Monday, April 26, 2010

End the day with a smile

Don't you love bedtime? Some nights my face hurts from laughing and smiling. 
Ryan is at that first hilarious stage.  He's got more figured out than we realize.   Like at the grocery store today:
Ryan finds a cute little Cars soft lunch bag.  "Mommy, can we take this home to put my cars in?"
Mommy:  "Uh, I don't think we need it" Then upon realizing that it IS cute, LOVES any type of container, and notices that it's only a few bucks replies, "Well, ask Daddy if you can have it.  If he says yes, you may put it in the cart.  If he says no, we respect his answer and put it on the shelf and tell it goodbye."
Ryan:  (out of Mom's earshot): "Daddy, will my cars fit in here?"
Daddy:  "Yeah, a lot of cars would fit in that bag.  That's a cool bag."
Ryan:  (running back to Mommy).  "Daddy said YEAH!!!!!"
Mommy:  "Ok, then, put it in the cart and tell Daddy thank you!"
Daddy (returning):  "Liz, did you tell him he could have that?"
Details, details, details. (and if you must know, we didn't get the bag...but traded it for some educational Mickey flashcards.  Seth destroyed his share; Ryan carefully sorted and stacked his.)

And he's recently "met" mall mannequins and thinks they are amazing.  "Hi, I'm Ryan."  Then he obsesses about them needing to go potty.  "Do you need to go potty?  Do you go standing up like Mommy (don't ask)?  Do you go on the tree in the yard?  Do you go in the mall bathroom?  Do you get a cookie if you go potty at the mall"  (Now Seth is chanting "potty cookie potty cookie potty potty potty").  Back to Ryan, "Hey, I'm talking to you.  You need to be kind and talk to me.  Hey, I NEED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT POTTY!"  Oh boy.  Seth grows louder and louder with the cookie-potty chant.

OR, back to the grocery store.  Ryan sees a few elderly ladies and to each of them says, "Hey.  That looks like Hannah.  She's sad because she doesn't have any children.  But Hannah gets a boy and gets so happy!"  (Hats off to you, 2s and 3s Sunday School teachers)  "Bye Hannah! See you at church in my class"

Seth is a one-man wrecking crew.  I actually took some video tonight of what its like to try to cook with Seth underfoot.  It would amaze even the toughest Moms out there.  He destroys, he shouts, he laughs, then he asks for "kisses!  kisses!", then back to destruction - like he's a child on fast forward.  Wears. Me. Out.

But I have a secret weapon:  popcorn and a movie.  Anytime I want I can guarantee 15 minutes of pre-bedtime peace.  Bedtime is the best time to reflect on all the blessings that come during the crazy/busy/funny/stressful/silly/tiring day.  Happiest 15 minutes of the day - I sit back, look at these little faces and am thankful to be One Girl Among these Special Boys:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Freezer Tips

A few tips:
  • #1 tip (thank you, Jennifer) - freeze your meat like a flat donut - with a big hole in the middle.  You'll be amazed at how fast it thaws.  Big lumps of food take a long time to thaw. (This is in a small baggie because **horrors!** I used my last big bag!  You get the point though.)

  • Label your meals, including the date.
  • Rotate your freezer meals. New goes on the bottom of the stack or back of the freezer and older gets moved up
  • Don't place your hot food directly in the freezer. Let it cool slightly, at least 30-45 minutes on the kitchen counter
  • If you are adding your meal from the freezer to the oven, you will need to increase the cooking time
  • If you are using potatoes combine with a liquid or moist ingredient. Potatoes don't always work well in freezer meals
  • If you are including rice or noodles in a freezer meal, leave them out and add before cooking. Or under cook them slightly and make sure they're included in a sauce before freezin
  • Include frozen vegetables, bread rolls, loaves of bread or dough for side dishes to your freezer recipes
Why use freezer meals?
  • Saving money on your food budget. It will cut back on those last minute don't know what to eat so let's go out to eat moments.
  • Healthier than choosing fast food.
  • Time-saver
  • How about all those tempting (expensive) convenience products available? I'm thinking of marinated prepackaged meat or chopped shredded chicken. It is so easy to buy several pounds of meat and separate it into smaller portions yourself. You can add seasoning of your own place in a baggie, seal and freeze. Voila, you have your own convenience foods at a minimal price.
  • Options.  Ever have those nights where you are crazy enough to please people that you would willingly make 4 different meals just to get some peace (or to get an almost 3 year old to just eat SOMETHING!?)?  I can get lucky and have frozen homemade chicken nuggets for one, chicken enchilladas for another, pancakes for another - in a flash.  I'm sure I'm the only one that's tempted to make multiple meals on grumpy nights, right? 

Freezer Frenzy #2 Recipes

This week's freezer frenzy focuses on bread-based ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Cinnamon-oat pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (this is for you, SneakyMommy!)
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for skillet
  • In food processor, combine flour, sugar, banking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 cup oats and pulse a few times to coarsely grind oats.  In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and oil.  Add dry ingredients and 1 cup oats and whisk just until moistened.
  • Make 'em on the skillet :-)
  • To freeze:  cool pancakes on a wire rack, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.  Transfer pancakes to plastic bag and store in freezer up to 3 months
  • To heat from frozen: for a few - warm in toaster; for a lot - arrange in a single layer on a backing sheet.  Cover with foil and heat at 350 until warm, 10 minutes
French toast sticks.  This is an easy one!  Everyone knows how to make french toast, right?  Have some for dinner and flash freeze your second batch.  Either bake or (easier) toast them when you need a quick, hot breakfast.  Cut in strips for French toast sticks.

Italian Herb Bread Freezer Recipe

1 1/3 cups warm water
2 tbs yeast
3 tbs powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp shortening
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/4 cups wheat flour
3 tsp Italian seasoning

  • In a small bowl or glass measuring cup warm water until lukewarm. Add yeast and a pinch of sugar. Set aside. In mixing bowl add milk, salt, sugar, shortening and flours. Blend together. Add yeast mixture and Italian seasoning. Take out of mixing bowl and knead several minutes. Cover and let rise in warm spot.
  • If freezing dough place in freezer bag and freeze. When ready to use take out the night before and place in fridge. Otherwise shape into rolls or bread loaves and allow to rise again about 30 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown.
Ideas to use Bread Dough

1.Shape into rolls
2.Make stromboli. Pizza or ham and cheese stromboli is made by rolling out dough into a rectangle, adding toppings and rolling up jelly roll style.
3.Form breadsticks, place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with garlic salt or Parmesan cheese, if desired.
4.Bubble bread. Roll small balls into sugar cinnamon mixture and place in a greased tube pan. Or try rolling in parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning for a more savory dish.
5.Create an after dinner treat or breakfast meal by making sweet rolls or cinnamon rolls.
6.Fresh loaves of bread are wonderful as a side to your main dish or for homemade sandwiches.
7.Fry a flat piece of bread dough for Indian tacos or top with honey.
8.Create soft pretzels or bagels.
9.Bread bowls for soup.
10.Try stuffed chicken rolls or hamburger rolls.

Chicken Roll Ups

crescent dough homemade or store bought
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (do you have some in your freezer already!?!?)
8 oz. cream cheese
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cups shredded cheese

  •  In a bowl, blend together cooked chicken, cream cheese and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll crescent dough out into a circle and cut into triangles or unroll dough if using store bought. Place chicken mixture on the end of each triangle.
  • Roll fat end of triangle down to pointed end. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Serve with cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup or without a sauce.
  • If freezing allow to cool and flash freeze on a cookie sheet. Place in ziploc baggies. Great for taking out individually for lunches. Reheat and add sauce.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A fun find

Warning: this may sound like a commercial.  But I found something fun, fast, and easy.

It's nail polish - in a pen.  About the size of a tube of lipstick.  Pull of the top and swipe, swipe, swipe, (7 more times) and you're done.  I love it.  I've been known to paint my nails anywhere and everywhere, so having something so fast and easy in my purse at all times - yes!  I love it.  It's on sale at Target right now - but just to warn you, the colors are....unique.  Yeah, they're a little out there.  Like way bright, metallic. But I'm so happy with the idea of the product that I called a beauty supply store and was told that they are going to come out with more normal colors down the road. 
Ok, gotta go.  Troy just got back with some Jethros leftovers for me :-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Freezer recipes #1

Ready-to-go whole wheat pizza dough:
1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water

2 packets ( ounce each) active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for kneading
2 cups whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)

1.Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.
2.In bowl with yeast, whisk sugar, oil, and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3.Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.
4.Set balls on a plate (they should not touch); freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Then freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator.
5.Divide each ball of dough into 4 pieces. Using your hands, stretch each piece into a 5-inch disk (if dough becomes too elastic to work with, let it rest a few minutes). Freeze shells on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Stack frozen shells between layers of parchment paper. Freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months. Bake from frozen.
Pound cake:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, (or small loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes) until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  This recipe makes 2 good-size cakes.

Turkey casserole (Easy!):
1 pkg (6 oz) stuffing mix
1- 1 1/2 cup boneless skinless turkey breasts, cut or shred into pieces
14 oz broccoli florets (optional, in my opinion)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare stuffing mix as directed on package; set aside.  Mix chicken and broccoli in 13x9-inch baking dish.  Stir in soup, milk, cheese; top with prepared stuffing.  Bake 30 minutes.  Freezer version: do everything except stuffing ahead of time, freeze.  Then from frozen, top with stuffing and bake.  (can also be made with chicken)

Freezer frenzy

So I'm not crafty, not thrifty, not French, I don't have a cool handle or for now, this is the best I can do.  Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.  Well, I'm a working Mom and though I'm thankful for flexible hours to maximize my time at home with the boys...I'm still a working Mom.  Translated: a nice, hot, moderately healthy dinner is a huge feat (no, not feaSt).  Yet out of stubborness, pride, and hunger, I refuse to throw tater-tot casserole on the table every night. (Every other night is ok, Troy can mix in tacos periodically).  SO, out of necessity, I "invented" a plan.  A plan that I hope helps you, too - working outside the home, working inside the home, whatever - EVERY mom is too busy, right?  I think it is a blessing and priviledge to serve a meal to my family. Dinner is truly the highlight of our day.  Well, bedtime might be better...and NO, not (totally) because the kids are going to bed -  just because of how cute everything about bed is - the jammies, the hugs, the stories, the stalling, the verses, prayers, more hugs.  Ok, back on track, girl!  Anyway, I'm going to attempt to stick with the plan - helping my bloggie friends with the revolution that changed our dinners.  Fights over menus - GONE!  Grumpiness about always having the same thing - GONE!  Annoyance over having to go back to the store for one more ingredient - (almost) GONE!  Variety! Sanity! Organization! Peace!  Are you sold yet?
**disclaimer - I'm sure all you out there have bigger and better plans, eat totally organic, from your backyards, milk then butcher your own goats, would never dream of having pizza for dinner, etc.  Just cut me some slack, I'm not perfect, don't make fun of me.  I'm just hoping there is one person reading this that was as fed up (pun intended) with dinner time as I was.  Here's to you:
The plan's first steps:
  • Take a few minutes to cut index cards in half.  If you're super cool, you'll have colored cards (or blank notes cards) and you can sort the colors for the next step.
  • On each small card, write down one meal your family enjoys, or wants to enjoy.  Think of everything.  Enlist your husband, kids, mothers.  (cool people from last step - cards can be color coded:  red for beef, yellow for chicken, green for meatless, blue for side dishes, you get my drift.)
  • Put the ingredients on the back of the card.  Don't waste writing out the recipe, just just down all of the ingredients the meal calls for.
  • Find a cool place to store them.  Not a recipe box - you'll never use that.  I like the cheap Real Simple magnetic envelopes.  They have a big pocket for all the cards, and a small clear pocket in front to display the week's choices.
  • Add some variety!  Subscribe to a great food catalog - Everyday Food (Martha Stewart) is one of my favorites.  Or bookmark (the simplest recipes on the planet) or Or download a cool recipe app to your phone.
  • Each Friday night, pull out meal selections for the next week.  I usually select one extra meal just in case something doesn't sound good later.  VARIETY - include in your meal selections 1 new recipe - main dish, side, dessert. 
  • Weekend - go grocery shopping.  Take your cards with you - all your ingredients are listed.  Or transfer the ingredients to one simple list. (again, Real Simple has way cool shopping lists)
  • Weekend - start cooking.  Look for meals you can make ahead of time and freeze.  Double recipes, freeze.  Make extra dry mixes and store in baggies for later (pancakes, cornbread, cookies, etc.)  Take advantage of evenings at home to crock-pot your meat - throw a bunch of chicken in, then dice part, shred part, and freeze for later, for example.
Sunday afternoons is a great time to mess up your kitchen once and make a huge dent in your week's cooking.  Now people, I know you're thinking:  "but I like FRESH food each evening.  I don't want to eat some nasty freezer-burned chicken patties."  Blah, blah, blah.  I'm not saying you have to make everything ahead of time.  I ususally make at LEAST a part of most meals ahead of time and the sides are made fresh later.  But how much easier are tacos when the meat is already browned and seasoned?  How easy is it to make warm cookies when they're already in balls?  Want pancakes for breakfast? Zap - they're ready.  Need pizza crust? Pow!  Want to impress your guests with strawberry short cake on no notice?  Wowzers - pull out your pound cake!  Trust me, the organization and time-saving will make you a happier cookerette!

Still feeling negative?  I hope note. Here's just a glimpse of this week's menu: (Please note, this is not a "I have to impress people with my meal plan"-plan, this is about as boring and basic and "us" as it gets.  Oh suuuuuure, we normally have roast duck and lots of meals that I only know the French titles uh, yeah, anyway.)

Monday:  chicken kabobs with peppers and lemon-potatoes and grilled skillet cornbread.  Chicken was diced and marinating already. Cornbread mix - already mixed up. 
Tuesday: Spaghetti with turkey meatballs:  meatballs made
Thursday:  pork chops with spice paste, beans, spinach salad.  Chops are frozen and in paste already.
Friday:  homemade pizza. Hamburger and sausage ground and mixed with pepperoni.  Pizza crusts were made in bulk a few weeks ago.
Saturday:  beef and noodles. Beef is left over from a large roast - already shredded and frozen.  Noodles were made in bulk last week.
Sunday - hopefully someone will take me out for lunch.
Desserts - pound cake. Made double batch, so I have 4.  Sounds like a lot, but pound cake can be used in a zillion ways.  We like grilled chocolate and peanut butter pound cake "sandwiches", cinnamon pound cake toast (it's no worse than a donut, people), strawberries and whipped cream, etc.
More desserts - Mexican hot-chocolate cookies

So during the week I do a lot of dump, dump, dump, cook. Throw in a few sides, voila!  Give it a try.  I'll be posting freezer friendly meals each week.  Be sure to share links to yours, too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pretty kitchen!

Isn't it lovely?  Functional?  Relaxing?

Ha ha, tricked you - you were expecting something pretty, I know...but this will be fun.  Did you ever play that game as a kid where you look at a picture and try to figure out what is wrong....what is missing?  Well, look haaaaaard and you might notice in this shot that our counters, drawers, and SINK are missing. And yes, I miss them dearly.  Stay tuned.....tomorrow should show a very different picture.  BECAUSE....our granite friends finally showed up today.  Ryan immediately started having fun with their "bridge":

Fun and fresh pizza recipe

An easy, yummy, and filling pizza recipe that can be made on the grill.  Yeah, we've had a lot of pizza lately - what else are you supposed to eat when you don't have a functional kitchen or running water?  Yeah, we're still pioneers for another 24 hours.  Anyway, enjoy!

1 pizza crust.  Need a recipe - here is a whole-wheat pizza dough that can be made in advance and frozen.
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup shredded chicken (I "crockpot" mine during the day so it is super easy to shred that evening - freeze your excess chicken for next time)
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 pkg crumbled feta cheese
1 small red onion, sliced and separated into rings (optional, I hate onions)

Place pizza crust on baking sheet; sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
Toss chicken with BBQ sauce; spoon onto crust.  Top with feta, onions (gag) and remaining mozzarella.
Bake 10-12 minutes at 450 until mozz is melted and crust is golden brown.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving. OR throw it on the grill!!!! (If you grill, put the bare crust on the grill until it is crisp enough to hold the toppings.  Top it, then finish grilling)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Giveaway

Don't you love great friends with great ideas and great blogs and great giveaways? Check out my super-cool Sneaky Mommy friend and her book review and giveaway - a children's story book: The Jesus Storybook Bible - packed with great (that's the word for the day) truths for teaching our little ones. Maybe you'll win it....but I hope I do first :-)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Can you IDENTIFY with the Resurrection?

My favorite week of the year; capped off with an awesome Saturday and Sunday.
Easter Eggstavaganza:

Bounce House Mania:

"Mom, will do do it for me?"

Seth watching rehearsal:

This is as close as we can get to a picture of the two of them together:

"Seth, stay here and say CHEESE"

Easter-egg hunting in our church clothes - don't ask.

Seth, easily distracted