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Friday, December 31, 2010

Menu...Thursday or is it Friday?

My apologies for missing a couple of Mondays already!  We were in Phoenix at my in-laws for an early Christmas on the 20th and then the 27th...I was still recovering from the previous week and a half.  We drove, yes, drove to Phoenix the 17th & 18th...with two toddlers...and then turned around and came back on the 22nd, straight.  It wouldn't have been too bad if we hadn't had projectile vomit during the first hour and a half...in the middle of NOWHERE.  Of course, being six months pregnant meant we had to stop every two hours and walk about 20 minutes.  It worked out well, though.  We managed to cram a 12 hour drive into 14.5.  Not to bad, all things considered!

But...I digress.  :-)

I'll give you the menu for this week, even though it's Thursday (woops!  now it's Friday!).  Maybe it will give you inspiration for a questionable night!  :-)

  • Monday -- Turkey Spaghetti
    • I tried to make this as close to my mom's recipe as I could.  It's been so long since I was home, and she was making it.  Unfortunately, I can't ask her now.  I'll give you the best rendition that I can.  Overall, I was really pleased with the outcome.  :-)
    • Saute 1 chopped onion and 5-6 stalks of celery in a couple of tablespoons of butter and some salt until they're translucent.  Add 1 pound of chopped turkey, 1 can low sodium chicken broth, 1 family-sized can of cream of mushroom soup, and 1/4 a block of Velveeta chopped.  Stir occasionally to help Velveeta melt.  Season to taste.  Cook 1/2-3/4 pound of angel hair pasta according to the package directions and drain.  Grease a 9x13 casserole dish.  Place cooked pasta in the casserole dish, top with turkey mixture and combine.  (I used tongs.  I don't think it would stir well.)  Top with shredded cheddar and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheddar.  Enjoy!
  • Tuesday -- leftovers  :-)
  • Wednesday -- Layered Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas from the Heavenly Homemakers blog
    • (http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/high-five-recipes-layered-cheesy-salsa-enchiladas)  Yes, you're going to have to click the link to see the whole recipe.  :-)  I did make some adjustments, so it became a little more than 5 ingredients.  I sauteed half an onion and cooked my ground beef with that.  (I cooked enough to do Thursdays dinner, too!)  Then I added a can of seasoned black beans in with the ground beef, 1/2-ish cup of grated cheddar and 2 cups of salsa (1 cup medium Pace and 1 cup of my brother-in-law's homemade salsa -- yummy!).  I cut my tortillas into 1-ish" squares instead of using whole tortillas.  I think that made it easier for the kids to manage.  When I layered everything, I did a layer of tortillas, meat mixture, glopped (what a word!) on my homemade plain yogurt, and a light layer of cheese, then repeated.  I probably added more cheese than she called for in her recipe -- love that cheddar!  I was so encouraged that my husband and kids all really liked this recipe!  And, there's enough leftover to do lunch on Thursday!
  • Thursday -- Spaghetti & Cream Cheese Whole Wheat French Bread (yep, traditional spaghetti, again!  The bread recipe is on the first or second Menu Monday.)
  • Friday -- Grilled Chicken Breast & Twice Baked Potatoes
    • I am so very thankful for my George Foreman grill in the winter time!  It makes cooking the chicken so very quick and keeps it nice and juicy.  For my Twice Baked Potatoes I bake my clean, pierced potatoes in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes -- or until they're fork tender.  I know I could do it more quickly in the microwave, but the skins aren't quite the same.  Once they're out and cooled, I halve them lengthwise, then scoop out the innards.  To the innards I add cream cheese, sour cream/plain yogurt, cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder...if I'm feeling spicy, I might add a couple dashes of hot sauce.  :-)  This is really a "til it looks right" recipe.  Unless you get it to a liquid stage (which would be super hard to do), I don't think you can go wrong.  *happy sigh*  Once that's all mixed together, I refill the shells and top with more cheddar.  Into a 350 degree oven they go for about 20 minutes.  I'll probably broil them for just a couple of minutes to brown the top -- there's just something about browned cheddar that's so very yummy.  And, no, this is NOT a low calorie, low fat recipe, but you will enjoy every single mouthful.  Honest.  :-) 
  • Saturday -- Shredded Chicken Quesadillas for lunch & Waffles for dinner
    • Friday I'll cook more chicken than we need so I'll have some to shred and use in chicken quesadillas.  I'm loving the cooking ahead!  It doesn't take any extra time and saves so very much.  :-) 
    • Saturday night we'll have breakfast for dinner -- one of my favorites!  I'll probably fry up some eggs...maybe some bacon I have in the freezer.  Waffles will be the central focus, of course!
  • Sunday -- Pizza (homemade or Papa Murphy's?)
    • We'll have to see how the day goes.  We have a gift card for Papa Murphy's, but I have everything to make homemade pizza.  Usually, I use tortillas for the crust, but with the quesadillas and the layered enchiladas, I think I'll need to make pizza crust.  If I do and I like it, I'll post the recipe that I use.  I've not made homemade pizza crust yet, but I'm excited to try!
I'm looking forward to being on point Monday with Menu Monday as well as making more yogurt as well as homemade applesauce.  We go through applesauce so quickly that I have to figure out if it's cheaper to make my own or continue buying it.

Happy New Year!  Here's to a year of new experiences and healthier, more economical living!  :-)
May the Lord bless each of you!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Menu Monday -- please ignore the calendar! :-)

It's Menu Monday on Tuesday!  A feverish 2 year old adjusts all plans, so we'll just roll with it.  In my last Menu Monday post, I talked about planning for a month, this week it's all about being flexible!  The lovely roast for Sunday didn't get done for a variety of reasons, so that adjusts the menu a bit, and ground beef that was in the fridge nicely "aged" in the refrigerator, so it HAD to be cooked yesterday.  It was 3+ pounds of ground beef, so we're going to adjust the menu to fit with that.  The beautiful thing is that I have a skillet that's large enough to cook it all up together!  And, since the only way I cook ground beef as a base is with onion, garlic and S&P, it worked out famously.  I'll just pull out what I need for each meal.  (I LOVE time savers like that!)
  • Monday -- Beef Stroganoff 
    • We grew up knowing this as stroganoff...kind of a poor man's stroganoff, I guess.  It's ground beef with Cream of Mushroom soup & milk with sour cream stirred in at the end all over rice.  I have no idea why my mom called it stroganoff...whatever it should be called, it is the BEST comfort food in the world...let me just wipe my mouth.  Too bad there were no leftovers.   *sigh*
  • Tuesday -- Spaghetti & french bread
    • My husband would eat this every day!  I, on the other hand, eat it to live, I don't live to eat it.  *smile*  If I can make it to the grocery store this morning, I might make an amazing french bread to go with it.  Mix together 1 stick butter softened, 1 brick cream cheese softened, garlic powder to taste and slather on the loaf of french bread cut longways.  Place on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  I like to throw the broiler on for just a bit at the end if it has not browned up nicely.  Figure friendly?  Not a chance!  But super duper yummy!!!
  • Wednesday -- Cheeseburger Soup & sourdough bread 
    • I've been wanting to try this after a friend posted she was making some.  However, I haven't seen her recipe yet, so I found a crockpot recipe online.  Crockpot -- oh yes!  Here's the link for the recipe.  http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/09/crockpot-cheeseburger-soup-recipe.html  I'll probably tweak it a bit...and I probably WON'T use 24 oz of Velveeta!  That's a lot of Velveeta.  I feel my arteries clogging up as we speak....
  • Thursday -- Waffles & Eggs
    • I love doing breakfast for dinner.  It's an easy go-to meal for us, particularly since, when I find eggs at 99c a dozen, I stock up!  I think we only have 3.5 dozen in the fridge right now, and I'm feeling like we're getting low!  Oh, that we could have our own chickens!  Dadgum city ordinance, but that's another post....
  • Friday -- Out
    • As much as it pains me to type it, we'll be eating out.  I'd much rather be cooking, but it will just make life a lot easier.
  • Saturday & Sunday -- Eating with the Fam, so I don't have to plan!  :-)
May y'all have a wonderful week!  I'm off to read a book to my munchkins and then head for the grocery store for a few items.  I think I'll be making some yogurt today...  It's a good day for yogurt.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Did It!!! Yummy Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread!

I bit the bullet today and finally made some yeast bread!  I have wanted to try making yeast bread for a very long time.  My mom did it when we were growing up, and it was such a special treat!  She would usually make dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls.  Those cinnamon rolls beat out every other cinnamon rolls I have ever had...and probably will ever have, if only because they were the ones Mama made.

A friend of my sister's (& mine -- Hi, Rachelle!) did a photo-blog post on how to make the yeast bread she makes all the time (http://littlewifeontheprairie.blogspot.com/2010/10/for-michelle.html).  She did it for my sister, because Michelle was just as timid about making bread as I was.  Last month, when I was watching one of my nephews, Michelle brought a BEAUTIFUL loaf of bread in for me to bake -- so very yummy!  She did a fabulous job...and yet, I was still not comfortable trying it out.  I have two munchkins -- W is every bit of 2.5 and AB is 15 months old.  How in the world would I find time to do something as intensive as making yeast bread from scratch????

So...I continued reading Rachelle's blog and through her was introduced to The Pioneer Woman -- serious blogger with scads of photo-blogs of recipes.  Somehow, I came across her recipe for Homemade Cinnamon Bread (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/08/homemade-cinnamon-bread/).  The photos and her description....it finally called to me long enough, and I HAD to have a piece!  Today was the perfect moment in time for me to attempt it -- W was at MDO and AB needed a LONG nap.

Step-by-Step and Inch-by-Inch (hee hee), with much fear and trepidation, I followed the recipe (with a substitution of 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, cheeky of me, I know!) and photos -- SWEET SUCCESS!!!  It did take all day to get it done.  :-)  I started about noon and didn't have it out of the oven until 7:00.  There were a few moments where I had to hold my breath, though.  Was the liquid I put my yeast in too cool?  Did it proof like it should?  It wasn't "foamy," was it going to work?  I placed the dough in the bowl to rise, put it on the top of the refrigerator, and left it alone for a couple of hours.  I had, in full faith of rising, placed the small round in a HUGE bowl; when I pulled it down, the bowl was FULL of risen bread.  Woohoo!!! & PTL!!!  From there it was relatively stress free.  (Granted, I'll be sure to roll it a little tighter next time.)  Aaahhh...

And now, I can enjoy a yummy, delectable piece of cinnamon bread.  Tomorrow morning, I think it will be perfect with a cup of Kona coffee...

Now it's onward and forward to consistent yeast bread making.  That will be the trick.  :-)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making Yogurt...Really!

Yesterday I mentioned how we WERE spending a lot each week just on yogurt...nearly $2 a day.  It doesn't sound like much, but that's almost $60 a month -- just on yogurt!  That's a decent chunk of our grocery budget, so I knew that we (I) was going to have to do something different -- enter the homemade yogurt. 

You must understand, homemade yogurt's not a new concept to me.  When I was growing up, my family lived in Papua New Guinea for a couple of years, and that's one of the things my dad did each week -- he made yogurt.  It was a time-consuming, multi-stepped process that there was NO WAY ON EARTH I would ever replicate.  It was oh so very yummy, though.  *sigh*

Fast forward to a couple of months ago.  I was visiting my dad, and he had decided to make yogurt again -- "It's just too darned expensive."  (You have to imagine this being said in a deeper, gruff voice.)  :-)  So I watched and helped him walk through all the steps -- sanitizing jars, measuring milk temperature, pouring, stirring gently, timing...UGH!  There was noooooo way! 

But...it didn't go quite right.  The yogurt was pretty watery and the texture was funky, so I headed to Google to see what I could see.  And all that I could see...was a lot of complicated yogurt recipes, UNTIL I hit the mecca of a lovely website known as www.yogurt-everyday.com, specifically the page http://www.yogurt-everyday.com/homemade-yogurt-recipe.html.  In the middle of the page was a section that piqued my interest -- making yogurt in a crockpot.  What???  You can do that?  Skip all the sanitizing, temperature measuring, step after step?  Yippee skippy!

It took me a while to get up the nerve to do it.  I was still intimidated by the whole shooting match.  (I'm still intimidated by making homemade yeast breads, but that, too, I shall overcome!  I'll let you know how it goes!)  Anyway, the challenge that I gave to myself in November (see previous post) gave me the push that I needed to finally make the leap.  


It could not have been easier.  It's so easy that I actually had it memorized without trying.  Here goes.  (Check out the website to see if I get it right!)
  • Pour 1/2 gallon of milk (I use whole milk.) into your crockpot.  (Do make sure the crockpot's REALLY clean.)
  • Set your crockpot to low for 2.5 hours.  (I have to set a timer that I can hear anywhere.  I'm pregnant, and sometimes I would swear this child is eating my brain!)
  • Walk away.
  • When your lovely loud timer goes off, turn off the crockpot and set your timer for 3 hours.
  • Walk away.
  • When your lovely loud timer goes off this time, gently skim the skin off the top of the milk.  (I've used a fork, a slotted spoon, a strainer-whatever-you-call-it-thingy-that-goes-with-a-fry-baby.  I think the slotted spoon worked best.)
  • Gently stir in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt that has live active cultures.
  • Wrap & cover your crockpot with towels/blankets to keep it warm.  (I use a thick beach towel over it and a beach mat that's HUGE to wrap around it.)
  • Let it set overnight. 
  • Voila!  Yogurt!
  • At this stage in the game, I pour it into a pillow case lined colander to let it drain so it's a little thicker (see more about that below).
  • Make sure you chill it well before you eat it...it's not too appetizing warm.  *wrinkled nose*
A couple of notes -- the first time you make anything, you're never really sure how it's going to turn out.  My first batch of yogurt wasn't as thick as I like, and she doesn't tell you to skim the milk skin off the top before you add your yogurt culture.  Whatever you do, make sure you skim it!  I got some of the skin in my yogurt, and the texture is like the plastic some companies put on to seal their yogurt containers.  NOT a pleasant experience.  As far as the yogurt being thinner than I like goes, this time around I poured it into a pillow case lined colander and let it drain for a couple of hours.  If I let it go more than that, I think I would have ended up with yogurt cheese (not that I'm opposed to that, but it's not what I'm going for).  It's hard to describe the texture, it's not incredibly smooth, but it smooths out nicely when blended.  

My thought is, if we want to eat it just as yogurt, I'll probably go ahead and blend it...with some sugar and vanilla to flavor it up and have it ready for fruit and whatever else fun stuff we want to throw in.  (When the one year old is older, I'll use local honey instead of sugar.)  Right now, I'm just using it to make smoothies.  Yesterday, I made Christmas smoothies for our afternoon snack -- 2 cups of the yogurt, 1 cup of eggnog, a couple of teaspoons of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, a few sprinkles of cloves (deep breath in...I heart cloves!), and some ice.  Blend away.  Yummy!  My two year old, who's been iffy on smoothies before, drained it rather quickly.  We'll be having Christmas smoothies again...probably this afternoon!  Gotta make use of eggnog while it's around!   :-)

I'm so excited about this!  I can make about a gallon of yogurt a week for about $3.30 (I always buy Braum's yogurt -- no hormones, and it's family-owned.) as opposed to us buying about a gallon of yogurt for nearly $15 a week.  Yeehaw!  Sweet success!  :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Monday

I've been inspired by other bloggers to make this a Monday staple.  For the last couple of months I've done my menu plan for the entire month -- I know, rather crazy, but it was a chore that just took sooooo much time each week that I quit doing it.  5:00 would roll around and A would look at me and say, "What's for dinner?"  Then I'd get offended because, after all, wasn't he capable of cooking as well?  Craziness, I know.  Actually, it was me just being defensive because I hadn't done what I felt my job was. 

So, in November, after looking at our finances, I decided that I was going to give myself a challenge -- how little could I spend for the three weeks that we would be home?  My goal was to keep it under $100 for our family of 4+.  I did it, too, in a matter of speaking.  I kind of forgot that we were spending $15-$20 a week JUST on milk and yogurt.  So, outside of that dairy, I was successful!  ;-)  (Notice the were spending, that's a post for another day, and I'm so very excited to share it!)  After the success of having those three weeks planned, I decided to do it again in December.

All of that to say, here's my menu for the week.  I can't believe how much stress it's taken off of me to have the whole month planned out!  (I make my menu based on what's in the pantry, and I still buy what's on sale at the grocery store - so I have it in my pantry for the next month's planning!)  Right now, I'm only going to share my dinner menu -- lunches are a variety of things since I'm staying home with the munchkins and A takes his lunch to work.  Maybe this will help someone else to conquer this area...or at least give you some different ideas for dinner!

Monday -- Crockpot Chili with cheese & tortilla chips
Tuesday -- Chili with cornbread (The recipe on the Aunt Jemima's cornmeal package is super yummy, especially when you make it in two pie plates that have hot shortening in them when you pour in the batter!!!)
Wednesday -- BBQ bone-in Chicken Bake with hashbrowns
Thursday -- Chicken Quesadillas (made with the leftover chicken from Wednesday)
Friday -- Crockpot Potato Soup & cornbread
Saturday -- leftovers
Sunday -- Crockpot Roast & Potatoes & Carrots & Onions (excuse me while I wipe my mouth...)

Y'all have a blessed week!

New Beginnings

Here I am starting a new blog.  I need a fresh start in blog-land, and this is it!  I've been making some changes around our home for us to be healthier and even more frugal than before.  As I'm doing this, I'm stepping into some areas I NEVER thought that I'd ever step into -- hence my new blog title "Step by Step - Inch by Inch."  That's how it's all happening.  :-)  I can only hope to do some photos with this blog, but don't hold your breath.  One thing at a time! 

Thanks for joining me on this journey.  It should be quite a ride!