Each year I like to have a gift idea I can produce in bulk to give to the “extra” teachers at school, support staff, neighbors, hosts at any Christmas parties we might attend, the mailman, etc…
Sewing Sister assembled cookie mixes in Mason jars a few years ago for teacher gifts, and I wanted to do something similar. My 4th grade students are running a Mason jar holiday cookie mix business to raise money for Water Missions International, so I did not want to double up on the cookies. Instead, I mass produced soup mixes. I think these will work well since every parent (adult?) I know loves to have an easy low prep weeknight meal on hand.
Apparently, I was not the only one with the Mason jar idea. Mason jar supplies were wiped out when I shopped this weekend. So, make sure you can purchase the jars before starting this project. Once you have sourced your supplies, gather your cheap labor (in my case, Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss) and begin.
Pour ingredients in various mixing bowls and set up an assembly line in the correct order.
Roll a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper loosely and make a funnel with a wide opening but not too wide, so it will fit in the top of the jars. Tape the handmade funnel, so the shape will hold.
Give each assistant a 1/2 measuring cup and have them go down the line in order adding 1/2 cup of each ingredient. After each ingredient, lightly tap the jar on a flat surface to level the ingredient before adding the next item.
When it is time to add the macaroni noodles, add 1/2 cup then add up to 1/2 c. more until the noodles are about one inch under the neck of the jar. You need space to add the zip-type baggie of herbs before sealing with the lid.
We did all of the above steps first and left the jars open, then assembled the seasonings.
I delved into my massive collection of zip bags that I get from the bead department at Michael’s Crafts. I used 3″ x 5″ baggies and did most of the seasoning assembly since the herbs sort of static to the sides of the bag, and it was messier than the jar assembly. I know we have a few vegetarian teachers, so I separated the beef bouillon from the other herbs and had two zip bags in a few of the jars.
Add a seasoning packet to the top of the jar and seal.
I printed labels on white and green cardstock. One side had the preparation instructions, and the other side had a holiday greeting. I am not a fan of play-on-word cutesy notes for teacher gifts, but I am a fan of “professional” looking labels in coordinating colors. If you are up for this extra time suck detail, you really need to invest in a paper cutter. We hole punched the corners of the tags and attached with curly ribbon. Alternately, you could print the directions on adhesive labels and stick them to the sides of the jars.
We also made chicken noodle soup mix in 1 pint jars. The smaller sized jars were much easier to find. We followed roughly the same procedure. Any teachers with young children are getting the chicken noodle soup mix. Click here for the Chicken Noodle Soup Mix in a Jar ingredient list and directions.
Is anyone else working on a gift in bulk to have on hand this holiday? There were many tasty looking mixes when I Googled “mason jar recipes” so you could take this idea and run with it.
We grilled hamburgers with a few friends after the Thanksgiving eat-a-thon last week, and I needed a little snacky bite while people were waiting for dinner. Since I had not consumed enough rich, calorie filled food prior to the hamburger dinner (ha!), I decided we needed a really good dip with lots of melted cheese. I made a Charleston Cheese Dip that is incredible. The consumption rate may have been faster than the Hot Vidalia Onion Dip, which I did not think possible.
1/2 c. mayonnaise
8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese (I used Cracker Barrel)
1/2 to 1 c. Monterey Jack cheese
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)
8 butter crackers, crushed (I used Ritz)
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Frito scoop chips, more Ritz crackers, or pita chips for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, green onions, minced garlic, and cayenne pepper (if using).
Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish. I used a quiche dish. A 9-inch pie pan will work too.
Top the mixture with cracker crumbs and bake until heated through, browned on the top, and bubbly around the edges.
Growing up, I always had a pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal that included a cornbread stuffing with chopped hard boiled eggs. I am not sure what region or style that sort of stuffing (dressing?) is, but it was never my favorite part of our Thanksgiving meal (sorry TheRoomMomMom). My parents are from a small town in Kansas, and I know it is the recipe TheRoomMomGrandmom always made. After spending Thanksgiving with TheRoomDad’s family, I found a new stuffing that I love. Thankfully, TheRoomDadMom shared her recipe with me many years ago. It is now my favorite part of the meal.
I know I am posting this stuffing recipe too late for you to enjoy at this Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t get pictures for you before today. Be sure to file it for Christmas dinner and have a great Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and other loved ones!
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery, leaves included
1/2 c. butter
1/2 lb. ground pork sausage meat (I like Jimmy Dean)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped mushrooms
8 c. unseasoned bread crumbs (from 1-2 loaves of pre-sliced Italian or other crusty bread)
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 t. rubbed dried sage
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. chicken stock (plus more– at least 1 c.)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
A day or two before you need the stuffing, cut sliced Italian bread into 1/4 in. chunks and spread in one layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and toasted. It usually takes about 15 minutes or so. Move the bread around the pan several times during baking. Let cool and store in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.
In a skillet, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
In the same skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms. Pour off any fat and add celery and onion mixture back into the sausage and mushrooms.
Put bread crumbs in the large mixing bowl you used to hold the celery and onions. Pour sausage mixture on top and add all of the seasonings.
Moisten bread crumb mix with 1/2 c. white wine and 1/2 c. chicken stock. Mix thoroughly.
Add a little chicken stock to the beaten egg to thin. Add the egg and apricots to the sausage bread crumb mix. Stir well.
Add more chicken stock if the mix seems dry. All of the crouton pieces should be moistened, but there should not be liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Do not over saturate.
Pour mix into a greased casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. When the top is browned, remove from the oven.
If you can find pre-made unseasoned bread cubes, you can use those instead of making your own bread cubes/croutons.
White wine can be eliminated and replaced with chicken stock.
You can use fresh herbs or a combination of fresh and dried. Increase the amount if using fresh to taste.
I pour a little chicken stock on the top after the mix is in the casserole dish before baking.
I usually use 1/2 c. white wine plus one 15-oz can of chicken stock total by the time I finish prepping it all.
As soon as school starts, I lose touch with many friends until I resurface again in May when school ends for the year. This year, I am going to make more of an effort to be in better contact. It starts today with a Sunday family lunch/dinner. One of my mom friends from swim team is having us over this afternoon for late lunch/early dinner. It is a perfect time. I can still get all of my Sunday chores finished. We will be home in plenty of time to get kids ready to go back to school tomorrow and be in bed at a reasonable time, and I don’t need a babysitter since the kids are included. My contribution to this afternoon’s linner is a tomato pie.
What are other easy ways to stay in touch with adult friends during the school year? Do you feel like you disappear when after school activities and school projects start?
1 pie crust (I use store bought)
1/2 bag basil, chopped
1/2 bag chives, chopped
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. to 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Cook pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. You may need to put uncooked beans or other pie weights in the pie crust to keep it from puffing up while it cooks.
Turn the oven down to 350 degrees after the pie shell is finished.
While the pie crust is baking, cut tomatoes in slices and let drain on paper towel for 30 minutes.
In cooked pie shell, layer tomatoes, basil, chives, and green onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and repeat.
Mix mayonnaise and grated cheese and top the pie with the cheese mixture. You don’t have to spread the cheese mixture too much. Just dollop on the center and push down with the back of a spoon. It will spread as it bakes.
Sprinkle the bacon bits on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
I would like to give a shout out to the 30306 Book Club without which I would not have this tomato pie recipe. Many years ago when I was fun and single, I had an amazing book club in Atlanta. This recipe is from that book club. I miss you!
Now that school has started for the year, I am packing lunches again. I pack lunches for my two children and me almost every day. I dread this chore. It probably seems a little out of character for me to dislike packing school lunches since I love snacky food. I think part of the problem is packing the lunch at 6 am. The food seems so unappetizing at that time. I don’t like to pack the lunch the night before because then the food has a “soggy” quality to it the next day.
One solution I have for my adult school lunch is to cook something for dinner that becomes a good leftover. I can pack a single serving in a tupperware, pull it out of the refrigerator in the morning without having to see it or smell it, and it is ready to reheat or serve at lunchtime at school.
The Pasta, Pesto, and Peas and Orzo with Roasted Vegetables are two of my favorite leftovers for lunch choices. I just discovered this Baja Chicken Salad recipe after taking it to a group event, and it is a new leftover lunch that I will be bringing to school this year.
4 (16-oz) cans black beans
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1 package (10-oz) frozen corn, thawed
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro (plus a small handful more for garnish)
8 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, grilled (could also buy a whole roasted chicken)
1 avocado, sliced
1 c. salsa
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. ground cumin
1 t. minced fresh garlic
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. olive oil (I like less)
3/4 c. vegetable oil (I like less)
Combine dressing ingredients, mixing well, and let stand at least one hour. (Can be done 1 day ahead.)
Drain and rinse black beans. Mix black beans in a large bowl with peppers, onion, corn, and cilantro. Toss with dressing.
Cut chicken into strips.
Place vegetables with dressing on a large platter or large shallow serving dish. Arrange chicken strips and avocado slices on top.
Drizzle with salsa and scatter cilantro over all.
Because of the black beans and cilantro, do a teeth check after eating.
This recipe serves 8. The recipe can be halved.
Toss the avocado slices in lime juice to keep from browning.
I like to roast chicken breasts with skin on and bone in rather than grilling boneless chicken breasts. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken breasts on a roasting pan. Rub skin with olive oil and season generously with Kosher salt and black pepper. Cook chicken for about 40 minutes until golden on the top and cooked through. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Let rest until cool enough to handle. When cooled, remove skin and pull chicken off the bone; cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.
This is a great recipe for a big group, for picnics, for potluck dinners, and for lunch. I love that it is a meal in one dish. Anybody else have suggestions for good meals that hold up well in the refrigerator overnight?