Monday, May 30, 2011

Back to weekly shopping/menu planning

I've been doing my menu planning and shopping monthly for close to 6 months now.  There are several advantages of doing this, but I'm seeing more disadvantages as summer approaches.  First, it's hard to plan what to eat a month ahead when you don't know what you'll be doing activity-wise.  This past month, I had to change several meals because of practices and meetings that I didn't know about when I planned the meals.  Also, we really want to focus on being more active, so many times heavy evening meals won't work for us.  It will be easier to plan just for the next week, as we'll know what we're doing and when (theoretically).

Second, since I'm really focusing on buying local, it will be easier to head to the farm/farmers' market first and pick up a few things and plan around them rather than hoping that I can find what I need.  I did that this week for the first time and it worked really well.  I think that if I go with a good idea what I already have on hand and with a few ideas in my head (or scratched on the back of an envelope), I will do ok.

Third, my budget it out of control.  I've been overspending by about $100 the past three months.  The first couple of times I blamed buying in bulk or stocking up on good meat sales, but I really have no excuse.  I need to do better.  My income drops in the summer and I'm determined not to alter my budget-I have to make it work.

The new plan is $500 for the month.  The first week I get $100 for Sam's Club to stock up on items that will last all month.  Then each week I will get $100 for groceries.  When it's gone, I'm done.  I've found this a little more challenging since I'm doing gluten/diary free for one of the girls.  I don't have a lot on hand, but we'll make it work for this week at least.  My goal is to really cut back on the gluten and dairy, so if I don't have an acceptable alternative, she will get to eat what we do this week.  I'll make sure to pick up some alternatives next week when I shop.

Menu plan for week of May 30 - June 5

Monday:
Breakfast:  Omelets, Bacon, Toast with homemade strawberry jam, Grapes
Lunch:  Turkey on Grinder Rolls, Crackers w/ Cream Cheese Radish Dip, Grapes, Cheese Stick
Dinner:  Lasagna, Salad, Carrot Sticks

Tuesday:
Breakfast:  Apple Muffin, Strawberries
Morning Snack:  Cheese Cubes
Lunch:  Spaghetti, Salad, Watermelon
Afternoon Snack:  Smoothie
Dinner:  Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, Roll

Wednesday:
Breakfast:  Pancakes, Oranges
Morning Snack:  Smoothie
Lunch:  Meatballs, Corn, Cantaloupe, Roll
Afternoon Snack:  Chocolate Chip Cookie
Dinner:  Chicken Stir-Fry w/ Rice

Thursday:
Breakfast:  Omelets, Banana
Morning Snack:  Nuts
Lunch:  Quesadillas, Refried Beans, Mango, Spanish Rice
Afternoon Snack:  Peanut Butter Sandwich
Dinner:  Pork Chops, Potato Salad, Green Beans

Friday:
Breakfast:  Granola Bar, Juice
Morning Snack:  Carrot Sticks
Lunch:  Tuna Casserole, Peas, Apples, Yogurt
Afternoon Snack:  String Cheese
Dinner:  Leftovers

Saturday-Sunday:  The kids and I will be out of town.  Hubby will be on his own.  He will eat breakfast from the freezer stash, have a quesadilla or sandwich for lunch and leftovers or eat out for dinner.

We'll be back Sunday afternoon and I'll shop for next week then.  I'll get something for Sunday evening dinner at the store.

Here's my grocery list for this week:

Farmers' Market (the good one)
3 heads of lettuce (1 Romaine, 2 misc. green leaf)-$6
1 bunch of radishes $2
1 pt. gooseberries $4
1 pt. sugar snap peas $3
1 bunch green onions $1.50

2 huge slicing tomatoes-$4.65 (such an unnecessary splurge, but they look so good)
2 pounds local, raw honey-$12.75
Total = $33.90

Local Farm (which I am sooooo excited about)
1 gallon raw milk $4.50

Total = $4.50

Sam's Club (monthly stuff bolded)
Finish Dishwasher Tabs - $12.98
3 pounds cashews $11.68
3 pounds organic spinach $3.97
1 giant bag of babybel cheeses (the kids have been asking for these FOREVER) $8.98
2 pounds strawberries $3.48
1 watermelon $3.98
4 pounds butter $9.33
2 gallon whole milk (for daycare kids) $6.54
5 pounds shredded cheddar cheese $11.82
5 pounds cut corn $4.88
5 pounds green beans $5.98
5 pounds peas $5.49
4 pounds broccoli florettes $5.68
Total = $99.78 (although I forgot maple syrup which runs $14-I'll be driving by next week, I'll put in on next week's budget)

Aldi

4 pounds oranges $2.49 (will last 2 weeks)
1 Cantaloupe $.99

1 bag mini chocolate chips $1.79
3-4 pounds bananas $2.63
2 pounds carrots $.99

2 pkg. string cheese $5.98
2 pounds green grapes $2.98

Total = 18.69


Hy-Vee
4.76 pounds apples $7.09
2 pkg. whole wheat tortillas $6.58
1 jar organic salsa $2.50
1 bottle non-GMO soy sauce $3.29
1 bag organic corn tortilla chips $2.59

Total = $23.10

Schnuck's (emergency trip for picnic with the kids today)
2 pkg. nitrate/nitrite lunch meat $6.00
1 box organic wheat thins $3.09

Total = $9.52

Total for week 1 = $189.49

I am out of eggs and my regular supplier's chickens aren't laying, so I'll be heading back out to the farm this week to pick up eggs.  I can't function well with no eggs.   I will probably go ahead and get 5 dozen if they are available which will run me right up to my limit.

Since I'm starting the weekly meal planning, I linked up to orgjunkie.com's Menu Plan Monday.  There are tons of weekly menu plans.  I might spend the next couple of hours checking them out! LOL

Week 22: Farmers' Markets-going local

For many, many years I've been trying to eat good foods for cheap prices.  My definition of good foods has definitely changed over time, but watching my money hasn't (although, admittedly, I do better now than in the past).  I've always heard about farmers' markets and checked our local one out last summer and was unimpressed.  It was 5 vendors with sad looking, over priced veggies-many of which I could get at my grocery store (that advertised local) for cheaper.

It has since become more important to me to support our local economy and those farmers who are trying to make a living and not falling victim to big corporations.  I decided to give farmers' markets another chance, and I'm so glad I did.  I went to one that is in a larger town and had 40-50 vendors.  All of the prices were reasonable, the produce looked awesome and there was tons of variety.  The down-side of this venture is that it is 60 miles round trip from my house, so I don't know that I'll be able to swing it weekly as the cost of gas will eat up any savings that I might see.  Hopefully I can do it twice a month.  Maybe I'll check out our local one on the off weeks-maybe I just caught them on a bad week!

Saturday, I picked up...
3 bunches of lettuce (2 different types)
1 bunch of radishes
1 bunch of green onions
1 pint of gooseberries (the girls insisted my mother-in-law needed these)
1 pint of sugar snap peas
2 large slicing tomatoes
2 pounds raw honey
Total spent = $33.90 (most of that was the honey, we've been out for over a month)

My other news, which is related to this week's change is that I found a local farmer who sells milk.  I've been toying around the idea of raw milk for some time, but I didn't really have a way to get it, so it was put on the backburner.  I just happened to ask at the health foods store last week and they gave me a name of a local farmer.  I went to visit her farm on Saturday and I was/am very impressed.  She sells raw milk, butter, buttermilk and cream (if you need more than what's in your milk), whole chickens, eggs, pork, beef and produce as she has it.  Everything is very reasonably priced (only a few cents more than the grocery store's "regular" version).  She is not certified organic, but her practices are similar and I'm comfortable with them.  So, it seems that for the better part of the year now, I can buy much of what I need locally.  This is a change that I'm very excited about.

This week look for that whole chicken to be cooked (I hope, although it won't be local.  It was purchased pre-farm, LOL) and broth to be made.  I will also be featuring a couple of dairy free/gluten free recipes as we are doing that with our middle daughter to see if that could be the cause of her eczema.

Friday, May 27, 2011

One more step away from real food

I think it was last year when I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and was amazed at the kids who seemed to have no idea that a french fry started out as a potato.  I decided that these children were products of big cities where they had never seen cows in a pasture or vegetable gardens growing in neighbor's backyards.  Children where I live have much more exposure to "agriculture," or so I told myself.

I live in a town that is approximately 41,000, but drive 10 minutes in any given direction and you will end up sitting in the middle of a pasture.  There is considerably more livestock in this area than crops, but with the University of Missouri farms and Lincoln University farm, I figured that every local school child had been to a farm, at least as part of a school field trip.

I first began to doubt that this was enough when my friend told me a story about serving chicken in the school cafeteria.  She has worked in the cafeteria at my children's school for a year and the school staff, working with the county health department and parents are instituting changes for healthier school lunches and a more physically well-rounded curriculum (like implementing a walking program for students who get to school early).  One of the changes was to begin serving bone-in chicken instead of processed chicken patties or nuggets-awesome change!  My friend told me that they threw much of it away because the kids wouldn't eat it.  They served it several times over the course of 2-3 months and each time the kids threw it away.  It turns out that the kids didn't know what it was.  They were told that it was chicken, but it wasn't like any chicken they had ever eaten.  It had bones in it-that was gross.  It seems that in the wake of the boneless, skinless chicken breast and Chicken McNugget, children don't know what real chicken looks like.

To solve this problem, people (don't know if they were the lunch monitors, or who) taught the kids how to eat the chicken, by showing them how to use their fork to pull the meat off.  Or, using fewer manners, to pick it up and gnaw on it.  Although, it wasn't the most popular meal, eventually the kids were eating the chicken instead of throwing it away.

Now, I think I do a pretty good job in this area, but was stunned to find out that my daycare kids also did not know how to eat a chicken leg.  I served glazed chicken legs a couple days ago and the kids didn't start off eating them.  Of course I was puzzled and started asking them questions about it.  They told me that they didn't know how to eat the meat.  And then the light bulb went off!  How many times do I pull the meat off the leg so it cools faster?  Duh, all the time.  Even though I had served them chicken legs once a month for as long as I can remember, I almost always pulled the meat off for them.  Well no more!

We had a lovely training session in which we all picked up our chicken legs and gnawed on them.  We talked about how it was a leg from a chicken and how it had bones, just like our legs have bones.  After nap that day, we went to the computer and looked at pictures of chickens and pointed out how the leg was fatter at the top and skinnier at the bottom (and how we were glad that they cut off the foot, LOL).

In our world of convenience and grocery store shopping, it is so easy to overlook that connection our kids need to make between the food they eat and where it comes from.  I pride myself on doing a good job in that area by gardening and composting and dragging my kids off to the farm to pick up eggs, but obviously I missed the mark in the meat department.  You can bet that the next time we're at Grandpa's farm, we'll be checking out the cattle and talking about hamburger!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pancakes, Pancakes

It's funny how I wrote three different posts yesterday, but didn't get any of them published.  I was working downstairs and the computer with the camera software is upstairs.  I had intended on getting the pictures on and posting them last night, but lo and behold, I fell asleep and forgot.  Oops!  So, you are in luck today as there are 4 posts.  Maybe it will make up for my lack of presence last week. =)
Today's lunch was pancakes, scrambled eggs, pineapple and an orange strawberry smoothie.  I used to make regular sized pancakes, but found out that with anywhere from 4-10 little ones, I just spent my lunch cutting up pancakes.  Now I make them silver dollar sized and give each child a small cup of maple syrup to dip the pancakes in.  It's actually much less messy and less work for me too.  To get them all the same size (reasonably), I use a small scoop from Pampered Chef.  It holds one tablespoon and is just the right size for pancakes little hands can hold.
This recipe is actually for a double batch.  With any luck you will have some left over and you can freeze them for quick breakfasts in the morning.
2 cups whole white wheat flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk or milk alternative (I used rice milk.)
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil


These need just another few seconds
before they get flipped.

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.  In a smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.  Pour the wet into the dry and whisk to combine (try not to over stir, you want to stir just enough).  Pour desired amount of batter on a hot griddle.  When bubbles form on the pancake, it is nearly ready to flip.  Wait until some of the bubbles have popped, leaving holes-then flip.  Cook second side a couple minutes (you can flip it back to see how done it is getting).  Once you do two or three, you'll figure out how long it will take.  Remove and place pancakes on a plate and sit in a warm place (I stick them in the microwave. until I'm ready to serve them.).  Serve with maple syrup, strawberry jam, blueberry syrup, etc.  Also, you can drop a few chocolate chips on the pancakes before you flip them. 





Mashed Potatoes

Do you ever eat something that you normally eat and completely be amazed that it is soooooo good?  I had this experience today with mashed potatoes.  Since I found out all of the horrible things that conventionally grown potatoes absorb, we have seriously cut down our potato consumption.  At $6 for a 5 pound bag of potatoes, we can't afford to eat potatoes but once or twice a month, where we used to eat them once or twice a week.  Because of that, we haven't had mashed potatoes for quite a while.  I didn't think about it when I made them this morning, but once that first bite hit my mouth, I was in heaven.  So much so, that I ate three helpings!

The recipe is pretty straight forward and many people know how to make mashed potatoes, but just in case you have only used the box of instant potato flakes, you will definitely want to try this out.

2-3 pounds of Russet potatoes (about 7 medium potatoes)
water to boil the potatoes in
2-3 tsp. salt, divided
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
milk (as needed or if needed at all)

Peel and rough chop the potatoes.  Place in a large saucepan or stock pot.  Cover with water, plus 1/2 an inch.  Put 1 1/2 tsp salt into the water.  Bring to a boil and boil 20-25 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain potatoes. 

Here's where the methods differ.  My Mom puts her potatoes back into the pot and mashes them with a hand masher.  My Grandma uses her hand mixer and mixes them in the pot with that.  I put them into my stand mixer bowl and beat them like crazy, adding the butter and 1 teaspoon salt.  If you see that the potatoes are too thick you can add milk a little at a time.  When all the lumps are out, you are finished.  Serve with gravy, butter or on top of shepherd's pie!

The potatoes were so good, I'm almost tempted to go to the store tonight to pick up more!

Glazed Chicken Legs

Funny how I have three recipes to share today and none of them are what I originally thought I would share.  I guess we should take inspiration where it comes, right?

Upon checking the menu this morning, I shuddered when I saw that chicken legs was supposed to be for lunch.  Ugh.  It was hot and I really wasn't in the mood to fry chicken legs for several minutes and then bake them in my already too hot house.  I decided to marinate the legs and bake them in my roaster oven-man do I love that thing!

To save myself dishes, I poured everything directly into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  And, of course I didn't measure, so these are rough estimates.  Before adding the chicken, taste it and add as your taste suits.
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 T. ketchup
1/2 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste (I would guess that I put in about a quarter tsp. of each)
1 clove garlic, minced-or 1 tsp of the jarred stuff

Once all the ingredients are in, close the bag and squish around to make sure everything is mixed.  Place your chicken pieces in the bag, squeeze as much air out as you can and close the bag.  Again, squish the sauce around the chicken and lay it flat in the fridge.  Every 20 minutes or so, flip the bag and squish randomly.  I'm not sure that there's a specific amount of time needed to marinate.  I let them sit for an hour or so and then placed them on a greased baking sheet.  You need one with edges so the juices don't run off into the oven.  I used a cookie sheet and it was fine.  Take the leftover marinade and put it in a bowl to use for basting.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, turning and basting every 15 minutes.  Normally I use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, but I couldn't find it, so I baked longer than I usually would.  Also, continue to bake a few minutes longer after the last basting to be sure that the marinade has come up to an appropriate temperature for food safety purposes.
The review--I thought it was wonderful.  I'm not a huge baked chicken fan, but these were very good.  They were tender and flavorful.  The only thing that I might have changed would be to fry them in coconut oil for a few minutes before baking to crisp up the skin.  But that's just me.  I LOVE crispy chicken skin!  The kids liked them also and everyone ate some, which is not always the case with chicken.

Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

This morning it was 80 degrees in my house.  The original plan was to make pancakes, but the thought of standing over a hot griddle for even 20 minutes was not something I was willing to do.  Plan B was granola bars from the freezer.  Oh wait, we're supposed to have granola bars for snack.  Plan C?  That was a toughie since this is the last week of my menu plan and the pickin's are getting slim.  Then I came across a smashed banana from the older girl's lunch yesterday (why oh why must children throw all the containers on top of the banana they chose not to eat?).  And, that, ladies and gentlemen is how cinnamon breakfast cake was born.

Ingredients:

In a small bowl, mix the following together and set aside
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice and 1/2 tsp. molasses mixed together)
2 T. melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like walnut.)

In a large bowl, combine the following:
1.5 cups milk or buttermilk (I used the rest of my carton of buttermilk and topped it off with whole milk)
1 smashed banana (or 1 egg-I was finding a use for said banana)
1 T. melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour

Once combined, pour the cake batter into a greased, square baking dish.  Then evenly spread the topping over the top (that was a bit redundant).  Bake 30-35 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  I used my roaster oven to keep the heat down.

The kid reviews were good.  Everyone ate most of it, other than the one child who scraped off the topping (what's up with that?).  I thought it was a little too moist-could've been that the banana was on the large side, but who knows.  Regardless, it had great flavor and the crunch of the topping added a lot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 21: Celtic Sea Salt

Image Credit

Over the past year or so, I've been reading on several blogs and forums about how switching to sea salt was important.  Since I had the giganto box of Morton's from Sam's Club (like 5 or 6 pounds), I didn't take time to learn that much about it.  I wasn't tossing salt I already had to buy salt that was upwards of 7 times the cost.  Well, I've been reading Nourishing Traditions and the author does a good job of laying out why regular table salt is bad for you.  That, coupled with the fact that I ran out of the big box, I ordered a pound bag from Amazon.

I have to say that I'm amazed.  I guess I never really knew what salt tasted like before now.  It's obviously salty, but stronger and richer than table salt.  When I first tasted it, I thought back to one of my friends in elementary school that used to eat all the salt from the salt shaker everyday during lunch.  I immediatly said to myself, "there's no way that ___ could eat that much of this!" LOL

Another great thing about the Celtic Sea Salt is that I am using much less of it than I was table salt.  Since it's packed with naturally occuring minerals that your body needs, I'm still getting more benefit from it than I was with table salt.  Plus, using less means that I don't have to buy it as often.  And, at $10 a pound, that could be a budget breaker if I had to do it every month.

Recipes that will hopefully appear this week are crock pot chicken and its accompanying broth (which in my opinion is more important than the chicken itself), chicken and gravy with mashed potatoes, and pancakes.  I'll also be trying out another whole wheat tortilla recipe, so let's all cross our fingers and pray that is a success, so I can end that on-going struggle.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Where have I been?

I do my best to post at least every other day, but you might have noticed that I fell off the face of the Earth this past week.  Well, between cranky, teething day care babies and a lovely stomach bug that has worked its way through all the members of my house, I haven't spent much time in front of the computer.  I'm working on this week's challenge and hope to get back into the kitchen (so sick, no cooking for me, blech).  Hang in there folks, I hope to be back tonight, or tomorrow at the latest with a new challenge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Week 20: Clean out the Condiments

I don't know about you, but I used to pride myself on the wide selection of condiments that I had at any given time in my refrigerator.  Any time we had guests, I would tell them that if they didn't see it out, chances were that it was in the fridge.  I had everything from ketchup to cocktail sauce to any number of salad dressings.  Over the past 19 weeks, as we've used up different condiments, I haven't replaced them.  Or, if a challenge called for ditching certain things (salad dressings or mayo), then I got rid of those.  But there are a few things that have been hanging on.  This morning, I decided to get rid of them.


It's sort of silly, but I held an attachment to them (not like I cried or anything that dramatic), but it made me want the foods that I always ate with that particular condiment.  Tartar sauce at one time was almost a pantry staple item, particularly during Lent.  All those fish sticks-the emotion is a cross of ah and ugh.  Then there's the cocktail sauce eaten with popcorn shrimp and loved by many a daycare child.  Are popcorn shrimp really shrimp?  If they are, they are probably farm-raised on some sort of liquor distillery by-products.  There was the spicy mustard for knock-off Subway sandwiches filled with sodium nitrite preserved deli meat.  Yum!  Or is that yuck?  The generic version of 57 Steak Sauce.  My favorite memory of that is dipping my green beans in it as a kid, so I've got to keep that around right?  Not so much.  Finally the tobassco sauce (that was so unimportant, it didn't even make the picture).  I'm not even sure why I have it.  We typically don't eat food that spicy.  I probably bought it specifically for a recipe and never used it again.  It might be ok to keep, but since I don't even know how old it is and the label is long gone, it can go too.

Currently the door of my refrigerator is pretty empty.  It's actually making me a little uncomfortable.  I just need to keep in mind that I can make most anything I need and it will taste better and be better for me.  For the record, there's lime juice, lemon juice, 2 homemade dressings, an all natural ranch dressing, home canned pickle relish, salsa, and just to keep my marriage together, a half bottle of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce.  Oh, and the top shelf has rice milk, tomato juice and whole milk.

I'm not sure what this week will bring.  I made a great Spanish rice with beef casserole today for lunch.  Did I take a picture?  Of course not.  I'm still reading Nourishing Traditions and I'm almost ready to take the leap and buy raw milk.  I found a farm that is about 40 miles from me.  Who knows?  That might be next week's baby step.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Egg Rolls

It is safe to say that I love Chinese food.  The problem with eating Chinese food out is that you have no control over the ingredients (as is the case with all food when you eat out).  To remedy this problem, I came up with egg rolls that I can make at home.  They are tasty and, while not the healthiest, a better version than what my local take-out offers.

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, chopped
4-5 carrots, chopped or shredded
2 T. oil (coconut or olive work well)
1 cup chicken, cooked and cut up in small pieces
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
soy sauce to taste (I used about 3 tablespoons.)

egg roll wrappers (I use Melissa's.)

coconut oil for frying (I used about 3/4 cup>)

Chop up the veggies.  I threw them all in the food processor which pulverized them.  That was fine with me, but if you like a bit bigger chunks, you could do it by hand.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add everything but the wrappers and coconut oil to fry them in.  Saute the mixture about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  You'll end up with this.


Remove from heat, but keep it close.  Next, open your egg roll wrappers.  Feel free to fill and roll the wrappers as intended, but I do it a bit differently so I don't have to use so much oil to fry them in.  I cut the egg roll wrapper down the middle to make 2 egg rolls from each wrapper.  Make a small pile of filling on the end of each piece.  They end up looking more like a giant ravioli than an egg roll, but it tastes the same.


Brush water around the edges of the egg roll wrappers so the edges will stick together.  In the picture, you can see that the edges are wet.


Fold the ends over the piles of veggies/meat and line up the edges as best you can.  Press to seal.  You will end up with something that looks like this.


When you have a few done, heat up coconut oil in a skillet to fry these bad boys up.  I used a medium sized cast iron skillet.  They seem to keep the temperature constant more so than the non-stick varieties I have.  When the oil is hot enough (I can tell because the oil starts to swirl a little in the pan), put your egg rolls in.


Watch these like a hawk.  They will go from barely brown to black in a matter of seconds.  I think it takes approximately 30 seconds to brown on the first side.  You can check by lifting the edge and looking to see how brown it is getting.  Once it is to your liking, flip and cook the other side.


When browned to your satisfaction, remove from the oil, shaking off the excess above the skillet and place on wire rack, brown paper, or even a paper towel to drain.  Here's the finished product.


Serve with homemade sweet and sour sauce or just eat them plain if you are too tired to make the sauce.  That was my excuse!  Enjoy!

I do realize that these aren't the most health conscious meal.  Deep frying anything, even if it is coconut oil is probably should not be a "go to" meal.  But, I think that occasionally having deep fried something or other is fine and coconut oil is a better choice than corn or veggie oil.  So, will this dish win health food recipe of the year?  Unlikely, but it tastes good and I'm ok with the health level for now.   Oh, yeah, and the egg roll wrappers are made with enriched flour (although the majority of other ingredients were ok-as far as ready-made items go), but I haven't found a recipe that I like and these are MSG free where most of the take-out wouldn't be, so I'm ok using them for right now.  If you know of a healthier alternative that's cost effective, comment below.  I'd love to hear about them.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Baby Steps Updates for weeks 11-19

  1. Updates 1-10 found here.
  2. Buying in Bulk-Yes, I'm still doing it.  This month I bought another 50 pounds of whole wheat flour and 10 pounds of brown rice.  Next month, I'll be looking into a better alternative to the evaporated cane juice.  By then, I might do away with sugar altogether, who knows.
  3. Eliminate cans-I haven't purchased a single canned good since week 12.  I still have a few cans that linger from my former stockpile.  There's 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of green chilies and 2 cans of tomato paste.  I have switched to pouches for tuna and salmon and tomato juice in a bottle instead of tomato sauce/juice in cans.  And, fresh tomatoes for diced tomatoes.  The one area that I haven't had to deal with yet is tomato paste.  Pom has strained tomatoes in a Tetra Pak, but I don't think that has the consistency I would be looking for.  This summer, hopefully my tomatoes will do well and I can try making my own.
  4. Reduce Food Waste-This week has been an epic failure, but before that I was doing pretty good.  I am switching our portion sizes around a bit and overbought on produce, so I have some lettuce that is going bad and I let a few pieces of bread get moldy on the back of the counter instead of tossing it in the freezer.  Perfect, I'm not, but I'm trying-no leftovers have gone bad (I'm clinging to that!)
  5. Healthy oils-I received my gallon bucket of coconut oil a couple weeks ago and now that it is warm in my house, the oil is really easy to use.  The downside of this is that with baking less, I'm not using it as quickly as I was before, so I hope I can use it before it goes bad.  And, we're still using butter, but I've cut my butter consumption by half by not baking as often.
  6. Eating Out-We haven't eat out for quite a while (that I've paid for).  We ate out a couple weeks ago, but the in-laws paid (and it was planned because we were out of town all day).  I picked up a drink for the kids at Sam's last week, and against the children's better judgement, we went home to eat lunch.  We will eat out this evening as I have several things to pick up for the Girl Scout lock-in before it starts at 7 pm.  With leaving at 5:30, we won't have time to eat at home since we ate all the leftovers last night.  But, the kids will be eating pizza at 9, so they will have salads and fruit for dinner.  They don't need junk on top of junk.
  7. Sleep and drink-8 hours of sleep each night.  You've got to be kidding!  I am miserably failing this one.  I recognize that it needs to be a priority, but it keeps getting bumped.  That goal is on hold until school gets out and I don't have quite so many obligations.  Drinking water?  Now that is going well.  Especially since it has been 80+ degrees in our house, I've been drinking 6 or more big glasses of water every day.  I also think that drinking water is helping me to eat less between meals.
  8. Party planning on a budget-I did it reasonably well.  I don't have to host parties very often though, so I don't know how often I'll need to do this.  I'll let you know how it goes next time, if there is one.
  9. Portion control and deodorant-We've cut down on the amoung of grain we eat from 5-6 down to 3 each day (cut from snacks mainly).  I've lost 3 pounds, which could be attributed to either the grains or increased water consumption, but I'll take it regardless.  The deodorant is on day 2.  I just sniffed my armpits and no stink.  Yesterday I was super self-conscious about it and felt like I smelled like a chocolate chip all day.  I think that was the cocoa butter (That's the only ingredient the two have in common.  I even went to read the bag because I thought that was an odd thing to smell like.).  I did have stink issues (not sure if they were in my mind or not), but I washed a reapplied in the middle of the day yesterday and had no problems the rest of the day.
  10. Exercise-So far, so good.  I walked on Monday with the kids.  Then Wednesday, Hubby gave me some time to power walk around the block.  It's got a couple serious hills, but I finished in 22 minutes.  Hubby thought that it was at least 1.25 miles (maybe more).  And last night, the oldest didn't have an opponent for their volleyball game, so the parents played them.  We had a good time and I can still walk today (without pain).  Tonight is the lock-in and between the dodgeball tournament and volleyball, I think I'll do some moving.  Yea for me!
So there you have it.  I need to sleep more.  Otherwise, we're still plugging along.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hamburger Cabbage Casserole

Wouldn't ya know that I didn't get a picture before the meal was devoured!  This seems to be a common thread with my evening meals.  Perhaps I should start cooking earlier so the food would be done before 7:00 and my children wouldn't be so hungry that they start eating as I am scooping it on the plates.  Yeah, that might help. 

Last night I made Hamburger Cabbage Casesrole.  I sort of made it up when I was cleaning out the fridge one night a few months ago.  Since then, it has become a popular meal, with everyone except Little Man (and he doesn't care for most casseroles). 

Here's what you need:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 head of cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. of minced garlic (I used the jarred garlic.)
1 large tomato, chopped (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
2 cups tomato juice (more if needed)
1/2 cup hamburger helper seasoning mix
1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used colby jack cheese b/c that's what I had in the fridge.)

In a large skillet, begin browning the ground beef over medium high heat.  Add the cabbage, onion and garlic while the beef is cooking.  When the beef is completely browned, drain any excess fat off (you can use a strainer if needed).  Add the tomato, tomato juice and seasoning mix.  Stir, cover and  reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the cabbage has cooked down.  If it's too juicy, I remove the cover and let some of that extra liquid evaporate.  Add the cheese and stir throughout.  When the cheese is incorporated and melted, the casserole is done.

We served ours over brown rice last night.  We have served it over both mashed potatoes and whole wheat noodles.  Personally I like it over potatoes, but the girls prefer rice.  It's good no matter what.  You can try it out all the different ways and decide for yourself.

Deodorant-the suspense builds!

Well, probably not for anyone but me! LOL  I made it according to the previously posted recipe.  It is cooling in the fridge, so I'll have a report in a couple days about how it is working.  The stuff will definitely get a workout right away, as it is in the upper 80's here (and I'm too stubborn to turn on the AC).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baby Step Updates for Steps 1-10

  1. Soda-While I have one occasionally, the 3-5 can a day soda habit is a thing of the past.  I did buy 2 2-liter bottles for Baby Girl's First Communion party a week ago and dumped about half of one bottle and a third of the other on Sunday.  It seems that if it's out of sight, it's out of mind for my kids too.  We drink water, tea and occasionally juice and milk.
  2. Salad upgrades-I am still buying organic lettuce when I can.  There have been a couple weeks when the organic lettuce just looked yucky, but for the most part I've been diligent.  I have found good 1000 Island and Caesar recipes and I make those.  Hubby likes the ranch dressing, but I can't get the girls to eat it and since they had stopped eating salad altogether to avoid it, I'm conceding a bit and I'm buying Marzetti's Simply Dressing Ranch Dressing.  I am reasonably confident there are GMO's in it, but they won't eat any of the organic dressings I've purchased and I'm tired of wasting money.  Normally, I'm not terribly accommodating to my children's food whims, but they have gone along with most of the changes without too much complaint.  I'll indulge them on this one.
  3. Crackers-I am still making most of our crackers.  I have a snack type cracker recipe that I need to try.  It has rave reviews, but since we are cutting down on the number of grains we're eating, I haven't had a reason to make them.
  4. Sugar-I'm using evaporated cane juice.  I am not buying brown sugar.  If a recipe calls for it, I am using the ECJ and adding a bit of molasses.  I do have some C&H powdered sugar for icings.  When I run out, I will try breaking down the ECJ in the blender to "make my own" powdered sugar.
  5. Apples-Still buying those.  I'm really lucky that a local grocery store has been having one type of apple on sale for $1.28/pound every month, so the cost has been reasonable.  I just hope they keep it up through the summer months.
  6. Limit MSG and sodium-nitrite foods-We have drastically cut down our consumption of processed meats.  We used to eat 1-2 pounds of deli meat a week and at least 2 pounds of bacon each month.  I would also cook a whole ham and we would eat that throughout the month as well.  Now we each 1-2 pounds of deli meat per month and 1 twelve ounce package of bacon.  I am buying sausage, made in-store, at our local grocery, which claims to be MSG free.  I lost interest in tweaking my homemade version.  I was spending money for a product I didn't really care for.  Maybe I'll come back to it later.  Right now I'm satisfied with what we have.
  7. Superfoods-With the exception of soy, I feel like we have been eating the superfoods, albeit not as often as the book recommends.   Also, since we are in the process of cutting back the total amount of grains we eat, we aren't eating as many oats as we were, but for breakfast, I'm still keeping some of those recipes in my rotation.  I feel like whole grains also provide protein, so they have value.  I just don't feel that we need to eat 6-11 servings per day of them.
  8. Meal Planning-I have one.  And, I'm really trying to do my best to follow it.  There are always stumbling blocks in the road, but I'm tyring to make sure we have enough easy meals that we can always find something without hitting the drive-thru (even if it means eating fried chicken at 8 pm-sorry kids).
  9. Whole Wheat Flour-Yep!  We're using it, although not as often right now.  It's nearly the only flour we have in the house-the exception being a bag of all-purpose flour that I use for making playdough.
  10. Farm eggs-I actually haven't had to buy these in a while because my father-in-law is bringing me 2-3 dozen each week.  But, I should have 4 dozen floating around somewhere that my friend was going to pick up for me.  We can never have enough eggs in this house.
So, ladies and gentlemen that's where we're at so far.  There have been some back steps, but overall, I feel good about the changes my family has made (other than the ranch refusal).  There's always room for improvement, and I have a feeling there is going to be a lot more improvement needed.  I just received my copy of Nourishing Traditions today in the mail.  Happy reading to me! :)

Curried Chicken Salad

I promised that I would get around to posting this recipe.  I've been wanting chicken salad for a while now and it seemed that we couldn't keep chicken leftovers long enough to get it made.  Sunday, I got tired of waiting, so I cooked up a few chicken breasts just for chicken salad.  When I was making it, I did run into a problem.  It calls for water chestnuts.  In the middle of nowhere midwest, we don't have access to fresh water chestnuts.  The only ones we can get are canned.  Any takers on whether or not those cans are lined with BPA?  Yeah, I'm betting so.  So, my chicken salad went without water chestnuts and it was a bit lacking.  Until they aren't there, you don't really know how important they are.  Now I'm looking for a water chestnut substitute and will take suggestions-or if there are non-canned alternatives out there, that would be great too.

Oh, and I only made half a batch, but I'm giving you the full amounts.

4 cups cooked, cubed chicken breasts
1 can water chestnuts, drained and sliced (a tuna-sized can)
1 pound seedless grapes, halved
2 cups sliced celery
1 1/4 cup sliced almonds, divided (I just chopped regular almonds and that worked fine)
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Mix the chicken, chestnuts, grapes, celery, and 3/4 cup almonds together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl combine the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the chicken mixture and toss to coat thoroughly.  Chill and top with remaining almonds before serving (although I'm sure it is prettier, I just tossed all of the almonds in and mixed it up).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Week 19: Exercise

I alluded to this last week, but this is the week I'm taking the plunge.  I WILL start exercising.  I have several obstacles that I must overcome, but it's really time to start.  First, I don't like exercising at home.  I liked going to our local YMCA and working out there, but it costs money and I need a babysitter-both are things that are in short supply.  Second, it is so easy to put exercise on the back-burner when the kids are in activities or errands need to be done and then it is 10 pm and I'm supposed to be in bed (which I'm failing at also).  Third, Hubby is working a second job and while the weather is great for getting outside, it is hard to really get a decent workout in when you are trying to watch all three kids to make sure they don't wander into the road and they can't keep up the pace for very long, so I slow down and the benefits are lessened. 

I could make excuses all day, but that is just what they are, excuses.  Each evening I will do something active.  I have a neighbor that wants to do the Couch to 5K program, so I will try and get set up to do that, but I also want to get out and do things with the kids.  If I can't be without them, I might as well include them.  The girls want to practice sets and serves for volleyball and I can play ball with little man, so an increase in activity has to be better than the status quo.  I'm also going to try and get in a little 30 day Shred at least a couple times a week.  It's bought and paid for, I need to use it.

I am also in the process of revamping our meal plan for this month.  Last week, after a lot of agonizing reading, I decided to drastically cut the amount of grains we eat and replace them with vegetables and fruits (fresh where possible).  This leaves the budget is a bind, as I spent over $50 in produce this week and another $75 in meat to get our stash built back up again.  Also I just bought another 50 pound bag of flour that will be getting a lot less use.  Also with food prices going up, I'm having trouble making the changes I want (and need) to make without just ditching the budget completely.  At this time, I'm thankful that I do have the opportunity to take an extra daycare kid occasionally which is really helping to supplement my food budget. 

Right now, I don't feel like I'm meeting the thrifty aspect of my blog/personal goal, but I'm trying to do the best I can for my family the cheapest way I can.  Could my budget always be less?  You bet, but would we eat as well as we do?  Probably not.  I will be heading out to the farmer's market next weekend to see what is available there, maybe there will be deals to be had.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I hope everyone had a very wonderful Mother's Day!

The day is nearly over.  The girls are in bed and little man is hanging on my arm waiting for his bedtime story (yet, here I am blogging-yeah, good mother! LOL).  I just wanted to share what I got for Mother's Day.

Here are 2 buckets that Hubby filled for me.  The blue one has green peppers in it and the purple has lettuce.  We found the lettuce growing under the weed fabric in our raised beds so I transplated it here.  It is a little wilter, and while I'm hoping it comes back, it was a freebie find anyway.  In front I planted Romaine seeds, so we'll see how that goes.


We have 2 raised beds, which I got last year for Mother's Day.  The first has 12 tomato plants (8 Romas and 4 grape tomato plants).  The second bed looks lonely.  There is one cantaloup plant in it, but I planted zucchini, pumpkin and cucumbers.  Last year I did pretty well planting from seed, so we'll see how it goes this year.

Here is my big splurge for the year.  I have been looking at these every year when Sam's has them, but I just couldn't justify pay $30+ for them.  Saturday, when I was there they had them marked down to $7/box.  Well, $14 for 8 plants is right down my alley.  Hubby will be planting these on Monday and hopefully I'll have pictures soon.






Lastly, just for fun is my strawberry patch.  It looks rather disheveled, and honestly we don't do that much too it, but each year it gets a little bigger.  And, as you can see, the strawberries are starting to grow.  This is one of the daycare kids favorite part of spring and early summer.  Each day when they go outside, they run to check the strawberries and if we get a few that are ripe, we pick them, wash them off and eat them right outside.  The kids think it's such a treat!



Friday, May 6, 2011

Granola Bar fun

I made granola bars this morning for the kiddos.  There were only 5 kids eating this morning, so, as you can see, I ended up with several leftover.

I could've left them out on the counter and when the girls and Hubby got home in the afternoon, they would've scarfed them up, but that would go against my new rules for daily portion sizes.  Instead I individually wrapped the bars.


I bagged them up in a freezer ziploc bag...


And tossed them in the freezer.





They will be ready for those "gotta leave in a hurry" mornings.













Now, the only one question remains
Is that a 5 o'clock shadow or did I put a few too many chocolate chips in the granola bars?"

Daycare baby loves her granola bars!


I am now making up my own rules!

I've spent altogether tooooooo much time online this week between deodorant and trying to figure out what decent food portions should be.  I think I've solved my deodorant problem, so now it's on to portion control.  It seems that for as many types of diet plans there are out there, each has their own idea of how much of this and that a person should eat.  I read one plan yesterday that was fruit based and for breakfast the meal was 12 peaches, lunch was 7 bananas and then eat a big salad and another piece of fruit for dinner.  It touted weight loss and ease of elimination.  Really?  If I ate that much produce everyday, the only elimination problem I would have is that I would have to eliminate my life because I would have to live on the toilet!  =)  I don't think so!

Anyway, I've decided that if everyone else can make up their own rules for portion control/number of servings, then I can too.  In my opinion, I am using the best of the plans I've seen and adding a little common sense.  Now, this will not completely apply to the daycare kids.  State licensing requires that I serve a certain amount of certain food at each meal.  Given that, I will do this for my family and to the extent I am able without breaking the rules with the daycare kids.  To start with, this is my plan (daycare guidelines in bold).  If I find that it isn't working, I can always change it.

Breakfast:  Protein, whole grain and a piece of fruit (grain, fruit/veggie, milk)

Morning Snack:  veggie and/or protein (not required)

Lunch:  protein, whole grain, 2 veggies, fruit (protein, grain, 2 servings in any combination fruit/veggie, milk)

Afternoon snack: fruit/veggie if we will be eating early or protein if we are eating late (2 food groups-usually something and milk, because they already have a cup)

Dinner:  protein, whole grain, 2 veggies

After dinner snack:  fruit or treat

Snacks are optional.  I will really encourage the kids to only eat if they are hungry and the serving size will vary depending on the meal and time.  For example the protein in the morning snack could be a couple teaspoons of peanut butter to eat with some carrots and the whole grain at breakfast is likely to be a slice of toast or one tortilla to make an breakfast sandwich/burrito.

How does this differ from the food pyramid that we know and love?
For an adult with a 2000 calorie diet (that's the Pyramid guideline).  I'm sure my caloric intake will vary.
Grains:  Pyramid-6 oz.  My plan-4 oz.
Veggies:  Pyramid-2.5 cups  My plan-2.5-3 cups
Fruits:  Pyramid-2 cups  My plan-1.5-2 cups
Milk:  Pyramid-3 cups daily  My plan-1-1.5 cups (we will not be drinking milk-this will be in yogurt, cheese, sour cream, so actually 1.5 cups is really on the high side)
Meat & Beans:  Pyramid-5.5 oz. daily My plan-6-8 oz.  depending on if a protein is part of the snacks or not
Oils: Pyramid-use sparingly My plan-I'll use them as I have been and not go overboard, but not cut back either.

Now, I don't have the time to calculate each meal every time, so my way of knowing that we are following the plan is to really limit the grains and only one of whatever it is.  I would think that Hubby could still have secondsor a larger serving of the protein at our evening meal without wrecking the whole thing.  I just have to keep him away from the soda and candy bars.

I also plan to up our activity level.  In fact, I think that will be next week's challenge.  We only have one more volleyball game, so the other nights we can take a walk or I can take the kids to the "greenway" (our public walking path) and they can ride their scooters.  The oldest really wants to play volleyball for the school come fall, so this summer I really want to work on increasing her upper body strength or she has no prayer of serving over-hand.

Will this work?  I don't know.  But, I figure that if we all start gaining weight, feel sluggish, have digestional problems, or whatever, then I can change it.  The whole plan can't be any more harmful than a diet of processed, HFCS filled, GMO-laden junk which is what I started out with several years ago.

Oh, and I think that as soon as we get the dinner plates fixed, I am going to put away the protein and grain item.  If Hubby and the girls want seconds, they can have veggies.  Hopefully that will increase the amount of leftovers we have, so Hubby will always have something to take the next day and leave out the option of McDonald's.

What do you think?  I am completely open to comments and constructive criticism.  This is definitely a work in progress that I hope others could benefit from too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Making Your Own Deodorant-harder than it seems?

Researching is going to be the death of me!  I had my homemade deodorant recipe all planned out.  I had seen it on a number of different sites, so it must be good, right?  Well, maybe not.  Last night, the more I read on my recipe, the more I wasn't sure I would like it.  The recipe is: 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 baking soda and 5 Tbsp. coconut oil.  Many people said that they had skin irritation, from small, red bumps to open sores.  Others complained of a long (and stinky) detox period.  Hmmm.  These negatives are serving as a speed bump in my road.  Although, I don't consider myself to be a baby, I don't feel like having sores in my armpits or having all the kids tell me I stink (and you know they would).

I went looking again this morning and found another recipe that I think might be the ticket.  First published by Angry Chicken, this deodorant recipe has both shea butter and cocoa butter in it with the cornstarch and baking soda (both in smaller amounts).  My hope is that the moisturizing and healing properties of the butters will combat the drying action of the cornstarch and the abrasive nature of the baking soda.  Geez!  I've spent too much time thinking this through!  LOL

Anyway, here is the deodorant recipe I will be making.

3 Tablespoons shea butter
3 Tablespoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter
2 vitamin E oil gel caps, optional
Essential Oil, optional (I will probably use TTO and lavendar.)

Nuke the butters, baking soda and cornstarch in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir until smooth.  Add in the vitamin E oil (squeezed from the gel cap) and Essential Oil if using those.  Pour into a small jar.  Place in refrigerator to harden.  Makes about 1/4 cup.

The downside of my new plan is that I don't have cocoa butter or shea butter.  I took care of that with one quick Amazon order and now I'll be making my own deodorant in 5-8 days! =)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Meatball Subs

One would think that four months into this project that I wouldn't forget to take pictures of the final product.  Well, think again.  I served meatball subs for both lunch and dinner and didn't take a single picture of the actual sandwich.  I guess I'm lucky that I at least took pictures of the bread and meatballs.  Please use your imagination from there!

First, the recipe for the sub rolls.  Although I thought I did really well getting the wheat flour to liquid ratio correct, I was disappointed with the outcome.  The rolls seemed too flat.  Once I started thinking about it though, the recipe was supposed to make 8 sub rolls.  I made 7 rolls and 8 mini-rolls for the daycare kids.  They probably would've been thicker/larger if I had only made 8 rolls.  But, after eating the sandwich, Hubby and I decided that we liked them flatter.  They have a great flavor, hold together even with the juiciness of the meatballs, and weren't too big to get your mouth around.  I think I'm going to start making them for sandwiches instead of wheat bread (way fewer crumbs).  I liken them to the sandwich deli flatbreads or bagel thins that are popular right now.

6 sandwich rolls and 2 mini rolls


1 1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. yeast
2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups whole white wheat flour*

*You want just enough flour that the dough is not sticky to the touch.  When you pull it apart, it should be a little sticky, but a dusting of flour takes care of it.  I started with 2 cups and added a little bit at a time until the dough would pull away from the bread hook fairly easily.  I used about 2 2/3 cups.

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl (or stand mixer).  Let sit 5 minutes until yeast is foamy.  Add oil, and salt and about half of the flour.  Mix by hand or with mixer.  Continue to add flour until you have a workable dough.  Shape dough into 8 sub shaped rolls.  I made mine flatter so it would be more sandwich like (and not so much like a hot dog bun).  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Use a bread knife to make diagonal slits across the top (2-4 depending on how big the rolls are).  Cover and let rest 45 minutes.  After resting, remove cover and mist the tops of the rolls with water.  I used a spray bottle that Hubby puts grill fires out with.  Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Slice through the center and stuff with your choice of sandwich ingredients.

Meatballs (I made enough for 2 meals)

2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup parmesan
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk

*If you want to go dairy-free on this one, they are just as good without the paremsan and you can use tomato juice in place of the milk-especially if you are going to serve them with a marinara sauce anyway.  A milk alternative could also be used.  And make sure that your milk isn't flavored... yeah, vanilla flavored cream of mushroom soup is NOT tasty!

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Use your hands to make the meatball the size you want them.. I made mine about an inch (for daycare) or an inch-and-a-half (for family).  For the daycare batch, I put the meatballs in a greased, mini muffin pan.  With the sides going up around them, they browed quickly and cooked in about 10 minutes in a 425 degree oven (baking rolls at the same time).  The bigger ones wouldn't fit well in the muffin wells, so I just placed them on a stoneware jelly roll pan and baked them in about 20 minutes.  They didn't get as brown, but with the sauce on them, who could tell anyway?

For the sauce, I used a store-brand, organic jarred marinara.  Since getting rid of canned goods, I was trying out jarred sauce to see how it would be.  It was good.  This summer, I hope to make my own, but at $2.50 a jar, it will work just fine for now.

So, there you have it, made from scratch meatball subs.  Enjoy!

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

This salad is a staple at family gatherings on my side of the family.  My Mom is allergic to dairy and many salads are out for her.  Since this is one she enjoys (and can have without her throat swelling shut, which is always a plus), we always indulge her!  LOL (I'm sure that if she read my blog she would appreciate that. )

Recipe:
1 head of cauliflower, cut in bite-sized pieces
2-3 broccoli florettes, cut in bite-sized pieces (we tend to go for more broccoli, but that's a personal preference)
8 oz. bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (I used Hormel Natural preservative free bacon.  While I'm not a big fan of Hormel's business practices, they're nitrite free bacon is the best I've tried so far.)
1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped onion (really depends on how strong the onion is and how much you like it as to how much you want to add)
2/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup sugar
1-2 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar

In a large bowl, put the first 4 ingredients in and toss together.  In a small bowl combine the mayo, sugar and vinegar.  Stir to make a dressing.  Pour over the veggies and stir to coat the broccoli and cauliflower. 

In my opinion, this is best served the same day that it is made.  I think that the longer it sits, the bacon gets chewy.  The crispness and saltiness of the bacon against the sweet-n-sour of the dressing work well togther.  Once you have soggy bacon, it's just not the same.

Week 18: Portion Control and Deodorant (not at the same time)!

I'm getting to the point in this journey where I've taken care of the biggest things and now I'm have one of two problems.  One, I can't come up with anything feasible to change (which I know isn't true, it's a mindset thing) or two, I have soooooo  many things I want to change that I have trouble deciding.  This week would be the week of too many things.  I've decided to tackle two very different things:  portion control and deodorant.  Yes, I know.  They are radically different.  LOL

Portion control has bothered me for quite some time.  I have been using smaller salad plates instead of dinner plates and have been dividing our food with one quarter of the plate being protein, another quarter, grains and half the plate for fruits and veggies.  I'm not sure why I started doing this, but I read it somewhere and it makes sense to stack the plate in favor of fruits and veggies-gotta get the 5-9 servings, ya know!  The problem is that the girls and Hubby clean their plates and go back for seconds (generous helpings) on the grains and protein.  Would they overall eat less if I just gave everyone a little more of what they want the first time around?  Since I've tossed about 85% of what the USDA says is a healthy diet (GMO-laden, artificial junk), do I need to keep this aspect?  I will be doing some reading and reporting about what I find on this subject.

Deodorant has some nasty chemicals in it.  I use Degree anti-perspirant.  As listed on the Environmental Working Group website, Skin Deep, the ingredients are: Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly (17.8% W/W) (anti-perspirant)Inactive Ingredients: CyclopentaSiloxane, PPG 14 Butyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Talc, Fragrance (parfum), BHT, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch.  I only know what a few of these ingredients even are, so the question is, "Do I want to put this on my body on a daily basis?  Hmmmm, probably not.   I've wanted to change what I use for quite some time, but always seem to find a reason not to switch:  natural brands don't work, I still have another stick in the cabinet,  I don't have the right stuff to make my own, etc.  Well, I got my 1 gallon container of coconut oil last week, and I found the organic cornstarch that I purchased months ago (for this very reason), so this week I WILL make my own deodorant.  I will keep everyone updated as to how it's working.

I still have several recipes that I want to get posted.  The Curried Chicken Salad never happened because my family, who doesn't understand portion control, ate all of the chicken.  I did make a Fruit Salad and then used the leftovers to make a wonderful smoothie.  I also made a cauliflower and broccoli salad.  I was so frazzled on Sunday that I forgot to get pictures of any of the food, so I don't even have pics to share. :(

I did make meatball sub sandwiches for the kids for lunch today and got pictures of those, so the recipes for grinder rolls and meatballs should be forthcoming.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

First Communion

Well folks, the big day came and went and my baby girl had her First Communion this afternoon!  The party went off without a hitch.  The food was great, the family was great, and baby girl would say that the gifts were great!  LOL

We did have a couple issues.  She decided right before we left the house that she didn't want to wear her veil.  Too bad sister-that's part of the ensemble.  And, the dress was scratchy.  So moments before we walked out the door, I threw on a tank top under her dress, which needed constant adjusting to keep from showing, but oh well.  In the course of my life, if these are the only glitches in an otherwise great day, I'll take them.

I'll post some recipes tomorrow, but for now I'm tired.  But, I had to share my baby with you!
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