Sunday, May 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 23

Getting back to the real world after a vacation is always hard. Cooking is not nearly as much fun in my own kitchen.  This week, my beautiful sister-in-law and family are in town from Idaho. They are staying with my in-laws, but we are planning on hosting a day. My husband also returns to work this week, so breakfast and lunches don't have to be very involved. Since we're returning from vacation, even though I did well with maintaining my weight and not gaining (I'm utterly surprised), I'll be paying extra special attention to getting in my veggies, lean protein and whole grains.

Breakfasts (all include fresh fruit, juice and milk)
scrambled eggs and toast
fruity baked oatmeal
blueberry lemon breakfast pizza
green monster smoothies

Lunches (all include fresh veggies, fruit and milk)
sandwiches (turkey or tuna salad)
pita pizzas
green monsters

Monday: On the road home from Florida, eating out

Tuesday: Baked Ziti; salad; garlic knots

Wednesday: Grilled Pork Chops; mashed sweet potatoes; broccoli

Thursday: Homemade Veggie Pizza; salad

Friday: Individual Chicken Pot Pies; salad

I hope you all have a wonderful week. Make sure to check out OrgJunkie for more delicious weekly menu plans!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vacation Eating on a Budget

My family and I are in Florida right now. White sandy beaches, blue skies, warm breezes...everything Florida is known for. Aside from getting lost during my run this morning, it has been a nice time thus far.

Even though we've saved for this trip for a few months, we don't want to pour our entire vacation budget into restaurants. Here are some of the tips that I found most useful to maintain some semblance of a budget while on vacation.

1) Cook. I know it seems counterproductive to the idea of relaxation, but it saves an extraordinary amount of money. We opted for a condo with a full kitchen and then bought groceries when we arrived. I spent a bit more on food than I would have at home, but a lot of that is condiments and stuff that I don't normally have to buy. Food doesn't have to be fancy or take a long time, but making it yourself and using local ingredients is one of my favorite ways to save money.

2) Use Local Ingredients. During the summer, farm stands are everywhere. Peaches at Publix were $3.99/lb...locally grown, picked that morning peaches at the farm stand were $2 for a 3 pound bag. My family almost always finds local farm stands or farmers markets and then we decide our meals based on what looks tempting.

3) Use Savings Websites. A few months before we left, I subscribed to the local Groupon site and kept watch for restaurants or other fun things that we could enjoy as a family. I always checked restaurant reviews on before buying so we didn't end up with a dud. We enjoyed one of our Groupon coupons last night at a local pizza place (really yummy!) and walked out for $20 including tax and tip. The extra pizza will make a great snack for the family as well.

4) Check With the Front Desk or Visitors Bureau: If you're at a hotel or condo, most will have coupons or special deals available only to patrons. I asked the woman who checked us in and she handed me a stack of coupons good for everything from free appetizers, free kids meals or a percentage off the final bill. The locally owned restaurants want you to walk in their door and providing something for free is a really great way to make that happen.

We are eating out a few meals during the trip, but for the most part, will be eating in. Breakfasts will include egg and veggie scrambles, toast, smoothies and fresh fruit and we bought premium sandwich ingredients for subs and paninis for lunches. Spending $30 on really awesome sandwich ingredients that will last the week is far cheaper than hitting the local deli 5 times during the week.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a margarita that needs to be sipped and feet that need to be put up oceanside.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 16

We leave today for Perdido Key, Florida for a week. We rented a condo that has a full kitchen so we won't have to eat out every day -- yay! I love having a break from cooking, but eating out for 7 days is a bit much for both my wallet and waistline. I've thrown together a few easy peasy meals that can be made in advance or quickly after a long day on the beach.

Monday: Pizza out

Tuesday: Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Salad in Pita Pockets; grilled sweet potatoes

Wednesday: Grilled Salmon, tossed salad

Thursday: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, coleslaw, fruit salad

Friday: Out

Saturday: Going to the Pensacola Farmer's Market - will decide dinner based on what looks good

Sunday: Out

I hope everyone has a wonderful week. Make sure to check out OrgJunkie for more delicious menu plans!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 9

This week is all about eating up our perishables before we leave for Florida next Monday. Bone-in chicken breasts are on sale this week, so a few meals will include those. We're grilling a few nights and having pasta a few nights (something we almost never do anymore). I continued through my pile of "to-make" recipes and let my sons help choose some that looked good to them.

Breakfasts: (all include fruit, milk and juice)
breakfast cookies
yogurt and granola
eggs and toast
overnight soaked oats

Lunches: (all include fruit and veggies)
turkey sandwiches on homemade wheat bread
taco soup
chard wraps stuffed with tuna and egg salad

Monday: Beer can chicken, slow cooker baked beans, salad

Tuesday: Vegetarian Tortilla Pie

Wednesday: Tropical Island Chicken, broccoli salad, chia bread

Thursday: Sriracha Barbecued Chicken, roasted asparagus, salad

Friday: Meatball Lasagna (makes a TON!), salad

Saturday: Penne and Peppers with Chunky Meat Sauce, garlic twists, salad

Sunday: leftover buffet

I hope everyone has a great week! Make sure to check out OrgJunkie for more delicious weekly menu plans.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all my beautiful Mommies out there. I hope your day doesn't end up like this...

My sons and husband made me a cake...and promptly dropped it on the floor. I think Connor's face broke the fall. We all had a good laugh -- except for the perp.

Planning to spend my day with my family, doing a little shopping and eating an insanely decadent meal.

Have a fabulous day, moms!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chicken Korma

I have a relatively unhealthy obsession with Asian food. Not unhealthy like I eat mounds and mounds of it (not that I couldn't), but unhealthy that I would be completely fine with having it every single day for quite some time. Pretty sure I would be a prime candidate for a 12-step program.

The good thing about Asian food is that it is relatively easy to prepare at home. Several dishes have a lengthy list of ingredients, but they all come together pretty effortlessly.

Korma is a Northern Indian curry. It includes yogurt and nut or seed pastes/meals. They can be made vegetarian or not and the protein included can be changed to suit any tastes. Chicken was cheap this week, so I went that route.

Chicken Korma
serves 4

1 T. canola oil
1 red onion, sliced into rings
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato, diced
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/4 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. almond meal (make it yourself by whirring some raw almonds in the food processor until it resembles course flour)
1 head broccoli, florets removed and stems discarded
1 c. snow peas

cooked brown rice, to serve

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wok or deep sided skillet. Cook the onions, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add chicken and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, until browned. Stir in garam masala, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Add stock, yogurt and almond meal. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 8-10 minutes until sauce is creamy and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Add broccoli and pea pods and cook for another 3-4 minutes. The vegetables should be tender-crisp.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - May 2

Wow, May already! I can't believe how fast 2011 is flying by! The Husband is in his last week of finals, then we have a week off before we leave for vacation in Florida. I can't freakin' wait for vacation! An entire week of white, sandy beaches, no house cleaning, big fruity drinks...oh my.

I'm finally starting to tackle my gigantic pile of recipes that I have put in the "to be made" category. Sifting through them, I couldn't believe I hadn't made some of these sooner. They sound so good!

Breakfasts: (all will include fresh fruit, milk, and juice)
Vanilla Cherry Breakfast Risotto
French Toast Sticks
overnight oats
Honey Yogurt Waffles

Lunches: (all include fresh fruit and veggies)
Chana Masala 
turkey sandwiches
oven baked cheese and avocado sandwiches
taco soup
tuna wraps

Monday: Mini meatloaves and mashed potatoes (I'm going to doctor the meatloaf recipe a bit and use ground turkey); salad

Tuesday: Tomato Basil Hamburgers; roasted red potatoes; salad

Wednesday: Garlic Shrimp with Basil, Tomatoes and Red Pepper Flakes; whole wheat orzo; salad

Thursday: Lemon Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki and Feta; homemade whole wheat pita; Minty Watermelon Salad

Friday: Out for Pizza to celebrate finals being over!

Saturday: Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pesto Goat Cheese Spread; cucumber tomato salad

Sunday: Late Mother's Day Lunch at Texas De Brazil

I hope everyone has a fantastic week! Make sure to check out the other weekly menu plans at Org Junkie!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

To date, I believe I've made 32 different varieties of banana bread - plain jane, tropical, boozy, chocolate, and now peanut butter. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches, so I thought making this bread was a pretty logical thing to do. Even better was the fact that the original recipe was relatively low in calories and added sugar. I hate putting my kids into a sugar coma first thing in the morning.

My husband and boys could eat banana bread for every meal. There are times when I make a loaf expecting it to be part of breakfast for the next several days and it ends up being eaten entirely by the end of the afternoon -- small bite by small bite.

I made a few small changes to the original recipe. I used low-fat greek yogurt instead of fat-free plain (fat makes food moist and flavorful! Let's not be afraid of it!) and substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour. I also reduced the amount of brown and white sugar used. The end result was hearty, moist, flavorful and lightly sweet from the bananas.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2  cups mashed ripe banana
1/3  cup low-fat greek yogurt
1/3  cup creamy, natural peanut butter
3  tablespoons butter, melted
2  large eggs
1/3  cup granulated sugar
1/3  cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4  cup ground flaxseed
3/4  teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8  teaspoon ground allspice
2  tablespoon chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms and side of a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together bananas, greek yogurt, peanut butter, butter, eggs, and sugars. In another large bowl, mix flour, ground flax, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Make a small well in the flour mixture and add banana mixture to the well. Stir together until just combined. Add peanuts and stir to incorporate.

Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake until top is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean -- about 1 hour, 5 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Final thoughts: I think next time I would roast the bananas in the skin for 20 minutes or so to deepen the banana flavor. There is a lot to be said for caramelized bananas.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Menu Plan...Friday. Oops!

This completely got away from me this week, but never fear, I have had my plan and we did a great job of sticking to it. This is one of the first weeks in a long time that we've had the appropriate meals on the appropriate days and didn't bump a meal to get take-out. Go us!

Breakfasts: (all can be paired with fresh fruit, milk and juice)
oatmeal with fruit (apples, pears, and blueberries)
honey yogurt waffles (batch cooked) (I have modified the recipe a bit and will post the modifications soon)
carrot cake pancakes (batch cooked)
scrambled eggs with cinnamon raisin toast

Lunches: (all can be paired with fresh veggies, hummus and fruit)
grilled cheese with avocado and tomato
broccoli chicken soup
turkey sandwiches
pizza pockets

Monday: Leftover Tequila Lime Fajitas; black beans

Tuesday: Fajita Quesadillas

Wednesday: Chicken Korma; brown basmati rice

Thursday: Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits; asparagus

Friday: Red Beans and Rice

Saturday: easy dinner night for the kids - date night for me!

Make sure to head over to Org Junkie to check out other menus from people who actually got them in on time! Have a great rest of the week and weekend!


and the livin' is eas-ay. dooo do de do do do...

yeah...blame Pandora for that one.

Anyway, all singing aside, it is HOT here in Southern Louisiana. Air Conditioning has been on steadily for two weeks now and I can hear my utility bills skyrocketing.

To combat the heat, I bring The Boys to get snowballs (side note: the thought of having a snowball (cone) stand that is open year long is so foreign to me) and we go to the local fountain to splash around a bit.

Better sit down, cuteness is coming.

 Now that he is old enough to eat it by himself...he is very possessive of his sour cherry, face-staining snowball.
 Except when Big Brother asks for a taste...which he does frequently.

 This is Big Brother's "Tasting" face....taste taste taste...*pensive stare off to the left*...VERY good!

I hope everyone is enjoying their warmer weather!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Different Kind of Easter Dinner (Tequila Lime Fajitas)

Months ago I started plotting our Easter dinner menu. I'm totally Type-A like that and usually have lists and lists by March of potential recipes....and then the tasting begins (my favorite part, obviously). This year, I thought I had everything planned out...and then I started perusing Tastespotting and that went out the window. The weather was looking promising and I thought it was the perfect day to grill. My husband's favorite food is steak (like most other men, I'm sure) and he enjoys it in every form imaginable. Steaks for the entire family would be a little pricey, so we opted for chicken and steak fajitas. Best.Idea.Ever.

They serve a ton (seriously, we could have had another entire family over and still had leftovers), are pretty economical and if done correctly, are way better than what you're going to get in most Tex-Mex restaurants.

 First off, marinate the meat. Make sure you plan way ahead because they need to marinate for at least two hours. The longer the better. I let them marinate in the refrigerator for 7 hours. I scored the meat for maximum absorption.
 Grill the meat. Get that heat as high as you can get it. You want to get a nice char on the meat (cancer be damned in this case). My perfect fajita steak is cooked to medium-rare. Unfortunately, these pictures are from a trial marinade run and we used a sirloin, I prefer either flank or skirt steak and used flank steak on Easter. Honestly, though, any beef marinated in lime juice and tequila is going to be pretty damn good. Especially if you employ the "one for you, two for me" mentality.

 Veggies! I actually prefer doing my fajita veggies on the stovetop. They get nice and caramelized without getting burnt. I love onions, bell peppers and tomatoes.

Voila! Finished product. Whole wheat tortilla, a little shredded cheddar and some sour cream. I like to keep things simple. We also offered guacamole, tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo as topping options.

Tequila Lime Fajita Marinade
enough to marinate 3 pounds of desired meat or vegetables

1 bunch cilantro leaves
1 poblano pepper, seeds left intact
1/2 c. fresh lime juice (about 8 whole limes)
1/2 lime (use the ones from when you squeezed the juice out, you're just looking for the rind)
5 garlic cloves
2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. tequila
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

2-3 pounds of chicken, steak, shrimp, fish, vegetables, etc.

Remove stems from cilantro leaves and add to food processor along with the lime juice, half lime, garlic, olive oil and tequila. Process until smooth. Add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and process until incorporated. Pour on top of meat and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, but preferably 6+.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter filled with friends, family and great food! I will be back tomorrow with more Not-So-Eastery dinner recipes (roasted poblano and cheddar cornbread anyone?)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Buckwheat Tabbouleh

My entire family loves Greek and Lebanese food. We're fortunate to have a Lebanese restaurant in town that does a fabulous lunch buffet...and only charges my kids, who often eat as much there as most adults, $1 for all of the tabbouleh, mujadara, gyro and schwarma that their little bellies can hold.

Since I haven't been able to talk my husband into investing into a vertical spit (um, hello, that seems to be a pretty obvious purchase), I just have set about perfecting some of our other favorites. That is where tabbouleh comes in. Tabbouleh is such a great summer food - easy to prepare, fresh ingredients, easy on the waistline. I love a dish that doesn't require me to turn up the air conditioning.

There are many ways of preparing tabbouleh, some use bulgur wheat, some include mint. I like using buckwheat because of the nuttiness (that is such an overused adjective) that it brings, and I often skip the mint (because I've banned that land hogger from my garden). This recipe is based on a recipe for buckwheat tabbouleh from one of my favorite healthy bloggers, Oh She Glows. The ingredients included are much the same, but the preparation is a bit different. I like recipes that I don't have to babysit too much, so I've adapted her recipe to suit that purpose.

Buckwheat Tabbouleh
serves 4

1 cup raw buckwheat groats
2.5 cups of water

2 bunches parsley
1/2 cucumber, cut into large chunks
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic
4 green onions, white and light green parts only
1 carrot, cut into large chunks

Juice of one large lemon
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

I prefer to cook my buckwheat in a rice cooker for ease. Into a rice cooker goes the buckwheat and water, flip the switch and let it do its thing. If you don't have a rice cooker (ahem, get one), you're free to use the stove top. Just boil the water, add the buckwheat, bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes.

After it is cooked, put it in the refrigerator to cool down a bit. Just until you have the rest of the ingredients prepped.

Again, look at me using modern day appliances to make life easier. My food processor is my best friend. It is one of the few wedding gifts that I actually use (the others are a set of chopsticks and a misto). Cut the stems off the parsley, though, no need to be precise, just hack the bunch off under the leaves and throw it in the food processor. Pulse a few times to give it a rough chop and then add the rest of the vegetables. Pulse 10-15 times until everything is nice and uniformly chopped. Again, you can do this by hand.

For the dressing, combine the juice of one large lemon and 2 T. olive oil. Whisk well.

Pour the vegetable mixture into a large bowl and add the buckwheat. Stir until well incorporated. Pour the dressing over and stir again. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to develop the flavors, OR, if you're like me and have waited until the kids are absolutely dying of hunger to even start dinner...serve it immediately, it will still be super tasty.


Note, I probably won't ever give exact measurements on salt and pepper because tastes vary so much. I usually fall on the lightly salted end of the spectrum.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - April 18

This week is more of the same - GHLF (gym, homeschool, laundry, finals prep for The Husband). It is starting to get hot here in Southern Louisiana, so our tastes are shifting away from heavy casseroles and more towards fresh, cool meals.

Monday: Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce, garlic roasted broccoli, herbed baked brown rice

Tuesday: Kale, Sweet Potato and Feta Tart in a Spelt Crust (based on this recipe), field greens tossed with fig balsamic vinegar

Wednesday: Buckwheat Tabbouleh, homemade whole wheat pita and roasted red pepper hummus

Thursday: Slowcooker Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Sausage, tossed salad

Friday: Tequila Lime Flank Steak Fajitas, homemade pico de gallo and guacamole, corn tortillas, cumin and chipotle spiced black beans

Saturday: Chicken Korma , brown basmati rice

I hope everyone has a fantastic week. Make sure to head over to The Org Junkie for more menu plans!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brick by Brick

This house. I swear it would come crashing down in seconds if either Alex or I turned our heads for just a minute. The things that these kids think up just astounds me. Remember the old saying, your parents' greatest revenge is you having

Just a few seconds ago, I found C2 wedging  silverware that he had pilfered from the dishwasher (who the hell taught him to open that, anyhow?!) into the stem of the ficus tree and then scooping out the faux foliage around the base with a wooden spoon.

The list of house rules that I've had to start assembling just keeps getting longer and more outrageous. Boys are so gross and kid boys are even worse!

Want a little window into my reality?

Here are a few of the latest, most relevant house rules:

1. No peeing on your brother.
seems self explanatory, no?

amendment 1:
No peeing on your brother even if he peed on you first.
Ay. Have I mentioned that C1 is like, the best reasoner ever?He will totally follow in Alex's footsteps as a lawyer. I effin' hate it.

2. You can only touch your own wiener.
Why on earth....

3. Lotion does not belong on your wiener.
 Well....until you're at least 10.

Come on kids, work with me here.

5. Your brother's diaper is not a toy receptacle.
...words don't even begin to explain the odd things I've found in his diaper.

Also, I learned recently that age 4 must be the universal boy stink age. We used to be able to get away with missing a bath every now and then. Now? I'm tempted to give him multiple baths per day.

They are so freakin' lucky they are cute.

repost from Torts and Tarts.

Like Sands Through an Hourglass, These Are The Days of Our Lives

...Or something.

Surprise! I'm back!

Bringing you lots of new recipes and stories about being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother of two boys.
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