Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes

We have picked tons of strawberries in our garden this year and I have been super busy putting them up in the freezer and making freezer jam. But this is  one of our families favorite recipes for eating up some of those fresh seasonal strawberries. We call them Strawberry Biscuits but you may know them better as Strawberry Shortcake. Either way it is delish!

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

Mix all dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into small pieces and add in (I use a kitchen aid mixer).

Then add in the milk.

Dough will be thick. As soon as it's mixed and the dough is sticky, it's done...don't overbeat this dough.

Drop the dough by the tablespooon full onto a lightly greased cookie sheet equally spaced apart. Bake for 12-15 min at 425 degrees.

A toothpick should come out clean when the biscuit is done.

For the strawyberry syrup, I mash about 4 to 5 cups of strawberries with enough sugar to sweeten (at least one cup sugar, more if you like a sweeter syrup) and one package of Certo pectin jell, just so the syrup will hold in the fridge for longer than a few days. Syrup should stay about 3 weeks in your fridge - if it lasts that long.

http://www.hotcouponworld.com/homemade-strawberry-shortcakes/

Check out more delicious recipes!

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Turn bumper crop tomatoes into useful kitchen ingredients

Smoked Tomatoes from Cherry Tomatoes

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It’s November, and the fall has been mild, so we’re still picking tomatoes from the yard.  This year, we picked at least fifty pounds of tomatoes, and there’s only so many fresh tomatoes one can eat.  Yes, we made tomato sauce and canned it, but here’s another way you can use bumper crop tomatoes, or tomatoes when they’re on sale.
Smoke or “sun-dry” tomatoes for pastas, salads, soup garnishes, crumbled for dips, or even blended with oil and garlic for dipping bread.    These tomatoes will last longer than fresh or jarred sauce.  Because they’re not cheap to buy already dried, doing the drying yourself will save you a lot of money, and give you a unique ingredient to cook with in your kitchen.

First, wash the tomatoes thoroughly, and make sure all the green tops are plucked.  If you’re picking the tomatoes from your yard and they’re cracked, no worries.  Cut along the middle of the tomatoe or along the crack, and lay the tomatoes face up on a cookie sheet that’s been covered with foil.  If your tomates are small, it will take quite a few tomatoes to fill a cookie sheet. Once you’ve filled the cookie sheet, crack black pepper over the tomatoes.

If you have a smoker grill, set the grill to the lowest smoke temperature, and place the cookie sheet on the grill.  Depending on how fast your grill smokes, drying the tomatoes will take about 6-8 hours.  If your grill has a flame, I don’t recommend doing them over a direct flame as the grill will get too hot, and burn the tomatoes.

If you don’t have a grill, set your oven to its lowest baking temperature. If you have a convection oven, the process will go even faster because of the air circulating through the oven.  In the oven, you can expect 4-8 hours, depending on your lowest temperature (mine’s 170 degrees) and whether or not you have a convection setting.

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Gulf Coast Oil Spill likely to hit consumers hard at the grocery store

From www.shoppingcarteconomist.com

May is typically a month I look forward to because it means fresh fish right out of the ocean. Fish is one of the healthiest animal protein sources, and one many Americans just don’t get enough of in their diet.  Price is always the biggest factor for most shoppers as it relates to consumption. If fish is expensive, people will pass on it and look for cheaper protein sources.

However, Alaska fish are starting to run. May marks the beginning of King Salmon and halibut seasons. That means that there will be fresh goods heading to a store near you. It also means that previously caught salmon from last year’s season will be on sale. But, those sales aren’t going to last very long. If your family is a big consumer of fish, this might be the week to fill your freezer. Here’s why….

With the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf seafood market is at a stand-
still. The US government imposed a 10-day ban on fishing in the Gulf as they assess what kind of risk, both current and long-term, the oil spill will have on the health of not just fish and wildlife, but on those who consume Gulf coast harvests of fish, shrimp, and oysters.  According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gulf Coast fishing economy harvests about one-billion pounds of seafood a year.  A 10-day ban on fishing is essentially 27-million pounds of fish that are going to be out of circulation. It’s not clear that the ban will be lifted after 10 days.  So for every day Louisiana fishermen’s boats are out of the water, an average of 2.7M pounds of fish will not make it to US grocery stores.

As existing inventories get used up and supplies are depleted, it will likely put pressure on other regions like the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, as well as imports from Thailand and China, to fill the shortages.

It’s early into a catastrophe like this, and the oil spill drama is still unfolding. Scientists and fishermen alike can’t predict how the region and the fishing economy are going to be affected. It won’t be until they come out with some clear damage assessments that we’ll begin to see “shortage” reports on the news. So, in advance of what might be a likely outcome, my suggestion if you’re a big fish-eating family would be to bank some now in your freezer.

What to buy? Look for deals on sockeye salmon. Whole salmon is always a better deal than fillets. Buy the whole fish and have them cut/wrap the fish for free instead of buying the higher-priced, pre-cut fillets. Avoid farm-raised Atlantic salmon, even though it might be a bit cheaper. Wild is better for the fish runs, and better for you.

It’s also a perfect week to shop for seafood, because with Mother’s Day right around the corner, many chain stores advertise fresh seafood for “surf & turf” dinner promotions. That means there are fish, scallops, lobster tails, and shrimp on sale that were planned and ordered well before the oil spill in the Gulf.

It’s clear how one incident like a single oil spill can have far-reaching implications for those of us who might otherwise feel no connection to such an event.  Sadly, in this instance, an oil spill thousands of miles from many of our homes isn’t just going to affect the environment, or the livelihoods of those who fish the Gulf Coast, but the consumers. In this economy, many people are already struggling to put food on the table.  If the price of seafood likely climbs as a result of this disaster, a healthy protein source for many families will soon be out-of-reach.

Save over $500 on produce this summer – 5 easy-to-grow Fruits & Vegetables that will save your family a bundle

5 Easy To Grow Fruits & Veggies To Save Money

If “April showers brings May flowers”, those showers also bring cabin fever to my house.  Since the wintry nights in January, I’ve been dreaming of going outside to work in the garden and start growing produce again for my family.  I’ve been longing to see corn tassels in my garden boxes, and bees swarming around the blossoms on the apple trees.

This will be the third summer we’ve been able to produce food on our suburban lot.  We live in a community with lots of tall pines and oaks and dense shrubs.  Most people in our neighborhood plant roses, rhodies, and other flower-bearing trees.  But a few years ago, we ripped most of that out of our yard and went entirely edible.  Based on that experience and having had two successful summers with growing my own produce, here’s my top five things I think every family should consider growing to save money.

The five things on my list can be grown relatively easy in most climate zone, and can all be done in containers for those living in apartments or have limited yard space.

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blueberryBlueberries – Yes, you can container blueberries.  A nice 5-gallon container berry bush can be had for $13.  IF you keep the soil acidic and move it to a bigger container, and even in an apartment, it can be trained to make a nice broad hedge.  Blueberries in the grocery store sell for $5 a pound on average, and one full tree at maturity can yield around 18 pounds – that’s nearly $100 savings year over year per plant.  Plus, berries freeze well and are high in vitamins and antioxidants.

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Sugar PeasSugar Peas – a $1 packet of seeds can keep you in sugar peas all summer.  Peas thrive when you trellis or string them up, so they don’t need a lot of space since they grow vertically. It’s perfect for small area gardening.  Sugar peas are usually $3.99 a pound at the store, so $1 in seeds can save you $50 or more over the course of the summer.  For those in an apartment, try letting them train up and over deck rails..

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LettuceLettuce - If your family loves salads, lettuce is so easy to grow. The growing season can be very long, so planting lettuce could save you hundreds over buying bagged salad every night.  Lettuce comes in a wide array of varieties, so plant lettuce that’s going to give you good nutritional value over the iceberg type that is commonly found in bagged lettuce mixes.  If you get your lettuce in the ground now, you’ll have a harvest before Memorial Day.  And, lettuce is a cool-weather crop, so if you take care with your plants, and plant new seedlings every few weeks, you can have lettuce well into the fall. The average cost of a bagged lettuce is $2 for 12 ounces.  Between May through October, the savings for a family of four eating salad four nights a week is $200..

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Green BeansGreen Beans – Like the snow peas, these can be done in the ground or in containers.  The can also grow vertically up and over deck rails, so even in a small space, if you don’t mind giving up your rails to growing food, you can get an amazing amount of green beans that can either be frozen or canned.  Growing your own beans lets have enough so you can pull them out all winter long.  The beans grow as fast as you can pick them. If you remember to enrich the soil midway through the growing season, you can keep growing green beans well into the fall. The easy pace lets you process in small batches for winter dinners.  If I had bought all the green beans I grew last year, I would have spent close to $125..

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BasilBasil - a few ounces of basil can run you $3.99 in the store.  But a single packet of basil seeds can keep you in pesto for the entire winter.  A simple trick to storing basil is to mix it into your own paste with olive oil and freeze it for later use.  Making my own basil paste saves me a few hundred dollars over retail a year (which honestly, I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on basil in the store, so we’d go without).  Of all the herbs I use, basil has the highest return on investment over any other herb we plant.  You can harvest it all summer long.  Quick tip – freeze basil paste or pesto in ice-cube trays and then transfer to a zip-seal bag when it’s frozen.  Then you can easily pull out what you need for dinner..

There are many reasons to garden, and certainly, the variety of what you can grow is eye-popping.  But if you have to make some choices due to time or space constraints, or if you’re just getting started as a gardener, the items on this list return a lot of value and can shave hundreds off your grocery bill.

What are you waiting for?  Get planting!

More Frugal Gardening Tips!

Stretch Your Tax Refund – Get the most out of Tax Day Gift Cards, Coupons, and Incentives

Are you getting a tax refund this year?  If you’re entitled to a refund from Uncle Sam, it might be a good time to think about what you’re going to do with those extra dollars you’ve got coming back to you.  The stalwart personal finance types out there will advise that a good use of a tax refund would be to pay down debt or tuck some money aside for a rainy day.

Those are certainly practical ideas, but one idea I like just as much, if not better, is to use a portion of your tax return to take advantage of the retail tax specials and promotions offered by grocery stores, hardware stores, and other retail outlets that would like to see a bit of your tax return pumped into the economy.

Spending your tax refund might seem a bit counter-intuitive in a down economy, but if you can put those dollars to work for you in a real way, then I’m all for it.

Between now and April 15th, manr retailers offer tax savings in the form of coupon and gift card promotions.  For example, Albertsons has an offer like that right now – buy a $300 gift card, get $30 free.  I love these types of deals because if you have the cash to spare, it’s an instant 10% profit on your money.  You can’t make that kind of cash in an investment account that quickly.

I would also argue that while the 10% bonus you’re going to earn might be less than the interest saved if you have a credit card at a rate higher than 10% interest, using your tax return to purchase a grocery store gift card is like having a small emergency fund in place. You’re going to shop sometime in the next few months, and the average household in America spends a lot more than $300 a month at the grocery store.  A good coupon shopper who is watching for deals is going to be able to parlay that free $30 gift card into double or even triple the value of the incentive card, thereby increasing the savings associated with participating in the retailer’s tax incentive promotion.

It isn’t just grocery stores that offer this type of savings.  In past years, I’ve seen Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Sears, and others offer these types of promotions centered around changing in your tax refund for a gift card.  Think about it.  If you know you have a big home project coming up, and you’re going to pay cash for it anyway, paying for the project now in the form of a gift card purchase to secure a 10% or $30 off coupon will defray a portion of the overall outgo for the project.

My one caveat would be to make sure you’re participating in a tax refund promotion from a store that is solvent, meaning, if you suspect the local hardware store is in danger of folding, stick to the big-box retailer or grocery store for these tax refund promotional incentives.

So if you have the money and those deals are happening in your neighborhood stores, it’s well worth the free bonus dollars and coupons to convert your tax refund into store dollars.  Couple that with coupons and other instore savings, and you can really make those dollars work for you!