Friday, November 30, 2007

Eat your veggies

We love veggies! Really! Those greens are good for you. Here are some of our favorite side dishes.

Roasted Broccoli: Broccoli Crowns cut into 1/2" florets, stem and all
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 425*. Toss broccoli with Olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place on a cookie sheet. Roast away. At least 25 minutes should do the trick. The point is for the little bobbled ends to burn a little (or a lot!) so they get crunchy. Seriously, this is a treat, and the kids love it.

Italian Green Beans: Saute 8 oz. frozen green beans (half a bag) in a tablespoon of butter until heated through. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of Italian dressing mix powder. Stir & Serve.

Spinach Salad: Saute one chopped yellow onion until caramelized (at some point they taste sweet) Add 3 Tb. balsamic vinegar and boil it a minute. Watch out, it fumes! Take off heat and stir in 2 Tb. dijon mustard and enough olive oil to make it fluid. It does separate, that is fine. This is your dressing and too good to overlook. Salad as follows: baby spinach leaves, toasted pecans, shredded parmesan cheese and onion dressing. A tomato slice for color and you'll be addicted.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where Have I Been?

I think I've been living in the Dark Ages. The other day, I woke up with the most wonderful idea. I would make a menu planning program for computers. I was going to be a millionaire! Then I checked the internet. Apparently someone else already did and is. I take back the genius comment. So, there is one software (I don't know if that is grammatically correct) that looks super-cool. I think it literally does everything as far as food planning, shopping, estimating...I went directly to the website and it looks like my needs could all be met for only $99.99! I'll be darned if I am going to make someone else a millionaire on my own idea! Okay, so one click to ebay and I can get it shrink-wrapped and new for ten bucks. Hmmm...Santa? Are you paying attention?
Here is one for those of you who don't menu plan but still do the shopping:
It is completely free, you won't even have to give them your address, just click and download. You can add all the things you like to buy and how much they cost. Click and drag and print out a list. You are wondering how this is better than handwriting? Well, if you care, it adds up an estimate and you can save your list. Also, it prints out your list in categories, so you pick up everything you need from the baking aisle while you are standing there and don't have to go back because flour was written tiny at the end of your list. Did everyone else already know about this?

Monday, November 26, 2007


I know, bad first impression. When I started making these, my 18 month old couldn't quite say "waffles". We thought it was so cute that it stuck. For your family's sake, I suggest you present them as "French Toast Waffles", and if you are a fan of either, you will love these.
French Toast Waffles:
4 eggs
1/2 c. milk
8 slices bread
Beat eggs and milk in a shallow dish. Dip bread into mixture, coating both sides. Place on preheated waffle iron. Yeah! My iron takes about 4 minutes. If you use very square-shaped bread, you can fit four slices. There you go, ten minutes to breakfast.
P.S. A dash of cinnamon and a blip of vanilla into the egg mix are a nice addition, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Honor of Thanksgiving

Eggless Eggnog: One package (the big one) instant french vanilla pudding mix. We use sugar-free and it is fine. Two quarts milk (1 % in our family). First blend or stir the pudding mix and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg into 2 cups milk and 2 tsp. vanilla til there are no more lumps. Before it thickens, pour into a large pitcher and add the rest of the milk, stirring well. Refrigerate for an hour or until nice and thick. Presto!

We like to water regular eggnog down with milk anyway, but if you like it on the sweet side, I suggest you add 1/2 c. sugar in with the pudding mix and as REAL eggnog is an alcoholic drink, a few drops rum extract would be fine.

If you and your apple pie recipe are in a committed relationship, break it off now. You will never use it again! Although there are three steps to this one, they are all quick and easy and there is no rolling of the crusts. Trust me, you won't be the same.

Brown Bag Apple Pie!
Crust: 1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. oil
2 Tbs. cold milk
Combine and press onto bottom and sides of a 9" or 10" pie plate.
Filling: 4 c. peeled, sliced apples (heaping)
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and nutmeg
Combine and toss. Mound into pie crust.
Topping: 1/2 c. each flour and sugar
1/2 c. cold margarine
Combine flour and sugar, cut in margarine until crumbly. Sprinkle over pie. Preheat oven to 350*. Now for the fun part! Take a brown paper bag and set it open on the floor. Carefully lower the pie into it until it rests on the floor. Now place the bag on the counter and fold the top down once or twice until it will sit and fit on the lowest rack in your oven. Staple closed. Place bag into your preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 min. Do not open the bag until it is baked and has cooled 5 min. I know what you are thinking, but I have done this in gas and electric ovens and it does not catch fire. I do recommend, however, that you don't leave the house while baking. You will suddenly say to yourself, "What is that smell?" and race into the kitchen. Rest assured, it is the smell of hot brown bag. Nothing is burning. The smell is quickly replaced by the heavenly aroma of apples and you will not be sorry. Don't forget vanilla ice cream.

I use 5 or 6 large granny smiths or a combo with braeburn or fuji, but it's so good, you could use red d's and get away with it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How I Feed My Family

I like to eat. Don't we all? I must admit that my favorite foods are the ones I make myself. I like to know that my family is eating the foods that I think are healthy. I created this blog to share the recipes and ideas that make my family happy and help me function as a mother of 3. If they help your family, I'm glad. Happy cooking!

Menu Planning

I am of the opinion that the hardest part of dinner is deciding what to make and what I have the ingredients for at 5:00. This is why I have pre-scheduled my dinners. I have a monthly meal schedule, and a grocery list on my computer and I just print it off and go. It is impressively easy, and I never have to decide what is for dinner or wonder if I have all the ingredients. For this I think I am a genius. I have one crockpot meal per week for the sake of 1:00 church on Sunday, and also a freezer meal each week. Anything that is not a casserole or served on rice has ingredients for a side dish on the list.

Menu 1

My menus consist of recipes for 5 days. This makes room for going to Grandma's, out to eat, or trying a new recipe.

Crockpot chicken & gravy, mixed veggies

Tilapia, candied carrots, asian salad

Pork dijon, zucchini

Taco salad

Steak & mushrooms, spinach salad

Grocery List:
I have left off basics that you probably have anyway: eggs, milk, salt, pepper, flour...besides those, I'm pretty sure this is complete. It is organized into aisles at Wal-Mart.

bag Mixed veggies
Yellow cheese
Sour cream
Grated Parmesan cheese

Evap. milk

bag Baby carrots
1 Yellow onion
bag Green onions
1 lb. zucchini
Head lettuce
3 roma tomatoes
1 red onion
16 oz. mushrooms
bag baby spinach
bag coleslaw

4 lb. roaster chicken
4 tilapia fillets
1 ½ lb. pork steaks
1 lb. Gr. Beef
3 beef steaks (loin)

White beans
Taco Season
Italian powder

Lemon pepper
Sunflower Seeds

Dijon mustard
Hot sauce
Balsamic vinegar


I buy pork loins from Sam's Club. Yes, I have to buy 6 lbs. at a time, but I feel it is worth it. They are boneless, and a good, tender meat and are usually much cheaper than pork loin at Wal-Mart or elsewhere which makes it justifiable that I cut my own pork steaks. Actually, also at Sam's they sometimes have pork loins steaks pre-cut for about 10 cents more per lb. Kitchen shears will do the job quite nicely, though. I cut off 2 lb. portions for nice roasts and slice the rest about an inch thick. Then I wrap with freezer paper and mark the weight right on the paper. Bag them in ziplocs and mark the date, then freeze.

Pork Pozole:
15 oz. can hominy, drained
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
10 oz. can green enchilada sauce
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 lbs. pork loin
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. lime juice
Combine hominy, tomatoes, sauce, onion, garlic and cumin in a crock pot. Top with pork and spoon hominy mix on top of it. Cover and ook on high 2 1/2 hrs. or until pork is done. Place pork on cutting board and chop coarsely. Return to crock pot with lime juice and cilantro (dried parsley works in emergencies) and stir well. Serve with tortilla chips, lime wedges, or avacado. My kiddos like tomatoey stuff with sour cream stirred in.

Pork Dijon:
4 pork steaks, 1" thick, fat removed if you please (shears)
1 Tbs. oil (I always use olive oil for health, but you will get a smoky kitchen as it has a very low smoking point temperature-wise)
6 to 8 green onions, sliced and separated into green and white parts
1/4 c. chicken broth (I sometimes use water and granules)
3/4 c. evaporated milk (freeze the other half-a-can in a ziploc!)
1/4 c. dijon mustard
I learned on Rachael Ray that cold meat seizes up when it hits a hot pan and becomes tough. Therefore, I advise you to let your meat sit at room temperature for 30 min. prior to cooking, if you can stand it and keep little ones away. Set the pork on paper towels to dry (moisture causes spitting oil) and pepper them a bit. In a skillet, heat oil at md. high. Lay in your steaks and give them a few minutes (4-5) on each side until nice and brown and crispy! (or done through). Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil. They say this keeps in heat and helps redistribute the juices. Next, saute the white part of the onions in the same pan for 1 min. Remember to scrape up those flavorful brown bits! Add the broth and cook about 3 min. until it has boiled down to about half. Add the milk and mustard and boil for a minute until it thickens. I also add the juices that have settled on the pork plate. Top pork with sauce and sprinkle with green onions. Beautiful! And my kids eat it. Serve with zucchini slices sauteed in olive oil.We love zucchini sprinkled with parmesan and pepper. My 2 year old literally can't get enough. I am secretly proud when she asks for more...

Apple Pork & Sweet Potatoes:
1 pork roast (2-3 lbs.)
1 lg. yellow onion, sliced
3 sweet potatoes, sliced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 quart apple juice
Place roast in crockpot, salt and pepper it. Place onions around the sides and top with potatoes. Sprinkle on thyme and pour in apple juice, as much as fits in your crockpot. Cook on high 4-5 hours, or low 6-7, until pork is done. Serve. I have been know to thicken some of the juices with bean flour to make a nice gravy.

Kahlua Pork & Sweet Potatoes:
2 lb. Pork Roast
1 Tbs. Coarse salt
2 Tbs. liquid smoke
Poke or slash roast nicely and place in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt and liquid smoke. Cook on high 4 hrs, low 6 hrs, until done. Serve with sweet potatoes, canned or not. I like to make a bean gravy from the can syrup (or apple juice), pork drippings and bean flour. This is like a trip to Hawaii, I'm sure of it.

Ground Beef

My ground beef also comes from Sam's. I can get 90% lean for $2.05/lb. That is of course after the 10 cents off per lb. for buying 10 lb. chubs. I know, that is a lot of beef, right? Well, this was my first great freezer idea: Buy lots of beef, separate into 1 lb. ziplocs and freeze. I won't have to thaw the entire thing when I want some. That was several years ago. Then one day, I realized that if I browned all 10 lbs., I could still freeze it in 1 lb. portions. TA-DA! It takes 3 min to thaw in the microwave and how long to brown? No time at all! Here's how: 3-4 lbs. at a time will fit in your big soup pot. Stir til brown. You may want to start with a tsp. oil on the bottom of your pot. You can also do it in the oven, 5 lbs. per cookie sheet, 350*, breakup and stir every few minutes til done. I haven't tried this way because the other works fine for me. Strain it (90% is nearly fatless) and bag it in 2 1/2 c. portions. Make sure to mark with a good sharpie that it is browned beef and not just ground beef and also date of freezing. Squash the air out and press the bag flat like a book. Now your bag is stackable.
If you want to make half of it into taco meat, go ahead, that freezes too.

Taco Salad:
1 lb. taco meat from freezer
most of a head of lettuce, torn to bite size pieces
1 cup grated yellow cheese
2 roma tomatoes, chopped (seeded if you like)
1/2 red onion, diced (when eating raw onions, I find red ones to be less bitter)
Let taco meat thaw the night before or heat it if you like (this may wilt your lettuce more than is pleasant). Toss all together. We used to add crunched up fritos, which is good, but not too healthy. Husband and I top our salad with a mix of fake brown sugar and hot sauce (like Frank's) heated together until the sugar dissolves, then a bit of sour cream stirred in to make it thick. My children, who will not eat ranch dressing (your guess is as good as mine) prefer Italian dressing on theirs.

Stuffed Meatballs:
1 1/2 c. uncooked instant rice
1 onion, chopped fine
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 lbs. ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt, pepper
10 oz. pkg. frozen brussel sprouts
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 c. water
1 tsp. dried thyme
Combine first 6 ingredients. Shape scant 1/4 cupful around each frozen brussel sprout to form a meatball. Place meatballs in 9 x 13. Combine tomato sauce, water, & thyme. Pour over meatballs. Bake covered at 350* for 1 hr. 15 min. Serve on cooked rice. If you like prepared horseradish, mix some into your rice! This secret ingredient makes it super-fantastic, except to a four year old.
This is one of my freezer meals. When I buy my huge chubs of beef, I double the recipe and freeze in ziplocs, 12-15 meatballs per dinner. One recipe will make two dinners for us (2 adults, 2 eating children).

Main Dish Recipes

1 Tb. oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, bite sized
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. kielbasa, sliced
1 tsp. thyme
2 Tbs. parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 c. rice
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 c. chicken broth
Brown chicken in 2 tsp. oil. Remove and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and saute the onion, pepper and garlic 5 min. Add kielbasa, herbs and rice and stir for 1 min. Return chicken to the pan, add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 20-25 min, when rice is done.
Most recipes I tried had chicken, smoked sausage, and shrimp, so if you want to add frozen, cooked shrimp at the end, that tastes good, too. Also, I was under the impression that the "holy trinity" of soul food includes onions, peppers and celery, so I threw in a 1/2 cup of the latter.
Very Yummy!

Crockpot chicken & gravy, mixed veggies: I get a roasting chicken (whole, 4-5 lbs.) and using kitchen shears remove the skin except on the wings. This is fairly easy to do and takes about 5 minutes. I place it in a crock pot, breast side up and sprinkle with 1 or 2 Tbs. lemon pepper or herb mix and pour about 1/2 cup water around the bottom. Turn it on high 4 hours, low 6. I do high because it is perfect for church. When it is done (pop-up timers are helpful, or 180* inside the thigh), I suck out all juices with a baster, strain & measure. I use 2 Tb. white bean flour (yes, I put white beans into my wheat grinder--very lovely flavor for gravies--but regular white flour works fine) per cup liquid. Add a little salt and boil a minute. Steam some frozen mixed veggies. If you add some biscuits, you have chicken pot pie minus the pie part. When dinner is over, pick extra meat off the bones. You can freeze this to add to soups, enchiladas, you name it. Or you can throw it into asian salad below.

Tilapia, candied carrots & asian salad: I buy the frozen portion pieces of tilapia (or salmon), place on a foil lined cookie sheet (foil is important) and rub with olive oil. Then cover with blackened or Alaskan salmon seasoning. Follow the directions, mine say 375* 15 min. I like them DRY so I give it an extra 3 min. Make up a packet of italian dressing in a jar, add 2 Tb. soy sauce, 1/4 c. splenda/sugar. Pour half on a bag of coleslaw (the other half will last til next time or makes a nice dressing for green salad), add 6 to 8 sliced green onions and 1/4 c. each shelled sunflower seeds and sliced almonds. Toss well. Steam the carrots and add 1 Tb. each butter & brown sugar, dash salt.

I took this next one from Rachael Ray and modified it to fit our non-alcoholic, cheap dinner lifestyle. I realize that most alcohol cooks out, I just don't want to go there. When it comes to beef steaks, there are few that I find worthy of eating and cheap enough to pay for. I buy top loin/sirloin boneless steaks, but never for full price. I watch the ads. As far as I can tell (here in my particular state) $2.99/lb. is about the cheapest it comes.
Steak and mushrooms:
3-4 beef steaks, 1 1/2" thick
2 Tb. oil (again with the olive oil and the smoking...)
pepper, cracked if you've got it
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
Remember to let your steaks sit at room temp. for 30 min. Pepper them and heat your oil on md. high. Give them a few minutes on each side (5-6) until they are as done as you like them. If you bought good meat, they won't get too tough, so don't worry if you want them done all the way through, like me. Remove to a plate, cover loosely with foil.In same pan, sautee mushrooms about 5 min. You may have to add more oil. Lots more. Mushrooms soak the stuff up. If you sprinkle with salt, though, they will let out a little moisture and make it more likely not to burn to the pan. Add juices from beef plate and stir. Serve mushrooms on steaks with Spinach Salad.

This one is adapted from South Beach Diet online.
Peanut Butter Satay Chicken:
4 chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4" (or cut them in half horizontally with shears)
3 T. Peanut Butter (we use no sugar)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
dash cayenne pepper
Brown or grill your chicken, I use my George Forman grill, and sprinkle the chicken with a little soy sauce to give it a glaze. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and microwave 30 seconds. Stir. At first it will look a little clumpy and separated. Keep stirring. It all of a sudden turns creamy. Cut chicken into strips and serve with sauce. Yum. Italian Green Beans is a good side.

Curry Chicken:
Chicken, cooked & diced
Green onions
Some curry paste
1/2 can coconut milk (freeze the other half in a ziploc)
Grated ginger root
lemon zest
Combine all. Heat through. Serve on rice or steamed cauliflower. This is a toss together recipe. I just use what's on hand. Some good ideas, though: whenever I use a citrus fruit, I zest it first and freeze the zest in a ziploc. Also, I peel a ginger root, grate it and drop by tablespoons onto wax paper. Freeze, then ziploc it. Same with that can of tomato paste that you only used half of. Yes, I am a freezer fanatic.

Lasagna Roll-ups:
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 ½ c. shredded mozzarella
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
½ c. sour cream
¼ c. bread crumbs
1 T. Italian seasoning
1 t. garlic powder
12 lasagna noodles
15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 ½ c. salsa
½ c. shredded mozzarella
Cook lasagna noodles according to package and lay on cookie sheet to dry a bit. Combine 1st seven ingredients to make filling. Spread 1/3 cupful down each noodle, leaving a little tab at the end to make it stick. Roll up and place in a 9x13 dish. Original recipe says to let it sit overnight covered, but if your noodles are dry enough, they will stick to themselves and you won’t need to. Combine tomatoes & salsa, and spread over rollups. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Immediately sprinkle with ½ c. mozzarella and serve. The filling is freezable as well as the sauce, but I recommend you do not freeze the rollups themselves. As soon as you close the freezer door, they attack each other and end up shredded to pieces. Serves 12 adults or 6 teenage boys.

Chicken Divine:
2 c. chicken, cooked & cubed
16 oz. frozen broccoli, thawed
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tbs. milk
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. curry powder
yellow cheese, french fried onions
Saute onion if you like, then stir it up with the chicken and broccoli. Mix together the soup, milk, lemon juice, curry powder and salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp. or so). Pour over chicken/broccoli. Top with cheese and bake at 350* for 30 min. or until bubbly. Top with french fried onions and return to oven for 5 min.