Preserving Food, Faith, and Family

Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off



UPDATE: I just found out that the cook-off is not open to the public due to space of the venue. So please just cheer me on virtually instead!

For the last month I have felt my world spinning faster than I would like and while I yearn for less matter to fill my brain, I realize that sometimes there are simply busy seasons in our lives.

Between a bathroom remodeling project that we are DIYing, launching a small business (yay! more details coming soon), and redesigning this blog (yay, again!) I feel that my somewhat orderly life is stretching me to the max. Life is a bit chaotic in its design but I try to keep things simple and focus on domestic and mom duties as my priorities. So these extra-curricular projects are throwing me for a loop.

What’s really kept me grounded though has been waking up around 5ish to have quiet time with Christ. I treasure those minutes, that hour, before my children wake. Time to have a mug of hot tea, envelope myself in scripture, and journal my prayers to Him. My time with Him renews me, encourages me, and reminds me to seek His guidance throughout the day.

So what’s a girl to do when a friend & fellow blogger sends her an email about a food cook-off? And not just any food cook-off but a FRUGAL food cook-off! She excitedly requests to be included! And then she prays about it. And then she feels bad that she didn’t seek God’s guidance first to see if she should be signing up. And then she realizes that, in all things, God can bring goodness…bring Him glory. So she tries to remind herself that God gave her passions and enthusiasms in life for a reason. It’s a really nice gift when you’re given the opportunity to do something you love…so perhaps she should just cherish this fun & exciting event!

So to the point of this post….

I am thrilled to be one of the contestants in Charleston’s Food Lion Frugal Cook-Off on 19 February. As any close friend of mine knows, I love food more than almost anything. Really. I have to work really hard on having conversations that do not revolve around food. And, I LOVE TO SAVE $. My favorite conversations sans food include me saying…”guess how much I just saved!” So this cook-off should be really neat. And challenging. And scary. I mean, do I really know how to cook good food without an arsenal of spices at the ready? What do I do if they hand me a pork tenderloin? (I don’t know that I’ve ever made a tender tenderloin…ever…not once!)

Oh, and did I mention that just by participating I will get a $100 gift certificate to share with one of you! And if I win, then the gift certificate becomes $250!

I’ll be back in touch after the event to let you know how it goes!




What a garden in January really looks like!


I often have friends ask me to help them start a small backyard garden. Which excites me to no end, because I think everyone should be digging in their dirt more often. But sometimes I wonder…do people have the correct expectations of what a garden looks like in their yard. Sure, in mid summer that space is going to look gorgeous with vibrant green foliage, yellow blossoms of squash, and red tommytoes (there really are tiny tomatoes called this!) on the vine… all just ready to be picked.

But come January, that luscious garden is another story. There is a good chance (if you are anything like me) that back in September you left the garden to take care of itself. And it certainly has! The lettuce box is falling apart, showing signs that it really is on its last leg and will not produce any more bumper crops of greens.


And there are the not so small amount of weeds that have overtaken one garden plot.


So if you have your heart set on starting a garden this year….GO YOU!!!! Just be prepared that it does take work in the fall to avoid a garden that looks like mine currently does!

But despite the work required to maintain a garden, everyone should do it. Whether it’s growing herbs in containers to tackling an acre or more of just potatoes….you can do it! There are few things as rewarding as taking one tiny seed and turning that into the crop you feed your family.

And once you catch the gardening bug, no matter how bad your other garden plots look, you’ll probably keep adding more garden beds to grow even more tomatoes in! I am so excited we had room to add these two garden plots this year. And because we cut down a ton of trees they will receive great sunlight (hopefully, fingers crossed)!


I hope your garden looks more beautiful than mine right now!


Stretching 1lb of meat over 3 meals


Like most people, I am continually amazed at the cost of feeding my family. As the kids grow they seem to constantly be eating and I feel like I live at the grocery store.

Last week I was ecstatic when I was able to stretch 1 lb of stew meat over 2 dinners and 1 lunch for 2 adults & 2 kids.  Our first dinner was nachos, our lunch was tacos, and our second dinner was quesadillas served with Mexican potatoes. The key to doing this is to make your vegetables and starch be the featured ingredients instead of the meat. By loading the nachos and quesadillas with bell peppers, onions, lettuce, cheese, and avocado it was really easy to not use as much meat. 

For comparison purposes, I cooked another pound of stew meat this week but instead of stretching it, I made a typical meat, starch, and veggie meal. When I did that there was only enough meat for 1 meal.

By cooking the stew meat in a crockpot, it was also super simple to make. I tossed the meat with Mexican spices, drizzed on some honey, and then when the meat was tender I added in a can of diced tomatoes with peppers to give it a little kick.

If you are thinking your children don’t want to eat spicy food then, cook the meat with the spicy spices but before adding the tomatoes, pull out the meat for your children and rinse very well with water. My kids refuse to eat anything that isn’t plain tasting but they loved this meat after the spices had been rinsed off. If you try to cook the meat without the seasoning spices, the meat won’t taste anywhere near the same as having cooked for hours with spices rubbed on them initially.



CrockPot Mexican Stew Meat

1 lb of stew meat
2 tsp each:
-dried oregano
-dried cilantro
-adobo seasoning
-chili powder
-garlic powder
-ground cumin
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1 15.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with chili’s

Toss stew meat with all herbs, spices, and honey. Place in crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Test meat at 4 hours to determine how much more time is needed to avoid it drying out. Once meat is tender, add diced tomatoes and cook for another 30 minutes, until mixture is warmed through.

*These spices are all optional/customizable. If you don’t like one of them or don’t have something on hand, such as adobo seasoning, don’t worry about it. This is a very make as you like recipe.




Playtime in the snow

After enjoying homemade hot cocoa & popcorn yesterday, the kids had a bawl playing in the snow! Shaving cream snow that is!


I often use shaving cream for sensory play…learning to write our letters, teaching the colors of the rainbow, and best of all…shaving cream fights in the tub! But I’d never thought to use it as pretend snow until Stella’s very creative preschool teacher used it this week to entertain while it’s been so cold outside.

So yesterday I set up an idyllic play scene and let ’em go to town on it. SO MUCH FUN!




The best thing about shaving cream is that it really isn’t that difficult to clean up. I did use a ton of paper towels to wipe it up, so that wasn’t good for the environment. But once you wipe it all up then the rest comes clean with a wet cloth. And since they just used toy figurines and matchbox cars, the cleanup of those was simple as well.

So if you don’t have any magical snow glistening in your front yard, go out and get some shaving cream!

~ Jess

Homemade Popcorn & Hot Cocoa

There’s a blustery frigid wind outside our house today. Makes me thankful for a snug home, warm mittens, and coats for my kids.

But I must tell the truth…my definition of cold is anything below 40 degrees. So waking up to a whopping 19 degrees…that’s cold for me! I should feel bad thinking this is cold when so many of you are dealing with subzero temps right now. But I’m just a warm weather girl, and apparently so are the school district officials here. We are on a 2 hour delay right now because it feels like 6 degrees outside. Seems pretty chilly to me if I were sending my 5 year old out to wait for the bus. But I’m sure if you woke to 0 degree temps, you’d gladly take 19 right now!

During the last cold snap, the kids and I spent a perfect afternoon indoors making homemade popcorn and hot cocoa. Is there anything more enjoyable on a cold winter day?


Alton Brown makes perfect homemade popcorn. His secret is making a tinfoil lid with slits for the steam to escape. After numerous attempts that failed every time, I was thrilled when I came across his recipe.

Hot cocoa is so easy to make at home and once you try it, you’ll wonder why you’ve ever used the instant stuff. There really is no comparison for homemade hot chocolate. And all you need to do is follow the directions on the back of the cocoa box.

Trick of the trade…if you are making an individual serving in the microwave…mix the cocoa & sugar in bottom of mug and then pour just a tad (a few tbsp) of milk into the mug. Stir this mixture really well so that it’s completely mixed prior to pouring the remaining milk in. It isn’t pretty when you try to mix the cocoa & sugar in with a full glass of milk…trust me!

I hope you & yours stay warm and dry! And if you have snow…lucky you! With weather this cold it should be white outside.

~ Jess

Local Plant & Tree Fundraiser Sale

After ripping out almost all the trees and bushes in our backyard to put in a privacy fence, we are now faced with the task of replacing all that landscaping! But, whew – that can get expensive quickly! 

I was excited to find out about a Plant & Tree Fundraiser Sale to benefit the Tri-County Master Gardener’s Association and Clemson Extension educational programs. The prices are drastically lower (30-50% lower!) as you receive bare root trees versus balled & burlap or container trees that you normally get from your local nursery.  Bare root trees are not only cheaper but also contain substantially more root structure which should produce better performance and are much easier to transport. The sale has lots of options – from blueberry bushes and fig trees to hydrangea shrubs and oak trees.

To find out plant/tree options and pricing click here.  The deadline to order is November 18 and pick-up date is December 6.

The following documents will help you learn all about bare root trees and how to prepare for these type plants. Planting instructions will also be provided when you pick up the trees in December. From speaking with the Extension Agent, Derrick Phinney, I found that you will need to soak the roots in water for a few hours prior to placing in the ground. And you will need to plant these trees & shrubs the same day/weekend that you pick up the plant(s)…that’s probably one of the biggest differences between buying container plants at the nursery which (if you are anything like me!) do not get planted for a week or two after you bring them home.



For further questions about the sale or bare root trees, you can contact Derrick Phinney with Dorchester County Clemson Extension Office (843.563.0135×3 or dphinne@clemson.edu).

See you in December picking up trees!



A Canning Party



Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes…Is there anything as glorious as homegrown tomatoes?

Back in August when the tomato vines were so heavily laden with ripening fruit I hosted a canning party. It was fun, glorious, and wonderful. And I passed on canning knowledge to 3 more people. I think my grandma’s would have been proud.




I enjoy the process of canning and producing a tangible something. There is nothing like making spaghetti sauce, taco dip, or some shrimp scampi with your very own canned tomatoes. And I want to pass this enjoyment on to others. I want people to realize that canning and preserving isn’t as hard as you think it is. That it IS doable.

Take Lindsey (on the right) for example…I taught her how to pickle okra last summer and then last month she had a party and showed her daughter’s teacher how to pickle okra. I think that is so cool! We have to spread the wealth of knowledge that we have in our heads. My grandmothers, mom, sister-in-law…they shared it with me and now I’m simply passing it on.

SO GO CAN!!! And if you ever have a canning question or just need canning encouragement…let me know. I’m here to help.




The Beginning of the End


I like to categorize my kid’s lives into 4 distinct phases.

Phase I: Birth to PreSchool
Phase 2: Kindergarten to High School Graduation
Phase 3: College to Wedding Day
Phase 4: Being Married

In less than 48 hours, my son will enter kindergarten and don’t get me wrong…I am beyond EXCITED for this new journey. But I can’t get past the feeling that this is it. Everything he has to know in order to be a responsible, independent, caring, and fun adult has to be learned in the next 13 years. So to say I am stressed out is more than an understatement.

But the things I am stressed about, I am pretty sure no one else is even thinking about…

There’s his shorts…do you know how difficult it is to find shorts for boys??? It is SO hard to find shorts that are elastic waist (we haven’t conquered buttons yet) and actually fit well. For whatever reason, I am convinced that if his shorts come down in the back and show his underwear or heaven forbid, a little crack, then he’s going to be made fun of in school.

Then, there’s all these back to school eve dinners that my friends have. Really??? You’re making me feel kind of lame right now…I can’t get that organized!! Not only do they decorate the table beautifully and make a yummy meal, but they also pick a Bible verse as a theme for the school year. How do they possibly pick just 1 verse to cover everything? And when am I suppose to sit down with my husband and find out what he thinks are good lessons for them? And then, how do they get their kids to sit still at dinner, because at my house it’s more like two banchee indians running wild around the table. (And if you are hosting a back to school eve dinner, my hats go off to you. You really do inspire me!)

And then I’m stressed about all this stuff he has to take to kindergarten. For example, when is the best day to take the stuff…the first day, at the meet the teacher meeting, some other day? And what about those red & green folders I searched all over for, just so he could bring home paperwork in folders that are his favorite colors. Do they just take all the items and put them in a closet? Because, if he takes the whole bounty of items to school in a paper bag (our current plan) then does that mean he may end up with folders not in his favorite color. (I know, I know…just typing this out makes me realize how hysterical I sound!!) But really, why can’t they include instructions such as…In his book bag, please include the following items. In a separate grocery bag, please include the other items. And please bring all items in at the meet the teacher meeting. Those detailed instructions would be much preferred by moi.

So my current plan for these next 48 hours is to spend a lot of time in prayer, I obviously need it.  I’ve got to get over my fears of him being made fun of, have confidence that, special dinner or not, my husband and I will help guide him as he navigates this new journey, and to be able to just let go of all these trivial concerns and instead enjoy these last few days of simple childhood.

I’m hoping you are much less stressed about kindergarten and school than me!!



Chocolate Icecream Shell


I have always assumed it would be near impossible to replicate the shell magic you get at your local grocery store. However, when Dale Esau came home from IceCream Sundae Day at school and announced “Mom, we had the coolest MAPLE SYRUP on our icecream…it hardens when you put it on the icecream!” I knew I had to find a way to make this. (And, yes, I knew I had to fess up that it wasn’t maple syrup he’d been eating!)

What I couldn’t believe was how incredibly simple it was to replicate!

Melt chocolate with coconut oil and you have one of the easiest syrups you’ll ever make. The secret is coconut oil solidifies once its temperature drops below 76 degrees F. So you temper the chocolate and oil in the microwave and once the ‘syrup’ touches the icecream it solidifies. And it tastes sinfully delicious, just like the stuff in the grocery store, minus all the artificial and unwanted ingredients!

Chocolate Icecream Shell
2-3 servings

2 Tbsp chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Combine ingredients in small glass bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir and then microwave another 15 seconds. Stir well and then drizzle all over your icecream!

NOTES: This recipe does not double well, so stick with the quantities listed. Luckily, it is very simple to make should you need to eat more icecream! Also, depending upon your microwave, you may need to use less cooking time. You do not want your chocolate chips to be completely melted from the microwave. This is why you stir the final time. It all has to do with tempering the chocolate, etc. etc.




P.S. I’m now attempting a syrup to make chocolate milk. The shell obviously wouldn’t work in milk, but as evidenced below, we had fun experimenting!


A New Parenting High

I know, I know…I haven’t posted in 6+ months and here I am this am with 2 posts!!!

I guess since many people consider me a ‘foodie’, I often hear comments like…”your kids must eat so well” or “wow, how do you get your kids to eat their veggies?” Well lets be honest…

This am my 3 year old started the morning with icecream (couldn’t take those strawberry crumb pics and not share some of the goodness) and then we moved on to the next best nutritious food possible for breakfast …. pizza! Why not? And, I didn’t just give them leftover pizza. I actually baked them a pizza for breakfast.

How’s that for an accomplished mom? At least they really enjoyed it!!

IMG_1979 IMG_1980 IMG_1977 IMG_1985


Happy Tuesday!


Post Navigation