Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Menu for week of June 27th - July 3rd

This week started out as one that would be super busy, but little by little people are cancelling things, so that now we are pretty well free.  I like that!  We will be headed to my parents' house on Friday evening and will come home on Monday early afternoon.  In order to give my Mom a break in the kitchen, each of us girls (me, my sis and sis-in-law) will prepare an evening meal for the 14 of us.  I'm including that in my meal plan, but I haven't purchased anything for it yet, because I wanted to make sure it would work with what everyone else was fixing.  So here goes (by the way, sorry it's a day late).

Breakfast:  Apple Muffins, Kiwi
Lunch:  Sloppy Joes, Buns, Strawberries, Green Beans
Afternoon Snack:  Vanilla Pudding
Dinner:  Taco Salad, Fruit

Breakfast:  Banana Oatmeal, Banana
Lunch:  Ham and Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread, Carrot Sticks, Grapes, Pretzel
Snack:  Cantaloupe Cubes
Dinner:  Fritatta with sausage, onion, pepper and tomato, Toast, Apple Salad (hold over from last week)

Breakfast:  French Toast Casserole, Blueberries
Lunch:  Chicken Alfredo, Peas, Salad, Roll
Snack:  Carrot Sticks, Peanut Butter
Dinner:  Egg Salad Lettuce Wrap, Crackers, Fresh Fruit

Breakfast:  Breakfast Cookies, Pineapple
Lunch:  Mac 'n Cheese, PB Sandwich, Broccoli, Watermelon
Snack:  Honey-glazed snack mix
Dinner:  Grilled Pork Chops, Potato Salad, Fruit

Breakfast:  Granola Bar, Juice
Lunch:  Sausage/Cheese Omelets, Roasted Potatoes, Oranges, Apple Slices
Snack:  Chocolate Chip Cookie
Dinner:  Eat out on the way to Grandma's house!

One weekend Dinner at Mom and Dad's:  choice of Chicken Alfredo or Spaghetti (I'll cook the noodles and have both as choices for a sauce), Lettuce Salad with homemade Caesar dressing, steamed broccoli and maybe a fruit salad of some sort.

Monday: (I'll shop when we get back to town)
Dinner:  Brats w/ Buns, Ranch Pasta Salad, Strawberries

This menu, along with 100+ others can be found at orgjunkie.com

Week 25: No more store-bought bread

Wow!  I've been gearing up for this for weeks.  Not that we buy much bread, but I count on it as a fall-back plan.  The problem with that is I can't find a single loaf of bread that meets my criteria.  None of our stores sell an organic bread and even if I can find a loaf that has no HFCS and is 100% whole wheat, you can bet that it has corn or soybean something in it.  Quite honestly I'm more afraid of GMO's than anything else, so there's really no acceptable option.  I face this every time I run to the store "just to pick up a loaf of bread."  I stand there in the bread aisle and read the label on every load and get more more and more frustrated.  Why do I do this?

After a lot of soul-searching (that started on vacation and has been continuing), I'm really disgusted with myself.  I have been putting my food/health journey ahead of most of the other things in my life.  I spend most of my free time (if moms actually have that) reading articles online, looking for new recipes or browsing websites for the cheapest prices for sea salt or raw honey.  Things like daycare business and accounting tasks, house cleaning, organizing and purging junk we don't need have all taken a back seat in my life.  It's to the point that I've been feeling out of control in many areas.  One of the manifestations is that I don't plan ahead enough to know that I need bread-hence, running to the store.  Then I feel bad about it.  Then I pout and put off doing what needs to be done.  You see the cycle forming here, right?  Yeah, me too.

So, this past week my computer wasn't working (still isn't and won't be ever again!) I spent some time making myself a home management binder-or at least the plans for one.  I still need to get the computer forms made.  But, I decided there was no reason to wait on cutesy forms, I would get started using my pen and paper lists I had made.  So far, it's made a big difference.  My living room is spotless (and I'm not even having company!).  My laundry is done-hung on my chain-link fence since I still don't have that clothesline.  Bread (loaves of whole wheat and French) are cooling on the kitchen bar and I'm getting ready in a few minutes to go wash the cabinets down and mop the floor.

I realize that most of this is something that most people attain in their day-to-day lives.  However since I'm rather unorganized, this is a huge victory.  Add to this that my dishwasher quit (I'm handwashing 4 loads worth of dishes each day), the dryer is acting up (great reason to line dry), and the whole need to buy a new computer thing.  Oh, and I broke the handle on my crockpot.  Under normal circumstances, I would be flipping out, but I'm more organized that ever.  Right now, I only have a cleaning schedule and menu plan for the binder, but I'm hoping to add a baking schedule to it as well as our weekly planner and budget/bills stuff so that everything is in one place.  With this kind of organization, I'll never buy store-bought bread again. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Updates for this week

I don't have tons of time.  I'm hard at work cleaning my house (which needs it desperately).  But, I wanted to let everyone know that my posts may be sporadic for a few days as my upstairs computer has a bad monitor cable.  It has been ordered but will take a few days to arrive.  So, since that is where I upload my pictures, if I post over the next few days, the posts will be photo-less.

Also, we went to purchase the umbrella clothesline for the backyard and I found out that it was the same one that had horrible reviews on both Home Depot's website and another site devoted to clotheslines.  So, that is a bust for a moment as well.  The bright side of that is that we had an unexpected auto repair this week and if we had purchased the clothesline, we would've been scrambling to find mone to pay for the repair.  God always provides!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Midweek Blahs

Do you ever suffer from these?    I really am not sure why I'm feeling blah.  Everything is going reasonably well.  Finances are decent (not super, but we're paying all of our bills and I'm not super stressed over it).  Hubby's second job is finished, so that's extra money we won't have, but he'll be around more which is more important.  I'm almost over the disappointment of screwing up the All You grocery contest.  The girls aren't trying to kill each other-right now at least, but I'm feeling like I need to be doing more.  I have 5 loads of laundry that need to be folded.  All of my floors either need to be mopped or vacuumed and I'm generally disorganized.

I could get off my rear end and do some of it right now, but I'm more inclined to sit here and mope about it! LOL

Tonight is the first night this week that the girls don't have either practice or a game, so maybe if I get the laundry folded, then I'll enlist them in cleaning up the other parts of the house!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Week 24: Line Dry as Much as Possible

This change isn't necessarily a change for our nutritional health, but more of one for our pocketbook so that we can continue to afford better quality food.  We will line dry as much of our laundry as possible.

Last week we vacationed at Hubby's sister's house and she line dries nearly all of her clothes.  She swears by it, saying that it saves her a lot of money.  I would have to agree and also there are definite "green" advantages as well, saving electricity and depending less on machines to do a job that nature can do perfectly well.  I have line dried our laundry off and on, but we currently don't have a clothes line.  Last year I made a make shift one that I lovingly referred to as the "hill billy drying rack."  It was 2 child safety gates cable tied together and held up by homemade saw horses.  It was definitely a beauty, while it lasted.  After a couple months, I tired of squatting down to hang the clothes and when we had a couple weeks of cooler weather, I gave up altogether.

Now, since I saw my first utility bill since turning on the central air, I have renewed enthusiasm for line drying.  I typically do 14-18 loads of laundry each week, depending on if I wash all the bed sheets (no Mom, that doesn't happen weekly-if I'm lucky it gets done monthly).  I'm sure that line drying could save us a fair amount of money.  Money that can be used for our grocery bill since food prices are steadily increasing.

Tonight, I'll go shopping with Hubby and pick out an umbrella clothesline.  I've had my eye on a couple different ones and I'm going to have him look them over to see if there are any benefits of one over the other.  It will cost us around $60 for the clothesline, the concrete to set the pole in and some decent wooden clothes pins.  I don't need to do laundry for a couple of days, but toward the end of the week, I hope to be able to post some pictures of the new set-up in action.

Do you line dry your clothes?  What sort of clothesline do you have?  What do you do in inclement weather?

I am so mad at myself right now!

So I entered the All You Grocery Challenge, right?  I had it in my head that it started the 20th.  I read it wrong and the contest actually started on the 19th!  Aaaahhhhh! (Smacking myself in the head!!!)  With my weekly spending, I was fine (had $21 to spare), but I went and spent $30 on Sunday morning to buy enough to get us lunch and stocked up on nitrate-free bacon.  So now I'm over budget on week one and I'm disqualified! 

It's the details that get me every time!  I'm going to go pout and be mad at myself for my stupidity for a while.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

I read quite a few blogs.  Most of them I read because the blogger has ideas similar to mine.  Occasionally I get sucked into reading the blog rolls of the blogs I follow.  Then, three hours later, I emerge with a few recipes that I want to try "sometime."  Well, life gets in the way, and I forget about them for a period of time. 

Then, one Saturday afternoon I am wracking my brain to come up with another breakfast idea that's not the same 'ole, same 'ole and out pops cinnamon roll pancakes.  I know I'm not clever enough to come up with this all by myself, and a quick search confirms that I had read about them on a blog, Recipe Girl to be exact.  Her recipe for Cinnamon Roll Pancakes included a cream cheese glaze that probably made them more of a dessert than breakfast and yummy as they looked, I wanted something that I could kind of pretend was healthy.  Realistically, I know these aren't the epitome of health, but on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the healthiest, I would rate these a 5 (whole grain and glaze free being the main selling points).

I used my regular pancake recipe and used a larger scoop (1/4 cup I believe).  For the cinnamon roll filling, I used 1/3 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  I melted the butter in a bowl and stirred the sugar and cinnamon in.  Then I dumped the filling into a sandwich-sized ziploc bag and snipped the corner with scissors turning my ziploc into a mini piping bag (hindsight says I should've taken a picture of this). 

After pouring the pancake batter on the griddle, I used the piping bag to make swirls on the batter.  Well, that's what I was tring to do!  When the bubbles on the pancake began to pop, I flipped the pancakes.  I let them cook on the second side a bit longer than I normally would on regular pancakes.  It seemed to give the cinnamon-sugar time to caramelize a bit and they had just a tiny crunch when you bit into them.  Sheer bliss I'm telling you,  so yummy! 
I made a double batch of pancake batter and a single batch of the filling, so I ended up with 16 cinnamon roll pancakes and 10 regular pancakes.  I only had 5 kids eating breakfast this morning, so I had quite a few leftovers, despite everyone having 2 (a limit I imposed, otherwise those kids would've eaten them all!).  I laid them on a cookie sheet to flash freeze.  As soon as I have a chance to reheat and eat them, I'll update as to how well they stand up to freezing.  I'm hoping it will be a success so I can have a quick sweet fix occasionally while the kids are napping in the afternoon! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Way back in the beginning of my money-saving endeavors, I spent a few weeks tracking my grocery lists to see what I spent the food money on.  The plan was to see if I could make some of those items that we spent the most on or find a way to buy them cheaper.  At that time, I found that we were buying quite a bit of individual flavored yogurts and those quick Go-Gurt tubes.  I remedied that money drain by purchasing quart tubs of vanilla yogurt instead.  Then I patted myself on the back for a job well done.

Later in my thrifty quests, I found that people actually make their own yogurt.  I dismissed that as I figured only hippie-kooks made yogurt.  Well, give me another year or so and I became the hippie-kook that was making my own yogurt (and lovin' it)! :)

I first started with the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking.  Affectionately called "crockpot yogurt," one simply heats the milk to the appropriate temperature in the crockpot, let it cool, add your starter and insulate the crockpot so that the bacteria in the milk grows and becomes yogurt.  I found that the end product was quite tangy and a little too runny to be eaten in its original form.  However if I drained some of the whey off, and added some sweetener (usually strawberry jelly), it was very palatable.  I also made mock sour cream by draining off most of the whey.  I did this for over a year and while I was pleased with the results, my kids weren't.  They thought it was still too runny and didn't want to eat it.  I had come to the conclusion that even if it was cheaper to make my own yogurt, if it wasn't being eaten, then it was still wasteful.

A few months back I came across a different spin on homemade yogurt.  Jen, at Bacon in My Pocket, researched several recipes and came up with the best of all of them and I would have to agree.  Jen's yogurt recipe yields thick and creamy yogurt that can be tailored to your specific tastes.

Here is my version (please check out Jen's version-she has pictures!)

Pour milk in a large saucepan.  I usually use 2 quarts of milk at a time.  Heat to 180 degrees, stirring occasionally.  Once the milk has reached 180, remove from heat and allow to cool to 110-120 degrees (if you want to speed the process, you can place the pan in ice water).  In the meantime, open an 8 ounce container of plain yogurt with live cultures.  This will be your starter.  Pour it into a small bowl.  When the milk has cooled sufficiently, place a few tablespoons of the warm milk in the bowl with the starter.  Stir until smooth.  Add the starter into the saucepan of milk and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.  From experience, if you leave clumps of yogurt, your end product will be grainy and while it's still edible, smooth is tastier.

For plain yogurt, fill clean glass jars with the milk and then cap.  Place in a cooler filled with 120 degree water-filled full enough that the water covers the jar(s).  Close cooler and let sit for 4 hours.  Remove jars and immediately place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours.

If you are wanting flavored yogurt, you can add sugar and flavoring to the milk (about 1/2 cup sugar for 2 quarts of yogurt and I use 2-3 tablespoons of vanilla extract for flavoring.  I'm sure other extracts could be used, I'm happy with vanilla though).  Procede in the same manner as with plain yogurt.

And, ladies and gentelmen, there you have it.  Yummy yogurt that is healthy and easy on the pocketbook.

Menu for week of June 20 - June 26th

With the All You Grocery Challenge underway, and several evening commitments this week, I'm keeping things relatively simple.  The evening meals are things that can be made ahead and pulled out when needed or utilize the crock pot.  I'll also be trying out a couple new things too.

Breakfast:  Carrot Muffins, Grapes
Lunch:  Hamburger Helper (homemade), Salad, Corn, Strawberries
Dinner:  Leftovers from lunch-gotta hurry, we have a 5:45 volleyball game

Breakfast:  Cinnamon Roll Pancakes (recipe forthcoming), Apple Slices
Lunch:  Spaghetti, Yogurt (recipe forthcoming), Pineapple, Peas
Dinner:  Cheese Quesadillas, Bean Dip & Tortilla Chips, we'll probably eat after 5:00 volleyball practice

Breakfast:  Zucchini Bread, Banana
Lunch:  Homemade Cheese Pizza, Carrots, Cantaloupe
Dinner:  Honey Glazed Chicken on the BBQ grill, Pasta Salad (recipe forthcoming), Broccoli

Breakfast:  Biscuit & Egg Sandwich, Juice
Lunch:  Waffle Sticks, Sausage, Oranges, Raisins
Dinner:  Pork Roast, Fried Potatoes, Salad, Leftover Fruit

Breakfast:  Peanut Butter Muffins, Peaches
Lunch:  Tuna Salad, Green Beans, Buns, Blueberries
Dinner:  French Toast Casserole, Honeydew Melon

Breakfast:  Freezer Stash
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Baked Potato Bar, Salad

Breakfast:  Freezer Stash
Lunch:  Egg Casserole, Apple Salad
Dinner:  Grilled Steak, Tomatoes, Cottage Cheese, Leftover Produce

Snacks:  Smoothie, Carrot Sticks, Nuts, Apple Slices, Cheese Cubes, Snickerdoodles, Mango, Apple Muffins, Yogurt, Granola Bar

This menu is linked on Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.  Check out the site.  It has around 200 weekly menus posted every week.  It's a great way to get new ideas!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

All You Grocery Challenge 2011

Tomorrow is the first day of the All You Grocery Challenge 2011.  I will be participating for the second year.  The challenge is to spend a maximum of $25/person/week for four weeks.  The winners typically spend far less than this, but since I have the daycare meals in that total as well, me spending $50/week for any length of time just isn't going to be happening (and it's way too confusing to try and separate them-I tried!).  Also, the healthier the meals, the better (my overall goal anyway).  The winner receives a $1000 gift card.  Wouldn't that be exciting!  Just think of the bulk purchases I could buy with that! =)

For the next four weeks, I'll be referring to the challenge off and on, so I'm just letting you know what's going on.  If I were better at planning ahead, I would've blogged about this before now so that everyone else could sign up too.  But, alas, I'm scatter-brained and didn't get that done.  Sorry!  Just to make sure you don't miss it next year, you can sign up for e-mail updates from All You and they'll let you know about the contest opportunity (and others as well!).  On the right hand side of the page, click on newsletters and go on from there.  Easy peasy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 23: Make the best choices available with what you have.

We are on vacation this week.  To be as healthy, and cheap, as possible, we are eating most of our meals at my sister-in-law's house.  While I love her to pieces, her food supply is abysmal.  Literally, we put more food in her fridge/freezer as leftover from our snacks and lunch on the trip than she had in there to begin with.  The pantry contained three spices, half a bag of white rice, a pound of spaghetti and a jar of sauce.  OK.  I'm starting from scratch here.  I brought 4 pounds of ground beef, and 10 pork chops, so there was my starting place.  I meal planned and made my grocery list (featured in another post).

When I got to the store, Wal-Mart, I found the choice for food not to my liking.  I wanted to buy things that were in a quantity that we would use in the week we were here, as it is obvious that my sis-in-law isn't big on cooking.  I don't see any sense in buying a bunch of food that would go to waste and we have limited space to bring things back with us.  I had to revamp some of my list on the fly and buy things that I normally wouldn't be caught dead purchasing (all-purpose flour for instance).  Overall, I was happy with the amount of money we spent on the week's worth of food and I figure that we are still eating better than if we chose to eat out for all of our meals while spending a lot less money.  I am still feeling like we've taken a step backwards in healthy eating though.

Here's our menu plan for the week (Saturday - Friday)
Breakfasts:  Omelets, Toast, Cereal (leftover from the trip), Banana Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal
Lunches:  Frozen Pizza, Ham &/or Turkey Sandwiches, Bean and Cheese Quesadillas, Homemade Lunchables, Chicken Salad, Leftovers
Dinners:  Spaghetti & Meatballs, Beef Nachos, Grilled Pork Chops, Chicken and Mashed Potatoes,  BBQ at a friend's house, Eat Out

I'm not sure how much I'll be posting this week as I'm sure we going to be busy.  Have a great week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Information and Links

I just read a very interesting blog post on Whole New Mom.  It has several links that are very informative in regards to government action in the past few weeks.  Give it a look.  It makes me more determined that ever to eat local foods whenever I possibly can.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trail Mix

Trail mix is one of those snacks that I make when I have a lot of miscellaneous items in the pantry.  While there's variety, there's not a lot of quantity to make it be a snack by itself.  The items that can go in trail mix are endless, but here's what ended up in our road trip trail mix.

sunflower seeds
braided butter pretzels

Many times chocolate of some kind make it into the trail mix, but since we were going to be on the road and I didn't know how well the cooler would actually keep things cool, I skipped it this time.

Other foods that go well in trail mix...
Craisins or any dried fruit cut up in small pieces
pumpkin seeds
bite sized cereals
chocolate chips or m&ms

What do you like in your trail mix?

BBQ sauce

Good morning everyone!  We are on vacation, but I got this picture before I left on Thursday.  The daycare kids had BBQ beef quesadillas for lunch and of course we've used all of our store bought barbeque sauce, so I had to make my own.  I did a quick search and found this recipe on about.com.
My changes are in ().
  • 2 cups ketchup (1 cup ketchup, 1 can diced tomatoes, drained and pureed-a fresh tomato peeled, seeded and diced would work well and that's what I'll do next time)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (1/3 cup evaporated cane juice, 2 tsp. molasses)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (only about 1/4 tsp. b/c I ran out of cayenne)
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat. Stirring occasionally and simmer for 20 minutes. Sauce should be thin, but not watery. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Sauce is better if allow to sit for a day.
We all know that I didn't actually measure the ingredients (I'm more of an eye-ball it kind of gal.), and I was super busy getting ready to leave, so the sauce ended up too tangy to start with-it appears that I got a little carried away with the vinegar.  Oops!  I added a little more of everything and ended up with a pretty sweet sauce.  It was ok, but I think it would've been better if I hadn't been quite so distracted and actually came closer to the amount of the original ingredients.  Another change I made was to sub one of the cups of ketchup with my last can of diced tomatoes, drained and pureed.  I was too cheap to use 2 cups of my organic ketchup-that stuff is expense.
I will definitely keep this recipe and tweak it a little more to make it tangy, yet sweet, but not overly one or the other.  I don't want much do I? =)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cookies for Breakfast?

My kids have a bit of a sweet tooth.  It's hard to tell if they got it from their mother or father, since we both like our share of sweets as well.  As I move to a healthier diet/lifestyle, I am trying to move away from refined sugars when I can. 

SIDE NOTE:  I am nowhere near ready to give up all refined sugar however wonderful that may be for me.  Granted, there are still 30 weeks left of this transformation, so who knows, but I love me some sugar!

Anyway, I wanted to give the kids options for something a little sweet, but also something that, when eaten, wasn't going to send the kids into sugar overload.  A breakfast cookie is just the ticket.  I first read about these cookies from Mari at Green & Thrifty, but the original recipe came from Heavenly Homemakers.

To, Heavenly Homemakers is where I want to end up in this journey, so to say that I changed a recipe that came from there is almost blasphemy.  But, it did it anyway.  I cannot lie.  I was out of honey, so I subbed maple syrup.  But, ya know what, they are good.  I've also made them with the honey and they are good that way too.  Hopefully no one will come beating on my door in the middle of the night to take me away for my evil deeds.  LOL

Here's the recipe.
1 cup butter, melted
¾ cup honey (or maple syrup)
2 eggs
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (while I love raisins, the girls don't, so chocolate chips it is)

Mix it all together and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

I made these early in the morning and got them cooked and into a ziploc bag in the freezer before they were spied.  Otherwise, we probably wouldn't have any to take on the trip!  =)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Menu plan and grocery trip for week of June 5th

Welcome to week 2 of weekly grocery planning!  This week was easy in that I only have 4 days to plan, but difficult in that we'll be leaving for 10 days, so I want to eat up as much as possible from the fridge before we go.

Dinner:  Take and bake pizza, ice cream (not a very healthy model, I know)

Breakfast:  Maple Oatmeal, Cantaloupe
Morning Snack:  Smoothie
Lunch:  Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches, Corn, Strawberries, Pretzels
Afternoon Snack:  Cheese Cubes
Dinner:  Baked Ziti, Salad, French Bread

Breakfast:  French Toast, Grapes
Morning Snack:  Applesauce
Lunch:  Roast, Potatoes, Carrots, Apple Slices, Roll
Afternoon Snack:  Smoothie
Dinner:  Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Pretzels, Carrot Sticks

Breakfast:  Zucchini Bread, Banana
Morning Snack:  String Cheese
Lunch:  Honey Glazed Chicken Legs, Mac 'n Cheese, Broccoli, Blueberries
Afternoon Snack:  Cookie
Dinner:  BBQ Beef Sandwiches, Leftover Mac 'n Cheese, Green Beans

Breakfast:  Shredded Wheat, Juice
Morning Snack:  Granola Bar
Lunch:  BBQ Beef Quesadillas, Carrot Sticks, Oranges
Snack:  Ice Cream


We will be doing a lot of cooking from home (Hubby's sis's house) during the next week, so even on the road, there will likely be a meal plan.

This week's menu is linked at Menu Plan Monday on orgjunkie.com.

Oops, I almost forgot about the grocery trip.

Moser's (got this on Friday evening-picked up a few things * for my Mom)
Log Cabin Natural Table Syrup - $3.99*
Tootsie Rolls - $1
Organic Ketchup - $1.89
2 Seedless Watermelons - $5.98* (1 for Mom)
1 Cantaloupe - $..97
5.67 lb. Bananas - $2.21
Total = $16.80

2 bags pretzels - $2.00
1 pound macaroni - $1.12
Blu Diamond Sea Salt Cracker Chips (gluten free for middle daughter) - $2.50
Full Circle Organic Whole Wheat Crackers - $3.69
Glutino Original Crackers - $4.69
Quinoa Elbow Macaroni - $2.99
3 boxes Freezer Bags - $5.01
3.36 Braeburn Apples - $3.33
1.90 Organic Gala Apples - $3.21
2 pounds strawberries - $2.99
2.14 pounds organic grapes - $5.31
20 Chicken Legs - $7.21
Total = $46.33

16" take and bake pizza - $6.99
Pineapple - $.99
4 pounds oranges - $2.49
3 pounds onions - $1.49
Onion Powder - $.99
Total  = $13.56

1/2 gallon cookies and cream ice cream - $2.53
1/2 gallon rocky road ice cream - $2.53
Total = $5.30

Total for week 2 groceries = $81.99
Have a great week!

Week 22: Car friendly snacks

This is the big week!  We're gearing up for a cross-country road trip.  We'll be travelling from Missouri to Maryland to visit Hubby's sister for a whole week.  I haven't had this many days off in a row in seven years.  I'm both excited and overwhelmed!  Most of the big stuff has been taken care of and now it's time for the details-like, how to keep 5 snacky people satisfied over the course of an 18 hour drive.
We could opt to stop at a drive-through every 2-3 hours and pick up an order of fries or an ice cream cone, but that would be neither healthy nor frugal.  This mama will be baking and buying healthy snack foods to pack for the trip, and also a picnic lunch that will travel well and still be appetizing 24+ hours after being packed.

Our itinerary looks something like this...
leave at 1 pm (naptime for little man, LOL)
snack around 3:30 pm
dinner out around 6:00 pm (we'll probably go ahead and fast food this one to make it to the motel at a decent hour)
light snack at 8 pm
swimming at the motel

rise and eat motel continental breakfast (cross your fingers on this one)
leave at 7:30 am
snack around 10:30 am
arrive at 2nd day midpoint around 1:00 pm
eat and play at park (packed picnic lunch)
back on the road at 2 pm (naptime)
snack at 4 pm
meet Hubby's sis for dinner at 6 pm
leave dinner at 7:30 pm
arrive at our destination at 9:30 pm

If this is half-way accurate, we need 4 snacks (plus a couple extra for variety and they'll probably beg to eat more often) and a picnic lunch.

Here are my list of ideas:
  1. string cheese
  2. trail mix (made from things at home-although a recipe isn't necessary, I'll do a post with what used in mine)
  3. cashews
  4. cereal (real treat as we no longer keep this in the house-I'm thinking Cascadian Farm Fruit O's or something similar)
  5. apple muffins
  6. breakfast cookies (recipe forthcoming)
  7. bananas/grapes
Picnic lunch:
  1. Nitrite-free deli meat snadwich wraps (whole wheat tortillas) with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and mayo (I think I'll do ingredients packed separately and put together either in the motel that morning or at the park before eating.)
  2. Sea Salt Kettle Chips
  3. Apple Slices
  4. Carrot Sticks
We will be taking a cooler, along with our reusable water bottles.  Do you think this will be enough, too much?  Opinions and suggestions are welcome! =)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gluten Free apple muffins

 Our dear 8 year old has quite the problem.  She has suffered with eczema since she was about 6 months old.  She is very lucky that it is mainly limited to the bend in her arms and behind her knees (thankfully not on her face or around her eyes), but it causes her problems.  She almost always has the tell-tale rash, which becomes itchy and she scratches in her sleep.  This causes bleeding, open sores and we've dealt with staph infections on more than one occasion.  We try to keep her "lubed" up to retain as much moisture as possible, but many times I get distracted and she doesn't get lotion put on before bed (bad parenting moment, I'll admit).

Her eczema hit an all-time worst right before school was out.  She was very dry, itchy, scabby and kids were making fun of her (even if they ask about it, it hurts her feelings).  We went on an intense therapy of straight shea butter followed by steroid cream 4 hours later... rinse and repeat.  For three days, we did the shea butter and steroid cream.  It is finally liveable again.  She has major scarring, but her skin is once again smooth.

She has finally decided that she doesn't want to do this any longer.  We are going to try eliminating gluten and dairy from her diet for a period of time (I told her a month, but I'm hoping to do this all summer) to see if that helps her eczema.  She has been reluctant to take such a drastic step as there are many things from both food groups that she likes.  But, I told her that we needed to try.  If it doesn't work, then she could eat the foods again, no problem.

So, for the next few weeks, I will be making gluten and dairy free alternatives to what the other daycare kids are eating.  We will try to maintain the gluten and dairy free evening meals so that we can all share the same thing.  This first week is transition week, so not everything will be eliminated (mostly because I made the menu plan before deciding to do this).

Here are the apple muffins that I made this morning.

A sneak peek from the freezer bag.  These were frozen
 before I got around to taking pictures.

1 banana, mashed (or 1 egg-I ran myself out of eggs, again!)
1/3 cup oil (I used coconut)
1/2 cup milk alternative (I used rice milk)
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped 1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp. molasses (I don't measure-just drizzle some in.  I find it too tedious to scrape out the measuring spoon)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix (I used Domata flour.  I'm sure there are several on the market.  Check to see if yours has xanthan gum in it.  If not you'll need to add some as directed on the package.  It'll probably be about 1 or 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup nuts (I skipped these just b/c I didn't want to get the chopper dirty.)

Mix the wet ingredients.  Mix the dry ingredients.  Add the dry to the wet and stir until just combined.  I find that mini muffin cups work better for gluten free items as they tend to take a long time to bake.  It will work as bigger muffins, it just takes a long time and I'm not big on patience. LOL  Fill mini muffin cups.  In a separate small bowl, mix the topping and sprinkle on the tops of the unbaked muffins.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown.

I thought they ended up a little too moist, but the girl assured me that they were fine and ate 6!

Crock pot chicken and homemade broth

While I truly enjoy making most of our food from scratch, there is a time factor that gets involved.  I do work 50+ hours per week and my kids have scout meetings, volleyball practices (and the accompanying games).  Hubby and I have church obligations and occasionally a social outing.  All of that takes time, so how I choose to prioritize my time with regard to cooking tasks is important.

Frozen whole chicken

Frozen bird in the crockpot

I am not sure who invented the crock pot, but whoever it was, I hope they received their due royalties from it.  I use my crockpot for the occasional roast, but mostly for chicken and broth.  Before I go to bed early in the week (usually Sunday or Monday night), I throw a frozen chicken in the crockpot.  I just cut off the wrapper, toss it in, put the lid on and turn it on low.  By the time I wake up in the morning, the house smells of chicken.

Chicken, done and ready to debone

I always check the temperature of the chicken and most of the time it's done when I get up, but if the bird hasn't reached 180 degrees, I let it cook a while longer.  Then it's time to scoop the chicken out on to a big platter and let it rest.  You can, and I have, tried to debone a chicken immediately after removing it from the crock pot.  Really, it's not worth it to burn your fingerprints off your fingers, so I let it sit 20-30 minutes so it can cool down some (fear not, you can still burn yourself, just not quite as bad!)

Chicken bones and juices from cooking
 All of the skin, bones, cartilage and miscellaneous fat (usually found in the thigh area-imagine that) goes back into the crock pot with whatever juices are there from cooking the bird.  I usually divide the meat into piles of dark and white and put it in a storage container to go in the fridge and be used for various chicken recipes through the week.

With the carcass and the goodies back in the crock pot, I add 4-6 carrots (depending on the size-they've been kind of scrawny lately), 4- ribs of celery, 1 onion and 2-3 tablespoons of dried parsley (if I have bay leaves, I'll put a couple of those in too.).  Don't worry about spending a lot of time prepping these veggies, they are there for flavor purposes only.  I cut the carrots in half, cut the celery in three or four large pieces and halve the onion.  Fill to the top with water and leave for 12-24 hours.

The beginning of broth

Broth, 24 hours later

When you're ready, strain the broth into a large bowl.  Discard the bones and veggies.  I pour the broth into recycled glass jars to freeze and thaw what I need as I need it.  I've also used ziploc bags and laid them flat to freeze.  They stack great and don't take up much space.  The broth will also keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, so there's no need to freeze it if you know you will have a way to use it shortly.

Broth-ready for freezing

So, that's it.  Chicken in the crockpot and homemade broth.

A few ways to use your chicken and/or broth:
Chicken and cheese quesadillas
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes or noodles
Chicken enchiladas, tacos or nachos
Chicken salad
Honey chicken stir-fry with rice
White chicken chili
Chicken & wild rice soup
Plain rice or spanish rice (broth)

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