Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday 12/30

Birthday Party Gifts
I don't know about you, but one of the most frustrating parts of all the birthday parties my children get invited to is finding time to get a gift. In my hectic scheudule I end up forgetting about the gift until the last minute and I have to make a quick trip to Walmart on the way to the party and just get whatever is on the shelves and I usually spend way more than I would like.

Several years ago, I created a birthday gift box. As I see cool possible birthday gift on sale I pick it up and add it to the box. After Christmas sales are the best times to stock up. After a trip to JoAnn's and Walmart yesterday I came home with 2 craft kits and a bubble bath/lotion gift set for under $5.00 each. I am all set for the next 3 birthday parties. Works for me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Pantry Recipes

In keeping with my January Kitchen Goal of eating from our pantry, here are two recipes that I can always make from my freezer and pantry. Since Jen at Beauty and Bedlam is participating in the Pantry Challenge as well, I am going to link up with her Tasty Tuesday post for today.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 - 10 3/4 oz. cans reduced fat and sodium cream of chicken soup
1 - 15 oz can Veg-All no salt added mixed vegetables, drained
1 1/2 c cooked, diced chicken ( I keep this in my freezer ready to use)
1/2 c skim milk
1/2 t Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 refrigerated pie crust (I use Pillsbury - one day I might get brave and make my own!)

Preheat oven to 375* and prepare crust according to package directions (sometimes I just use a top crust, sometimes I use a top and bottom. My family prefers both, but if I only have one left from making a pie, they just get one.) Combine first 6 ingredients; place in 9" pie plate with prepared crust. Cover with top crust, crimp edges to pie plate. Slit crust to vent. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving. (6 servings)

Taco Casserole

1 lb ground beef ( I do this ahead of time with onions and garlic and keep in freezer)
1 can black beans
1 small can corn
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 can tomato sauce
1 pkg taco seasoning mix ( I make my own)
3/4 pkg. tortilla chips, crushed

Mix hamburger, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Heat over medium heat until flavors meld, about 5 - 7 minutes. Add beans and corn, heat 2 - 3 minutes more. Place in casserole dish. Add chips and toss. Top with cheese and bake in 350* oven until cheese melts and casserole is heated through.

January Kitchen Goal - Eat From the Pantry

My January Kitchen Goal is to eat from our pantry and reduce the number of trips and amout of money spent at the grocery store. I am in good company, as Money Saving Mom and FishMama are doing this as well and even hosting a challenge. So, I am signing up.

My goals are
  1. Only 1 trip to the grocery a week. Ideally this will be for milk, eggs, bread and fresh produce. However, I am not going to let really good deals go by that we need - the key word being need. For example, I am out of butter. If a really good deal for butter comes along, I will stock up on it.
  2. Shop from my pantry first, not my cookbooks. I have a bad habit of choosing recipes first and then having to buy alot of ingredients at the store. I am hoping this will change my menu planning behavior.
  3. Use my leftovers! I am the worst about saving food and then a week (or more) later throwing it away. This one will be hard.
  4. Use up the processed food we have in the house in order to focus on February's goal - Use less processed food.
I will be making one last grocery trip this year for the items we need for our New Year's Eve and New Years's Day Celebrations. I will be including milk, eggs, OJ and bread to get us started on our Pantry Challenge. Wish us luck!

Kitchen Goals for 2010

In my recent blog surfing I came across a great idea. I do not remember where I saw it now, but please know this is not my original idea. Instead of creating a list of goals/resolutions for the year, she created a list of 12 things, one to focus on each month. I thought this made a lot of sense and certainly takes the pressure off trying to implement changes all at once. Below is my own list of twelve kitchen goals for the year.

1. Eat from the pantry. (January's Goal -Completed)

2. Use less processed foods. (Year long goal - great progress!)

3. Reduce takeout/delivery emergency/I'm just too tired to cook meals (February's Goal)

4. Menu plan consistantly and stick to the plan (Year long goal - good progress)

6. Add 5 new WW recipes to our menu rotation (not WW Recipes, but several new ones added)

9. Enlarge my garden and utilize it (March Goal - completed)

10. Preserve more this year. (Summer Goal - completed)

11. Type up all family favorites and add to cookbook (April Goal - completed)

12.  To Be Determined

Linked to Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom

Monday, December 28, 2009

Meal Plan Monday 12/27

Time to get back into a regular routine now that our holiday traveling is over. Here is our meal plan for the week. I am incorporating some of our favorite Weight Watchers recipes through out the week to get us back on track.

Sunday - BBQ Pork and Ribs, Mac and Cheese, Broccoli Salad, Tossed Salad, Fruit Sala

Monday - Bourbon BBQ Salmon, Couscous, Tossed Salad, Green Beens

Tuesday - Beer Soaked Beef using Skirt Steak (WW), Leftover Couscous, Salad, Fruit

Wednesday - Layered Mexican Chicken (WW), Salad, Fruit
Thursday - New Years Eve Party - Bourbon Meatballs, Colby-Pepper Jack Cheese Dip, Chex Mix, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and one other finger food, just haven't decided yet, but either stuffed mushrooms or tortilla roll ups

Friday - Traditional Southern New Years Dinner - Pork Tenderloin - not sure how I am going to prepare it just yet, Hoppin' John, Collard Greens, Au Gratin Potatoes, Cornbread, Pound Cake

Saturday - Leftovers!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meal Plan Monday Week of Dec 7th

So, I didn't have a meal plan in place last week, but it did not go as badly as I feared. We ended up eating from the pantry and freezer and other than Monday's trip to Zaxby's after a longer than expected basketball practice, we ate at home. Hoping to stick to this week's plan...

Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese and Fruit

Going to see Santa and eat at Maggiano's, our very favorite Italian restaurant. This is a holiday treat for us. I can taste their Shrimp Oreganata now!

Dirty Rice, Salad and Fruit

Teriyaki Chicken, Sesame Noodles and Broccoli

Leftovers or Chicken Pot Pie if not enough leftovers

Christmas Dinner with Friends

Broccoli Cheese Soup - did not make this Thanksgiving week as it was 75* and not soup weather at all, Homemade Foccacia, Brownies or Kentucky Sugar Cookies

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meal Plan Monday Week of 11/23

We are out of school all week for the Thanksgiving Holiday and it feels like such a gift! Since we will be at my mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving, I have very little responsibility and I plan on making the most of my free time, a little Christmas shopping, blogging and cooking some great food.

Monday - French Dip Sandwiches (recipe below), chips and dip, fruit, Kentucky Sugar Cookies (recipe later this week)
Tuesday - Cheesy Chicken Vermicelli, Peas and Fried Apples
Wednesday - Broccoli Cheese Soup with Beer Bread (recipe for bread later this week)
Thursday - Thanksgiving - I am bringing - Sausage Balls, Cranberry Salsa over cream cheese with crackers, Broccoli Casserole and Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with fresh whipped cream
Friday - Beef Tips with Gravy, mashed potatoes and lima beans
Saturday - Annual All Day Football Appetizer Buffet! Hanky Panks, Stuffed Mushrooms, Little Smokies with Mustard, Fruit, Veggie and Cheese tray, one of my many cheeseball recipes, and of course Football Dip (recipe below)

French Dip
1 3 lb chuck roast
2 T yellow mustard
1/2 pkg. Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Place roast in crock pot. Top with mustard and soup mix. Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or high 5 - 6. Serve on buns or rolls with sauce on side for dipping.

We like ours topped with provolone cheese. YUM!

Football Dip
1 - 8 oz. cream cheese
1 can Hormel chili with beans
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Soften cream cheese and spread in bottom of an oven safe serving dish. Top with chili. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted. Serve with tortilla chips or Fritos Scoops.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meal Plan Monday Week of 11/16

I don't think I will ever get a Meal Plan posted on Monday! Here is our plan for the week.

Monday - Taco Night at our local taco restaurant
Tuesday - Weeknight Ravioli Bake, Steamed Asparaus, Cheese Bread
Wednesday - Chili (recipe below), Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fruit
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Dinner at a dear friends house - I will be taking Pumpkin Crisp
Saturday - eating with dh at our restaurant as he has to work
Sunday - not sure yet, but I know I will be cooking after 2 nights off!

My dh swears this the best chili he has ever had, not sure why, there is really nothing spectacular about it. But, if you don't have a good chili recipe, this is an easy and good one.

Jenny's Chili
1 pound ground beef ( I brown mine with onions and garlic and keep it in the freezer)
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic, onions and peppers
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce (this makes a chunky, drier chili, if you like a thinner chili, uses 2 cans)
1 pkg. McCormick mild chili seasoing
2 sliced jalapeno peppers
1 16 oz. can light red kidney beans

Brown ground beef. Put all ingredients in Crock Pot, stir well. Cook on LOW 8 -10 hours or on HIGH for 4 -5. Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, more jalapenos and crackers.

Weeknight Ravioli Bake

I found this recipe in the latest edition of the Kraft's Food and Family magazine and is it good!

Weeknight Ravioli Bake
1 jar (26 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 c water
2 pkgs. (1 pound each) frozen cheese ravioli
1 pkg. (7 oz) mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese
2 T grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400*.

Mix spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and water; spoon 1 cup on to bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish.

Layer half ravioli and 1 cup shredded cheese over sauce mixture. Top with remaining ravioli and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese; cover with aluminum foil.

Bake 30 minutes; uncover. Bake 15 minutes or until ravioli is tender and heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

I had to bake it about 10 minutes longer than what the recipe stated to get the ravioli as tender as we like it. This was a HUGE success with my family and is being added to our

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday Food Fest - Thanksgiving and Fall Recipes

No holiday or special occasion table at our house is complete without broccoli casserole. This is one of the very first recipes I ever made for hy husband when we were dating. A self-professed broccoli hater, this turned him around. This is from an OLD Baptist Church Cookbook. My clarification and changes are in the parentheses.

Broccoli Casserole

Cook 1 cup of rice according to package directions (I have used minute and long grain rice as well as white and brown rice). Add 1/2 stick butter, 8 oz Velveeta cheese (cubed) and one package of chopped broccoli (cooked). Mix one can cream of chicken soup (mushroom and celery are just as good), 1 egg and 1/2 t salt. Add to rice mixture. Put in a 2 qt baking dish and bake at 350* for 40 minutes.

*** original recipe called for 1 c chopped celery and 1 c chopped onions. I have never used celery and only occasionally use a small amount of onion, if I have chopped it for something else.

Meal Plan Monday Week of 11/9

Well, it's not quite Monday, but this is our meal plan for the week.

Sunday - Beef Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Casserole, Rolls, Brownies with Vanilla Ice Cream

Monday - Chick-fil-A - I was very under the weather and dh took both kids to basketball practice and then to dinner. Bless him!

Tuesday - Cube Steak with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, leftover Broccoli Casserole and Green Beans

Wednesday - Corn Chowder, Roast Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches, Fruit Salad

Thursday - Lemon Garlic Pork Tenderloin, Couscous (using my first attempt at homemade chicken broth!!!), Peas

Friday - I will be at the National Council for Social Studies Conference in the ATL - dh and kids are on their own

Saturday - I will be just me and Boo Boo tonight - it will be something really girly I am sure.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Crisp

I am linking up with Hoosier Homemade today as part of the Holiday Food Fest. This week's topic is Fall Desserts.

My very favorite fall desert is Pumpkin Crisp. I could make it a million times during the fall season. The problem is, I am the only person in my house with an addiction to pumpkin. If I make this, I am certain to be the only one to eat it. That being said, sometimes it is worth the extra 15 pounds!

The my original recipe came from a fall issue of Southern Living Magazine about 3 - 4 years ago, but I have seen similar recipes around the web, most often called Pumpkin Dump Cake. My changes are in parentheses). Like any true southern cook, I believe this is best served warm with fresh whipped cream on top.

Pumpkin Crisp - from Southern Living Magazine

1 - 15 oz can pumpkin
1 c evaporated milk
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon (I add cloves and nutmeg, about 1/4 t each)
1 package butter flavored yellow cake mix ( I only use 1/2 a package - too much topping for me)
1 c chopped pecans ( I leave these out)
1 cup butter, melted (I only use 1/2 c)

Stir together first 5 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture; sprinkle pecans. Drizzle butter evenly over pecans.

Bake at 350* for 1 hour or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

For more yummy fall desserts, especially if you love pumpkin, head over to Hoosier Homemade!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday - Holiday Tip Edition

My Holiday Tip is using a Holiday Notebook. This notebook has saved me over the last 7 years I have used it. My notebook has 3 sections - Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In each section I have all the information I need to make each holiday success with out all the usual stress. I start carrying my notebook around with me on October 1st and I retire it to storage on January 1st.
My notebook includes things like -

  • Halloween Hayride information - past invitaiton wording and guestlists, decoration lists, what I need to buy for this year's party

  • Reminders on when is the best time to go to the Pumpkin Patch as well as the best week to get an appointment to see Santa

  • Menus for our Halloween Hayride, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years for the past 7 years

  • Christmas shopping lists, Christmas cards lists, Baking lists, Gifts to make.....

  • Freezer and Pantry Inventories

I cannot take credit for this idea. I discovered it years ago at Organized Christmas. Over the years, I have made it work for me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meal Plan Monday Week of 11/2

Monday - Parmesan Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta, Tossed Salad and Garlic Bread

Tuesday - Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Wednesday - Soup (kid's choice), Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Fruit

Thursday - Crockpot Baked Potates

Friday - Tortellini Soup, Cheddar Bread
Saturday - at a wedding

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lunch Group

I love where I work. It is a great high school with fantastic students and parents and wonderful co-workers. But, even with all that greatness, things can get a little stressed, especially with recent budget cuts and furlough days. Three of us have found a way to help deal with some of the day to day stresses of teaching high school.

Each Thursday we take turns making lunch for each other. The only requirement is it can't make you crazy to do it. If it is a crazy week for you, picking up deli sandwiches, ordering pizza or a run through the Zaxby's drive through are OK. It is all about commraderie and a little bit or relaxation at work.

We are an easy group to cook for as we will eat almost anything. No picky eaters allowed in our lunch group.

This week is my week and I have a delicious meal planned. Since it got cool here for the first time fall comfort foods will be the stars of this week's luncheon.

Broccoli Cheese Soup - We will be topping our soup with shredded cheddar cheese
Crusty Rolls (from Publix, I wish I had the time and talent to make my own)
Apple Caramel Cookies - these are from one of my favorite food blogs, Stolen Moments. I dare you to click on the link. One look and you will be rushing out to buy apples and caramels!

That should get us through the rest of the week!

Meal Plan Monday Week of 10/19

I have been meal planning forever. It is the only way I can make sure we don't end up at the fast food drive thrus over and over again. However, this is my first blog posting about meal planning and my first time to link up with Meal Plan Monday eventhough I have been an avid follower for many months.

Monday - Tacos

Tuesday - Both kids not feeling well, so resulted to the old sick day stand by-
Chicken Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday - Rachel Ray's Sloppy Buffalo Joes and Mashed Potato SkinsBoth are new to us recipes

Thursday - I have BUNCO, so the rest of the family is on their own after football practice

Friday - Not sure yet, we may attend the high school football game and grab some game food.