Celebrating Halloween

We all have our own ways of celebrating certain holidays. They all mean something different to each of us. It may remind you of family, friends, or other happy memories. No matter what, it’s important to celebrate special days in your own way.

That said, today I’m taking the day to appreciate the holiday. I’ll be working most of the day – but I love my job, so it’s not a big deal. It’s also a choice. I’ll be working on Thanksgiving pages, so be looking for the announcement of that tomorrow.

Before I started my day, I just wanted to make sure I wished everyone a Happy Halloween (or whatever you name the day)!

Homemade Tomato Soup

Granted I have not tried this recipe yet since I’m not a big fan of tomato soup, but it does sound good. If you have some tomatoes left from your garden, this might be a good recipe to use.

Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe

1/2 bushel tomatoes, strained
6 green peppers
6 lg. onions
1 lg. bunch celery
1/4 c. salt
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
3 sq. margarine
1 1/2 c. alphabet soup pasta

Juice tomatoes, then chop and cook other vegetables until tender. Melt margarine and add flour. Combine all vegetables and add salt and sugar. Bring to boil and add combined flour and butter (blend with little soup). Combine all and boil 10 minutes. Pressure 10 minutes.

Birthday Party Food Ideas

For kids parties, usually cake and ice cream are all they care about. But for adults, you may need something extra. Maybe a meal or just “snacks” to give the guests something to do other than chatting.

Now chances are you aren’t going to want a huge meal. If you want something more than just things to snack on, it’s got to be something simple. Chili, pizza, or other single dish items. If you want to make it a major dinner event, make it pot luck. No one person can cater a meal for large amounts of people.

For “snack” like food, you’ll still want something simple. If you have a bread machine, there are all kinds of different breads you can make. Meats and cheese are also a good option, since they are pretty simple to prepare (just slice and arrange!). Fruit is another option – such as apple slices, grapes, and non-messy items.

Chips of any kinds along with sandwiches are another option. They are not as healthy as the fruit, but usually a crowd favorite. Small sandwiches are perfect for smaller crowds.

The main idea is to keep it simple. You don’t want to spend your entire day in the kitchen or getting food ready. Make sure the focus is on the guest of honor!

Recipes for Apples

Even though our apple trees around here are already bare, I’m thinking there may be some still looking for some apple recipes. I know I’ve yet to make my best apple pie, mostly because the kids ran off with all the apples we picked a few weeks ago. I actually had to go out and buy apples because I’ve been promising the pie for so long.

Anyway, pie isn’t the only thing you can make with apples. It maybe be my family’s favorite, but there are plenty more things to do. You could make apple sauce, apple crisp, apple jelly, or even just baked apples. As I mentioned before, I didn’t get apples to make even pie this year, so I haven’t tried any different recipes out. But I do have a hoard of recipes for just apples to try out. You can find some of them on our apple recipes page, or in the apple recipes e-cookbook.


Uptown Broccoli Recipe

I realized today one thing lacking on Idea Queen is vegetable recipes. I’m actually very guilty of not serving vegetables as often as I should, mostly because I have a heck of a time getting my oldest to eat it.

This particular recipe is a favorite of mine and the youngest, who is an absolute broccoli fanatic. The oldest likes to pick the nuts out of it, and will sometimes “accidentally” get a bite or two of the evil green food on his plate. It’s hard not to because this recipe makes the broccoli taste so good.

I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s been in my “favorite book” for several years. If you find the source of it, please be sure to let me know.

Uptown Broccoli
Vegetable oil
1 med red or yellow bell pepper (we use green and it’s fine)
1 cup ranch dressing
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup pine nuts
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook broccoli. We put it in a covered casserole dish with water in the microwave until it’s tender. Start the next step while it’s cooking.
2. Heat oil over med heat, add pine nuts and peppers. Cook until pine nuts are golden brown and peppers tender.

3. Combine ranch, dill, honey, and garlic powder in a small saucepan. Heat until hot. Add the pine nuts and peppers to the broccoli, then pour “sauce” over top. Serve and enjoy!

My only complaint with this recipe is it makes three different pans/dishes dirty. I don’t like to do dishes in the least, so we don’t make this one often. I’m usually all about the one dish meals, meaning I only have to pull out one pan/dish. But this one is pretty tasty, so I bite the bullet and cook it once in awhile. It’s great as a side dish or even by itself (since the nuts add the protein, you don’t absolutely NEED a meat to go with it).

Tonight I plan to make do some tweeking to this recipe since I don’t have broccoli, but I do have some different veggies and the rest of the ingredients. Wish me luck!

Saving Money on Groceries

Christmas isn’t far away, and we could probably all use some help saving a bit more money. The first place you can start to adjust your budget is groceries. After all, that’s the easiest place to start because you can always take some shortcuts on your shopping.

There is a page on Idea Queen specifically for saving money on groceries, so I won’t repeat what’s already there. Instead, I want to hear YOUR best tips on saving money in the store. What have you done in the past to cut your bill down? Did you switch stores? Cut coupons? Switch to a cheaper brand? Let us know!

Post your tip here, or submit it using the form on the page that’s already there. We’ll be sure to give you full credit for your idea.

Can’t wait to see those ideas!

Pumpkin Pie from the Pumpkin Farm

Last week my daughter and I got to take a trip to Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm with her preschool. It was an absolute BLAST, and I was SO excited to finally go. You see, this is the 4th year I’ve had a kid in preschool here. The first two years when my son went to preschool, I didn’t get to go because I had the baby at home. Last year, my daughter’s class didn’t go (she was in the 3yr old class, and only the two older classes go). FINALLY this year I got to see where it is they go every single year – and it was VERY fun!

Part of the school trip includes a free pumpkin. The smaller kind. I found out that day the smaller pumpkins are actually called “pie pumpkins” and are specifically for pies. This I never knew! Then again, I never officially learned how to make pumpkin pies.

Now since they gave us pumpkins, it’s only natural to give us some recipes too. One was for roasted pumpkin seeds (slightly different from mine, but obviously the same results), and the other for pumpkin pie.

The recipe calls for fresh pumpkin, of course. I’ve been told it’s always best with fresh pumpkin anyway. So if you are in or around Iowa, be sure to pick up some pumpkins from Carroll’s Pumpkin Farm and take a tour. Here’s the recipe:

Danny’s Farm Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Wash and cut pumpkin in half, crosswise. remove seeds and strings. Place in baking pan face down, shell up, in 1/2″ water. Bake in a 325* F oven for 1 hour or more, until tender. Scrape the pulp from the shell and put in through a ricer or strainer.

3 cups cooked pumpkin (see above)
4 eggs beaten
1 1/4 white sugar
1/2 cut brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
12oz can evaporated milk
2 pastry shells

Mix together, pour into pastry shells and bake in a 400* F oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (approx 45 mins).

Now I didn’t strain the pumpkin, but I did make sure all the slimy strings were out. Another tip I must mention – in order to get all the lumps out you’ll need to use a hand mixer. Ours came out alright, but the consistency would have been better if we would have used a mixture. The recipe itself though is WONDERFUL! I’m not big on pumpkin pie, but this one was AWESOME! The kids loved it too.

Easy Microwave Recipes

Growing up, our microwave wasn’t used for much more than heating up frozen bags of veggies or reheating leftovers (and even then it wasn’t too often). It was almost a law that “real meals” had to be cooked in the oven.

Since growing up and having zero time to cook “real meals” half the time, I’ve turned to the microwave to make my life a little less hectic. I’ve picked up a few recipes here and there which use nothing but the microwave.

When I’m being extra lazy, the bacon for BLTs gets tossed in the microwave. It requires owning a special plate specifically for that purpose though. At least I’m pretty sure that’s it’s only purpose – I’ve never seen it used for anything else. Just lay the bacon across the plate, and toss it in the microwave. I do this often because it cuts down on injuries from popping bacon.

Baked Potatoes
The best potatoes are going to come from the oven. But who has time for that? I know I don’t. I pop all potatoes into the microwave and cook for 8-10 mins. Sure beats an hour in the oven, doesn’t it? No foil required. The toppings for the potatoes can also be heated up after the potatoes are done.

Cheesy Potatoes
You’ll need to cook the potatoes before mixing anything. Just cook like you normally would, then cut into bite size pieces. Add shredded cheese and mayo for a rich and creamy potato side dish.

Not just for campfires! Actually these are a lot less messy when cooked in the microwave. Make a “sandwich” using gram crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows. Pop in the microwave for a few seconds or until the chocolate is soft (but not completely melted). Still messy to eat, but at least the clean up is a bit easier.

For some really good recipes, be sure to check out cookbooks featuring nothing but microwave recipes. For example, Microwave Gourmet.

Homemade Glycerin Soaps

The other day we posted some lye soap recipes, and figured we’d also post some glycerin soap recipes. After all, it is the most popular right now for both consumers and soap makers.

This particular recipe doesn’t get much easier. It includes only 3 ingredients, two of which are completely your choice. The other ingredient is glycerin of course! You can also find this recipe on our homemade soap recipes page, and in the Bath & Body Recipes ebook.

Herbal Glycerin Soap Recipes
1 pound Glycerin
1/2 ounce fragrance oil or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon essential oil, amount depends on oil used.
1 T. herbal powder of your choice and/or 1 T. dried flower of you choice

Melt the glycerin in the microwave until completely dissolved. This usually takes one to two minutes. Avoid stirring as much as possible because stirring causes bubbles. Pour in herbal powder, dried flowers, and fragrance oil while still in liquid state. Stir lightly to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Pour in the mold of your choice and let set for 1 to 2 hours or longer if desired. If you have trouble with the bar releasing from the mold, place in the freezer for a few minutes and the bar should release easily. I have found that the bar of soap lathers better when it is allowed to cure for 3 to 7 days before use.

This recipe yields 4 – 4 ounce bars of Glycerin Soap

<h3>Where to Buy Supplies</h3>

Need some suggestions on where to buy supplies for the homemade glycerin soaps? Check out this site:

<a href=”http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/cgi-bin/Main.pl?AID=084591&amp;BID=682&#8243; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/affiliate/graphics/logo2.jpg&#8221; border=”0″ alt=”Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c” /></a>

Halloween Costume Websites

Still haven’t gotten your Halloween costumes yet? AH! What are you waiting for? Halloween is just a little over a week away! Just in case you need some help finding places to shop, here’s our top picks:

A great selection of costumes for both kids and adults.

Shop all year around and find deals and specials.

Nick Shop
For the favorite character costumes. Remember those are on sale right now!

1,000 of costumes for the entire family. Includes costumes for both kids and adults.

Halloween Only
Costumes and other Halloween items currently on sale.

This quick list should be enough to at least give you some great ideas. If you have other Halloween costume websites, please be sure to share them!