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Belly Up to the Bar

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I know what you are thinking… and by bar I mean taco bar, waffle bar, ice cream sundae bar, salad bar, and grilled cheese bar.

Feeding a crowd is hard. Feeding a bunch of kids who can be potentially a bit picky, even tougher.  Feeding 15 or so people quickly is almost impossible.

That is where a bar saves the day.  The concept is simple; pick a theme, food or holiday then design the meal as a “Build Your Own”.  This past weekend we had a group and had three meals that were build your own with options.

Check out these bars I have saved on my Pinterst board: (kasmithson) How to Feed a Crowd.  The links to each of these bars is located just below each picture.  Check them out.

Your Home Based Mom

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We may have a hotdog bar this weekend.  I just have to get someone to come eat them!

By Stephanie Lynn

The taco bar above uses chip bags as bowls.

Celebrations at Home

The spud bar will be a winter meal for our Thursday night group.
Sunday night we had the best bar.  It was a grilled cheese bar.  Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, colby jack, and American cheeses.were the star along with three types of bread, carmelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, pancetta, homemade macaroni and cheese, and bacon were all options to put on the sandwiches.
The trick to a grilled cheese bar is to have one cook and not to assemble the sandwiches until the cook butters the bread and puts them on the grill.

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Here is my friend, Tina giving instructions before the feeding frenzy.  She manned the griddle until the bitter end.

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Before the hoard descended on the grilled cheese bar I was able to snap a couple of pictures.

The surprise ingredient was macaroni and cheese. It sounds odd but the kids loved it.  Oh, they loved the bacon, too.  The huge griddle came in handy.

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Monday morning (Labor Day) it was a waffle bar.  There were some hiccups… Mainly because this one was mine.  The smoke alarm went off a couple of times, and the breaker was thrown umm… twice.  Note to self.  Have a pile of waffles ready for the kids cooked ahead and ready to pop into a toaster.

The waffle bar consisted of  waffles, regular syrup, blueberry syrup, chocolate sauce, strawberry syrup, whipped cream, peanut butter, chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon, rainbow sprinkles, and more bacon.

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Our late (after boating, tubing, and jet skiing) lunch was a sort of fajita bar.  I say sort of because there weren’t as many options.   It was definitely build your own.  We had chicken fajitas, guacamole, queso with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pinto beans, and my favorite cilantro rice.  I was way to pooped and overwhelmed to get any photos.  Sorry folks.

After diving in to the bar scene all weekend, I did learn a few things.

There are a couple of tricks to a build your own meal bar.

  • Organize your items so that they make sense when assembling.  Start with the plates, bowls, etc. and end with the silverware  and napkins so they don’t have to be carried from station to station.
  • Prepare as much ahead as possible.  Having things  made ahead made the meals more enjoyable for all.
  • Make sure that whatever you are serving can be assembled quickly.  Everyone is happy when you can keep ’em moving.
  • Have plenty of room for folks to move around.  Our bar is perfect inside for serving.  When the weather is nice, we will be serving outside.
  • Have a plan to keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold.

Have you ever had a “build your own” bar?  If you have, I would love to hear from you.  I will bet you have tried things I haven’t even thought about.

I love hearing from you.

Blessings,

Karen

Interior Photos of the Soon to be New Home

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I walked through the house this past weekend with a camera and also got a floor plan of the house we are buying.  It helps to have pictures to refer to now so I can come up with a plan for the house.

The house is a traditional ranch.  That is pretty fitting when it is on 15 acres and this is th view over our fence.

horses in pasture

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The Kitchen

Friends, I swore, promised, pledged…you name it, that I would not have another galley kitchen.  I hate that cut off feeling.  This one is particularly odd in that it is right off the front door of the home.  Well, if the front door weren’t walled up it would be where the front door is.  The wall is going to have to move.  I plan on having an L shaped kitchen that opens to the dining space rather than the front entry with an island.

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See the right side of the china cabinet? That is roughly where the front door is, except it is walled off.  The kitchen is to the right.

The Bedrooms

The guest rooms are nice sized, and have a decent, but not awesome closets.   I like that they have 36 inch doors.  The folks who built this home planned on aging in the home which is good for us.  We will be turning one room into my office so it will have a Murphy bed.  The other will be a traditional guest room.

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The master is too small and has a dinky closet.  It will be added on to before we move there permanently.

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See those brown bifold doors?  That is the whole master closet.

The Bathrooms are fine for now, except he master doesn’t have a door.  I already have a barn door going in there.

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No door on the master bathroom.  Ick.

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Wallpaper border, carpet and frilly curtains will go.  The counters, cabinets and tile are okay.

The Outdoor Kitchen is high on the list.  We will have to have a functioning outdoor kitchen before starting on the indoor kitchen.  It is going to be a rustic corrugated tin and cedar space with a stainless sink, a gas grill, a stainless island, and a free wall shelf.  Edison lights, our deck furniture, a misting system and a big fan will make this space a destination on the property.  Hubby has been given a huge smoker that will be near the decking.

outdoor kitchen

See that deck at the back of the workshop above?  I can’t wait to show you my workspace, but tonight it is about the house.  That covered deck is a short walk across our back yard.  It will make the perfect outdoor kitchen.  There is water near that will be easy to set up in the sink and we will be having propane run to the area, too, for the grill.

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Powerwashing, paint and installing the counters will make this space great for cooking.

The first thing we have to do is work on the foundation of the house.  Another thing I said I would never do again.  We are moving where the dirt is clay based and it just moves.  It is not major, but needs to be addressed before we work on the floors.  The carpet in the kitchen, bathroom, den, dining room must go.  Immediately.

Changes in the New Year

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My long suffering husband and I are people of a certain age. My friends call it mid life, but I have done the math, and unless Hubby is going to live to be 110 we are past that mid life mark. We are in what I have decided to call the third quarter. We have two adult children, enough money to do some things we want, and we are in overall good health. For the new year we are not going to make huge changes to our lifestyle. No fad diets, no hiring a trainer, no plastic surgery.
We have started to make some changes to our lifestyle. We are limiting our eating out to once every two weeks. We both make bad choices when we eat out. We are taking our lunches to work, and we are keeping fruit and cut up veggies in the house.

We are both committing to move more. We are parking further away from stores, taking the stairs when possible, and finding activities to do that involve physical activities. Hubby is joining a gym and I am getting up thirty minutes sooner so that I can Wii or treadmill in the mornings.

The hardest change I am making is to limit the amount of artificial sweeteners. I do love a diet Mountain Dew… too much. I know that my cutting caffeine and those fake sweeteners at the same time is not a good idea for those that I work with and love so coffee and a teaspoon of agave will keep me fueled up. I am also going to drink more water. Good ole plain water. Yuck.

Hopefully we will see results from our small changes. We want to look good for a wedding this June and most importantly, we want to enjoy this third quarter of our life.

I will report in on our progress periodically just to keep us honest.

Happy New Year from my whole crew! The Southern Belle, Joe, Baby Boy, Sweet Amanda, Hubby were all together with me for the holiday. We are loving our extended time at Star Hill. I will be back home January 5 with new posts.

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Making Mocha Coffee Mix for Christmas

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For Christmas this year I decided to make mocha coffee mix and chocolate covered spoons for my staff.
It was easy, and hand made. To me, hand made Christmas presents are the best way to show someone that they are worth your most valuable commodity, time.
I found the coffee cups at Dollar Tree. I bought all that they had. Yes, I am that greedy.

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I searched online for a recipe that sounded like it had the ingredients I like in mocha coffee.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cups instant coffee granules
7 cups dry milk powder
5 3/4 cups powdered chocolate drink mix
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 3/4 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large bowl, mix together instant coffee, milk powder, chocolate drink mix, confectioners’ sugar and powdered creamer. Store in an airtight container.
2. To serve, place 4 tablespoons of mixture into a coffee mug. Stir in 1 cup boiling water.

I doubled this recipe for my staff.

I also dipped spoons in melted chocolate and sprinkled peppermint and colored dots on the chocolate while they were drying.

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The finished product.

Cooking at Star Hill- Top Three Meals I Cook

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I do not like to cook on the city. I am always tired after work and it is hard to get excited about messing up my kitchen for two. At Star Hill I usually cook for several, I have (take) the time to cook real meals. I do have some stand-by meals that I like to cook when in the country.  I like them because they are crowd pleasers.  What can I say?  I like for people to like my food.  I do health food all week at home so the calories come out to play on the weekends. When it comes to cooking I do not have an original idea.  I use cookbooks and watch other people cook ( in real life and on t.v.).

Here are my top three things to cook

  • Christmas Morning Breakfast-  We named this because… it was something that I whipped up during the night while watching Santa assemble presents back in the day.  I could have it in the fridge and ready to go for the morning chaos.  Of course the recipe came out of crescent roll add in a magazine years ago. It is out there on the web with a million names.
  • Fajitas with Green Rice and Pinto Beans- This is my throw-down, have ready for a crowd meal.  Lots can be made in advance and Hubby has to participate.
  • Woody’s Hamburgers with baked beans, chips and Fruit Cobbler- Apple, Peach, Blueberry or Married Son’s favorite; Blackberry.  I do love a good cobbler.  Did you notice that beside the cobbler in this meal, there is not much I have to do?

This week I am going to write out the Christmas Morning Breakfast: ( I have friends who hate recipe blogs.  They are going to be mad enough that I am writing one … I hope they don’t unfriend me for writing  three over the next three weeks.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can crescent rolls
  • 8 to 10 eggs
  • 1/4 cup or less milk
  • 1/4 cup of picante sauce ( hot as you like it)
  • Cheddar Cheese- about a cup of grated cheese
  • 1 roll of sausage like Jimmy Dean’s

Brown the sausage crumbled. In a 9X13 sprayed with Pam pan press out the crescent rolls until the cover the bottom of the pan and go up the sides a little.  Sprinkle the browned sausage on top of the crescent rolls.  Scramble the eggs with a little milk.  Once they are scrambled, pour them over the top of the sausage.  Sprinkle the picante sauce over the top of the eggs evenly.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top of everything.  Use it all.  You can cover the whole thing at this point and stick it in the fridge overnight, or cook it right away.  If you leave it in the fridge over night, take it out first thing in the morning and set it on the counter for a few minutes to warm.  I broke a dish once going straight to the hot oven,
This needs to cook slow so the eggs set up.  I usually start it at about 325for about 25 minutes then move it to 300 and cover with foil until everything is set up and solid.  Cut into squares and leave fore guests to serve themselves,  This is Yummo- and EASY.

It works so well at Star Hill because I can have it ready to go when we have guests along with cut up fruit, muffins from a mix, and juice and I am done.  No slaving over breakfast.

Making Jelly

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Over the years at Star Hill we have added plants that produce fruit, nuts or berries. This year we have added thornless blackberries to our crops and we have muscadine grapes that produce tart grapes.  Three weeks ago we planted a peach tree which was another gift.  Baby boy gave me two grapevines about three years ago for my birthday. This year we got our first crop of grapes. 

We have had a ball watching them week to week turn from small green dots to green grapes to the ripe red ones that you see below.


All of my life my mom has canned vegetables, made pickles, hot pepper sauce, and produced tons of jelly.  I helped her last year, but I have never made jelly all on my own.  I decided that it was time for me to make my own jelly from this fruit. 

I searched the Internet for an easy grape jelly recipe.  Mom walked me through turning the grapes into juice.  Basically you boil the grapes in a little water for about 10 minutes then mash them with a potato masher then pour all the gunk into a colander that has cheesecloth lining it.  Let it cool then lift up the cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice.  I froze my juice after it cooled until I could get up the courage to make the jelly.
Here is my juice right out of the freezer. 
I found this easy jelly recipe at http://allrecipes.com/ 
  • 3cups grape juice
  • 5 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 (2 ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
I organized everything that I thought I would need for the Jelly making.  I probably overdid it but I did not want to ruin it.

 

I bought a canning kit at Walmart that had a funnel, jar lifter, magnetic lid picker upper, and a thing to get the foam off the top of the jelly and measure.  It came in the green box at the back of this picture.

Directions

  1. Sterilize and dry jars for jelly, and set side .Mom said to use my dishwasher. New lids are recommended for best results.

  1. Combine grape juice and pectin in a large pot over medium-high heat.  I box of Sure Jell powder.

  1. Bring to a boil, and stir one minute at a rolling boil. Stir in sugar for a few minutes to completely dissolve. Remove from heat.

  1. Ladle the hot jelly into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top.

  1. Wipe rims of jars with a clean dry cloth. Cover with a lid and ring to seal. Let stand 24 hours at room temperature, then refrigerate. Jelly may take up to a week to set. Once set, it is ready to serve.
The directions at this point included a hot water bath and some other instructions for long term storage.  My mom has made jelly for years without the hot bath and canning. I have included her instructions here. 

I boiled the lids while putting the hot jelly into the jars.


 She said to put the filled and sealed jars close together on a board and cover the whole thing loosely with towels. 

 My instructions were to leave the whole thing alone for 24 hours. She has never had a batch of jelly go bad, so I am listening to her.  I made two batches of jelly.  I made a mess the first time and only ended up with 5 1/2 jars.  The second batch got the full 6 jars.  Mom said to never try to double a batch of jelly.  Make it one batch at a time with clean up between.

 You know that the jars seal if you push the middle and they don’t “click.”  My jars definitely sealed.  Yeah!   We tasted the half jar and it was great. 

Our next jelly will be Muscadine.  This is a native grape like fruit that grows wild up around Star Hill. They are coming ripe now.  I have two vines planted on our fence but the ones below I took pictures of today out near our road growing wild.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscadine