Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

There was a time that my now four year old son ate any and every vegetable or fruit that I served him.  Those days are gone. Haha.  Therefore, I get creative from time to time and try to sneak in a vegetable here and there when I can.  This was one of the attempts at hiding a vegetable in a kid favorite, Mac & Cheese, and it has quickly become a family favorite.  Fair warning: this meal is not one of my “quick and easy” recipes, but it is totally worth the time cooking it, if I do say so myself!

Ingredients:

12 oz macaroni noodles
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
2 3/4 cups of milk
1/4 cup of flour
1 cup shredded smoked Gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded smoked Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 pack of bacon
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9 x 12 glass baking dish, set aside.  Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl.

2.) While the pasta is boiling, combine the squash and 2 1/2 cups of milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).  In a separate cup, mix remaining 1/4 cup milk with 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir this mixture into the squash, bring to a boil, and then cook until thickened (about 3 minutes).  Stir in half of each type of cheese until melted, keep warm.

3.) While squash is cooking, cook bacon until crisp and then drain on paper towels.  Crumble the bacon bits into the bowl with the pasta.  Keep about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet, dispose of the rest.  Return skillet to heat.

4.) Add onions to skillet.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook for about 6 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden.  Add to the bowl with the pasta.

5.) Add cheese and squash mixture to the bowl with the pasta, onions, and bacon.  Mix well and then pour mixture into the buttered baking dish.

top-with-remaining-cheese

6.) Cover the mixture with the remaining shredded cheese.  Bake until cheese on top has browned, (about 15 minutes), remove from oven and cool for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy!

–Brandi

bake-in-oven-1

What’s in the Garden? Compost

It is autumn here in southern Louisiana.  Our daytime temperatures have been in the seventies and nighttime lows have been in the forties.  Take a walk in my garden and you will soon see that my plants think it is springtime.  My green eggplants and all my pepper plants are still producing.  I had a volunteer tomato plant that came up in the garden a couple of months ago.  It is now 3 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to eat fresh tomatoes from the garden in December?  I am watching the weather and if we get a forecast for frost I have a plan to try to save the tomato plant.  I will let you know if I succeed.

I didn’t plant much in my fall garden this year.  A fall garden is planted at the end of the summer and at that time it was hot outside and I was busy doing other things so I failed to plan for much of a fall garden.  I did manage to put six cauliflower and 32 kale plants in the raised bed.

With 32 kale plants you are probably thinking we  must eat a lot of kale.  No.  We use a few kale leaves in our salads, as a wrap in place of tortilla when eating fajitas and for a snack as kale chips. Why so much kale?  It is for my workers.  My compost makers.  My chickens.  They LOVE kale and as you will see they have been helping me get my garden ready for the springtime.  Yes, springtime.  I am feeding my garden bed by adding compost and then I will lay a blanket of shredded leaves on top.  After giving my garden this little TLC (tender loving care) I hope it will yield a bountiful harvest next summer.

How did I make my compost?  Besides the daily scraps that I throw to the chickens, we removed some grass, dirt and old mulch from an area in the garden to make room for a new project.  I will share this project in a future post.  Each day I hauled a wheelbarrow full of the grass etc. into the chicken run.  The chickens would scurry to the pile scratching and pecking at the grass, bugs and worms.  Oh happy chickens.

The next day I returned with my wheelbarrow, shovel, and a frame with wire screen attached.  I used the screen to sift through the now loose and mostly grass-free soil.  What was left was my new soil for my garden beds.  After emptying the compost into the garden, I would bring the chickens another load of grass etc.

What if you don’t have chickens or piles of grass and dirt at your home?  You can still work on getting compost for your garden.  Begin by making a compost pile.  Throw all your leftover fruit and veggie scraps (don’t add meat) into the pile.  Also add your egg shells and used coffee grounds. In the summer add grass clippings and in the fall add leaves.  Turn the contents of the pile each week and then spray it with  water.  With time, and some effort, you can make compost too.

Since I have started raising chickens, not only do I get eggs but I no longer have to turn a compost pile. They  turn it for me.  I just grow more kale.

–Penny

Why Young Living? The Seed to Seal Promise

Welcome to our new weekly Friday post about Young Living essential oils!  Each week I will share various oil recipes, information on individual oils and blends, information about the company itself, DIY oily products, and the list goes on!  Check back each Friday to learn more about these amazing oils and their many uses!!

Anyone who has done any research into essential oils quickly finds out that there are many different companies and brands to choose from.  From those found in your local grocery stores or big-chain stores, to those that can only be ordered online or though a membership, Young Living stands out every time because of their amazing Seed to Seal promise.  This process, and the transparency the company provides, is one of the main reasons I have chosen Young Living over other essential oil companies and distributors.  I do not have to worry that the oils I order are diluted, include synthetic fillers, or are not the absolute  best quality, therapeutic -grade oils available.  I trust Young Living, and the Seed to Seal promise is the main reason.

What is Seed to Seal?

Seed to Seal is a five step process that Young Living implements to ensure that it’s members only receive the best quality of oils.

Step One: Seed

Young Living experts work with university researchers to verify the potential of the seeds to produce high-quality essential oils.  The seeds selected are chosen for their ability to become plants with the highest possible levels of bioactive compounds. (No GMO’s allowed!)

Step Two: Cultivate

Young Living farms are located around the globe, and sustainable growing and harvesting methods are implemented at each farm. Did you know that oils that are not up to Young Living’s high standards to send to its members are not thrown out – they are instead used as natural pest control on growing plants.  No pesticides here! Weeding is also done by hand.  Talk about commitment!

Step Three: Distill

Young Living is recognized as an innovator in essential oil distillation, and continues to combine ancient and modern distilling techniques.  Most oils are gently steam distilled, using a proprietary technique in order to preserve the special constituents.  Select oils are cold pressed or resin tapped.

Step Four: Test

To verify quality, oils are tested both in Young Living’s internal labs as well as in third-party facilities.  Young Living’s testing methods ensure that the oils meet stringent specifications, exceed international standards, and contain the desired levels of natural bioactive compounds.  Young Living never accepts diluted, cut, or adulterated oils.

Step Five: Seal

Young Living’s Seed to Seal process is completed in a huge facility in Spanish Fork, Utah.  State-of-the-art equipment is used to carefully label and bottle each essential oil. These amazing oils are then shipped to members worldwide.

Some information was obtained from: http://www.seedtoseal.com/

Looking for more information about the farming process? Wondering if Young Living essential oils are organic? Check out this post: https://oilsistas.com/2016/02/16/is-young-living-organic/

Ready to start your journey with Young Living essential oils? I can help! Click here.

Supper Club Menu – Fall Edition

This post is being published on Wednesday this week since Thursday is Thanksgiving.  We would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving from both of us at Our Little Ways! –Penny & Brandi

About 8 years ago, the hubby and I started a Supper Club with a few of our closest friends.  We began with 5 couples and over the years, the size of the group, and even some of the people in it, has changed, but we are still enjoying our monthly standing date night with some of our closest friends.  I love all the different foods we’ve tried over the years!  I’ve even taken a few of my favorite recipes and put them into our regular weeknight rotation at home.

This month it was our turn to host, so I did like I always do and started combing through Pinterest.  I have a secret board on my Pinterest profile just for Supper Club ideas, and I looked through it first.  I knew with Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted a fall-inspired meal, but I wanted it to be something that our friends wouldn’t be eating again on Thanksgiving day since we were hosting the Saturday night before.  I also wanted ingredients that weren’t too hard to get my hands on, and cooking that had prep work that could be done ahead of time since I knew I wouldn’t have much time between dropping the kids off at my parents’ house and having our guests arrive.  Scroll down for the links to the great menu items I found.  The meal was a hit with our friends and I’ve been enjoying the leftovers too!  Let me know if you try it and how it worked for you.

Fall-Inspired Supper Club Menu:

garlic-pull-apart-bread-2

Appetizer: Garlic Pull-Apart Bread from Delish Plan

rosemary-thyme-roast-pork-tenderloin

Entrée: Rosemary Thyme Roast Pork Tenderloin from Marla Meridith

(To prep ahead of time, I peeled and chopped the sweet potato before hand and put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.)

butternut-squash-brussels-sprouts-pecans-cranberries

Side: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries from Julias Album

(To prepare ahead for this menu item, I peeled and chopped the butternut squash and put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.  I also cleaned and chopped the Brussels sprouts ahead of time and put them in their own Ziploc bag in the fridge also.  Finally, I peeled the pecans we had picked from a family member’s home ahead of time and placed them in another Ziploc bag.)

Side: Caesar Salad (the bag variety this time)

Here’s a plate from our Supper Club dinner (the salad is in a bowl above the plate):

supper-club-plate

Dessert: S’mores Bar

smores-bar

For the s’mores bar, I had large marshmallows to roast in our fireplace, graham crackers and Ritz crackers, dark chocolate squares, cookies & cream squares, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and York peppermint patties.  I also typed up a menu for various combination ideas:

The Classic – Graham crackers, chocolate square, marshmallow

Cookies & Cream – Graham crackers, cookies and cream square, marshmallow

The Sweet & Salty – Ritz crackers, chocolate square, marshmallow

The Nutty Buddy – Graham crackers, Reeses peanut butter cup, marshmallow

The Grasshopper – Graham crackers, York peppermint patty, marshmallow

There are so many more combinations!  All you need to do is search s’mores or s’mores bar on Pinterest to find them.

Do you have a favorite dinner party menu?  Let me know in the comments below.  Also, check out our Pinterest page.  I’ll be adding these menu item pins to our regular boards so that you can re-pin them too!

–Brandi

What’s Cooking? Mini Pecan Pies

It is pecan season and although I do  have five pecan trees, they are very young and won’t produce for quite a few more years.  However, last week we were blessed to pick pecans at a family member’s home.  In an hour, we filled a five gallon bucket.

I had the pecans cracked and with the first bag of pecans cleaned, it was time to bake mini pecan pies to thank the kind owner who allowed us to pick the pecans under his tree.  Today, I am going to share the recipe.

Crust
I used prepackaged pie crust.

Filling
3 eggs
2 ¼ cups of brown sugar
3 Tablespoons of butter
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
a couple of pinches of salt
2 to 3 cups of pecans chopped

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then decide what size pies you want.  I used a mini cupcake pan although you can use a regular cupcake pan.  Spray your pan with a little cooking spray to prevent sticking.

I use a circular cookie cutter to cut circles of pie crust dough to fill each cup of the pan.  The dough should be slightly larger than the circle of the baking cup.  After cutting the circles of dough, place on top  of  each cup and press in the center of the dough until  it slides into the cup.

Next, I like to fill each cup with chopped pecans.  I like a lot of pecans so I fill the cups.  Use less pecans if you like more of the filling and less pecans.

filled-pie-crusts

Lastly,  place a spoonful of filling on top of the pecans and then bake until brown.  The mini pies took 5  to 10 minutes in my oven.  The regular size cupcake size will take longer.  Make sure to let them cool before eating.  Bake them as a Thanksgiving treat.. Enjoy.

–Penny

completed-mini-pecan-pies

My November Young Living ER Order (and FREE Oils!)

Want to see what I ordered in my November Young Living Essential Rewards (ER) order? Watch below to view my YouTube unboxing video. Have you started your oily journey yet?

In case you are not able to watch the video, here’s what I ordered this month:

(1) Lemon Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Gentle Baby Essential Oil – 5 ml
(1) Valor II Essential Oil – 5 ml
(1) Abundance Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Citronella Essential Oil – 15 ml
(2) Cedarwood Essential Oils – 15 ml each
(1) Peppermint Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Super B Tablets – 60 count
(1) Lavender Volume Shampoo – 8 oz
(1) Lavender Volume Conditioner – 236 ml
(1) Orange Blossom Facial Wash – 4 fl oz
(1) KidScents Bath Gel – 8 fl oz
(2) Essential Oil Bottle Labels Sets

Since I met a certain PV amount, I also got these oils FREE!!!:

(1) Christmas Spirit Essential Oil – 5 ml
(1) Frankincense Essential Oil – 15 ml
(1) Myrrh Essential Oil – 5 ml
(1) Sacred Frankincense – 5 ml

Finally, since I met a certain PV amount AND my order was an essential rewards order, I also got this oil FREE!!:

(1) Peppermint Vitality Oil – 5 ml

I also received 20 bonus Essential Rewards points for reaching a certain PV amount AND having an essential rewards order!

On top of all these rewards, I am also now receiving 20% of my essential rewards order’s PV back! That means more free oils coming my way when I turn those rewards PV points back in! Woohoo!!

Ready to start ridding your home of toxins and replace them with all natural, healthy products? Email me, or visit this page.  *Note: In order to be a part of the essential rewards program, you must be a wholesale member.*
October ER Order

September ER Order

August ER Order

 

Frugal Living: How to Feed Your Family for a Week With Just One Chicken! Recipe #5: Chicken Salad Sandwiches

This is post five in the series that started with the crockpot whole chicken.  Just finding out about this great series? Start here to catch up.

Once again, here’s an easy and quick recipe for the chicken from your crockpot (or the rotisserie chicken if you did the hack).  Not everyone in my family loves chicken salad sandwiches, so the amounts below will make two or three large sandwiches.  I usually feed the kids half of a sandwich, so this would be plenty for one adult and two young children.  Or, of course, you can double (or triple) the recipe to feed your whole family. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of chopped chicken
1 cup of chopped boiled eggs
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp of garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp of onion powder

Steps:

1.) Before you begin chopping the ingredients, start with a pot of water.  Add 5 or 6 eggs to the water and then bring to a boil.  Once the water has begun to boil, turn off the stove (but leave the pot on the burner) and cover the pot.  Let it sit for at least 5 – 10 minutes.  Your eggs should come out perfectly boiled and easy to peel.

2.) Chop up about 1/2 cup of the whole chicken.  I used most of one chicken breast for this particular bowl of chicken salad, but you can always use whatever pieces of meat you have left from the week.

chopped-chicken

3.) Measure out the garlic powder, onion powder, and mayonnaise.  Add all ingredients to a bowl.

4.) To peel my boiled eggs, I take them one at a time and run them under cold water in the sink, crack them, and then peel them.  My family is a little picky as far as boiled egg yolks, so I leave them out (our dog, however, loves them), but you can include them in the recipe if your family likes them.  Once all eggs are peeled, I simply chopped the egg whites up and added them to the bowl.

chicken-salad-ingredients

5.) Mix everything together well.  I then chill the chicken salad for at least 10-15 minutes before serving on whole wheat bread.

chicken-salad

Add carrot and celery sticks on the side, and you have a healthy, easy meal.  This can also sit in the fridge overnight and can be used for lunch the next day.  It’s super easy to pack up and bring to work for a brown bag lunch, which can save you even more money if you normally go out to eat for lunch.

chicken-salad-sandwich-with-carrot-and-celery-sticks

*Some people also like to add relish or various finely chopped vegetables to this chicken salad recipe.  I like to keep it simple, but feel free to experiment to find out what you like.

*Want to mix things up? Add 1 can of tuna, drained, instead of the 1/2 cup of chicken for an easy tuna fish salad.

–Brandi

 

What’s Cooking? Cauliflower Mash

At the end of my last post (What’s cooking-stuffed peppers) I promised to share my recipe for cauliflower mash.

Preparations:
First cut one head of cauliflower into pieces, wash and place them into a pot with a steamer basket and 1 cup of water.  Cover the pot and place it on the stove on high heat.  Steam the cauliflower until tender.  Then drain the cauliflower.

Next, add 4 tablespoons of butter, ¼ cup of milk,  ½ teaspoon of salt, and a couple of slices of  cheese (I used pepper jack cheese).  I used my immersion blender to puree the cauliflower.  If  you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor, blender or good old potato masher.

Now spoon this mixture into a buttered baking dish and top with more cheese.  Once again I choose to use sliced pepper jack cheese.  For a little more flavor, I cooked two slices of turkey bacon and then sliced it into thin strips that I added on top of the cheese.

Cooking:
Lastly,  bake in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until cheese on top is melted and lightly brown.  I hope you enjoy.

–Penny

cauliflower-mash

Frugal Living: How to Feed Your Family for a Week With Just One Chicken! Recipe #4: Chicken Quesadillas

This is post four in the series that started with the crockpot whole chicken.  Just finding out about this great series? Start here to catch up.

So I like to bring out this recipe on those nights when I don’t have a lot of time to cook, or I don’t have much of a plan for supper because we’ve been crazy busy all day.  Why? Simply because it’s so adaptable.  What do I mean?  Well, for example, the last time I made this meal, we had half of an onion in the fridge, some wraps, cooked chicken from my whole crockpot chicken, and shredded cheese.  We did not, however, have any fresh tomatoes, avocados, or peppers, so we just did not include those ingredients.  One time when I made this, we only used tortilla wraps for the kids, and the adults used lettuce instead.  Hence: adaptable. 🙂

Ingredients:
Tomato
Avocado
Onion
Bell Pepper
Tortilla Wraps
Shredded Cheese (Cheddar or a Mexican Mix)
Cooked Chicken (from your crockpot whole chicken)
Butter
*Use what you like (or have in the house), omit what you don’t like (or what you don’t have)*

Steps:

1.) Slice the bell pepper and the onion.  Place in a small pan on the stove and grill until slightly browned.
2.) Chop up the cooked chicken.  I use less for the kids and more for the adults (the kids like their quesadillas cheesier).
3.) Chop the tomato and avocado.  Place on the side for now.
4.) For the kids, I simply put chicken and cheese in their tortilla wrap and then brown it on both sides (at least until the cheese melts).  For a crispier quesadilla, spread butter on the outside before browning.

5.) For the adults, I add chicken, cheese, and the browned bell pepper and onion.  Again, brown on both sides (use butter for a crunchier quesadilla shell).  I then top with the tomato and avocado.  (Salsa works well on those nights when you don’t have tomato and avocado – or when you don’t have the time to chop lots of ingredients).

6.) For a healthier alternative, add all the ingredients into a lettuce leaf and make a wrap instead of using a tortilla shell and browning.
chicken-quesadillas-and-lettuce-wraps

Another great alternative with this recipe? Add my Homemade Pico de Gallo on top.  Yum!

What are your quick and easy weeknight recipes? Let me know in the comments below.

–Brandi

 

What’s Cooking? Stuffed Peppers

On my last post I shared pictures of my large harvest of peppers.  After hours of cutting and storing peppers, it was lunchtime and I was hungry.  With a large bowl of fresh peppers ready for stuffing, I knew what meal I was going to fix for my family: grilled stuffed peppers.

Preparations:
First I cut the peppers in half, removed the seeds, washed and placed them on a towel to dry.

img_5138

Next, I placed a pound of ground meat (I actually used ground venison) into a bowl.  Use your choice of ground beef, pork, or chicken.

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Then, season according to your taste.  I usually add about a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of onion powder, and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper.

After mixing the seasoning into the ground meat, I added ½ cup of cheese.  Use your favorite cheese.  I usually use mozzarella or my favorite: pepper jack.  Today I did not add an egg, but sometimes I add a raw egg into the meat and cheese recipe.  Finally I mixed all the ingredients together and stuffed this  mixture into the peppers and drizzled olive oil on both sides.

Cooking:
Although you can place the peppers on a baking sheet and bake in the oven, my favorite way to cook them is on my gas grill outside.  After the grill (or oven) has reached 350 degrees Fahrenheit, I place aluminum foil on the grill and add the stuffed peppers.   When the peppers begin to soften, I flip to the other side.  I continue cooking and flipping a couple of times until cooked.  Then I top the cooked peppers with a little more cheese, allow it to melt, and remove the peppers from the grill.

Serve:
Although you can make this a meal by itself, I served mine with baked beans, green beans, and cauliflower mash.  I will share the recipe for cauliflower mash on my next post.

–Penny