Friday, September 29, 2006

And the results are in...

Oh man, do I suck.

Today was my self imposed deadline to stick to a grocery budget. I gave myself a limit of $65 for groceries, plus $10 for things like shampoo and laundry detergent. So that was a total of $75, which still seems high to me. Here's how it breaks down:

$7.68 spent on laundry and shampoo
$55.62 spent on items on list

$63.32 total had I stuck to my list, which is actually $12 under budget.

However. I don't know that I really thought through on my list. I left off things that are staples to us like yogurt and cheese. And cereal. we must have cereal. regardless, the end result is that I spent an extra $34.72 this week on groceries- although $2.48 of that was for church supplies, so that doesn't count towards my grocery budget. Part of me can rationalize this by saying to myself that I am making pulled pork sandwiches this weekend for a roofing crew, so that does add extra. But the truth is that my willpower just wasn't there. I only hope I can manage when I really need it to count. Overall though, I did spend a lot less than normal. My total bill this week came to $98.04. And lately my weekly bill has been at or above $150, so that is much better in that scheme of things. Still needs work though. I really didn't NEED to add a box of granola bars and a box of fruit snacks to my cart.

In other news, Tummy Treasure posts may be a little sporadic over the next week or two. I am about to be a terrible Mom, but you just have to check out this picture I took last night.

This is my little boy wearing underpants for the first time. He is so proud of Thomas and Spongebob underwear, that he's running around in shirt, socks, and underpants. Today I feel like I have a puppy, because there's been many a wet spot on my carpeting. Hopefully that will change later today after a well-deserved trip to Toys R Us to pick out his very own potty. So as you can see, I am focusing my attention on potty training over the next week or so. I think I waited just long enough, because he's actually excited about it. Thank God for character underwear! So please send me good potty-training vibes... I may need them.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I love bread pudding. It doesn't get much simpler than that. One of the first things I itch to make when the weather turns is bread pudding. What I don't know, is why I love bread pudding so. I actually don't care so much for pudding itself, although my fondness for pudding cake is well-known around here as well. And to my recollection, my Mom never made bread pudding. So where it came from, I can't really tell you. The only memory I have of eating bread pudding is at restaurant buffets- which were seldomly attended growing up with four other siblings. But very few things stir my taste buds like bread pudding.

Earlier this week, I'd experimented with a whole grain white bread. I wasn't happy with it. So I had a loaf of bread just sitting around, and it called to me. It clearly said, "make bread pudding!" I didn't need to be told twice. With an over-abundance of eggs right now, bread pudding would utilize two things that were wasting away. And while I do have a bread pudding from Joy of Cooking that I adore, I thought I'd search out something a little different. Oh, did I find something. The second I saw the title, I knew I was making it. Caramel Bread Pudding did not disappoint. Incredibly easy to throw together, it was pure decadence. I relished every luxurious bite as slow as I possibly could. It really was spectacular. I served it up slightly warm with a tiny drizzle of milk. An instant hit, do check it out on Recipezaar. You won't be disappointed.

This morning as Abigail was looking over her lunch contents, I decided it was blog-worthy. She was so excited, and told me that she couldn't wait for lunch today. So fun that something simple could bring such delight from her. So here you see to the right some cheese cubes and ham on toothpicks. I also packed an orange that I cut, some yogurt covered pretzels, and a banana chocolate chip muffin that I made yesterday. On the very far right is one lonely Tootsie Roll for her sweet tooth. The banana muffin I found on Sweetnicks yesterday, and 10 minutes later I had a batch in the oven. They are very good, and Abigail ate two of them after school, so I knew one would be appreciated in her lunch. I am curious as to whether any of my readers have the laptop lunchbox system. Overall, I'm really pleased with it, but I am having a hard time with sandwiches. No matter how thin the bread is, I cannot manage to get a whole sandwich in here for Abigail. So I am giving her just a half a sandwich. Which is okay most days, but there are some sandwiches (like tuna) that she'd gobble up every scrap I gave her. Then again, maybe she only needs half a sandwich. As long as I fill all the containers with good food, maybe she'll thrive on the halvsies for awhile.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Learning to like Leftovers

I'm getting better. Of course, the creative part of me is almost (gasp!) enjoying leftovers. Not just as they are, of course, but completely reinvented in a completely new and exciting way. There was last weeks meatloaf turned into a really good soup. And last week's oven fried chicken turned into a hearty chicken stew later on. Even Andy's getting into the action by turning some leftover breaded pork chops into some of the best sandwiches he ever had. And we both feel good about not being so wasteful. What is interesting, is that I made up a meal list for the next two weeks. My basic formula right now is two nights of pasta, one night of soup, and one night of a sandwich. Everything else can change. This is helping keep cost way down. Pasta is pretty inexpensive. Soup I can make with leftovers, and sandwiches are quick, and can be used for lunches the next day as well. But my list is getting longer and longer as I move things further down the list to make way for a leftover reinvention. I keep meaning to make breakfast for dinner one of these nights, and it keeps getting pushed aside in favor of something else. Friday I am going grocery shopping for a few things, but my list should be quite small. Come back and see if I've stuck to my budget.

This past Sunday, I made one of Andy's favorite dinners, Sausage and Peppers. It was originally going to be a sandwich meal for company dinner. But then company canceled, so I decided to serve it over pasta. I used a Cooking Light recipe, which you can find on their website here. As usual though, there was plenty leftover, and I spent a day or two trying to figure out how to reinvent sausage and peppers. Then yesterday morning I was paging through the newest issue of Cooking Light and stumbled on a feature on hand pies. That was interesting. So I made up a batch of Savory Cornmeal-Whole Wheat Dough and turned the sausage and peppers into stuffed handpies. It worked very well. The dough was a little difficult to work with, but I suspect operator error, so I will give it a try another time. The kids ate them until they both encountered onions, and then set them aside. I need to do a better job of hiding those guys. I also turned one of the dough circles into a ham and cheese pie for Abigail's lunch, so we'll see if she eats it. Overall, they were quite good, and I anticipate using this hand-pie dough plenty of times to reinvent leftovers. One of these days I'll try the sweet dough too, but for now I'm very happy with the savory one.

On tap for tonight is another crock-pot full of country style ribs. The tricky part is apparently figuring out what's going to accompany. It's a good thing it's only 8:30 am and I have a few hours to figure that out. In the meantime, it looks like I have a rousing morning with trains planned for me. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fall Comfort

Okay. I give up. I am officially in fall mode. The time of the year when grill foods and salads make way for slow cooked comfort and fall flavors. Generally, I don't like fall. It's not fall itself that I don't like. I mean, who could not like all the fall colors and the return of soup and stew season. It's what fall signifies. Fall signifies that winter is on its way, and that's what I don't like. I really don't like winter.

One of the best things about fall is the fall harvest. Pumpkins and squash, cranberries, apples, and brussels sprouts. Pears, walnuts, and the last of the summery tomatoes. I've been trying to come up with the best way to combine two of my favorites- pumpkin and cranberry. I've tried to do so in pie, but so far I haven't been happy with the results. So I have turned my attention to another favorite, the quick bread. (I know- shocking, right.) We all know of my penchance for sweet and delicious quick breads. And this time of year, two of my favorites are pumpkin bread and cranberry nut bread. But why couldn't you combine the two? So I took a recipe for pumpkin bread, added some coarsely chopped fresh cranberries, and called it bread. The only thing missing was some nuts. I am out, and this bread certainly would have shone with the addition of some pecans. But otherwise, it was a very satisfying quick bread. This recipe makes two 9x5 loaves, so slice one fresh, and freeze the other for later.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

1 can (or 2 cups fresh) pumpkin puree
1 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray two 9x5x3 loaf pans with cooking spray, set aside.

Combine pumpkin, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs in a mixing bowl and mix well to combine. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and baking powder. Stir well with a whisk. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Gently fold in the cranberries and nuts. Divide batter between the two loaf pans.

Bake in a 350º oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on a rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the bread from the pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A visit from Miss Manners

I just stumbled on this post about Manners at Lex Culinaria, and I had to point it out. What's even more amazing than the fact that manners need to be pointed out, is the people who posted comments scolding her for such a post. Apparently those are the people to whom this post was directed, and they've taken offense for being called out for being disgusting.

I agree wholeheartedly with most of her list. I was raised to have table manners, and am raising my kids to do the same. Basics like chewing with your mouth open and lip smacking were not tolerated at my house. I remember my little brother Caleb having the hardest time complying with chewing with his mouth closed. SO my parents invented "green lips". That was when Glad first introduced their zipper seal bags that had a blue stripe and a yellow stripe, and the commercials stated that yellow and blue make green. Green lips was code that could be used among company if needed. Well, we've started the green lip treatment with Abigail, ans she's doing very well. They only thing she really struggles with is that she would rather eat most things with her fingers. But we're working on it. Nothing drives me batty more than a grown adult chewing with their mouth wide open and eating like they are starving. Blech. Then again, it also drives me batty that grown adults don't know how to hold a fork. Forks are not shovels. Hold them correctly. The list could go on, but I'll let you read her list at Lex Culinaria.

I do feel it necessary to add a few things to the manners list though.

1. Do not take a portion of food and then put half of it back on the serving platter. Ack! Start by taking a half portion if you must, but do not return food from your plate to the serving vessel. Yucky.

2. Please, don't clean off your children's plates by scarfing it down yourself. Honestly, I am not going to be offended if your kids leave food on their plates. But eating your full meal, and then proceeding to eat your children's is piggish. Have second helpings if you would like, but leave someone else's discarded food alone. Would you do that at a restaurant? Would you walk up to a random table and clean off a strangers plate? I don't think so. Stop it.

3. No discussions of bodily functions at the dinner table period. No potty training, no fiber discussions, nothing. Zip. Even if dinners been cleared away already. You're still at the table. That is no place to discuss Aunt Ethel's bowel movements.

4. The butter rule. The proper way to butter bread is to scoop up a portion of butter with your butter knife and put it on your plate. Then use that to butter your bread, rolls, whatever. Please don't put your gobby and goopy knife into my butter dish. That's just yucky. And when you see, on occasion, an actual knife with the butter, use that to scoop butter onto your plate, and then put the other knife back with the butter. And for God's sake, don't use your finger to wipe the butter knife clean.

5. If you don't like a component of the dish I've created, quietly separate it and leave it on your plate. Don't go on about how you don't like xyz and why you don't like xyz and then apologize for not liking xyz. A quiet removal of the xyz component will do, thank you. And maybe next time I will remember that you don't care so much for xyz and leave it out. Otherwise, you will just annoy me, and I may leave it in again just to be snarky. Plus, it's setting a poor example for my children who are sitting at the same table with you, and are learning to like new foods. Don't send them several steps backwards on the trying new foods lesson please.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blogging By Mail!

Today was my lucky day! Today, the mail-lady placed an unexpected package on my doorstep. And when I looked at the return address, all I could do was chuckle. Jennifer from All Things Jennifer was the lucky girl who got to put my package together. And of all places, Jennifer hails from the lovely city of Buffalo, NY. My dear husband is a Buffalo native, so I was rather excited to recieve this package. I had my hopes upon opening it... and I was not to be disappointed.

This is a box of love from Buffalo. And Jennifer will be thrilled to know that it all made it intact. Here we have a large bottle of the best BBQ marinade on the planet. Chiavetta's marinade. If you can ever get your hands on a bottle of this vinegar and spice based marinade- do so. It is wonderful. How did Jennifer know that just the other day I was using up some of our very last... this truly made my heart sing (and my stomach, despite the early morning hour). Next to that we have something completely new to me. Cronfelt's Loganberry flavored beverage syrup. I can't wait to add this to some soda to make homemade soda for the kids. It also suggests using as a syrup for ice cream. Can we say milkshakes all around? Very cool, and I can't wait to share it with the kids.

Next, I know Jennifer has been reading my blog and knows how much I ADORE Anchor Bar chicken wings. Because she included a bottle of the original chicken wing sauce (in mild- thank you so much!). That is not available anywhere around here, and just a few weeks ago I was thinking that I needed a chicken wing fix. I am now adding chicken wings to next week's grocery list. And lastly in the back row, is a bottle of the best spicy mustard around. Weber's horseradish mustard makes a plain sandwich sing. I personally like to add it to recipes that call for dijon mustard- it adds an extra snap from the horseradish. Mmmm. And then, last (but certainly not least) we have two treasures from Fowler's Chocolates. One is a "Truffalo Bar" which is puremilk chocolate with a fresh cream truffle center. And here is my confession. It was delicious. :-) The kids had gathered around me to open this package, and were so disappointed that the contents were not for them... that I had to crack open this chocolate bar and share. So I did. And we all sat together on the floor and savored the creamy melty chocolate. Wonderful. The other chocolate treats I am hiding in the fridge for me for later. It's a little "chicken wing" set molded out of milk chocolate. Too fun, and I'm sure will hit the spot when needed for a chocolate fix.

A big thank you goes to Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness for putting together the Blogging By Mail event. It was so much fun to put a package together and send it on. But I daresay it was equally fun to find a package on my doorstep. And in the process, I got to "meet" two bloggers that I've never known before. If you're curious about the package I sent, you can check that out at Mekuno Cooking. While I am sure that Stephanie stuck to her plan of randomizing how the bloggers were matched up, I find it fun that I sent a pacakge to the same town my brother-in-law lives. And received a package from the area my husband's family lives. Too fun.

And thank you so much to Jennifer. The treasures were so thoughtfully put together, and I'm looking forward to enjoying each one.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crispy, Crunchy, Completely Satisfying

Last night's dinner was a special request by Abigail. She requested "crispy chicken, like we get at the store." And I recalled that the last time we had "crispy chicken" she ate two pieces. So crispy chicken it was... but how to make it. My usual favorite crispy chicken is a Cooking Light recipe for a Honey-Pecan chicken. But I am out of pecans. My next favorite is an Oven Fried Chicken which is dredged in a flour/spice blend. But I am out of onion powder- a key ingredient. So I came up with my own, and it was really good, and extra crunchy. The only change I would make next time would be to give the chicken some time to marinate in buttermilk first to add some flavor to the chicken, because the coating was very good.

I didn't measure though, so if I had to make a guess, this is what I used.

1 cup cornflake crumbs- very fine
1 cup Panko
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp seasoned pepper (I used Penzey's California Blend)
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp Parisien Bonnes Herbes (another Penzey's blend)

I Combined all those in one bowl. Next I cracked two eggs into a bowl, added about 1/4 cup of water, salt and pepper, and beat those together. And finally, I added a scoop of flour to a third bowl with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. I had 10 pieces of chicken (legs and thighs) at the ready. Oven on to 375, and a baking sheet nearby, sprayed with cooking spray.

I lined up the bowls, left to right, flour, egg, crumbs. Then each piece of chicken went down the line. First in the flour, then the egg, and finally into the crumbs. I coated well at each step, and placed them on the baking sheet. I gave the entire pan a good spray with cooking spray, and into the oven they went. 45 minutes later we had extra crispy chicken, and it was perfect. A simple accompaniment was some smashed pumpkin that I'd processed earlier, and yesterday's leftover salad. Delicious and economical to boot.


Will the food snobs look away please? :-)

This past Sunday for company dinner, we had Indian food again. Well, we certainly didn't expect the kids to eat Indian food. And we certainly didn't want 5 young children getting angry about wierd food again, so I whipped together what I guess you'd call a casserole. GASP! Did she just say casserole? Lol. Yes I did. I really don't care for casseroles. I would eat them if prepared for me, don't get me wrong there. And I find most of them delicious at the time. But in theory, I really don't like casseroles. And part of that is because most casseroles include a can of soup. And I try really hard to avoid "cream of" soups and such.

Which is why Sunday's kid dinner is a travesty.

But it really was good. So good, in fact, that I saved the leftovers, of which there were plenty, and reheated them in a crock pot for last nights dinner.

I started with one pound of rotini, cooked to al dente. And two packages of California Blend Vegetables, plunged in boiling water for about 5 minutes. And about 3 cups of cubed, already cooked ham. I threw all those things in a bowl. Then I opened one can of Campbell's cheese soup and put it in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of milk and one block of Veleveeta. I stirred and melted those together until creamy and added a pinch of black pepper. Then I tossed the sauce with the veggie mixture and piled it all in a 9x13 pan. I popped it in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, and it was wonderful. The cheese sauce was perfectly creamy, without that plastic texture that you tend to get when using processed cheese. Yet without the grainy texture you get when using real cheese.

Economical and delicious, the kids all gobbled it up ( mine again last night) and what is so scary about it, is that it tastes a lot like our favorite restaurants mac-n-cheese that we all drool over. Just a little more tweaking, and I think I've stumbled on their secret recipe.

A quick pass through the salad bar last night, a loaf of homemade bread, and we had a great dinner. And once again, that salad bar is making me think. I spent $5.00 last night on a large tub of lettuce and veggie salad for my family. Now had I bought lettuce and all the individual components, I would have probably spent close to $15 for everything I put in the salad. Then we'd be stuck with little bits of this and that to use up and we'd get sick of salad. As it is, the tub last night has plenty left in it for tonight's dinner. So two dinner salads for $5.00? That salad bar is a bargain, and will certainly be kept in mind.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reinventing the Wheel

Well, yesterday was a rousing success. Our drive to the farmstand resulted in a bounty of produce. There are now about 20# of carrots sliced and processed in the freezer. That went much quicker than I expected, plus I got to use my crinkle slicer. You know, one of those gadgets from Pampered Chef that sits around and hardly ever gets used. Well, it got abused yesterday, so that was great. I also chopped and froze about 6 pounds of onions for soups and stews, as well as some jumbo bell peppers. I use frozen bell peppers for chili mostly. On my counter yet I have 4 pie pumpkins and several acorn squash to bake first then freeze. I'm thinking that we may stop again on our way to dance tonight, because the pie pumpkins are 2 for $1.00, and I can get 3 pies out of two pumpkins, so that's a huge financial savings there. We'll see how the rest of today goes though first. I want to make sure that I can get to the pumpkins while they are at their sweetest, and I don't know that I'll have a chance today.

So last night I totally reinvented the night before's dinner. It was a fairly cold and blustery day, and that warranted a pot of soup. I kept thinking about those 4 little meatloaves in the fridge, and thought they'd make a wonderful addition to a cheeseburger soup. A quick perusal through my fridge also found leftover corn, a few mushrooms that needed to be used, one lonely baked potato, and some baby carrots that were on their last legs. Sweet! The golden moment was the little nub of Velveeta from Sunday- nothing works for cheeseburger soup like Velveeta.

So I chopped up my mirepoix and got that sweating while I chopped up a few other ingredients to add in. The little meatloaves I just used my fingers to crumble up before tossing in- sauce and all. That worked so well. Usually when I make cheeseburger soup, I just use browned ground beef, and as that cooks, it separates. By using the meatloaves, we got these awesome chunks of beef throughout the soup. I baked up a batch of homemade biscuits to accompany, and we had a great supper that no one would have been able to identify as yesterday's dinner. And the best part? The kids gobbled it up. I had to pick the mushrooms out of their bowls of soup, but they both went to town on that bowl of soup. Big victory for Mommy, since they are not huge soup eaters. Hopefully they are getting over that as we head into soup season.

This was so good that I am writing down on my meatloaf recipe to make sure I have enough to make this soup the next day. It will kind of be a one-two punch thing. Knock out two dinners at once, since the soup really was effortless. Of course, so were the mini meatloaves. You can find the recipe here for Cheeseburger Soup, Erika's leftover version. Tonight we are taking a break from our weekly crock pot creation as I use the crockpot to reheat a meal from Sunday's company dinner. I'll share that super simple, and admittedly, somewhat embarassing recipe tomorrow.

So today I'm adding a question. What are your favorite one-two dinners? Another favorite of mine is ham one night, au gratin potatoes the next, and ham and bean soup later in the week. But what do you make knowing there will be leftovers? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A favorite go-to dinner

In my need to unload earlier, I forgot to share yesterday's dinner experience. Dinner last night was one of my favorite go-to recipes, Mini Cheddar Meatloaves. I'm not 100% sure where this recipe originate from, but I'm fairly certain it was a Taste Of Home magazine. Cooking Light also has a similar meatloaf, but the TOH one is better. So I was putting the little meatloaves in the pan when Abigail popped her head in. "Mommy, is there anything I can help with?" Well, how could I say no to that. So I let her make the sauce to go on top of the meatloaves. I gave her the bowl and whisk, and I tossed in ketchup, two mustards, brown sugar, and worcestershire sauce. I got a "yuck" about the mustard, a "can I taste?" from the sugar, and a "boy Mommy, that sure smells good" from the worcestershire. And then she shocked me by asking if she could taste the sauce. So she did and proclaimed it good.

I showed her how to gently spoon the sauce over one of the meatloaves, and in walks Zander. Actually, he kinda ran once he saw Abigail was helping cook. "Me too! Me too! I want to help!" Hmmm... I had to think quickly. There really wasn't anything else to help with. So I pulled two cans of corn out of the cupboard and removed the lids. Zander's job was to pour the corn into the saucepan. Simple, but he was thrilled to help, and puffed up with pride when I told Daddy that Zander made the corn. It was great having their help last night. Once dinner was in the oven cooking away, they wanted to help further, so I set them to the task of emptying the dryer. Lol. Abigail literally was crawling in to get the laundry at the back, and then handing the clothes to Zander to put in the basket. (Photo to be inserted later, apparantly)

Dinner was wonderful. Made even better by the little hands that prepared it. And to take it one step further, last night's leftovers are being completely reinvented for dinner tonight. Come back tomorrow for that discussion.

Good thing for the grocery game


As it turns out, my attempts at the grocery game are going to get a work out. Yesterday Andy was informed that he only has a few weeks of work left for the year before being laid off for awhile. He's got about 3 weeks of work, maybe 4 if he stretches it. And they're not sure when they'll be calling guys back. That's scary. Very scary. It's only September. We had anticipated some time off, but we were expecting that work would run through about Christmas, and then maybe he'd have off in Jan/Feb. Not October through whenever.

I'm trying really hard not to panic. He is eligible for unemployment compensation. But when I sat down yesterday and figured out the bare bones we needed, unemployment does not cover our monthly expenses- and I didn't even figure in a grocery budget. So the hard facts are that Andy is going to need to find a job. Hopefully a temporary job, because he really does love his current job. I've figured out the minimum he is going to have to make, and so starting tonight, he is going to put out the feelers. And considering that last year at this time, he was actually let go, things could be much worse, and I am much calmer this time around, because things will work out, but in the mean time...

It's really difficult for me to not run out and do a massive grocery shop to make sure that we are well stocked. Instead yesterday I paid a couple of bills and basically prayed. He has 4 (5 at the most) paychecks left so I need to make them stretch, but I also need to keep the bills paid. The most frustrating part for us, is that for the first time in our married life, we have our money under control. We pay our bills on time, we don't have creditors calling us and being annoying, and we were actually beginning to look at buying a house as early as next summer. This is going to be a test for us, and I think for the first time in a long time, I am feeling flexible. I want Andy to put a resume on Monster this time and see what happens. I always wanted to stay here, but I think I am at the point where I am tired of having his job on the line because of weather. A rain day here and there is tolerable- but several months because of cold is just out of line. You can't live on that, and if he can find a much better job elsewhere, so be it. (And I am talking about MUCH BETTER to get me to move, but still...)

So I don't know what this means for Tummy Treasure. Everything changed yesterday. For one thing, we instantly became leftover people. Our freezer is also going to get a workout. Today, for example, Zander and I are going to the farmstand for a visit. I've been meaning to get out there and pick up some veggies to process while they are super cheap. Nothing like a swift shove to get that going. I mean, I can go buy 50 pounds of carrots for $5.00, so I'll need to go through the steps of blanching and cooling to freeze them, but that will be one less thing we need to buy in the future. So maybe I'll be posting more "leftover solutions" and tips on how to stretch a meager grocery budget. And who knows, maybe we'll be planning for nothing, but hey, we're going to be prepared this time.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Busy Busy weekend

I'm glad it's Monday today. It means I get to relax and spend time with Zander- and do laundry of course. Our busy weekend actually started on Thursday. I started not feeling well with a cold. Lots of sneezing and runny nose stuff. I took a Claritin in case it was an allergy thing. That didn't help. So I took an Actifed- which usually works for me, and that didn't help either. So Thursday night I crawled into bed a little early to try and sleep it off. I kid you not, I was literally up all night. Literally. I finally was able to get my sinuses to settle downe just before Andy's alarm went off and woke me right up. I sort of was able to doze then until we had to get up and take Abigail to school. Surprisingly though, other than being all snarfly, I felt awake and alert, which was a good thing since Zander and I had shopping to do. So we headed out. Our first stop was to look for something I could take for this sneezing. After much deliberation, I settled on some Benadryl, took it and we continued on our way. As I mentioned previously, we were shopping for my swap buddy, and despite being drippy, I was having a great time.

Then we moved on. Andy and some of the guys from church were hosting a free breakfast at the church Saturday. It was the day of our organized City-Wide rummage sale, and they thought that would be a fun way to be a part of it. So I had to pick up everything they were going to need. And as Zander and I were meandering through Sam's Club, piling our cart full, all the sudden the Benadryl and lack of sleep caught up with me. Seriously, it was a little scary, I told Andy, I almost felt drunk, I was weaving and spacing and tired. So e left right away. We checked out and headed to the van. Putting everything in the van helped revive me a little, as did the Mountain Dew that I literally chugged. We drove home and were back home by 11:00 am. And I spent the rest of the day in a fog, just waiting for bedtime. The bright spot was that the Benedryl was working, the unbright spot was that I was so freakingly tired, and I had stuff to do.

Then comes Saturday. Amazing what a night of sleep does. Andy was up and out the door by 5:00 am to get ready for his breakfast. The rest of us were up by 6:00 because we had decided to hold a rummage sale ourselves. It was time to clear out the baby stuff and baby clothes. So I spent the morning collecting quarters from shoppers, and Andy spent the morning flipping pancakes and getting a visit from the county health inspector. (Which he passed nicely, btw.) And of course, Andy started not feeling so well himself. Then yesterday was our Sunday night group, and after a few days of go go go , I did not want to cook. Thank God for friends. My friend Elizabeth took over the dinner duties and made a fabulous Chicken Tikka Masala. She also stopped at the Indian retauraunt and picked up some Vegetable Pakoras, Naan, and a handful of sauces. Oh my it was all so good. Two weeks in a row of fantastic Indian food, and we are hooked. What a wonderful cuisine! Oh my, that naan used to sop up sauce and juices... oh gosh it was so good. So thank you Elizabeth! It was both very welcome and wonderful.

And finally, I feel I need to put this little tidbit out there. Our church just kicked off a new 40 Days Of Purpose Campaign, and for my part, I thought I'd keep track of my daily journaling online. So if that interests anyone... you can check that out at Purpose Driven In Seymour. And that's the only time I'll mention this on this blog, and this is the only link for it, so bookmark it if you want to keep up to date.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Be Still My Heart

This morning took Zander and I to the great city of Appleton. We had to do some shopping for Andy, as well as fill a goody box for my Blogging By Mail partner. I had so much fun picking out a few goodies to include with my homemade goodies. I managed to get it out in the mail too, so watch for it Swap Buddy!

And while the shopping for random bits of goodness was fun, there was one particular moment that was exhilirating. Yes, I said exhilirating. After pulling out of World Market's parking lot, we rounded the building, and lo and behold, what caught my eye, but this:

AHHHHHHH!!!! Marshall Field's has officially become Macy's here in Appleton! If I hadn't been feeling all woozy from some Benedryl, Zander and I would have stopped instantly. I love Macy's. My heart starts beating faster just thinking about walking in there. And even though I've been in that building several times before when it was Marshall Fields, and Daytons before that, there will be something special about going to Macy's. One step into the store and it will be like a welcome home to me. Now I'm trying to plan a Mom's day out where I can just go and spend a few hours by myself. It may be awhile...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ah that's better

This looks much cleaner. I think I like it. Please let me know if something doesn't look right, or doesn't work for you. I've put the Subscription Bar back into the sidebar- I just couldn't get it to look right in the footer- but other than that, everything should work fine. Look for a newly revised blogroll later on.


Well. I guess I didn't Build A Better Burger. For anyone interested, you can view the finalists list here at the Build A Better Burger Blog. I submitted two recipes this year. And one I thought needed further tweaking, but the second one was really good. So I would like to think that I made a technical error with my submission- they are very particular about their recipes. Especially when I look at the list, and for my region, the finalist is a Honey-Chipotle Beef burger. I'm sure it's good, and I may make it myself sometime, but chipotle is hardly new and innovative. *sigh* I guess we'll unpack our bags. I was really looking forward to that trip to Napa. ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Something tonight came out of the crock pot that tasted pretty good. This morning I was scrambling trying to decide what to throw in the crockpot, when I remembered a package of frozen BBQ ribs from a few weeks back. Perfect. No fuss, no muss, and the kids will love it. But we can't just come home from dance and eat ribs. There must be vegetables and good stuff. I thought about making up some veggies to toss in the micro for a few minutes to warm when it occurred to me- I have more than one crock-pot. So I glanced through the few crock-pot books I have and saw a recipe for stuffed acorn squash. Perfect! I tossed the book aside and came up with my own recipe.

I used two squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out. Then I took one Paula Red apple and diced it up, and added a handful of craisins, a handful of pecans, a pinch of brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon and mixed it all up. I placed the fruit and nut concoction into the hollowed out squash halves and placed them in my crock-pot. They fit perfectly. I poured about 1/4 cup of apple juice into the pot around the squash, and then topped each squash half with a dollop of butter. 3 hours later we had perfectly cooked stuffed squash. And it didn't taste like it came out of a crockpot. I will be making this one again in the future.

400 Posts!

Yikes! I had no idea that my last post was a monumental post. Yesterday I hit the 400th post milestone. wow. That's a lot of thoughts floating out there on the internet.

Unfortunately, today I don't really have the time to get all poetic about it and share something profound. Right now Zander has a playmate over, so I'm a busy beaver today. We are also getting ready for dance tonight, so it's a crazy day. What I did want to share though was that I did finally get an opportunity to update the cheese blog. Check out the link over on the sidebar if you're looking for something to read through, it was a pretty good cheese.

I'm also making a few changes (yet again) to the overall look of my blog. Feel free to share any thoughts. And just in case you're looking for it, the subscription form has moved to the bottom of the page, so scroll all the way down to see it and subscribe. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Running Amuck

Today was yet another dreary drizzly day out. The perfect day for something comforting. After dropping off Abigail at school this morning, I decided that today was a day for pie. Specifically, a Cherry-Red Raspberry pie that I saw on Food Network last week. It won best in show at a recent competition, and just sounded too good to pass up. So wandering around the grocery store I picked up two cans of cherries in juice and a package of frozen raspberries. What else could I need? So I took these things home and looked at the recipe. Looked okay. So I proceeded with the recipe. Oops. First error- the pie called for sour cherries and I had these big beautiful bing cherries. Oh well, they're gorgeous anyway. One step calls for draining the thawing raspberries and using the juice. Well, these rasberries were individually frozen, and yielded about a tablespoon of juice- that can't possibly be enough. So I quickly glanced through the recipe thinking that maybe I could press the berries through a sieve. I didn't see the berries used anywhere else. So I dumped them in a sieve and started pressing them through. I got just over 3/4 of a cup of puree and juice when reading through the directions I found "gently fold in rasberries." Oops. I just looked at the mound of seeds sitting in my sieve and shook my head.

So I continued with the recipe, except that I added 3 small apples- knowing full well that my two cans of plump juicy cherries were not enough to fill my pie. And the end result? It was a fantastic rasberry/apple/cherry pie. Very good- maybe a tad on the sweet side, but overall I am thrilled. I've only ever made cherry pie with pre-made filling before- so I'm looking forward to more experimentation. I will eventually get around to making the pie as written. And if you're interested, you can check out the link here for Cherry Red Raspberry Pie.

For dinner tonight, I also tried something new. I used Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub on some baked chicken. It was phenomenal. Seriously good eating. Andy and I both love watching his show on FoodTV, but I've yet to make anything of his. So I turned to one of my more recent cookbook acquisitions, At Home With Michael Chiarello, and we were not disapppointed. He says this rub can really be used for anything, and today we used it for baked chicken, but I think it would be equally excellent with pork. If yo udo make it, don't be worried to use a heavy hand when seasoning. I worried that I would use too much, and I really could have used about twice as much for the chicken. After it was seasoned, I gave the chicken a shot of lemon juice before baking at 400º for about 45 minutes. Here is his recipe for fennel spice rub. Make sure you let the seeds cool before grinding or they will turn to mush.

Fennel Spice Rub

1 cup fennel seeds
3 Tablespoons coriander seeds
2 Tablespoons white peppercorns
3 Tablespoons sea salt (preferrably grey) ** I tend to agree, grey salt is a great splurge.

In a saucepan over med-low heat, toast the fennel, coriander, and peppercorns. Toss them frequently, and toast until golden brown and fragrant. Pour onto a plate to cool completely.

Combine toasted seeds with sea salt in a blender and grind. If making a half recipe, you can use a spice grinder. When using the blender, make sure to pause and shake the jar a few times to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Fennel spice rub will keep for about 6 months tightly sealed in a spice jar. (But I bet it won't last that long)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum

So last night for Sunday Company Dinner, we took a tour of India. Now other than one awesome stew, and one awesome shrimp dish, I can't say that I've ever made real authentic Indian food. So last night was all new to me. I had been planning this Indian venture for weeks, and it seemed like the closer I got, the more menu items got axed. I realized my time was limited, and finally settled on two particular recipes. Butter Chicken and Vegetable Biryani. In addition, I purchased some Naan and was planning on making plain Basmati rice, as well as the usual accompaniments, raita and chutney.

I started with the Butter Chicken. I have the recipe in my Recipe Trove, but you simply must check out the original source of my recipe at Always In The Kitchen. Ever since I saw Dawna's post about it, I had to make this chicken. I was definitely not disappointed. The end result was creamy and spicy and had a fantastic flavor. It was awesome with some rice to soak up the sauce and a raita sprinkled with cilantro. Loved it. Everyone couldn't stop eating it, it was so good. The recipe looks a little daunting, but it's really not. If you utilize a mise en place strategy here, it will come out a little quicker than you thought possible. The only change I would make if I made this again would be to use bone-in chicken, skins removed. I think that would add a fantastic depth of flavor to the dish. I already used a combination of breasts and thighs, but I think using bone-in would have made this dish. Do try it, it will be well worth your time.

Next up was the Vegetable Biryani. Biryani is a rice dish that is layered with spiced and simply cooked vegetables. I used a Martha Stewart recipe that a fellow CLBBer generously typed up and shared. Again, the recipe looks daunting, but is actually fairly easy to put together. There could easily be shortcuts taken by using frozen veggies instead of fresh here. And this was my first experience with saffron and cardamom. I wasn't going to use saffron, as I never got to Penzey's to pick some up, but one of our dinner guests generously offered me some that she had. And I am so grateful to her for sharing- I truly think the saffron is what made the dish. You could definitely detect the floral notes mixed in with the vegetables and spices. It was wonderful. The picture here to the left is saffron- vibrant red threads of goodness. As to the cardamom... I had whole cardamom and the recipe called for ground. So I converted my coffee grinder into a spice grinder at the last minute. Each pod had to be split and the tiny seeds taken out. This was a new flavor for me to work with. It's smelled slightly lemony- a lot like lemongrass actually. It will be interesting to use this further. Here is it's picture to the right. This is the whole spice- the pod (as far as I know) isn't ever used. It's the tiny seeds inside that are prized for it's flavor and aroma. I have always been slightly afraid of cardamom, as I never actually knew what it tasted like. Like the saffron, it definitely added to the Vegetable Biryani, and I imagine it would have tasted flat without it.

So overall, the Indian dinner was fantastic. I'm debating doing it again for next week's dinner. Although with totally different recipes. I still want to try to do samosas and some koftas, so we'll see what next weekend brings. In fact, this dinner was so good, that I'm wholeheartedly looking forward to lunch today, and Andy and I are actually going to have leftover night on Wednesday instead of a crock pot creation. We're both looking forward to it, and will be eating more Indian food in the future I think. Especially given the fact that today my house still smells incredible. I walk into the kitchen and it's like Oh my, that still smells awesome.

And last, but not least today. Happy Anniversary to my love. Today Andy and I have been married for 7 years. It's been 7 wonderful years with many adventures shared. Tonight we are celebrating our wedded bliss by hosting the Monday Night Football crew. (Yes, I know, I am an awesome wife!) I will be making some Buffalo chicken wing dip for dear hubby and his pals. And then I'll be retiring to the bedroom to spend the evening reading or watching something on TV. It will be an exciting evening, I tell you. Happy Anniversary Honey!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Great Weekend

Yesterday we took the day and drove back down near the city of Milwaukee. The occasion this weekend was a family reunion with my Grampas family. The last time the whole family was together was 10 years ago, so this was a weekend not to miss. It was especially important to me, as Grampa and Gramma are my only grandparents. After saying goodbye to Grandma earlier this year, it made it even more important to me to get to this reunion. And then in the last few weeks we've had cancer make an appearance with my Grampa. He's doing well, and the doctor is confident that it is gone, but all the same... I really wanted to give my Grampa a hug and tell him that I loved him. :-) And the whole trip was worth it specifically for that sole opportunity. So it was very nice to see them. It was truly wonderful to see family, and this was one of those opportunities where I wished we could have spent the whole weekend. Here to the right is a "family tree" of sorts. Abigail and Zander are here in the tree with MY cousins, if you can believe that. Here we have my cousins Cole, Brittany, McKenna and Sarah. The kids all had a blast playing together and enjoying the outdoors- brisk as it was yesterday. My kids fell asleep about 10 minutes after hitting the van, they were so tired.

For the reunion I brought along a salad and a dessert. The dessert was awesome, and was one shared with me by my online pal Val. Caramel Frosted Chocolate Chip Zucchini Sheet Cake is incredible. It is exteremely fast to throw together, and tastes fantastic. Plus there are 2 cups of zucchini inside, so if you close your eyes, you can pretend that you are eating something healthy and good for you. The Broccoli Tortellini Salad was one that I found on my Mastercoook program. Sometimes I forget that there are tons of recipes on there that I didn't put in, that there are cookbooks that came with the program. This was from the Vegetarian cookbook, and was really pretty good. And it looked nice. I love tortellini salad, but usually I make it with pesto. This one uses bottled marinara, and had a very nice fresh flavor. I did add sliced black olives, but otherwise I stuck with the recipe as it was. The only change I would make would be to use more fresh basil next time. Other than that, it's a keeper, and a nice change.

Well, that's it for tonight I think. We had our Sunday Company Dinner tonight and had a fantastic Indian meal, but I think I will save that for tomorrow, it deserves a post all on it's own.

Friday, September 8, 2006


Just a quick post to say that tonight there will not, in fact, be a new cheese post. I had to go do my weekly gorcery shopping, and the hubby and I thought that we would all go out for a casual dinner tonight. We were on our way to Buffalo Wild Wings when we decided to try a new place- Hudson's Grill. We should not have done that. We walked in and the place looked fun. Classic memorabilia, pieces of cars, etc. Zander thought it was cool. The kids ordered milkshakes, and those were quite good. So we eagerly awaited our orders. The kids ordered Macaroni and Cheese, which according to the menu, was a "Cheese sauce topped pasta served with a breadstick". Andy ordered a bacon burger and I ordered a chili-cheese steak burger. Ah, our order is up.

The kids dinner comes out in these really cute cardboard car carriers, and prospects are looking good. And then I look. Easy-Mac. No lie. It was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with a funky looking breadstick-thingy. For $4.49 a piece- and that didn't include their milkshakes. My kids don't even like Kraft macaroni and cheese. If we have mac-n-cheese it either needs to be shells-n-cheese or Annie's brand. Then I see my plate... I thought I ordered a burger... instead I got this humungous puddle of chili and cheese goo- with some lovely white onions on top. Oh wait, further exploration reveals there is indeed a patty under there, and even further, a bun. Apparantly this thing is an open faced sandwich- and the menu clearly did not state it as such. And since I ordered fries to go with it, they plunked down a huge family size basket of obviously frozen crinkle fries. Andy's burger was way overdone. Mine...well, the patty itself wasn't bad. But the chili and cheese was not the best. It was okay for what it was, and probably would have been okay if a few tablespoons had been placed on a burger with a bun. But this...

Anyway. Consider this fair warning. Stay Away From Hudson's Grill. They will be getting an angry letter from me- if for no other reason than the fact that they served Kraft Macaroni and Cheese when the menu promised something so much more. Now Andy and I are going to go nurse our matching heartburn and gut-rot. What a waste of a dinner out.

Weeknight Savior: The Salad Bar

The grocery game has been paying off. I am spending a lot less on my regular weekly grocery trips when I take into account what I have on hand, and what I purchase in bulk. Overall I am spending less, and with those savings yesterday, I was able to purchase a very nice bedding set for our bedroom. I've long been neglecting our room, and it's exciting to finally get the opportunity to add something to it. I'm not done with it yet, but it's starting to look more comfy, relaxing, and chic. Versus the newly married look we had going on. Here's a little peek so far. Up next I think I am going to look at adding a pair of matching side tables and some lamps. There are so many times that Andy is ready to crawl into bed, and I'd like to stay up reading or something, and the lamp is on his side of the bed. So I never get the opportunity to read in bed. It's so nice to finally see the room start to take shape. It's also going to need an area rug and some window treatments, so we'll see how long it actually takes me to complete the room. Could be a while.

So with all the running around we did yesterday, I was really tempted to call in for pizza or take-out. But I knew that would blow a bit of my grocery budget, not to mention, it's not exactly the healthiest alternative. So, bearing a craving for Asian flavors, we headed to the grocery store. Wandering through the meat department, I found large boneless pork loins buy one get one free with my savings card. Score! One of those roasts alone could be three meals for us. So I added two to my cart, and started to think about what I could do with pork quickly, as time was a factor last night. A quick wander through the deli, and inspiration struck. A salad bar! I was quite excited when a quick perusal found carrots, onions, tri-color peppers, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and baby corn. All ingredients for a stir fry. So I loaded up a box with what I needed and headed off to the Asian aisle for a quick stir fry sauce. I settled on a preservative and MSG free Sesame Teriyaki and we headed for home, since I already have plenty of basmati rice in my pantry at home.

A short 2o minutes later, I had dinner on the table, as well as 3 family sized pork roasts wrapped up and in the freezer. And the total cost for dinner? Let's do some math shall we? I had rice on hand. A scant portion of pork, we'll say it was about $3.00 worth. Add to that one bottle of sauce at $2.19 and the veggies prepped for me at $4.67. That is less than $10.00 to feed a family of four, plus myself for lunch today. Had I bought each individual vegetable, I would have spent at least twice that, plus I would have all these extra veggies on hand that need to be used before spoiling. And I usually make my own stir fry sauce, but this sauce was so good, and it also didn't have all the "bad stuff" in it, that I will eagerly purchase it again. The next time I have a hankering for a stir fry, we will head to the salad bar again.

Tonight be sure and check out the Cheese blog. Sorely in need of an update, I sent Andy off to the cheese shop yesterday, and tonight we are going to feast on some of our favorite Irish cheeses, as well as a stunning new Welsh cheese, so be sure and check that out sometime this weekend. Tomorrow we're off to the reunion. I am taking a Broccoli Tortellini Salad, and a Caramel Frosted Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake. I will try to remember to take pictures so I can share reviews. They are both new to me, but look great for the weekend.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Not much to tell

It's been a busy week here, and I'm sorry to say, there hasn't been much to post about. Yesterday was crock-pot creation day, and while I did think the Chicken stew I made was pretty good, by the end of the meal it tasted like just another crockpot dish. I hate to think that Wednesday is going to become more of a take-out night, but so far, I am unimpressed with my crock pot dinners. They just all end up tasting the same. So I guess it is just going to take more experimenting. I think that next week I may pull out my Nesco roaster instead and roast a chicken with some veggies... at least that would eliminate that off taste from the crock pot.

Today I did send Abigail to school with a fun lunch. I picked up some crescent rolls and some natural hot dogs made locally, and made some pigs in a blanket. She told me her lunch was silly, but she did a great job on it. You can see the lunch to the left here. A croissant dog, pickles, mixed fruit, cookies, and ketchup in the small blue container. She was a little wierded out by the hot dog being cold, I think. But she did say that I could make this again for her sometime. The only problem we are having with her right now is breakfast. But she's never been a big breakfast eater. (Gee Mom, who does that sound like?) She does have a snack/milk time in the morning at school, and she is allowed to bring in a healthy snack. So far all she wants to take for that is carrot sticks. So she has a carton of milk and a handful of carrot snacks around 10:00, and lunch at 11:15, so I guess I can let a bit of light breakfast eating go on.

That's really all today. We have a busy weekend ahead, so I don't know how much posting I'll get in. We have a family gathering on Saturday with my Grampa, a company dinner on Sunday where I am preparing authentic Indian food, and then Monday is the premiere of Monday Night Football. And I promised Andy his Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip, so the kitchen will be cranking out a couple of things over the next several days. I'll try and take a few minutes here and there to post them.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Back to School Vent

Talk about the most unfair thing to a 6 year old girl.

Abigail loves school. She was looking forward to 1st grade the day she got done with kindergarten. And then all summer we heard about her best friend Irissa, and how much Abigail missed her. And Then Abigail was REALLY looking forward to school when we found out Irissa was going to be in her class this fall. She was also excited about 2 other girls she knew- and oddly, there were only going to be 3 kids in her new class that Abigail knew. Well, today she gets to school and she knows no one. Irissa and the other two were moved to a different class. And Abigail has to start all over and make all new friends- which is great, and she'll make them easily. But everyone else in class has several classmates from kindergarten that they know. How unfair is that. You would think that from a kindergarten class of 25, plus the other 7 or 8 kids her age she considers a friend, that one of them would be in her class. Grrr. I'm an angry Mommy this afternoon.

ETA- on the plus side, lunch was a grand success. She ate quite well and didn't have any problems with the lunchbox. We had a minor leaky problem- but I didn't cover the orange slices, so the juice leaked out a bit and got the stickers. I'll know to cover them in the future.

And here we are.


Well, she's off. We got to school today, and it was a little confusing. We never really got clear directions on where Abigail should go today, so we waited a little while and just watched the other kids to see what we were supposed to do. Poor Abigail, I think once she got to school she got a little nervous. Fortunately for us, the Principal was standing just a few inches from us, so Abigail ran over to ask where she should go. The Principal took her hand and happily led her away. And just as last year, not even a look back for Mommy. I was watching her walk away, making sure she got to the right place when I just had to laugh at myself. She was in the good company of the Principal, and if there was anyone over-qualified to direct my daughter to her teacher, this was it. So Zander and I turned and headed back home.

It is a very nice morning, it was perfect for walking to and from school. I just don't know if I'll ever get used to the first day of school... Right now Zander has ensconced himself in front of the TV with some Veggie Tales. He definitely didn't care for the hustle this morning, I think. We may have to get up just a few minutes earlier tomorrow. After I get a shower, we have big plans to make pictures with glitter glue and foam shapes. And then a trip to the library is in order today, so we'll be plenty busy, and before we know it, it will be time to go pick up Abigail from school.

So for the first day of school, Abigail requested a tunafish sandwich and an orange. Not super special to me, but that's what she asked for. Off to the left here, we have her very first laptop lunch. It's amazing how much food actually fits into this! Plenty, that's for sure. The only thing I'm unsure of is the sandwich section. I had to cut the crusts off to get it to fit, and I kinda had to squish it in a little. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Maybe I'll see if I can convince Abigail to eat one of those thinner wheat breads. What you see here is indeed, white bread. But it is whole grain white, so it's a little better. The white bread is all my fault. We started Abigail on wheat bread. But I gotta tell you. I am a white bread fan. I love a sandwich on good squishy white bread. And I just got sick of the cardboard flavored wheat, so back to white it was. One of these days, I will play around with wheat breads and find a brand that we all like. But today, Abigail's tunafish sandwich is accompanied by one naval orange, baby carrots and green peppers with ranch dressing to dip in- that's in the tiny green covered container. And then for dessert she has three tiny sugar cookies. She will be buying milk every day to go with her lunch, but I've also sent along a water bottle for her just in case. And on top of her silverware (not in the picture) I tucked a few butterfly stickers. That should be a fun surprise for her. It will be interesting to see her lunchbox this afternoon.

I haven't even given half a thought to dinner yet today, I've been so busy preparing for the school day. So we'll have to wait and see id something inspires. Otherwise it may be a spaghetti and meatballs kind of night, since I have meatballs in the freezer from the last time I made them.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Happy Labor Day!

Well, today was the last official day of summer for us. Tomorrow morning Abigail begins the adventure known as First Grade. Yikes. So we thought we'd spend today totally enjoying each other's company. After a breakfast of donuts, we all headed out to the park to play together. It was a perfect morning for it. Not too hot, not too cold, and perfectly sunny. It really was a lot of fun exploring and playing.

All around it was a nice day. The kids played wonderfully together. Dinner was simple stuffed peppers made with last night's leftovers (I know! Leftovers!), so nothing exciting to report there. But after dinner we mentioned that it was a school night, and Zander burst into tears. "I don't want Abigail to go to school! I'll miss her! I want her to stay and play with me!" Oh break my heart, it was so gosh darn sweet. So tomorrow I'll have to come up with something fun to do with Zander.

And of course, there was one thing that had to be done today. I couldn't even think about sending my little girl to school tomorrow without sending along some love from home. So homemade sugar cookies it was. I made small ones that will fit perfectly in her new laptop lunch box. She can't wait to put that thing to use! I also used some flannel Cinderella fabric to make some napkins for her lunchbox. I worry a tiny bit about that being over the edge in the land of Geek-dom. It's one thing to become a Geek by yourself, and proudly wear the label, but it's a whole other thing to be made a Geek by your mother. So hopefully, the cloth napkins won't cross that boundary in first grade yet. They really are cute, and Abigail was very excited, so I guess we will see. Abigail made a special request for her lunch tomorrow, so I will prepare what she's asked for, so come back for the first of many lunchbox editions of Tummy Treasure.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Two Part Post Ahead...

First tonight, I have to share dinner. It was seriously, one of those "Oh my God" dinners. It was soooo good. Tonight I tried a new recipe from the new Cooking Light magazine. Pork Carnitas is awesome!!!!! Basically, it's an all-purpose pork recipe, and you take the pork to be used in other things. Tacos, enchiladas, sandwiches, etc. Tonight's carnitas became fajitas. And the fajitas were good, but the pork is what really stood out. I mean, really. I had my doubts. First, pork is chunked up and combined with salt, pepper, garlic, and tomato paste, and then doused with chicken broth before tossing in the oven for a slow bake. It was so simple, yet the results are mouthwatering. The pork is so tender and full of flavor. It has become my instant go-to recipe, both because of it's ease and flavor. And the best part is that one batch makes plenty, and it makes a great freezer meal, or something to throw in the crockpot. Check out the link to the recipe in the Trove- or run to your bookstore and pick up your copy of Cooking Light, well worth it. (And sorry, no picture, it's really just cooked flesh...and looks like... Well, flesh.)

And the second part of tonight's post is to share my contribution to Sweetnick's ongoing event, I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours. This month Cate asked us to share the one most indispensable item in our kitchen. My first thought was my food processor- but I realized I could live without it if I needed to. My second thought was my fridge- but that's kind of a necessity anyway, and not very fun to post about for this particular event. But then I realized what really was the most indispensable thing in my kitchen...

My chef's knife. I couldn't live without it. And I literally do take it everywhere with me. If I know I'm going to be doing some cooking, this baby comes along for the ride. I must have it. And of course, it is laying on it's partner, my cutting board. I figure that other tools make cooking more convenient, or easier. But my chef's knife is what keeps the kitchen flowing. I can live without my food processor, I can live without an immersion blender, but I can't get dinner on the table without a good sturdy knife. My knife happens to be a Cutco brand chef's knife. I really like Cutco and their lifetime guarantee. And it fits perfectly in my hand- which really is the number one consideration when shopping for a good chef's knife.

And to see what other bloggers think is their most valuable kitchen tool, head on over to Sweetnicks for the round-up.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Things To Eat Before You Die

Melissa at The Traveler's Lunchbox has created an epidemic. Food bloggers all over the world are madly scrambling to come up with their list. Their top five. The top five foods that they think everyone should try at least once before passing on to the great beyond. That's easy you say. And then you really start to think about the question. Five foods. Just five. Five taste experiences which you hold above all others. This is truly a challenge. Lucky for me Sugar Delirium has tagged me for this, or I may have missed a chance to dig deep. While my list may not be as decadent as some, I think my list will ring true to many. So here we have my top 5 foods to eat before you die.

1. Whole lobster, steamed, plucked right out of the ocean in Rockport, Massachusetts. Served with nothing more than a bib and a puddle of sweet butter. There is truly nothing more succulent or sweet. And someday I will return.

2. True Southern Breakfast. I'm talking about biscuits with sausage gravy served up with a side of grits and eggs. There is nothing that encapsulates comfort more than true Southern cooking. And that breakfast will always remind me of the wonderful time our family had while on vacation to Florida. We love Alabama. Someday we'll return and spend more time there.

3. Lumpia. Real Filipino lumpia prepared by a Filipino woman. Most preferably by my wonderful Aunt Lita. You've never had a spring roll quite like it, I promise.

4. S'mores. Freshly prepared over an open fire. Two marshmallows must be toasted together on a stick before meeting up with 3 rectangles of Hershey's milk chocolate and two pieces of a honey graham cracker. Then you have to give the sandwich a minute to soften and meld together before greedily gobbling up the entire thing. I grew up spending a lot of time around a campfire. And nothing makes me feel nostalgic and as happy as a freshly prepared S'more.

5. Pears and Raspberries. Warm pears plucked right off the tree. They should still be slightly firm, but have started to soften so the sweet juices run down your chin as you nibble away. And the raspberries should be grown in the wild, still warm from the sunshine.