle shape and then twist the ends twice. Then bring the ends up onto the circle shape. For the kids, it was easier to just make the shape pictured above and then take each end and bring it to the opposite side of the pretzel. Place the pretzel onto the greased cookie sheet.

5) Then take the 1 beaten egg mixture and brush a little bit of it onto each of the pretzels. Finally, sprinkle the coarse salt on top of each pretzel.

6) Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes until brown and crisp and you get something yummy looking like this:

I made a pretty big batch and then froze any that we didn’t eat, after they had cooled. On the days when the kids are hungry for one, I just take some out of the freezer bag and microwave them on a microwave-safe plate until they are warm.

I store my leftover Hot Rolls Mix in a secure air-tight container for another day when we feel like making more pretzels. It saves me time to not have to keep making that mix over and over.  Or I can use it for another recipe in the book.

This was just one fun adventure that I had with the kids. Remember to always keep your kids safely away from the oven and hot cookie sheets!  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Not only was it a fun afternoon activity but we made our snacks for the day plus are ready with future snacks for another day!

You can check out past Conveniently At Home Recipes that I’ve shared, too.

Disclaimer: Always practice safe cooking and handling methods when in the kitchen.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes Recipe:Conveniently At Home


Welcome to my series called Conveniently At Home. The idea of this series is to slowly transition myself from buying pre-made and/or processed foods and eventually make most of my foods “from scratch.” This will be a slow journey but one worth the wait!

There’s just something about sun-dried tomatoes that seems to make a regular pasta dish seem a little more gourmet. I’m not sure what it is about it or maybe that’s just me. I finally splurged the one day and bought a bag in the store. The price seemed high but after making these, I can see why. It takes a lot of tomatoes to make one little bag. But, with summer here I know that soon some of you will be like I normally am each year and having an over-abundance of tomatoes and no idea what to do with them. So I thought I’d share this simple recipe that I found online at AllRecipes.com. I often find a lot of good ones on that site.

I had to laugh at how simple these are to make. Now, I haven’t ever tried to make these outside as real “sun-dried” but I did find this was a nice thing to make on a cooler summer day in the oven to avoid turning on the heat.


What you’ll need:
4 lbs of tomatoes (Roma tomatoes work best)
Salt (to taste, optional)

(Yeah, it’s that simple!)

How to Make Them:

1) The first thing you must do is cut them in half and cut out the seeds. Roma tomatoes work best for this recipe.


2) Next, cut them into small pieces/strips. (You can keep them in just halves, but they take much longer to cook.) I laid mine on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Some I added salt to, others I didn’t. In the end, I think I did like the salted ones better, but you may want to try it both ways at first, too.

3) Then you are going to cook them at 200 degrees. Now it takes a long time for these to cook, so plan accordingly. I cut mine in such small pieces and our oven cooks fast so it took me about 4 hours. But some take up to 12 hours or more. (This is why you’ll want to do it on a colder day to utilize all that extra heat!) This is what mine looked like when I was done and I had less than the 4lbs when I started:

You’ll want to bake them until they take on a leather-like feel and still pliable. You don’t want them crispy (or over-dried) but still juicy in the middle. I can’t tell you how to store them as I gobble these down within a day or two and I’ve just kept them in the fridge in a Ziploc bag. I’ve heard you can store them in olive oil, but not sure any specifics.

These have come to be a nice little snack for me. Even the kids love eating them plain. And they are just fabulous when added to pasta dishes. They are a great way to use an over-abundance of tomatoes from the garden!

If you have a favorite recipe that you order when you dine out or have been getting store-bought, you should see if you can find a comparable one online to see if you can make it Conveniently At Home, too!

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich Recipe: Conveniently At Home


Welcome to my series called Conveniently At Home. The idea of this series is to slowly transition myself from buying pre-made and/or processed foods and eventually make most of my foods “from scratch.” This will be a slow journey but one worth the wait!

It’s been awhile since I posted one of these. I knew that when I went to revive the series that it had to be with a good recipe. And I think you all might like this one. I am a huge fan of pork tenderloin sandwiches. When I was searching online for a recipe to try, there weren’t too many out there. I kept reading how the pork tenderloin sandwich was more of a Mid-western U.S. food. I’m not sure if that’s true or not because I’ve lived mostly in the Midwest and I’ve always seen them. :) But all the same, if you’ve never tried one, they are really great!

I eventually found a recipe on AllRecipes.com. The recipe was so simple that I knew I had to try it.

Ingredients Needed:
1lb of Pork Tenderloin
1 cup of Flour
1/2 cup of Yellow Cornmeal
1 teaspoon of Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Black Pepper
Cooking Oil
4 Large Sandwich Buns
Condiments such as Ketchup, Mustard, Pickles–also Lettuce and Tomato (all optional)

Tools needed:
Meat Tenderizer
Saran Wrap
Cutting Board
2 Large Dishes
Large Skillet
Tongs
Foil & Waxed Paper (if freezing some sandwiches)

Prep Work: You’ll need to have two large dishes for dipping the tenderloin into. One for water and one for a cornmeal mix. Pour some water into one dish and in the other, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. I used 8×8 Pyrex Dishes and they worked really well.


1) The original recipe says to start off by cutting these into 1 inch pieces and then “butterflying” them, which means cutting down the middle but not all the way through. But when I did this, I had better luck just cutting them into the 1in pieces. I’ll explain what to do next.


2) Place the pork tenderloin between two pieces of Saran Wrap. (I placed mine on top of the cutting board, too, to save my countertop!) You are now going to use your Meat Tenderizer’s flat side to pound the pork tenderloin into a very thin piece, about 8-10 in” wide. I had the best luck starting on the outer edges and kind of pulling the tenderloin while pounding it at the same time. It’s kind of tricky to explain but you’ll figure it out quickly. If it’s too hard to get it to flatten, butterfly it as the original recipe mentions. When you are all done, it should look something like this: (very thin–almost to the point of being see-through but with a little thickness to it.)

3) Remove the saran wrap and then dip the tenderloin first in the dish with water and then in the dish with the cornmeal mix, being sure to coat it on both sides.

When you are all done with the dipping/coating process, it will look something like this:

4) Now you are going to heat some cooking oil in a large skillet. You want it to be enough oil to cover the tenderloin. About 1/2 in of oil. Once the oil is nice and hot, (original recipe says 365 degrees F) you are going to slowly drop the tenderloin into it like this: (You must be extra careful and use caution when adding it to the oil so it doesn’t “spit” the oil back up at you. I use my back burner and it helps some.)

You’ll cook both sides, flipping once or as needed, until they are a golden brown, but not burnt. It’s about 5 minutes. Just make sure that you cook it thoroughly but not too much so that you dry up the meat. When it’s done, use a pair of tongs to pull it out of the oil and just let the oil drip off, if there’s any. And then, you place that awesome tenderloin onto a hamburger bun or kaiser roll:

You can now add your favorite toppings such as ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce and/or tomatoes. I actually will eat mine without a bun sometimes and just break it into little pieces that I dip in ketchup.

I hope that you find that you love these sandwiches, too. When I made them, I cut up a very large pork tenderloin and made several of these. I put them (uncooked) on a large piece of foil and put waxed paper in between each tenderloin piece. I then wrapped the whole thing in the tin foil, covering everything completely to prevent freezer burn, and put them in the freezer. So now when I get hungry for one, I can just pull out some and fry them up. It’s makes for a quick meal and it saves me from paying the $6-8 for one when I get a craving for them. I do recommend not stacking more than you’ll use in one meal. They can be a little tricky getting them apart when frozen.

Looking for a good side dish to go with it? Try my American Fries Recipe. They go good together.

If you have a favorite recipe that you order when you dine out, you should see if you can find a comparable one online to see if you can make it Conveniently At Home, too!

Conveniently At Home: Zucchini Quesadillas, Bread and Crisps


Welcome to my weekly series called Conveniently At Home. The idea of this series is to slowly transition myself from buying pre-made and/or processed foods and eventually make most of my foods “from scratch.” This will be a slow journey but one worth the wait!

I was inspired by Amy’s Finer Things Zucchini Recipe Round-up for this week. Since I couldn’t decide which one to do, I did 3 of them! I had plans for a few more but I was so exhausted after all the cooking that I had to crash. So sorry I didn’t get this up last night!

The ones I tried were: Zucchini, Carrot and Black Bean Quesadillas, Zucchini Applesauce Bread and Cheesy Zucchini Crisps.

Here are our pictures of them:


Quesadillas w/ a side of salsa for dipping!


Yummy Zucchini Applesauce Bread!


Cheesy Zucchini Crisps

MY NOTES:

Quesadillas – I love veggies so I kept the recipe the same for me and Nathan. But I added chicken cubes to Rich’s. We also dipped ours in salsa! Yum!

Bread – I made two loaves. One with raisins and one without. I should have cooked the one with raisins a touch longer. When I went to flip it out of the loaf pan, it was still a little gooey in the middle. I kind of pieced it back together and cooked it for another 10 minutes or so. :) It’s all still good!

Cheesy Crisps – I am pretty sure I was supposed to cut these even smaller. But they made for a nice appetizer last night. And I love the breading. I think I may try it on some homemade chicken nuggets!

I still want to try the Zucchini Chocolate Pudding Muffins and Stuffed Zucchini. I plan on freezing the muffins. I also froze some of the bread for quick little snacks down the road.

Well, those were my homemade recipes that I tried for this week. Here’s hoping that you’ve found something new to make from scratch and found that it was Conveniently At Home! If you made a recipe this week, or have one to share, please leave us a linky! And feel free to email me (or leave to a link to) any of your homemade recipes for me to try out. I’ll add them to my list for future weeks.

Conveniently At Home: Hot & Spicy Sloppy Joes


Welcome to my weekly series called Conveniently At Home. The idea of this series is to slowly transition myself from buying pre-made and/or processed foods and eventually make most of my foods “from scratch.” This will be a slow journey but one worth the wait!

For some reason this week, I decided I was hungry for Sloppy Joes. When Matt sent over the link for the FREE pork chop recipe book HERE, I decided to search the Recipe Lion site to see what they had. Something caught my eye; Hot & Spicy Sloppy Joes. The recipe called for jalepenos and I had some ripe in my garden. Perfect timing!

MY NOTES:

So I was petrified to cut up my jalepenos. I’ve heard stories of people wiping their eyes or skin with the juice and had some major burning. So I was very, very careful! I’m not sure if the jalepenos were too ripe, not ripe enough or if I cut out too much of the ribs but the Sloppy Joes really weren’t that spicy. It’s of no fault of the recipe. I am not a big fan of spicy food and I could eat the jalepenos without feeling the heat. It was a bummer but the recipe was still sooo good, regardless. One important note is that time may vary by crockpot. Mine was bubbling and almost burning the edges of the crockpot after 1-1.5 hours on high. I turned it down to low for the remainder of the time.

Here’s a picture of them after I topped them with cheese:

That was my homemade recipe that I tried for this week. Here’s hoping that you’ve found something new to make from scratch and found that it was Conveniently At Home! If you made a recipe this week, or have one to share, please leave us a linky! And feel free to email me (or leave to a link to) any of your homemade recipes for me to try out. I’ll add them to my list for future weeks.