Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Things Thursday and a CONTEST!!

1) I skipped my morning run, this morning was most likely the most beautiful morning we have had in the last 3 months, and I got up, went outside, knew it would be a perfect morning for a run, and then went back to bed. I am blaming it on allergies :(

2) Tonight the Fredonia Child Care Center will be selling raffle tickets at the Black and Gold to win a half a beef, processing and everything!! Now I could go on and on about how great it would be to win this prize, it's a locally raised beef that has been donated to the center for the raffle by DWO Ranch, and the processing has been also donated by B-W Meat Processing here in Fredonia, but I think everyone would agree this is a WONDERFUL prize. I would like to take one minute to tell you about the FCCC and why you should support them, even if you have no interest in winning the prize. The FCCC has been in business in Fredonia since the 1970's when a group of mothers felt the need to have a child care center for their children. These women literally fought tooth and nail to make it happen in a time when "good mothers" were to stay home and raise their children, and since that time families who use and love the center have continued to work to make sure the FCCC remains open and available to working families in Fredonia. This spring the FCCC came within an inch of closing, due to rising overhead costs, and lack of enrollment. The center had been reliant on the city of Fredonia for quite awhile to make ends meet, and the city was starting to face their own budget crisis. Since this spring the center has had a complete overhaul from management, staff, and board members, and has needed any money from the city in order to make ends meet. But we still struggle to make ends meet, which means every dollar of revenue goes back out to overhead and operating costs, leaving very little cushion and no money for new equipment or supplies. This is why the success of this raffle is so important, and your help will be greatly appreciated!! Tickets are $5 each or 5/$20 - and if you aren't able to come tonight and would like to purchase, just let me know, we will be selling tickets through Homecoming and the drawing will be the week after Homecoming.

3) Thanks if you managed to read all of #2. So for #3 we will have a prize. Share your favorite beef recipe in the comments below and I purchase $20 worth of raffle tickets in one lucky person's name :) Contest will be open for one week and then I will chose the winner!! Good Luck!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meal Plans

Now that summer is officially over at my house, and school and football practice has started I am remembering why it is so important to plan our meals. Usually we all eat dinner together between 6-6:30, I am big into sitting down, TV off, and talking about our day. Seriously, this is how I was raised and look how well I turned out ;) But I do have some issues to work around, Devin has football practice at 6:30 - and Carl is coaching girl's golf this year and doesn't get home until around 6. So I think family dinners are going to become harder and harder to come by for awhile. I think I will start attempting to have dinner around 5:30 - geesh, that seems early, we'll just pretend we are old or something ;) so that Devin can eat with us without eating so close to practice that it causes issues with digestion, and maybe if we eat really slow Carl will be able to join us for the end of dinner.

I have started working on some meal plans for next week, after studying the G&W sales ad for awhile, I think I have managed a pretty tasty and easy week of meals, many of which I will be prepping beforehand, so that they will take 30 minutes or less to prepare, because I don't get done with work until 5, so I have about a 30 minute window to get dinner on the table those 3 nights a week Devin has practice!

Monday - enchiladas, rice, and corn/bean dip

Tuesday - Philly cheese steak sandwiches and corn on the cob

Wednesday - grilled shrimp, baked potatoes, grilled asparagus - no practice on Wed

Thursday - Black and Gold, so we will be eating Hamburgers at the game to support the B&G :)

Friday - Spagetti and Salad

Pretty boring week of meals, but the nights I will be in a rush to get dinner on the table shouldn't be an issue since I did a lot of meal prepping this weekend.

What on your meal plan this week??

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Leftover Makeover

Earlier this week I grilled boneless pork chops, now if you have been paying attention you know I buy my meat at G&W and usually when it's on sale. So I had picked up a family pack of boneless pork chops awhile ago and had meant to separate them before I froze them, but didn't get around to that, so I just stuck the whole package in the freezer. So when I pulled them out to defrost the other night I knew we were going to have some serious leftovers.

I will confess something right now - I am not a huge fan of leftovers, unless it's in the form of soup, because seriously it's just better the next day. But leftover cooked meat always leaves me wondering what in the heck to do with it besides serve leftovers. Then I remembered a chicken dish I had make a several occasions that was really good and would probably work well with pork chops, so Smothered Pork Chops was born. And actually I think you could even do these without using leftover chops, just brown them a bit first, and I also think it would work with other leftover meats.

Here is where I would insert pictures, but we were in such a hurry to eat so we could head to the Back to School Carnival at the First Assembly of God Church, I kinda forgot to take pictures until after we were done, oops.

Smothered Pork Chops

Leftover pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 16 oz container sour cream, you could use less, I used this much because I needed to use it up
1 package Lipton's dried onion soup mix - although I think next time I would just use 1/2 a package

Combine soup, sour cream, and onion soup mix. Put pork chops in the bottom of crock pot, pour mixture over top, heat on low for 1-2 hours until warm. You could also put in oven to warm, but I didn't want to turn the oven on. You could also use fresh pork chops or chicken breasts, I would brown them first and then cook longer, 6-8 hours on low, or whatever works for your crock pot. This would be one of those perfect meals to assemble the night before and then just put in the crock pot in the morning and come home from work to a nice yummy meal.

Serve over egg noddles, rice, or potatoes. Throw in a veggie and a salad and dinner's done!

**The sodium content on this one is high, so if you are suppose to be watching your sodium intake you probably want to pass on this one, or use low-sodium ingredients, and even then I would imagine it would still be high! It was a little salty for my tastes, but I ate it anyway ;)

After dinner we headed over to the Back to School Carnival, what a wonderful time we had, perfect weather, and great activities! Colten even won a scooter!! Fun fun, thanks to everyone at the First Assembly of God for a fun evening!

Monday, August 16, 2010

5K and Quick Dinner

This weekend I ran in Victoria's annual Hertzog 5K with my sister-in-law Anne, I had started running again this spring, and although I am still a long way from where I wish I was, I have been very happy with my progress so far. We had a beautiful morning for our run, and I was very happy with my time of 31:15. I do find my running motivation is better when I have a goal in mind, so my next goal is to run in the Moccasin Madness Fun Run Walk at Chief Little Bear Day in Neodesha on September 25, and manage a sub-30 time, it's a loafty goal I admit, but all the better for motivation!!

After a very busy and fun weekend at the festival, we headed home Sunday afternoon, on the way I was trying to think of something quick and easy I could make for dinner, something that would include a vegetable since the entire weekend we ate either fast food or festival food, with not a vegetable in sight! Really all I wanted to do was come home and order pizza, but then I thought of something easy and required very little active participation on my part - Shrimp Boil!

Shrimp Boil

6-10 small new potatoes, cut in half
1 package kielbasa, cut into chunks
5-6 ears of corn
1-2 pounds shrimp defrosted, I used pre-cooked
Salt and pepper, some people use shrimp boil seasoning, but I usually don't have it on hand, and I also think it makes the potatoes and corn taste funny.

In a large stock pot cut new potatoes in half and fill pot with water. I have a huge pot and fill mine about 1/2 way up, add your salt and pepper and put on the stove to boil. Once the potatoes are about almost cooked, 20-30 minutes or so, add the kielbasa, corn, and shrimp and cook for another 10 minutes, until corn is done, drain and serve.

The best part - in the time it would have taken Pizza Hut to deliver I had a complete meal done with no more work than looking for pizza coupons and instead of $30 for pizza, I spent less than $15 and had a complete meal. **Tip - G&W often has their frozen pre-cooked shrimp and kielbasa on sale, so stock up when it's on sale and stick it in the freezer. ** I believe I saw in the ad that starts Wednesday both corn on the cob and shrimp are on sale at G&W!!

First Day of School

I cannot believe school has started again and like good mothers everywhere this morning I made pancakes, but not just any pancakes, Flax Pancakes. Well they were actually Hungry Jack Pancakes mix, plus 1/4 cup ground flax seed. Ground flax seed is a wonderful ingredient you can add to almost anything (cakes, muffins, cereal, yogurt, meatloaf) to add additional fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and many other wonderful healthful properties. I have found just adding a 1/4 cup to our pancake batter makes the pancakes more filling, and it adds just a bit denser texture, which makes the pancakes easier to flip. You can find ground flax seed on the cereal aisle at G&W, just make sure you pick up ground because your body cannot break down the whole seed, so if you buy whole seed you will have to grind it yourself.

This batch finished off my box of just add water Hungry Jack mix, so now I am on the search for a better pancake mix, while looking at the list of ingredients this morning on our box I noticed that Hungry Jack uses partially hydrogenated soybean oil :( up until recently I thought as long as a product said Trans fat free, then it really was trans fat free, but this is not true, as long as the product has less than .5 grams per serving of trans fat then the product can be labeled as trans fat free, but several servings of seemingly trans fat free foods that really aren't can really add up!! I realize I can't manage to keep my kiddos from eating any trans fat, but I can try to limit their exposure to it as much as possible. Trans fat was once explained to me as plastic we put into our body, it is so far from anything natural that the body has a very difficult time dealing with it, which explain why it lowers your good cholesterol and raises your bad along with a whole bunch of other lovely side effects.

That batter looks a little strange, but just trust me. You might find you need to add just a bit more liquid to your usual pancake batter if you add the ground flax seed, I had to add 3-4 tablespoons more water until it was the right consistency.

Don't they look yummy??

Now with peanut butter, banana, and a bit of maple syrup ~~ swoon. . .

Colten thought I should show you he made a happy plate. . .

What kind of pancakes do you make? Do you worry about the amount of trans fat your family consumes? Did you make a special breakfast did you make this morning for your kiddos?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

G&W Heat Relief Sale

Some great deals available for 3 days only starting today!
Click add to enlarge.

Dinner on the Quick

Along with quick breakfasts school and activities also seems to bring the necessity to plan, and prepare quick dinners. I will admit, I am a planner, I love to plan meals, can I get a dork alert here?? I don't always follow the plan exactly, but it's so nice to know that I have on hand all items to make meals for the week. I try to only have one big grocery trip a week, typically on Friday with usually a produce trip midweek to restock on the perishables.

One planning resource I use is mealsmatter I love that I can plan my meals and save my shopping list in the same place - I already admitted to my dorky-ness, so quit laughing!! Oh and try it, seriously, if it doesn't save you time, money, and Tri-Mee for dinner runs I will cook for you for a week. Oh and there is nothing wrong with Tri-Mee for dinner, it's one of my faves, but before I started planning and shopping with a plan were eating Tri-Mee a bit more than my pants felt was a good idea.

This week has been one of those weeks that has become more typical in my life since having children, busy, I assume you can relate. Tonight after work I had a meeting and then straight to 6th grade orientation, no not for me, for my son - and yes I totally know I don't look old enough to have a 6th grader, but it's true, I have the birth certificate to prove it, it just might take me a couple days to find it, but I know I have it somewhere. . .

Anyway, back to my rambling as per my meal plan I made pulled pork sandwiches in the crock pot. And as usual I read several different recipes and then decided to do my own thing. I got lucky and things turned out well.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1 pork roast, I usually buy a couple when they are on sale and throw in the freezer
2 cup Pepsi
1 onion sliced
1 cup BBQ sauce
salt and pepper ~ because you know you can never get enough sodium :)

Throw all of this in the crock pot and cook on low for 12 hours, take roast out of crock pot, discard onion and liquid, and shred meat, trying to remove as much of the fat as possible - pork roasts are definitely not considered part of "the other white meat" in my mind.

After shredded serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce on the side, corn on the cob would make an excellent pairing, so would slaw, although I have never gotten the whole slaw on top of the pulled pork movement, so mine would be on the side. Or if you are in a meeting and your husband is taking care of serving dinner just remember the kids wouldn't have had a veggie if you would have order Tri-Mee either, and chips were at one time potatoes, and those are veggies right??

Do you eat the slaw on top of your pulled pork, I guess I really shouldn't judge since I have never actually tried it. It just seems so weird. What kind of quickie dinners do you turn to for hurried evenings?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dinner, Garden Style

Wow, it's been hot! Days like today make me thankful for working in the a/c. When it's hot outside I have a terrible time coming up with meal ideas. Who wants to cook when it's 110 outside? Not me! But eventually I get hungry and you really shouldn't eat ice cream for dinner, at least not more than once a week ;)

The heat has been very hard on our garden, and I was able to rescue some peppers, so I decided to stuff them for dinner with what I had on hand. I didn't know what the family would think of them, and right away Carl noticed something was missing.

'Honey, there is no meat on our table' ~ Carl
'I know, I was wondering if you would notice' ~ Me, looking sheepish
'Well the peppers are good, but it feels wrong to not have meat on the table.' ~ Carl
'Well, um, what should we do?' ~ Me
'If we have some bologna in the fridge we could put it on the table' ~ Carl
'Seriously, you think bologna would go with this meal? ~ Me
'No but I would feel better just having it on the table.' ~ Carl

Stuffed Peppers
5-6 bell peppers
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can tomato soup
garlic powder to taste
1 cup shredded cheese
Cook brown rice according the package directions, and add tomatoes, black beans, tomato soup, garlic powder, and 1/2 the shredded cheese. Cut the tops off your peppers and clean the insides out, use the tops by dicing them and adding to the rice mixture, cook the rice mixture on the stovetop on low, heating everything through. Bring a large pot of water to boil and boil the peppers for 4-5 minutes, take out and drain then and stuff with the rice mixture, I ended up with extra rice, but that's OK since my kids would eat the rice but not out of a pepper. Place the peppers inside a muffin pan, cover with cheese at bake 15-20 minutes at 350.

Serve with:

I would so LOVE to tell you this came from our garden, but our wonder dog Willie is determined to eat all our watermelons, lucky for him he has redeeming traits, otherwise I would be kicking him to the curb. Thankfully the watermelons at G&W have been delish.

What do you cook when it's hot outside?

School's just around the corner

With school starting in less than a week, I have been thinking about breakfast and our morning routine. During the summer I tend to get a little lax about our mornings, since my husband is a teacher that means he is available to take care of the kiddos in the morning, so if they chose to sleep in, I can sit around a bit and enjoy my coffee, and the silence of the house :) But with the start of school comes settling back into our routines. I make a point to sit down and eat breakfast with my kids every morning during the school year, I just think it gets their day off on the right foot. So today I thought I would share some of my favorite go to meal ideas for quick breakfasts, and since I haven't started making them I have no pictures, so use your imagination :)

English Muffin Breakfast Pizzas
These are so simple and a kid favorite, I make up a large batch and freeze them, the best part is you can make them to suit your children's tastes.

All you need is:
2 packages English Muffins, preferably whole wheat ones, although those are harder to find at G&W, sometimes they have them, but usually not
Scrambled eggs, usually around a dozen
Cooked sausage or bacon, or you can go meatless
Cheese - I prefer the Hiland shred your own, but any kind will work

Toast your English Muffins, this keeps them from getting soggy. Top with scrambled eggs, meat of your choice, and cheese. Quick freeze, which means put them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and put them in the freezer for a couple hours, after frozen then put into zip lock bags. When you are ready to cook, pop them in microwave for 30-60 seconds, top with salsa, or not and enjoy!! My kids LOVE them!

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal
This is the only way I eat my oatmeal anymore, so wonderful.

I will usually make up several baggies of this at once, giving me the ease of the Quaker individual packages, but much tastier and cheaper! Not to mention that fact that I can pronounce all the ingredients!

In each baggie, for one serving put:
1/2 cup quick cook oatmeal, I really love the Organic Quick Cook oats available at G&W
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar, or you can completely omit as the raisins really sweeten without the added sugar
3 Tablespoons raisins, more or less
1/2 ounce of Walnuts, more or less

Peanut Butter and Honey Toast

Pretty self explanatory here, but a kid favorite at my house!

Those are a couple of our favorites, not to mention the vast array of cereals I keep stocked in the pantry, although after learning more and more about the effects of sugar on our bodies, many of those will be getting to boot, in favor of less sugar more protein breakfast items. I am also going to experiment with making some whole wheat waffles in exchange for our Eggo's, and locating some actually maple syrup to top them. Say a prayer for my children, it might be a rough go for them :)

What are your favorite easy weekday breakfasts? Do you eat breakfast everyday? Do you worry about the amount of sugar in kid's cereals, or just figure we survived and so will they?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

For quite sometime I have heard of people making their own yogurt, I have long wanted to try making it, but just never gotten around to the actual process. Then one day I happened upon Greek Yogurt, I was out of town, and saw it there in the dairy case of some big nameless store. I had heard about Greek style yogurt but had never came face to face with it. Greek style yogurt is basically yogurt that has been strained of the liquid whey which makes it much thicker, creamier, and a bit tarter than our traditional American version, also some Greek yogurts are made with goat milk instead of cow's milk. Greek yogurt has more protein than the usual variety and tends to contain less sugar per serving, 10 grams less than my usual Hiland brand, although I believe this has more to do with the added in sugar than the actual natural sugar found in yogurt.

After first taste I was in heaven, but I quickly ran out, at $1.25 per 6 ounce serving, I only bought a couple, being unsure if I would in fact like it. I looked around several places for more, but there just isn't a lot of places selling it around here, even on a trip to Wichita I came up yogurtless. So began my online search for an easy Greek yogurt that didn't require the purchase of a yogurt maker, I have enough unused kitchen appliances and would like to avoid adding additional pieces. Finally I came up with my starter recipe using tips for several sources, I say starter because I have a couple variations in mind to try on my next batch, and I have just never learned to leave well enough alone. This recipe was simple, used basic household items and produced a very creamy yummy yogurt.

What you will need:

~1/2 gallon milk, I used 2% because many sources recommended using 2% for a creamier end product

~3 tablespoons plain yogurt at room temperature

~candy thermometer

~heating pad

First start with 1/2 gallon milk, slowly warm this to 180 degrees stirring periodically, this helps break down the protein in the milk, this is fairly easy if you have a candy thermometer, but if say you forgot you broke yours during Christmas candy making last year a meat thermometer will do in a pitch, although I will be picking up a new candy one today at Steve's or Alco.

Once you have reached 180, then it is time to cool the milk, I did this in a sink of cool water, as recommended by several sources, once the temperature reaches 110 degree it's time remove from sink.
Double check to make sure the temperature is around the 110 mark, at 120 degrees the temperature will kill the yogurt bacteria, add 3 tablespoons of room temperature plain yogurt and stir. Now it is time to let the bacteria do it's thing, which is basically eat and multiple, the temperature needs to remain close to 110 degrees, in order for the cultures to do their thing, this is when if you had one you would put this into your yogurt maker, which I find the term yogurt maker a bit misleading, since in fact all they are would be yogurt incubators, keeping the yogurt mixture warm. So instead of going this route, I took my pot, set it on a heating pad in a nice quiet corner of the kitchen and put a nice thick beach towel over everything. Now for the hardest part of the entire process - leave it alone for 7-8 hours, no peaking, apparently yogurt cultures are very shy and peaking could mess the whole process up.

If everything turned out when you do open it, you should have yogurt, thinner than the store bought because it is warm, but the best smelling yogurt you have ever came across, seriously. Stir well and then put into containers and put in the back of your fridge to cool, the stirring and cooling stops the cultures from doing their thing. Let cool overnight and you have plain yogurt, if you want Greek yogurt after it's cooled strain the yogurt through a coffee filter for a couple hours, this will strain out the liquid whey resulting in a thicker, creamier yogurt. You can also use the liquid whey in bread baking, but since its 110 degrees outside this week, there will be no oven useage to my house, maybe another day.

You can also turn plain store bought yogurt into Greek yogurt just by straining it, so if you didn't want to go through the trouble of making your own but want to thick creamy texture of the Greek yogurt you could simply buy a quart container of plain yogurt and strain it through a coffee filter, but that would just be too easy for someone like me ;)

I do like my yogurt sweet thanks to years of buying the little cups of yogurt, so I made a blueberry compote made of 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 sugar, cook for 10 minutes or so just until the blueberries start to break down and then you can add this to your yogurt for some sweetness along with a little fruit serving, just store in the fridge. I also added a little Kashi Go Lean cereal for crunch, and it was a breakfast worth getting up for!

Have you tried Greek yogurt, did you like it? Ever make your own yogurt?