Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year, Measure your Feet, National Handwriting and Pie Day

That's a lot to celebrate and four great excuses to have fun. A couple of years ago I created this post. I talked about creating mealtime fun using some wacky ideas - the kind of ideas that make my teenagers roll their eyes. But hey, I know deep down they love it because they throw in a couple of ideas here and there.

You got to check out all the wacky holidays that are out there. Not really, but I know you will click on the link anyway. Tonight we will be celebrating National Pie Day with a couple of pies for dessert. There were no complaints about that one from the family.

For the Chinese New Year cook up a Chinese meal. There are several simple ones out there to suit any taste and skill. This Broccoli and Beef is quick, easy and yummy - great combination. Cashew Noodle Stir-fry is another yummy and easy dish which happens to be vegetarian. There is always Fried Rice that can be made a multiple of ways with a variety of ingredients. The only problem with it would be is someone not liking rice.

For National Handwriting Day, how about using frosting in a bag to write on graham crackers. The kids (and adults) then can eat their creations. For the frosting in a bag, place room temperature frosting -flavor of your choice - in a ziploc baggie. Snip one bottom corner just enough to allow the frosting to be squeezed out in a thin line - perfect for writing. It is a great snack idea.

Measure Your Feet Day can provide a couple more fun ideas for snacks. What about foot shaped sugar cookies with milk or Fruit by the Foot rolls. Kids can use the latter to measure their feet, but I say ick especially since I have a couple of smelly feet kiddos.

Other holidays and ideas for January 2012

  • On the 25th (Opposite Day) or the 31st (Backward Day) serve your meal in reverse order. Who is going to complain about eating dessert first?
  • For the 26th (Spouse's Day), cook a candlelight meal for just the two of you or cook your spouse's favorite meal or dessert.
  • Does the 27th (Chocolate Cake Day) really need any explanation?
  • On National Puzzle Day (29th), cut your child's sandwich into a puzzle for lunch. If they take their lunch to school, put a note in the lunchbox wishing a "Happy National Puzzle Day." I have seen a puzzle cutter for sandwiches or just freehand it.
  • National Cornchip Day (29th) will most likely find my family and I eating Frito Pie for dinner. Any excuse for the not-so-healthy meal will suffice for me.
  • Need to Inspire Your Heart with Art on the 31st? Decorate cookies with your family and enjoy your inspired creations.
I plan on celebrating Compliment Day (24th) by having my family tell me how great I am. Yeah, that idea earned me another eye-rolling. Enjoy a wacky holiday, create some memories, and Happy Thanks for Reading my Blog Day!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Menu: 23-29 January 2012

Links for some of my recipes are include in the menu. Be sure to check them out!
I will include additional recipes throughout the week.

Day One
- 30 Minute Meal Night
Breakfast: Waffles, Bacon, Orange Slices, Milk
Snacks: Magic Milkshakes
Dinner: Fried Rice, Melon Slices, Garlic Green Beans

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Cinnamon-Raisin Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Hot Chocolate
Snack: Chocolate S'more Cookies, Milk
Dinner: Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread

Day Three
Breakfast: French Toast, Sausage Links, Mandarin Oranges and Grapes, Milk
Snack: Apples, Pink Lemonade Dip
Dinner: Chicken and Dumplings, Steamed Broccoli, Peaches

Day Four - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins, Orange Juice, Milk
Snack: Animal Crackers, Hot Chocolate
Dinner: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Tossed Salad

Day Five
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos, Oranges and Bananas, Milk
Snack: Graham Crackers, Vanilla Yogurt
Dinner: Fried Fish, Steak Fries, Coleslaw

Day Six
Breakfast: Breakfast Ring, Melon Cubes, Milk
Snacks: Rice Krispie Treats, Milk
Dinner: Chili Baked Potatoes, Mixed Fresh Berries

Day Seven
Breakfast: Granola, Fresh Fruit, Milk
Snacks: Crackers, Cheese, Apple Slices
Dinner: Potato Soup, Green Salad, Broccoli

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.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Apple-Caramel Monkey Bread

And the results are in ... drum roll ... it's a keeper! I followed this Monkey Bread recipe with a few adaptions.

Instead of coating the biscuit pieces in a mixture of 2/3 white granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, mix 1 cup of sugar with 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Peel and dice 2 large apples. I re-hydrated some dried apples pieces I had and used those this time - still really good. Fresh apples will be a little more firm. Coat the apples in the cinnamon sugar mixture as you do the biscuits. I made the bottom layer in my greased bundt pan just biscuit pieces. I layered a mixture of apple and biscuit pieces after that.

For the caramel topping, substitute 2/3 cup of brown sugar for the white sugar. I used butter instead of margarine along with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Follow the directions found in the recipe. I baked the monkey bread for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

It was ooey-gooey yumness I served with honeydew, fresh blueberries, orange slices and milk.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Preparation Pays

For the last year or so I have felt like I fallen off the face of the earth. Out there in space was and is college classes, caring for family and home, and volunteering both in my community and church. What wasn't always there was preparation. It showed in my stress level and believe it or not, our budget. It wasn't that I didn't know how. I was just lazy. Yes, even with all that going on. I really am a lazy person. Wait ... I am an efficient person. That's better. Being efficient allows me to indulge in "laziness."

My efficiency comes from organization and preparation. Part of that preparation involves meals. When I do not prepare in that area, it costs me. Lack of preparation creates pieces whereas preparation creates peace. I saw it today because we all need reminders even if we know the stuff. There were three things that reminded me I had let things fall to pieces.

First, I created a menu that included all three meals and snacks for the entire week. I like to do this while waiting for kids at school or appointments - good use of time. I took into account any sales and our family schedule for the coming week. I start school again next week. I will be gone from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. twice a week. I put all of my classes except the on-line one on just two days so I can be home (college is an hour commute one way) with my youngest and take care of the home and family.

Second, from my menu I created a grocery list making sure I knew what I already had on hand. Buying more of an item you already have is not going to help the budget. What does help the budget is sticking to the list. For an impromptu person like myself, this is the hardest for me.

Third, you need to be flexible and alert. It is rather hard when the little people have you up all night but try at least. For example, I originally had sticky chicken on my menu instead of grilled pork steaks. However, I found pork steaks reduced for quick sale. I freeze meat I buy that way if I will not be using it in a day's time so I am all about checking that area of the meat department. The pork steaks would cost less than the chicken I originally had down so grilled pork steaks it is.

Sales can be good deals, but it is NEVER a good deal if you don't have the money. Period. I saw all kinds of sales that sent my fingers itching, but I didn't have that budgeted so I kept on walking. I did find a sale on cereal that I took advantage of in the respect that I was able to buy three boxes instead of one for the same cost. It was an unadvertised sale - so be alert. Check out the day-old bakery for deals on breads. Just don't buy if it was not budgeted.

So I was reminded of how helpful those three things are when grocery shopping - plan a menu, make a list and stick to it, and keep an alert eye open. The result for me was spending $160 for the week's meals out of the budgeted $200. With other stops and shops for milk, I still have just over $20 left. Not bad for the eight of us still at home including a bottomless pit for a son.

So what did my $180 buy? It bough some junk food and some convenience items. It bought enough meat to carry over for the following week. It bought some special items like soy and raw milk. The soy is for a dairy allergy while the raw is for lactose-intolerance. It also allows me to make my own butter, cream, buttermilk and yogurt. Here is what I bought for my menu next week ...

1 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb shredded Mexican cheese
3 lb pork steak
3 large boxes (21-28 oz) of cereal
2 lb frozen peas
2 lb frozen mixed vegetables
3 lb grapes
pint of blueberries
12 oz blackberries
2 half-gallon soy milk
5 lb apples
1 honeydew melon
1 cantaloupe
5 lb red potatoes
1 bunch celery
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 lb baby carrots
2 bell peppers
2 lb bananas
30 ct eggs
2 cans spaghetti sauce
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can olives
5 lb ground beef
1 lb bacon
3 lb chicken breast (bnls/sknls)
5 lb boneless ham
pint of sour cream
2 cans apple juice concentrate
4 cans biscuits
20 ct flour tortillas
2.5 lb polish sausage
24 ct American cheese slices
1 lb Provolone cheese slices
1 48 oz jar Miracle Whip Light
1 40 oz jar peanut butter
2 6-ct boxes kettle corn
1 24 oz bag salad
2 12-oz bags Kluski egg noodles
1 box vanilla wafers
1 bag pretzel rods
1 bag potato chips
1 bag tortilla chips
2 extra-large take-and-bake pizzas
3.5 gallons raw milk

Remember to plan ... make a list (and stick to it) ... be alert and flexible

Weekly Menu: 16-22 January 2012

Day One - 30 Minute Meal Night
Breakfast: Monkey Bread, Orange Slices, Hot Chocolate
Snacks: Dipped Pretzel Rods, Milk
Dinner: Beef Stroganoff over Noodles, Green Beans, Tossed Salad

Day Two -Freezer Meal Night
Breakfast: Cold Cereal or Granola, Milk
Snack: Pudding, Vanilla Wafers
Dinner: Pizza, Salad

Day Three
Breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy, Eggs, Apple Juice
Snack: White Chocolate Popcorn
Dinner: Grilled Ham and Cheese, Vegetable Soup

Day Four - Crock-pot Night
Breakfast: Muffins, Oranges Slices, Berries, Milk
Snack: Ant-on-a-Log
Dinner: Crock-Pot Beef Enchiladas, Grapes and Apples, Corn

Day Five - Restuarant Night
Breakfast: Smoked Sausage Biscuits, Bananas and Oranges, Milk
Snack: Brownies and Milk
Dinner: Honey Chicken over Rice, Melon Slices, Garlic Green Beans, Fortune Cookies

Day Six
Breakfast: Wheat Pancakes, Bacon, Fruit, Milk
Snacks: Gelatin with Whipped Topping
Dinner: Grilled Pork Steaks, Roasted Garlic Potatoes, Seven-Layer Salad

Day Seven
Breakfast: Cold Cereal or Granola, Milk
Snacks: Kettle Corn and Apples
Dinner: Meatball Subs, Baby Carrots, Chips

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.