Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kitchen Goals Update - February and March

At the beginning of 2011 I made a list of Kitchen Goals - 12 goals to accomplish throughout the year, focusing on one per month to create some good food and cooking habits.  To keep it real, I am updating my progress on these goals for February and March.  You can see my January progress here

Goal 1 - Eat from the pantryCompleted - January
Believe it or not, this January goal is still in play.  Money has been tight and I have just been buying basic necessities from the grocery store and relying on my freezer and pantry.  This has allowed me to only spend between $20 and $40 dollars per week at the store.  Some weeks I don't even have to go to the store at all.  LOVE IT!

Goal 2 - Select and use 2 recipes/month from my Southern Living Cookbook collection.  I have only made one recipe from my extensive Southern Living collection in February and March.  Because I have not been shopping much at the store, I have not been trying very many new recipes.  Hopefully that will change in April.

Goal 3 - Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  I haven't done this yet, but I really want to!  Maybe over Spring Break I can get it going.  I'm convinced that if I just start it, it will be easy to keep up with and use. 

Goal 4 - Less Processed Foods - SUCCESS!!  Since this is a year long goal, I try to drop one type of processed food each month.  In February I made 2 different types of granola, even converting my son to eating it as a snack. In March, I focused on making my own salad dressings.  You can find 3 great recipes for homemade dressing here.   I had one lone bottle of Kraft dressing in the pantry and used it....YUCK!  I'm a convert.  Still looking for a good 1000 Dressing recipe though.

Goal 6 - Better garden plan - analyze soil, augment soil, research plant varieties.  Tis the season to plan a garden!  I bought soil kits for each of my raised beds, now if it would just quit raining long enough for the soil to dry out so I can test it...  I have also been researching types of plants - asparagus, carrots, garlic and potatoes are already chosen and on my list.

Goal 10 - Find a freezer pizza crust recipe and make up Pizza KitsI froze my own pizza dough recipe in February and it turned out pretty well.  I am thinking about trying to freeze the Olive Oil pizza dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, once I get that going.....

Goal 11 - Plan for lunches - try to take lunch 3 days a week (year long).  SUCCESS!!  I have taken my lunch to school everyday but 3 in February and March.  I am getting much better at planning leftovers and I am beginning to create a list of "go to" lunch menus for when I don't have leftovers.  Packing my lunch has become a habit, I hardly even think about it anymore.  

Not bad, but not so great either.  I still have a lot of progress to make, but I have 9 months to go! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Almost Time for Salads!

I LOVE a good salad, but not in the winter.  I just can't seem to get excited about a hothouse tomato, wilty lettuce and soft cucumbers.  Just doesn't do it for me.  BUT, as the warmer weather begins to slowly creep into Hotlanta, I can see my favorite salads on the horizon, complete with homegrown produce.  Here are some favorites -

 Grilled Chicken Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
 Chef Salad Buffet
Spring Lettuce Mix with Grilled Chicken and Homemade Vinaigrette

Now, I love my salads, but I adore my dressing.  And I am very particular about it, honestly I am a salad dressing snob.  I prefer to make my own dressing and will try countless recipes to find the perfect ones.  These are my favorites -

from My Homemade Happiness

from Rachel Ray
*** this is spicy.  I reduce the amount of pepper by half. 

Honey Mustard Dressing
adapted from The Southern Living Ultimate Cookbook

3/4 c sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise
3 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c honey
1/2 T cider vinegar
1/8 t ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth.  Cover and chill.  Serve over salad greens, with sweet potatoes fries or your favorite chicken fingers.

I'm looking for a great creamy dressing with cilantro and a good 1000 Island recipe.  If you have one I'd love to try it

Linking up to
Beauty and Bedlam
It's A Blog Party
Tuesday Night Supper Club
What's On the Menu
Full Plate Thursday
Frugal Food Thursday

Meal Plan Monday - On Tuesday

We spent a great weekend with great friends at the beach, but we ate way too much fast food and fatty foods.  My body sure can feel it.  Glad to be back in charge of what's on the menu!

Sunday - Mexican from our favorite restaurant on the way back into town
Monday - Hamburgers, Sweet Potato Fries and Lima Beans
Tuesday - Delicious Ham and Potato Soup, Strawberries
Wednesday - Chicken Cordon Bleu, Asparagus and Fruit
Thursday -
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - at my Granny's house!

Burlap Table Runner and Napkins

This is another kitchen project using the fabrics I bought at Hobby Lobby inspired by my Lemon Grass Fiestaware.  I also created a Menu Board and Burlap Wreath with these same fabrics. 

Inspired by all the burlap crafts I have see lately, I designed and stitched up this table runner and matching napkins for my kitchen table.  I got a new sewing machine for Christmas which made putting this together a breeze. 

For the table runner
1.  I cut the burlap the length I wanted (if I were to do it again, I would hem the ends for a more finished edge.)

2. Cut, press and hem the floral fabric to the dimensions of the burlap.  My kitchen table is really wide, so I made my table runner wider than average width.  Keep in mind the width of your table for this step.

3.  Sew floral pieces to burlap piece.  Press down seams.

4.  I then stitched matching orange grosgrain ribbon over the seams where the burlap and fabric met, giving a much more finished appearance. 

5.  Press and put on your table!

For the napkins -
1.  Cut fabric in 17" squares. 

2.  Press a 1/4" double hem.

3.  Sew hem, press and use.

Here is another view of the finished project -
Linked to
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It's A Blog Party
Somewhat Simple
Delightful Order
Fireflies and Jelly Beans
Well Made Wednesday

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's For Lunch - Week of March 14th

Still on track with taking my lunch to work.  Had a couple of days were there weren't any leftovers and I didn't really feel like taking the time to pack, but I have come up with a couple of easy, always on hand lunches and I used those this week.

Monday- Peanut  Butter and Jelly, Pretzels and Banana
Tuesday - Left over Hoisin Chicken, Sushi Rice and Salad
Wednesday - Chef Salad
Thursday - Vanilla Yogurt, Homemade Granola and Orange
Friday - Leftover Spaghetti

I am trying to plan ahead better, so on Sunday I will be making Pesto Feta Pasta Salad.  I am only making 1/2 the recipe and this should make enough for 2 lunch servings. 

Meal Plan Monday - March 21st

I did not meal plan last week and it really made a difference - for the worse! We ate really random meals, not very balanced and I even allowed the kids to talk me into the drive thru once.  So, back on the meal plan wagon this week. 

Sunday - Breakfast for Dinner at dh's request
Monday - Meatball Subs and Fruit
Tuesday - Quesadillas with Fruit
Wednesday - London Broil for the Slow Cooker, Mashed Red Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli
Thursday - Pork Loin, Squash Casserole, Lima Beans and Fruit
Friday - Lasagna and Salad
Saturday - not sure -- my parents will be in town and my dad really enjoys our local Mexican place, so we may end up there.

For many, many more great meal plans, visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Baking - Banana Pecan Biscotti, Banana Cupcakes
Lunch - Pesto Feta Salad

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Smothered Chicken

This is one of our favorite spinach recipes, it is especially good with the first fresh spinach of spring from the garden.  We like it served with cousous and steamed broccoli.

Spinach and Mushroom Smothered Chicken

3 c fresh spinach
1 3/4 c sliced portabella mushrooms
3 green onions, sliced
1 1/2 t olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
1/2 t Montreal Chicken seasoning
2 sliced provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, or colby jack cheese

Saute spinach, mushrooms and onions in oil until mushrooms are tender.  Set aside and keep warm. 

Sprinkle seasoning on chicken breasts; grill until done. (Can also bake in a 350 oven until done)

Top each chicken breast with spinach mixture then cheese and grill (bake) until cheese is melted. 

Linked to
Beauty and Bedlam
It's A Blog Party
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Eat at Home
What's On the Menu
Full Plate Thursday
Frugal Find Thursday
Life as Mom
Mom's Crazy Cooking

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fabric and Burlap Wreath

Last spring there was a lot of buzz around the blogsophere about this great wreath from Tatertots and Jello.  I looked and looked and finally found the right fabrics at Hobby Lobby to make my own. 

These fabrics also became the inspiration for my kitchen decor, which was sparked by my lovely new Fiestaware Lemongrass dishes. 
image courtesy of

I used these fabrics to not only make the wreath, but to make a Menu Board, a table runner and napkins to really tie all these colors into my kitchen. 

How I Made My Wreath
I used a straw wreath and wrapped it in strips of the darker burlap.  I also cut random circles in 3 different sized from the burlap, fabrics and tulle.  Using scrapbook brads, I layered the circles into a variety of flowers. 

I had a great helper for this part of the project. 

Then I randomly hot glued the burlap flowers to the wreath. 

Once completed, I tied a matching ribbon to use as a hanger and hung the wreath at the entrance to my kitchen.  Love how it introduces my accent colors into my kitchen and adds just a bit of color to this other wise blank and very boring wall.

Linked to
Tatertots and Jello

Monday, March 7, 2011

Banana Apple Craisin Muffins

We make a lot of muffins around here.  They are a quick nutritious breakfast on the run as well as great after school snacks.  I found the following recipe at Big Mama's Kitchen.  I changed it just a bit by adding craisins, omitting the Vanilla Glaze and cutting the sugars just a bit.  This is my new favorite muffin!  Hope you love them too.

Banana Apple Craisin Muffins
1/2 c butter, softened
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c vanilla yogurt
1/4 c applesauce
2 t vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
3 bananas, mashed
1 c Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced small
3/4 c craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cupcake/muffin tins with 15 paper liners.

In a large stand mixer, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix.  Add the yougurt, applesauce, vanilla and mix until just incorporated.  Sift in the flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, add to wet mixture and mix on low until just combined.  Fold in by hand the bananas, apples and craisins. 

Use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners almost full.  Bake for 20 -22 minutes.  Let cook in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Eat, share if you must and freezer any leftovers, they are great thawed and warmed in the microwave.

Linked to
Beauty and Bedlam
It's A Blog Party
Good Cheap Eats
What's on the Menu
Fill Plate Thursday
Frugal Food Thursday
Ultimate Recipe Swap

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meal Plan Monday - March 7th

We actually ate out, in a restaurant this week because we WANTED to!  This might not sound like it, but it is a HUGE Meal Planning victory for us.  See, typically we would eat out because we HAD to, but Thursday night, my dear friend's daughter was visiting from out of town and we wanted to get some great Mexican and a good margarita, so we chose to go to a sit down restaurant and enjoy a meal together.  It was GREAT!  We have not eaten out since before Christmas and the pleasure of having someone else plan the menu, cook it, serve it and CLEAN UP afterwards was pure heaven.  It is something I won't take for granted again and I appreciated it all the more because we have made dining out a TREAT, not a LAST RESORT. 

We really enjoyed the Ham, Spinach and Cheddar Quiche.  Look for a review and my tweaked recipe soon.  We skipped Homemade Pizza this week in lieu of Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup on Saturday due to the pouring rain we had experienced all day - we needed to warm up :-). 

Sunday - Chef Salads
Monday - Grilled Chicken Wraps, Veggies and Chips with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Tuesday - Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese and Fruit
Wednesday - Still looking for the perfect Mexican casserole.....
Thursday - Crockpot Chicken Piccata with Pasta and Roasted Asparagus
Friday - Fish Sandwiches (using panko crusted tilapia from Costco YUM), Mac and Cheese, Veggies and Ranch Dressing
Saturday - Supper Club here - Shrimp and Grits

For over 300 meal plans, visit I'm An Organized Junkie

Simplifying Birthday Party Gifts - Pencil Rolls

I am always looking for ways to simplify my life.  As the working mom of 2 busy kids with a husband who owns a restaurant, we are always busy.  One of the things that used to fall through the cracks were birthday parties.  I was always forgetting we needed a present and we had to run into Walmart or Target on the way to the party.  This mad rush always meant spending more than I wanted to and usually resulted in a less than creative present for the birthday child.  Pencil rolls to the rescue! 

Last summer I found this WONDERFUL tutorial to make crayon rolls at Skip to My Lou.  The 7-8 year old girls are all into drawing and coloring, so this seemed a great gift.  However I felt they might think crayons were a bit babyish, so I altered the pattern to accomodate colored pencils.  I found the pencils on sale for $1 at the back to school sales.  I figured we usually attend 6 - 8 birthday parties/school year, so i bought 10 boxes of pencils, just to be safe. 

The pencil rolls are a HUGE hit!  Everyone wants them and the moms are super impressed with my "superior" sewing skills.  If they only knew how easy their were to make.  Just follow the crayon tutorial, but adjust the size of the fabric pieces to 16" x 9".  You will then have 15 spaces for pencils.  12 for colored pencils, 2 for regular drawing pencils and 1 for a Happy Birthday pencil. 

I make 4 or 5 up at a time when I have a free Saturday afternoon and we always have a ready to go birthday present.  Birthday party present stress alleviated!

Linked to
Sundae Scoop
Made By You Monday
Its A Blog Party
Delightful Order
Somewhat Simple
Fireflies and Jellybeans
Tatertots and Jello

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Countefeit Kit Challenge - March

I just love the scrapbooking inspiration found at Counterfeit Kit Challenge.  Each month they highlight a monthly kit and challenge you to use that kit as the springboard for creating you own kit from your stash.  Then, all month long they encourage you to actually USE that kit and create some scrapbook pages and projects.  This month the inspiration kit is from Studio Calico.  The colors are great, and it took me just a little while to pull my kit together.

Original Kit from Studio Calico

My Kit - entirely from my Stash

I started with an inspiration paper - the mulit-colored dot paper from WeRMemory Keepers and just kept adding all these great papers.  I used the following lines - Creative Imaginations, Lil Davis Designs, Scenic Route, Doodlebug Designs, Making Memories, Autumn Leaves and  KI Memories.  Some of the paper and embellishments have been in my stash forever.  I think the oldest is the Making Memories Deep Red Marble Paper from their Watercolor Line.  It has to be at least 8 or 9 years old!  Thanks for the kick in the pants to acutally do something with it.  Now, to find some pictures to use with this great kit and get scrapping.  It is a cold, rainly day in Atlanta, can't think of anything better than scrapping the afternoon away. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's For Lunch - February 28

I am getting better at planning ahead for lunch.  When making my weekly menu, I am looking for recipes that will make at least one if not two extra lunch servings.  I am aware of lunch needs when making my weekly grocery lists.  Not a single PB&J on this week's list (my standard, last minute, "Oh crap, I forgot to make lunch" sandwich).  All in all, 9 weeks in, this is finally becoming a habit.  YEAH!

Monday - Chicken Salad Sandwich, Pretzels, Tangerine
Tuesday - Shrimp Quesadilla, Salad, Banana
Wednesday - Shrimp Quesadilla, Cucumber Slices, Banana
Thursday - Chicken Salad Sandwich, Pretzels, Tangerine
Friday - Bacon Cheddar Quiche, Banana, Apple, Craisin Muffin, Tangerine