Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pink Lemonade Dip

OMG!  This dip is to die for ... The recipe calls for chilling, but we can never wait that long.  Ran out of apple slices?  No problem!  Grab a spoon and eat the stuff straight out of the bowl.  My favorite is raspberry-lemonade.  The Pink Lemonade is more tart, but if that is what you like, great!  To ease some guilt (but you will be in heaven when you taste it and could care less about guilt) make the dip using reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese and cool-whip.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Snack Ideas

Like the plague of locusts they are my kiddos are always eating.  With the rising food prices even in the cheap Midwest, it is getting expensive.  Maybe it is just the increasing number of teenagers hitting growth spurts that is getting expensive around here.  The locusts children eat at least three snacks a day and try to eat more.  What is a poor mom to do?

Cutting off there food supply really isn't an option as whining is a big pet peeve of mine.  Ironic to have that and snotty noses as pet peeves with seven kids in the home and studying to be an elementary teacher.  Go figure.  Let's not dwell on snot ... haha ... sorry just giddy that school started today, and it is so quiet in the house now.

What is an option - talking about snacks now - for us?  First I have a snack station and a fruit bowl.  I will show you the snack center but not the fruit bowl.  It is full of sad little fruits that will be converted to muffins for a later breakfast.  Peaches, bananas, blueberries ... oh my!

The snack center
In the fruit bowl I usually keep apples, oranges, bananas, and seasonal fruit like peaches, plums and such.  The snack center contains usually a salty snack, a couple of cereals, animal crackers and homemade granola.  My snack center is looking a little sad too as I haven't done my grocery shopping when I normally do.  My salty snacks (far right jar) rotate between Chex Mix, pretzels, goldfish, and microwave popcorn.  It depends what is on sale or for a good price.  The cereals available vary but are usually honey-nut cheerios and honeycomb type cereals as we like the generic brands just fine.  The sweet snack can be animal crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars or wafer cookies (nasty things but my family all loves them, and they are not terribly expensive).  The homemade granola never lasts long (far right jar).  My apple cinnamon version is the biggest hit.  The recipe I use is a versatile one so the flavors will vary.

So I have a snack center which comes in very handy for those days (I will be starting school Monday - as a student not a teacher) and for the before bed snacks as I plan two snacks a day.  It isn't as much of a big deal during school year as only the youngest is home with me during the day.  The snacking guideline for our house is to eat a proper portion of the planned snack.  The center is if you do not like the planned snack, and the portion guideline still applies.  If you are still hungry, grab some fresh fruit or veggies.  The snack center is replenished each week so if you eat it all before then, too bad and now there is the worry of angry siblings.

So what are planned snacks that go over well in my house (go over well means that a majority of the kiddos like it)?  Here is my list ...

  • Nachos
  • Pudding and Vanilla Wafers
  • Gelatin with Whipped Topping
  • Muffins
  • Stuffed Celery - peanut butter or pineapple cream cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Graham Crackers
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Popsicles - homemade or store-bought
  • Popcorn - kettle, caramel or white chocolate
  • Chex Mix or Trail Mix
  • Quesadillas
  • Homemade Bread
  • Baked Pretzels
  • Apples with Pink Lemonade Dip or Caramel
  • Funnel Cakes
  • Granola Bars
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Pepperoni Crescent Roll-ups
  • Brownies
  • Magic Milkshakes
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • S'mores
  • Fresh Fruit, Melons or Berries
  • Baby Carrots and Ranch 
  • Pinwheels
  • Tortilla Chips and Salsa
  • Hot Chocolate (cooler weather snack staple)
It is a mix and match like graham crackers with yogurt or cheese crackers with fresh fruit.  Items like cookies, pinwheels, milkshakes, breads and muffins are general as I can vary flavor.  I watch the sale, check the limited coupons I might have and inventory what is available at home.  For instance, muffins will be a snack sometime soon because of the sad little fruit in my fruit bowl.  I also have coupons for tortillas chips so nachos or chips and salsa will also be on the list.  Peanut butter is on sale so peanut butter cookies, peanut butter crackers, and/or stuffed celery are snack options to come.

And that is snack time in my household ... actually the reality is you snooze, you lose which is applies to any time dealing with food.  That is what happens when you live with locusts.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

Also known as the children ate some of the ingredients you needed ...

Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars

This is what I made tonight for the family.  It was supposed to be Rice Krispie Treats, but someone ate my Rice Krispies. I am in the melting butter stage and not too happy to find I have only 3 cups of Rice Krispies when I need twice that.  The box was in the taboo-touch-you-die cabinet and should have had enough for two batches of Rice Krispie treats.

 So what to do ... Hmmm.  The voices in my head go to town and start talking to each other.

   "I have Honey-Nut Cheerios." 

   "Oh, I think some creamy peanut butter will go with that.  

   "We aren't allergic, are we?"

   "No, it's the other stuff we can't have."

   "Great!  Let's mix the peanut butter with the marshmallows.  How much do you think?"

   "One-third cup?"

   "Nah, I like peanut butter.  Let's do one-half."

  "Cool!  That sounds good to me!"

So on the advice of my voices, I continue to the melting marshmallows stage and put in half a cup of creamy peanut butter.  I mix the two together before pouring in 6 cups of said cheerios and mix.

   "Chocolate!  Chocolate is always good."

Yeah, that chocolate?  Those are the occasional brown spots in the picture.  The kids got into and ate most of my chocolate chips too.

The results are in:  It was a hit, and the family loved it the "strange-looking Rice Krispie treats." Once mixed, be sure to place into a greased (with butter or spray) 9x13 pan and cool.  Have a glass of milk ready because they are a bit rich.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekly Menu for August 13-19, 2012

Day One - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Orange Slices, Milk
Morning Snack: Applesauce and Cinnamon Graham Crackers
Afternoon Snack: Peanut Butter Cookies, Milk
Dinner: Chalupas, Spanish Rice, Fresh Fruit

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast:  Sausage Biscuits, Peaches, Milk or Juice
Morning Snack:  Bread Sticks and Sauce
Afternoon Snack: Caramel Apples
Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie, Peaches, Tossed Salad

Day Three
Breakfast: French Toast,  Bacon, Melon and Strawberries
Morning Snack:  Pudding and Vanilla Wafers
Afternoon Snack: Peanut Butter Crackers and Grapes
Dinner:  Cashew Noodles, Steamed Broccoli, Watermelon

Day Four - Take Out Night
Breakfast:  Ham and Cheese Omelets, Toast, Orange Juice
Morning Snack:  Kettle Corn and Apple Slices
Afternoon Snack:  Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
Dinner: Fried Chicken, Waffle Fries, Coleslaw

Day Five
Breakfast:  Monkey Bread,  Mixed Berries, Chocolate Milk
Morning Snack:  Magic Milkshakes
Afternoon Snack:  Pretzels and Apple Juice
Dinner:  Crab Cakes, Caesar Salad, Vegetable Medley

Day Six
Breakfast:  Whole Wheat Pancakes, Sausage, Melon Cubes, Juice or Milk
Morning Snack:  Yogurt Parfaits
Afternoon Snack:  Snickerdoodles and Milk
Dinner:  Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola or Cold Cereal, Milk
Morning Snack: Ham and Ranch Pinwheels
Afternoon Snack: S'mores
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Corn, Baby Carrots

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

To Plan or Not to Plan ...

Plan, definitely plan.  That does not mean I always create a plan.  That is a mistake because then I have to revamp my budget because I went over in the grocery allowance.  I hate budgeting.  It makes me so cranky.  Thank goodness our paycheck is once a month (and heaven forbid it coincides with Aunt Flo - you don't want to go there with me mood-wise).  So plan it is, and how I do I do that?

When I plan my menus, I pore over the sales ads for the upcoming week.  Well, not pore but I do read them, making circles on good prices.  You have to know what is a good price.  Sale does not necessarily mean a good price.  I can find the ads on-line so I can have one more excuse not to move from my comfy chair.  I also compare the different store ads.  If Store A has chicken breasts on sale for 2 cents less than Store B who is having fruit on sale for 30 cents less a pound as well as frozen vegetables, I will go only to Store B.  It isn't worth my time or gas money to go to Store A - especially in this heat.  One less outing in the outdoors oven is fine by me.  Add kids and car seats to that and you might as well throw a bottle of pain killer in your basket for the headache you will get.

If I take my children, I have to orchestrate that more than my meal plan.  I cannot take #5 and #6 together because they like to shop and go to a zillion stores - they feed off each other and quadruple not just double each other's need to shop and ask for everything.   #3 likes to shop too so nix that child.  #1 isn't always home (college kid now), and #2 would rather be on the computer.  He is a big help carrying in the groceries though as is #4.  #7 can go ONLY if my phone is charged enough so he can watch a movie (thank you Netflix app) and not in a french fry mood.  So I like to go alone and assign a sitter in charge of #7 if possible.

So what is on sale around here?  Chicken and ribs - hence the chicken dish and a meal of ribs.  We have over 200 pounds of beef in our freezer so I am good in that area.  I also try to plan two meatless/low meat meals a week.  It saves money.  Have you seen the cost of meat lately?  I remember when I didn't have to pay more than $1.69 a pound except for special meals.  Now, I am lucky to find meat for under $2.69 a pound (I prefer lean cuts).  That is why we bought a side of beef a couple of weeks ago.  It balances out cheaper than the regular store.  I also get the added bonus of helping a local farmer who happens to be certified organic for their livestock and produce.  When I do buy meat at the store, I try to buy the reduced price ones.  That means shopping about 9:30 a.m.

SQUIRREL!  I am not doing too hot about staying on topic am I?  Now that I have an idea what is on sale, I plan my meals according to my family's tastes, what I have that needs to be used, and what my home store aka pantry has in stock.  If I need an expensive item, I cut somewhere else.  Buying a gallon of oil because #2 made fried bread without checking if I needed the oil for a meal means cutting back on say a ready-made item and cooking it from scratch instead.  For example, I usually have a take-out night but that was nixed and replaced with breakfast for dinner.  So I have a list of ideas for the meals and added a new recipe or two to try out.  It gives me something to learn and helps the monotonicity of the same-old-same-old meals.

Sales - check!  Ingredients - check! Schedule comes next.  I look at our schedule for the week.  If we are super busy, then simple 15-30 minute meals or the crock-pot are my friends.  A slower week means I have more time to cook.  Now I set out my meal ideas, create my menu, and write out a shopping list.  I pin any new recipes to my Pinterest board and locate the others I need.  Tossing recipes everywhere as you search the recipe drawer at a quarter to five knowing it was just right here is not cool (BTDT).

So that is how I plan my meals.  I am comfortable enough and familiar with what food I have at home that if I find another meat - say, pork steaks - cheaper than the chicken breasts, I can whip up some pork fajitas or salsa pork chops over rice instead.  It also pays to keep some simple things like a can of chili on the shelf and hot dogs with buns in the freezer. Because we all have those days when ... SQUIRREL! ... it's 5:00, and we need something super fast and easy.

Weekly Menu for August 6-12, 2012

Day One - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Apple-Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas and Oranges, Milk
Morning Snack: Veggies with Ranch Dip
Afternoon Snack: White Chocolate Popcorn
Dinner: Nacho Cheese Chicken Chowder,  Melon Cubes

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Waffles, Scrambled Eggs, Milk
Morning Snack: Cheese Crackers, Apple Slices
Afternoon Snack: Rice Krispie Treats
Dinner: Lazy Day Lasagna, Tossed Salad,  Garlic Bread

Day Three
Breakfast: Rice and Raisins, Mixed Fruit, Milk
Morning Snack: Cheese Stick and Grapes
Afternoon Snack: Snickerdoodles and Milk
Dinner: Fried Rice, Melon Cubes

Day Four - Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast: Granola, Berries, Milk
Morning Snack: Fruited Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Afternoon Snack: Baked Pretzels with Cheese Sauce
Dinner: Biscuits and Sausage with Gravy, Melon Slices, Eggs, Juice/Milk

Day Five
Breakfast: Chocolate Chip Muffins, Strawberries, Milk
Morning Snack: Watermelon Wedges
Afternoon Snack: Brownies, Milk
Dinner: Shepherd's Pie, Peaches

Day Six
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Orange Juice
Morning Snack: Stuffed Celery
Afternoon Snack: Crescent Pepperoni Roll-ups with Sauce
Dinner: Barbecue Ribs, Coleslaw, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola or Cold Cereal, Milk
Morning Snack: Yogurt and Graham Crackers
Afternoon Snack: Apple Pie Dip and Cinnamon Chips
Dinner: Slow Cooker Tortellini and Spinach Soup, Salad, French Bread

I have included breakfast, snack and dinner ideas for a week. For lunches, it is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I didn't use names of the days as everyone's schedule differs. It is okay to have day seven on day one and day six on day three, omitting day four because of tastes. This menu is for ideas to help you and feed your creative juices.