Menu Plan Monday...a week of leftovers

We had an amazing Thanksgiving weekend.  Our house is mostly decorated and we're ready for Christmas.  This week I am not doing a major grocery trip.  Probably will just pick up some silk, fresh fruit and bread. 

Monday: Stromboli...this is leftover from an appetizer I prepared and didn't need.

Tuesday: Turkey Soup...obvious why i have leftovers of this

Wednesday: Mac and Beef (from made ahead freezer meals)

Thursday: Garlic Chicken Stirfry (also a made ahead freezer meal)

Friday: Sandwiches

I took two of my tupperware containers and froze turkey, stuffing, and potatoes for another night.  They resembled hungry man frozen dinners, which made me giggle.


Another Passion of Mine...the dog

I write about my dog, Millie, every so often in my blog.  Today I was taking pictures of her a lot and thought.  Wouldn't it make a good blog to tell about my first baby....

My mom and I got Millie in 2000.  It was just a few short months after my father died from cancer and we were dealing with my mother's terminal cancer at the time.  I had quit work to take care of my mother, so it was the perfect distraction to get a puppy.  Sorry no pics, since this was before I had a digital camera...but I'm sure you've all seen adorable pictures of golden retriever pups...so just imagine one here.

I can vividly remember the first night we had her....she cried in her cage just like a baby.  My mother and I took turns talking the other one of going to get her.  Between house training her and her propensity for eating this (sweaters, leashes, toys..whatever) I remember her puppy days well.  My mom passed away before Millie turned one and we moved back to my home in the city. 

Millie was the perfect companion, then and now.  She loves to cuddle, play and just hang out.

This is a picture of her in the chair she quickly claimed at my house.  Millie has blessed my life.  She helped me grieve and get through so much.  It sounds dramatic, but she saved my life on a daily basis in those days.  She was the reason I got up, walked outside, smiled...she was the reason to keep going.  Okay, enough sad stuff.

When I met my husband, three years later,  he told me he was allergic to dogs.  My first thought was..."uh, oh...this isn't going far."  But the two of them became fast friends. With a bit more cleaning (or in those days, any cleaning at all..ha)  and some claritin, it all worked out.  Yippee a husband and a dog!!!
Then a few more years and a few babies, who turned into toddlers and young kids.  Through it all, Millie has been by our sides.  Still wanting to cuddle and play and just hang out.

Millie puts up with headbands, toys that clutter up the floor and hair pulling.  She is forced to be the anything from a reindeer to a horse to a princess or a robot in their pretend play.  She's been a chair, a toy holder, a sprinkler partner and a true friend.

There are far too many wonderful Millie stories for one blog to contain (or maybe I should make a blog all about her).  So I thought a post was in order.  And maybe even a few more posts, just about how much I love my dog.   It seems fitting since it is Thanksgiving week to write about a dog who I am so thankful for.


Food Friday: Turkey Day Easy...desserts

Several Years ago I was watching Rachel Ray and she had Katie Lee Joel (Billy Joel's former, much younger, wife).  She made a simple recipe for Apple Crisp.  I quickly got to the computer, looked up the show and put that recipe in  my dessert file.  I'm a bit of geek about recipes.  I save the ones I love onto my computer in different files.  This helps when I get cookbooks from the library and find terrific recipes.  Anyhow, it wasn't until after we discovered Cheslea's allergies that I realized this recipe doesn't call for eggs.  I could replace the butter with our vegan olive oil butter (Earth's balance) and use soy or rice milk for the milk.

Here is how I save time with this recipe.  I used presliced apples or preslice them myself ahead of time. This year I'm getting our apples from the Upper Merion Farmer's Market.  So I will wash and slice them the night before our bash.  Once they are tossed in lemon juice to avoid browning, I put them in the baking dish (which has a cool lid) and pop them in the fridge.  Then I make one of my do it yourself mixes.  I put all the dry ingredients in a big bag ahead of time. Think of how you can buy pancake or cake mixes at the store and just add the wet ingredients.  I do this myself ahead and save time and money!  One large bag for the majority of this recipe and one for the topping.  This is a strategy I do with our pancakes, cookies and cakes.  So on those days I just add the wet and begin. I'm all prepped and just before we sit down for dinner I mix in the wet ingredients pour it over the apples, sprinkle the topping and pop it in the oven.  It makes my house smell fantastic!

RECIPE ....(Katie Lee Joel's...not mine :)
Apple Crisp
  • 6 large (about 8 cups) Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced (use Granny Smiths for a more tart flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water

Yields: 6 servings

Preparation Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place apples in a 13x9” baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to coat.
In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups sugar, flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and the cinnamon. Add milk and melted butter, and mix well. Pour batter evenly over apples and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle over batter. Evenly pour the boiling water on top then transfer to the oven and bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.


What's for Lunch Wednesday

This is one of my first  tries at "bento" like meals.  I  completely flipped over the idea of making adorable meals to go.   Because we bring most meals with us for Chelsea because of her food allergies, this was a fantastic idea.   Her brother is now able to eat off the menus, so I really needed something to make her feel special on our outings.  Of course I'll make them both lunches or dinners when we're not going to restaurants, but what could be better than a pretty little meal, for my princess? 

When I first saw the www.bentolunch.net.thanks to my blog stalking /www.musingsofahousewife.com, I spent hours searching through all the contributions of her readers.  Seriously every time I could slip away from the kids for a minute I'd look at new ones.  Then I got a few books from my library.  They had even more adorable bentos and recipes for how to make them.   It is such fun to see the kids face light up when they open them.  But I do have to be honest...I do get a bit more peeved when they barely eat.  I will have to overcome that one :)

These are crayola sandwich shaped plastic boxes.  I made two pita sandwiches for each child shaped as fish and butterflies.  They have tofutti filling.  There are cooked lima beans, raw chopped carrots and a hunk of banana bread.  I put some pretzel sticks to line the bottom of the container.  If I had been more creative I could have used the pretzels for a fence of some sort and done doggy sandwiches...maybe next time.


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Ways to Spend a Rainy Afternoon

 First five are ideas for when the kids are around.  The last five are for an afternoon sans kids.

1. Building forts out of boxes and sheets.
2. In sweat suits, watching a good disney film while eating freshly popped popcorn.
3. Gathering all the dollhouses, farms, fire stations etc and spending hours playing pretend.
4. Baking, baking, baking and taste testing the goods.
5. Wearing jammies,  surrounded by pillows reading book after book of the kids' favorite stories.

Okay, here are the ones for when I am solo
6. Napping,
7. Lighting the fireplace and reading a great book.
8. Yummy soup and catching up on DVR'd shows
9. Reorganizing or getting something off the long to do list
10 Shopping

What is your best way to spend a rainy afternoon?


Super Sunday

Today was a terrific day.  I was sitting at an open house this afternoon, so I knew this morning would be about family.  The kids (and Chris) were still too sick for church or the playground.  So we set up crafting necklaces and I started my Sunday cooking goal.  Just got a fabulous new book at the library about OAMC (once a month cooking).  The book is called Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor Hough.  Yesterday I got a decent deal on ground beef at Wegman's.  Today I cooked, with distractions ( C and G), for about 2 hours and made....
1 meatloaf, 12 mini meatballs w/sauce for sub sandwiches, 4 hamburgers, 1 tortilla casserole, 2 mac and beef dinners, 2 containers of plain mac, 1 container of taco spiced meat and a huge container of meatballs in sauce for my crockpot and pasta.
I love multi tasking so this was the ultimate version of that, because I had a meatloaf in the oven as I am cooking mac, rolling meatballs, making bean spread...etc.  Of course the clean up took at least 20 minutes too..it looked like this
Chris and I figured I spent under 20 dollars on ingredients (hard to figure in spices, especially ones I grew in the garden).  I made 6 full meals and 3 sides.  It took me about 2 hours start to finish.  Considering most meals take me 20 to 30 minutes, I didn't save a ton of time...but on the nights I just throw something in the crockpot, oven or microwave it will be a great thing.  I will definitely do this again with the chicken and beef recipes that the book outlines.  And if you're wondering Gavin made 2 necklaces and Chelsea made 4.   Love it!


Food Friday: Turkey Day Easy....stuffing

Stuffing:  For years I peeled, chopped and diced all the ingredients for my mother's stuffing.  Apples, onions, celery,  and carrots.  So for the festive occasion of Thanksgiving I give thanks to whoever invented the conveniently already done frozen or fresh versions of these ingredients.  I buy celery that is already in short sticks and baby carrots.  These take mere minutes to chop as compared to peeling those larger carrots and pulling and disecting celery.  I buy apples slices (I know this is not economical, but hey I'm supposed to be having family time...oh ya this happens for my apple crisp too.  I just won't shop for a month). So then I let my progressive onion chopper go to town on the apples and onions.  This year I discovered already diced onions...if they are there when I am shopping for Thanksgiving, I will be giving thanks for those too.  I get out a bit of aggression and end up with a nice dice.  I throw all this in the crockpot with cooked  loose sausage, bread cubes, seasonings and broth. I used to saute the veggies first, but I haven't seen much flavor difference.  In fact when the veggies are in the crockpot they really season the stuffing as they cook.  Every few hours I check, add liquid, season etc.  About an hour before dinner I add some pats of butter to melt into the concoction.  This tastes exactly like the stuffing my moms made...or at least it does in my memory.  Been way too long, but I am very happy with this product.

Did I mention that the crockpot keeps everything the perfect temperature too?  Seriously I can not worry if someone is coming later, because I know everything will be just right still.  It's also great because if we eat an early meal and do turkey day lunch, it's still hot and delicious at dinner.


Crafting from Nature

Look: Yesterday I took the best walk.  My husband had a flex day on Monday,  so he did breakfast with the kids and I went for a walk.  Usually I have to get up at 5:30 or 6:00 to sneak in my walks because he needs to be out the door before 8.  So this was a very special treat.  My neighborhood is the picture of fall right now.  I was walking and found two huge gorgeous yellow leaves.  They were thick and sort of leathery.  I was thinking how much the kids would like to see these, so I  decided to carry them with me.  For the rest of the walk, I kept noticing vibrant trees and continued to gather leaves.  By the time I reached my home I decided I would make leaf place mats with the kids

Learn: I learned after my last and only running injury that walking is awesome.  Seriously, I may sound geeky yet again...but I never dread walking, I enjoy every minute of it and after it is finished, I'm always glad I did it.  It is the kind of sport I can do in any weather too.  Also I found out the kids enjoyed sorting and playing with the leaves. It was sort of educational for Gav with his colors.  Chelsea began asking what kind of trees had these leaves.  It was at this point I learned that I don't know any tree names.  Is there an app for that?
 We used contact paper to make these easy to wipe clean.  I think it will be neat to use these at Thanksgiving as centerpieces.

Love: I love going for walks when it isn't dark out.  The chilly weather was perfect for a brisk walk.   It was even better that I found free stuff for an simple craft.  The kids loving doing crafts and this will be one they can enjoy for many meals this month.


Meal Planning Monday

We have a busy, busy week...so meal planning is on the agenda today.  My two little cherubs decided to come down with a nasty cold yesterday, so it was mostly toast and juice all day...boring.  Looking forward to the fun week ahead.  There is a bit of a theme with my plans as they all use some sort of kitchen appliance.  I've put them in bold so you can really see how crazy I am for my kitchen tools!!!

Monday :  Breakfast for dinner:  Making pancake popovers and bacon with a nice fruit salad.  I may even attempt milk free hot chocolate as an extra treat for my little sickies.  I was putting away my perfect brownie pan (yes I am addicted to gimmicky kitchen items) and saw my popover pancake puff pan that hasn't been used in a  few months.  I like to fill mine with jelly and pretend I'm eating DD jelly donuts.

Tuesday:  Paninis:  We have english muffins, pitas and wheat bread...so we'll each pick our fillings and make paninis.  Hopefully there will be left over bacon, yum!  I of course don't do paninis the old fashion way with a brick, I bought the panini maker.  I will most likely grill up some vegetables on it before we do our sandwiches.  I love putting the veggies in my sandwich and it flavors up the grill.

Wednesday:  Crockpotting it:  My husband has a class and won't be home for dinner.  So I'm going to make a delicious soup just for me.  I'll fish out the main things (chicken, beans, noodles, vegetables) for them and add fresh herbs for me.  Yum.  Again the kitchen appliance here is the crockpot.  I can't live without my crockpot.  I love throwing stuff in and letting it cook.  There is no prep at the witching hour when my kids are crazy...dinner is already ready.

Thursday: I'm going out, wahoo....Girls Night shopping.  So I am going to leave bento boxes for my husband and children.  I always use tupperware...but I recently started following how these amazing moms make yummy meals in boxes.  This will make it easy because if the kids are getting stir crazy, Chris can take them to the mall or a playground for dinner out!

Friday:  We have a sitter for Friday night.  I'll have to pinch myself...two nights out in a row is a rare treat.  My niece is the best sitter around (so is her sister).  I'll put homemade pizza dough into our bread maker so it is done in time for dinner.  The kids will have a ball rolling it out, using cookie cutters to make shapes and adding sauce.  Such a fun easy dinner and I even get to sneak in flax seed in the crust.  Then I add extra veggies in the sauce when I use my food processor to liquefy my tomatoes.

Saturday:  Probably do a "fake out, take out" this night. I stole that term from rachel ray and it just means making your favorite take out at home where you can be more cautiou and budget friendly with ingredients.   I'll use my wok (sorry no pic) to whip up some Chinese.  First we'll have wonton soup, then sweet and sour chicken stirfry.  The kids don't go for the strong flavors so it will be leftovers for them. The hubs and I will most likely eat after bedtime.  Add a fire in the fireplace and a great show and it's a date night at home.

Sunday: Chris's Chili.  Chris took years perfecting his homemade chili recipe.  A few weeks back I used my vidalia wizard chopper to chop all the vegetables for his recipe.  We bought peppers, tomatoes and onions from the farmers market.  Thinking ahead, I doubled the amount and froze half in my tupperware freezer mates.  So I'll throw those into my handy, dandy crockpot along with ground beef, a bit of beer, tomato paste and some secret ingredients...Shhhh!  And we'll eat it all day long....mmmmmm.

There are a few of my trusty appliances that were not mentioned and are probably feeling left out.  I'd like to thank my popcorn maker, my blender and my kitchen aid for their loyalty and ability to make my life oh so much easier.


Food Friday: Turkey Day ...Smashed Potatoes

I have amazing memories of Thanksgiving with my parents.  Really wonderful meals...always served on our best china while wearing our finest Thanksgiving clothes, if you knew my mother this makes sense.  My mom would wake up very early to begin.  By the time 7 am rolled around there was already a bird in the oven and most sides were well under way and a beautifully set table.  It became a tradition, once I was 21, to party like rock stars the night before the big day with my cousins, family and friends.  Even on those morning my mother would bust into my room no later than 5 or 6 to ask for help getting everything done.  I never understood why we had to get ready sooooooooo early.  Why couldn't we start around noonish to prep?

For several years after my parents passed away I sort of refused to celebrate Thanksgiving or any other holiday for that matter.  In fact, though I'd celebrate with friends here and there, it wasn't until a year or two after meeting Chris that I started back up with Thanksgiving.  So truly for the better part of 30 plus years I didn't understand what went into the meal....then I had to host one...YIKES!  I've been "doing" thanksgiving again for a few years now.  I want a good end product, but want to spend most of the day with my family.  I love the traditions of parades, sports and relaxing.  So I thought for my Food Fridays in November I'd talk about how I make my Thanksgiving super duper unbelievably easy and mostly in crockpots.  One dish a week or so.  Here is how I do Turkey Day now...gobble, gobble!

Smashed Potatoes: To make the old favorite less time consuming, I found out that Yukon Gold potatoes don't need to be peeled (thank you Food Network).  I clean them well the a day or two before. When turkey day arrives, I just plop them in the crockpot and bake em.  After a few hours I get in there and smash them.  When they are mostly smashed I add our version of butter and sour cream, along with a healthy dose of salt and pepper.  I repeat smashing and a taste test about 30 minutes before dinner.  If they need more seasoning, I go all Emeril on them. If they are dry, I add plain soy milk or chicken broth.  Chris's family has said they enjoy the potatoes every year.  Hopefully they aren't just being kind :))  EASY, isn't it?


Tried and True Tuesday...and an inspirational blog

First let me begin by sending you here...http://www.bentolunch.net/  We bring our food everywhere because of chelsea's allergies.  This lady is amazing, a complete genius with bento boxed lunches and food prep.  I dream of being her and she has inspired me to jazz up my lunches and meals.  What a great thing for when they get to be school age!  WOWSERS!

Okay so onto my Tuesday breakfast recipes.  This our vegan pancake recipe.  I make a double batch once a week, then we reheat them for another meal, make them into sandwiches, bring a few along as snacks and freeze remainder for busy mornings. I also usually have three large ziploc bags full of the dry ingredients for when I don't feel like mixing it all up.  Here it is:
2 cups flour ( 1 wheat, one white)
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar (we've played with replacing sugar with honey and agave syrup too)
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
1½-2 cups water or soy or rice milk
flax seed meal (optional)
½ cup pureed vegetable (optional: we like cauliflower or sweet potato)


Mommy's Magical Monday Makeover

I love my house, every square inch.  May sound somewhat obnoxious to make that claim...but it took my husband and I nine very long months to find it.  As a realtor now, I think "Sheesh, we were high maintenance couple!".  We live a split level (split from side to side) with 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathroom.  A few years after we moved, we tore down a wall and made our kitchen and dining room one big area that has a large doorway to the living room.  Lately, I've been drooling over homes that have a family room attatched to the kitchen.  I dream of cooking, really cooking...while the kids play.  When I came home today from a morning out, I looked and realized the living area on the same floor as the kitchen and dining area could be that place....but we needed a mini makeover.  I call it magical because I can see hours of cooking, sewing, reading, playing, crafting and relaxing time spent in this space.  Enjoy the before (first) and after (last) shots of our living space.  Not too much difference, but needed to hide toys!

So here is what I did.  I found the least obnoxious child chairs we have and cozied them up to the coffee table, voila...the coffee table (which is also the train table) becomes a game spot and house area.

There was a small unused nook in my kitchen.  I snagged one of their kitchen pieces and slid it in there.  They have two kitchen pieces, so this will force them to share and still let us have the kitchen play space somewhere else too.

I love changing up my mantle with decorations to go with my mood or the season.  I added some wooden boxed games, books under the gourds and two baskets of toys.

Two of my moms old chairs have cute little "dresses" or at least that is what I call them.  I began stowing my running shoes under one when I didn't have a enough shoe cubby spcae for them .  The other one was wasted space (ever seen that DIY show...i heart it)  I pushed Gav's trucks and Chels's doll house and yet another activity for the kids is now in the living room.

Quickie...2 easy release hooks + empty hall wall space = dress up spot

Doing this gave me the afternoon to sew, read and cook.  I feel like this should have dawned on me before.  It has a certain times, but the kids never seem to clean up so I felt like the living room would end up being a wreck.  That is never the first thing anyone wants to see upon arriving home.  But now that the wee ones are two and three, they clean up more.  With about 10 minutes of work I can remove all the toys for a party or gathering.  Magical Makeover complete!