Thursday, December 30, 2010

Too Much Stuff.

December 30th. Yes, I'm one of those people who make yearly resolutions. And yes, mine typically involve eating healthier and starting an exercise program. Not this year. This year, I'm focusing on my home. My tiny, cozy home that I adore. My tiny, cozy home that is now stressing me out because it is overtaken by TOO MUCH STUFF.

Perhaps coming home after five days on the road for Christmas made me realize I no longer have room to put stuff. The kids' room (they share a room) is now filled to the brim with toys. They love them all. And they really do play with nearly everything in there. But it is just too much. I'm sick of stepping on princesses, tractors, and robot parts. I'm tired of not being able to buy that wonderful, dreamy KitchenAid Stand Mixer that my husband told me to finally get for myself this year because I have zero - zippo - nada place to store it. I'm tired of Tupperware falling out of my cupboard every time I open it because it's so jam packed. I'm tired of wondering what exactly IS in those dusty old boxes behind the furnace in our storage/laundry room that haven't been opened in four years?!

So this year, I will hopefully accomplish the great SAHM "de-clutter and simplify my home" event for 2011. I hope to get this all done by the end of February. Yeah, that's not a lot of time, but it needs to be done. Quickly. Now.

But where to start? If I don't make a starting point, I'll never start. And I'm hoping by sharing my "get organized" hopes for 2011 with you all that it will make me more accountable and actually get it done. Here is my list so far:

1. The kids' room. Organize toys. Sort through toys no longer played with and books no longer read for Goodwill donation. Clean under the beds and changing table/dresser. Clean the baseboards and ceiling fan (we don't need to discuss how long it has been since I've done that last part. Yikes.)

2. The kitchen. Clean out bottom cupboards storing Tupperware and pots and pans. Clean out top cupboards storing glassware and plates. Donate unused items. Wipe down the inside of cupboards.

3. The basement. No, wait...I'm not ready for this one yet. Let's procrastinate a bit, shall we?

3. The guest room closet. The "shove it in there where no one will see it" hell-hole. Unfortunately, this is also where my husband keeps all of his suits, shirts and ties. I'd love for him to open that closet in the morning and see a nice, organized space. A lot can be taken to consignment. We also have a metal filing cabinet in there that holds old tax returns, household documents, etc. I'm dreading organizing that thing because nothing is "filed," just shoved in there. Clean out clothes/bedding/purses, wrapping paper - organize and donate. Clean out filing cabinet - organize in folders and shred the rest.

4. The living room closet. What to do with a closet that stores old coats and sweaters, kids' toys and maxi pads? Really?! Time to clean out the old clothes and toys for donation, move the "personal items" to a different space (under the bathroom cabinet, perhaps?) and define this space a bit more.

5. My pantry. This really isn't in too bad of shape on the shelves. Everything is rotated and organized fairly nicely. But it's what is on the floor that scares me. We keep our recycling, brooms/mops, heavier items, and kids' colors/playdough/craft items all o the floor of the pantry. It's a mess and needs to be cleaned out and organized.

6. And finally....I'm ready for it now. The basement. We have a small unfinished part of our basement that holds our furnace, hot water heater and softener, washer/dryer, freezer, cat food and litter box, and some storage shelves. There is TOO MUCH UNUSED STUFF stored down there. It will take a lot of dirty work (the spider webs alone are enough to make we want to move right now) but I would really like to make this a nicer space. Step 1: get rid of aforementioned spider webs. Shudder. Step 2: clean out the "newer" boxes of stuff and donate. Create more shelving space. Step 3: The icky part....delve into the boxes on the shelves behind the furnace that are dusty, gross and haven't been touched in 4+ years. Donate....throw out...and more donation.

Boy, do I feel naked now. Yes, I have some icky parts of my home. But hopefully, in two months, the ickiness will be replaced with organization and serenity.

And maybe even some "before and after" photos if I'm feeling REALLY brave.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 12/19/2010

I toyed with the idea of not menu planning this week due to Christmas and traveling. We will be heading out of town for six days at the end of the week for our yearly Christmas roadtrip (first to S.D. to visit my husband's family, and then down to southern MN for my family). But the thought of not having at least a little menu plan made me stressed out, so here is what I've come up with for the week.

Sunday: Barley Vegetable Soup(new recipe - doubling to save half for freezer), lettuce salad, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches

Monday: Homemade Pizza (didn't make last week), lettuce salad, fresh pineapple (at Target for $2.99 this week!)

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Garlic Chicken Pasta, green beans, apple slices

Thurs. - Tues.: Out of town!

Happy Holidays!!! For more menu planning, please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 12/13/10

The big hit from last week was the Italian Roast Wraps. I used a large arm roast I dug out from the depths of my freezer, sprinkled one packet of Italian seasoning mix on it, and let it go on low all day in the slow cooker. I couldn't believe how tender it came out. However, the taste really wasn't too Italian-y. I think next time I'll use some taco seasoning instead. But it was still fantastic, and I made Beef Stroganoff the following night with most of the leftover roast. My husband said it was the best beef stroganoff he'd ever had. :-)

I'm flying by the seat of my pants in this week's menu plan. I have 16 inches of new snow in my backyard and a forecasted high temperature of 3 degrees today. Let's just say that venturing out for a big grocery shopping trip isn't in the cards today. So, I am trying to build a menu based on what I mostly have on hand in the pantry and freezer, with an anticipated run to the store on Wednesday.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftovers from Sunday morning), bananas
Cereal and toast
Bagels and cream cheese, fruit
Egg and Cheese Muffins, fruit

"Kitchen Picnic" (today) (turkey sandwiches, crackers, apple slices, cookies and juice boxes on the kitchen floor!)
Poor Man's Pizza, pears
Pita chips and hummus, carrot sticks, raisins

Monday: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili (husband's request as he was heading out the door this morning in -9 degree weather) (half will go in freezer), cornbread, orange slices

Tuesday: Crockpot Thai Chicken (carryover from last week), brown rice, pineapple

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: (my parents are visiting!) Cheddar Turkey Enchiladas, Hot Bean Dip, chips and salsa

Friday: Lentil Rice Casserole, green beans, lettuce salad

Saturday: Clean out the fridge night!

Sunday: Homemade pizza, carrot sticks, fruit

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu plans and recipes!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Homemade Chai Tea Latte Mix

I may have given up drinking my beloved Diet Coke but sometimes I'm still in need of a little afternoon beverage enjoyment, and this homemade Chai Tea Latte is my favorite wintertime indulgence. (I say "indulgence" because I acknowledge that this drink isn't super healthy since it contains coffee creamer and a fair amount of sugar, but you gotta treat yourself every now and then!) If you buy a Chai Tea Latte at a Starbucks or Caribou, you're looking to spend at least $3-$4 for a small cup - but this drink mix is frugal AND tastes just as good as any you'd buy from your local coffee shop. I've had this recipe for a couple of years now and I apologize that I cannot give credit to the website I originally got the recipe from a few years ago since I didn't write that down on my old, ratty copy of the recipe.

This recipe makes a nice large batch and will fill your food processor up to the top, so I recommend combining all ingredients in a big mixing bowl and then splitting up the mix into two different batches in the food processor. During the holidays, I double the batch and make at least four different gifts. Just visit your local dollar store, pick up a festive little jar or tin, fill with the mix and tie with a bow. Instant holiday warmth!

Instant Chai Tea Latte Mix

1 cup dry milk
1 cup dry coffee creamer
1 cup dry French vanilla coffee creamer
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups plain instant tea (I used Nestea Unsweetened 100% Plain Instant Tea)
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour half the mixture into your food processor and blend into a fine powder. Repeat with the other half of the mixture. Use 3 heaping spoonfuls per mug of boiling water. (You can use a little less if you don't want it quite so sweet.)

For more frugal ideas, please visit Frugal Fridays at Life As Mom.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 12/6/10

Another week of trying to get organized, regain some sanity and calmness, and put forth my weekly menu plan. Last week's menu produced a couple of new yummy hits in our family: the Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken was not only delicious, but easy to make ahead during naptime and keep in the fridge till baking time. We also enjoyed the Lentil Burritos, which were healthy, tasty, and a very affordable meal.

This week, I'm trying more new recipes. You may notice my many links to the Heavenly Homemakers blog. I really enjoy all of Laura's recipes and her quest to make healthy, unprocessed, nutritious meals for family is inspirational. Here is what I have planned for this week:

CrockPot Apple Oatmeal (carryover from how many weeks ago?)
Cold cereal, toast and bananas
Bagels and cream cheese, strawberries

Hummus and pita chips, apple slices, string cheese
PB&J, carrot sticks with ranch dip
Ham & cheese wraps, pickles, cottage cheese, grapes

Turkey Noodle Soup (made with leftover turkey and broth in the freezer from Thanksgiving), honey whole wheat bread (new recipe - I’m cutting this recipe in half)

Italian Roast Wraps (new recipe), lettuce salad, cantaloupe


Turkey n’ Biscuits (new recipe), lettuce salad, grapes

Homemade Pizza, Caesar salad, green beans, cantaloupe

Crockpot Thai Chicken (new recipe), brown rice, orange slices

Clean out the fridge night!

Please check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for menu planning ideas and recipes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hot and Sour Soup

When my husband and I were attending college in small-town South Dakota, there was a Korean restaurant on Main Street that was the BEST. I have lived in a large metropolitan area for over 12 years now, and to this day, after trying countless other Korean, Thai, and Chinese restaurants, the best Asian food (and perhaps the best food, period) I have ever had was at that little restaurant. I know, in South Dakota, right?! Anyway, that chef made the most awesome hot and sour soup. This recipe doesn't quite compare to how great that soup was, but it is definitely good.

Hot and Sour Soup adapted from Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving by Jonni McCoy

2 c. low sodium chicken broth
½ c. thinly sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 can thinly sliced bamboo shoots
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. low sodium soy sauce
2-3 drops Tabasco sauce
½ package firm tofu cut into ½ inch pieces
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp. pepper
3 T. red wine
1 green onion, thinly sliced

In a large saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat.
Add mushrooms, ginger and bamboo shoots.
In a small bowl, make a paste with the cornstarch, soy sauce and Tabasco.
Add the paste to the soup and stir to mix in. Continue boiling and stirring until the soup reaches a thicker consistency.
Add the tofu.
Drizzle the egg slowly into the soup. Remove from heat.
Let it cool for 1-2 minutes.
Add the pepper, vinegar, and green onion and stir. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 11/29/10

The weather on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving made us cancel our travel plans for Thanksgiving, so we actually ended up staying home and cooking a turkey feast for the four of us. (My husband made the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy - I made the green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.) Although we missed our family, it turned out to be a very nice, cozy day for our little family.

I'm looking forward to more of a "planned" menu this week. I'm trying a couple of new dishes and just trying to keep things simple and healthy. (I'm focusing on "healthy" because, I must admit, my jeans are fitting quite a bit tighter as I type this.) :-)

Here's what we have planned for this week:

Whole Wheat Pancakes (Freezer)
Granola bars
Cold cereal and bananas
Cinnamon Raisin Toast and yogurt

Tomato soup, grilled cheese, carrot sticks
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple slices
Hummus and pita chips, carrot sticks, raisins

Monday: Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken (new recipe), pasta with marinara sauce, broccoli

Tuesday: Lentil Burritos (new recipe), mixed vegetables, apple slices

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, oven fries, corn

Friday: Chicken Noodle Casserole, lettuce salad, orange slices

Saturday: Father-in-law visiting so probably out to eat

Sunday: clean out the fridge night!

Please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for great menu planning ideas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 11/22/10

First, allow me to apologize for my total lack of blogging lately. Life has been busy. I have realized this past week that I have definitely bitten off a bit more than I can chew with some of my obligations and volunteering, and while I'm happy to do it all, it certainly doesn't leave a whole lot of time for the "extras" like blogging. I'm hopeful things will slow down soon and get back to normal (once I learn how to say "no.")

Second, can you even call this a menu plan? Nope, not really. We are traveling to South Dakota for the Thanksgiving holiday and will be gone the majority of the week. (Thanks in advance to my mother-in-law who will do all of the cooking while I sit in front of her glorious fireplace in my slippers sipping a hot cup of coffee or cocoa. Yes, I really am quite spoiled when we visit.) That being said, there is not much cooking for me this week. Since we'll be gone, I don't want to go grocery shopping and I don't want to have any leftovers, so this is what I have (kind of) planned so far:

Cold cereal and toast
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer) and bananas

Poor Man's Pizza, carrot sticks
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple slices

Monday: Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta, romaine salad, green beans, apple slices

Tuesday: Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, orange slices

Wed. - Sun.: out of town!

For menu planning ideas (and most certainly some great recipes to use leftover turkey!), please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 11/15/10

This week’s menu is pretty simple. I’m using mostly what I have on hand, in addition to carrying over some items from last week. Here's what we'll be eating this week:

Giant Breakfast Cookies (carryover from last week)
CrockPot Apple Oatmeal (carryover from last week)
Cold cereal, toast and bananas
Whole Wheat Muffins (freezer)

Ham and cheese melts, tomato soup, orange slices
Hummus and pita chips, carrot sticks with ranch dip
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple slices

Tator Tot Hotdish (made with ground turkey)(carryover from last week), lettuce salad, orange slices


Hubby working late – soup and sandwiches for me and the kids

Hubby working late again – Egg and cheese English muffins, bananas

Spinach Stuffed Shells (doubling recipe for friend who just had a baby), lettuce salad

My birthday – out to eat!

Chicken Tacos, refried beans, chips and salsa

Please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Today is one of those great mornings...

where I'm happy and really, really enjoy my job as a stay-at-home mom to my two kiddos and wife to a very busy husband.

But then again, I'm the only one up and the house is blissfully quiet.

I woke up early (5:20 a.m. - thanks to not having adjusted to Daylight Savings Time yet) and turned on the coffee pot. I showered, did the whole makeup/hair/get dressed routine, and then wandered into the kitchen to make this yummy Applesauce Bread as a morning breakfast treat for my hubby and lil' ones. It is 7:05 a.m. I'm dressed and ready for the day. The bread is done and waiting for my family to tear into it. The house smells fantastic. The coffee is awesome. And the house is still blissfully quiet. Which is good because we have a busy day ahead of us, filled with preschool for the 3-year-old and an early childhood class for me and the 2-year-old.

I thank God often for this opportunity He has given my family. He has blessed us with the ability to have me stay home full-time with my kiddos. I know there are plenty of moms who love their careers and having that career outside of the home is a great thing for them and their families. But I also know there are moms who long to stay home with their kiddos but are financially unable to do so. And because of that, I can never forget give thanks for the blessing of being a SAHM.

SAHM, I am.

Now, I need to make sure I bookmark this post. I need to read...and re-read...and re-read again - when I have that inevitable day (likely this evening) when I'm exhausted, the kids are fighting and yelling "Mama!" every 6 seconds, supper is burning, and the cat puked on the rug. Remember, it's all a blessing....

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Plan - Week of 11/8/10

Ahhh….home sweet home. I am glad to be home again with my little family and settling into our routine. I love traveling to see family but it is always sooooo nice to get home, get unpacked, get the house cleaned, and sigh a little “I love my house and my family” sigh.

And part of that routine is menu planning. I haven’t posted a menu plan for weeks and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things again. Here is what I have planned so far for the upcoming week:

Giant Breakfast Cookies
CrockPot Apple Oatmeal (new recipe)
Cold cereal, toast and bananas
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (from freezer)

PB&J, raisins, pickles
Cheese quesadillas, carrot sticks with ranch dip
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple slices

Stir fry made with leftover grilled pork chops, green beans and mushrooms from Sunday night

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks, Ranch potato wedges, Mixed vegetables, Apple slices

Black Bean Salsa Chicken (new recipe), Chips with salsa and sour cream

Hubby working late – leftovers for me and the kids

Hubby working late again; Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta (new recipe) and fruit for me and the kids

Tator Tot Hotdish (made with ground turkey), lettuce salad, orange slices

Hubby’s choice…probably out to eat!

Check out I'm An Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yes, I'm still here...

but just taking a brief blogging break. Life has been a bit crazy lately. My grandmother passed away so I was out of town for a while for her funeral. And then I come back to a crazy house, crazy weather, and no electricity for a while. And now I'm heading out of town again for a few days for a college friend's wedding this weekend.

I'll be back sometime next week, I promise. All is well, and I'll have lots of blogging catch-up to do. Take care everyone and a Happy Halloween to you and your family!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 10/18/10

I'm trying two new soup recipes this week and starting a weekly "soup night" for us. (I would normally make only one soup but I've been craving Hot & Sour Soup and I know the kids wouldn't care for it). The weather is cooler and the kids and I love soup, so why not? It's usually pretty simple to throw together, can simmer until hubby finally arrives home, and it keeps really well for leftovers. I'm looking forward to relaxed, fun week of cooking! Here's what's in store this week:

cold cereal and toast
Granola bars (for the preschool mornings when we need to be out the door quickly)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (from freezer), bananas

Poor Man's Pizza, oranges, carrot sticks
Pita chips and hummus, apple slices
PB&J, apple slices, pretzels

Monday: Soup night! Hot and Sour Soup for me and hubby (new recipe - will post it soon if it turns out well); Tomato Tortellini Soup (new recipe) for the kids; Italian Breadsticks

Tuesday: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, oven fries, peas

Wednesday: Tator Tot Hotdish, lettuce salad, honeydew melon

Thursday: clean out the fridge night

Friday: Slow Cooker Lasagna, lettuce salad, green beans, melon

Saturday: Homemade Pizza, fruit

Sunday: clean out the fridge night

Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Healthier Apple Crisp

You just can't beat Autumn in Minnesota. The colors are beautiful, the air is crisp (with the exception of last week with temps in the mid-80s...) and the orchards are packed with scrumptious apples. So far this season, the kids and I have been apple picking THREE times, which has amounted to an abundance of apples. One of my favorite dishes is apple crisp. I have this great recipe from my hometown's hospital cookbook that is out-of-this-world good, but it also calls for nearly two cups of sugar. Yikes. I found this recipe that calls for much less sugar and tastes nearly as good, is nice and easy to put together, and makes your house smell absolutely wonderful. Enjoy!

"Healthified" Apple Crisp (adapted from Eat Better America)

6 c. (about 6 medium) sliced, peeled apples
1/4 c. frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
3/4 c. old-fashioned oats
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix apples, apple juice concentrate and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon until well mixed. Spread in baking dish.
In the same medium bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, butter, ginger and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.
Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.
(Terrific served with vanilla ice cream!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I recently located a delicious banana chocolate chip muffin recipe and decided to try to make it a bit healthier by adding some whole wheat flour, taking out a bit of sugar and oil, and adding some applesauce. The result was fantastic! My kids (and myself!) loved them and they freeze beautifully for a quick thaw/reheat in the morning. Enjoy!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from this AllRecipes recipe)

1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. mashed, ripe bananas
1/2 c. miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 5 minutes and then remove muffins to wire rack to cool.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 10/11/10

We are coming off of a very busy, hectic week last week. There were days when I felt like I had buckled the kids in and out of their carseats at least 15 times, running between preschool, playdates, appointments, and errands. This week I hope to settle down a bit, stay home a bit more, stress a little less, and enjoy my kiddos.

As for menu planning, I really didn't start doing it until I sat down to write this post. We visited another apple orchard this weekend (our third time this season!) so we have a lot of Haralson apples to use up this week. I'm looking forward to baking with them and just munching away, as well. My menu, so far, only requires me to get one thing from the store: potatoes. I consider that a pretty good "eat from the pantry/freezer" week. Here's our plan for the week:

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (freezer)(I'll try to get this recipe posted this week)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer)
Cold cereal and toast
Apple Cinnamon French Toast (carryover from last week)

Poor Man's Pizza, apple slices
Creamy Mac and Cheese (the kids' new favorite lunch!), orange slices, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
PB&J, pretzels, cheese sticks, apple slices
Homemade chicken nuggets, cottage cheese, pickles and carrots

Monday: Cheesy Green Enchiladas (made with leftover frozen pork), chips and salsa, pineapple and strawberries

Tuesday: Chicken wild rice soup made with leftover CrockPot Angel Chicken from the weekend, Honey Mustard Salad

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: hubby working late; grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for me and the kids

Friday: Slow Cooker Beef Roast (new recipe), mashed potatoes and carrots, lettuce salad

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Hubby is cooking or out to eat?

Baking and extras:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (for a treat for my son's early childhood class, and an extra loaf for us!)
Granola bars

For more menu planning ideas, please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

We don't visit the Golden Arches much in this family, but when we do, my kids get super excited about getting those little fried nugget goodies in their Happy Meals. (My husband loves them, too, but I personally think they are disgusting.) I decided to try a homemade and much healthier version for a lunch-time treat at home, and both my 3-year-old and almost-2-year-old loved them. I'm not going to say they taste like the ones from the Golden Arches because they don't (which, in my opinion, is a good thing. I just watched this video last night about how fast-food chicken nuggets are made and I'm not sure my kids are ever touching those things again.) They are much more flavorful and very tender. The best part is, I was able to assemble them during naptime and keep covered in the fridge until I was ready to bake them. Enjoy!

Baked Chicken Nuggets (adapted from Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving by Jonni McCoy)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ c. low fat mayonnaise
1 c. bread crumbs
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Italian seasoning (I used Italian-seasoned bread crumbs so only added 1 tsp. Italian seasoning)
½ tsp. sea salt

Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Combine the dry ingredients in a shallow dish.

Brush the chicken pieces with mayonnaise. Roll the chicken pieces in the seasoning, then place on a baking sheet.

(Warning: your fingers will get very messy during this process!)

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. I served mine with some ketchup, homemade ranch dressing, a fruit salad and green vegetable. And there you have it - a healthy, kid-friendly meal!

(Tip: the leftovers freeze very well! Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the leftover chicken nuggets on the pan so they aren't touching. Place in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then remove to a plastic freezer bag. When reheating, just bake them in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. They turn out great!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 10/4/10

Why do I find such joy in menu planning? I love sitting down in the early-morning hours on a Saturday or Sunday with a hot cup of coffee and planning the coming week’s menu. I take the time to take stock of what we already have in the house, think back to any requests my husband may have made throughout the week, and plan accordingly. It is a simple (and nerdy) pleasure of mine.

Here’s what’s in store this week: (and yes, there are lots of apples splattered throughout this week's menu, as the kids and I visited an apple orchard twice last week!)

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (from the freezer – recipe to come soon!)
Oatmeal with bananas and raisins
Cold cereal and toast
Apple Cinnamon French Toast (for the weekend when mother-in-law is here)

Creamy Mac and Cheese, turkey dogs, apple slices
Poor Man’s Pizza (made with Flat-Out wraps I found at Costco – wow, these make a great easy pizza!), orange slices
Tomato soup, grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Bento Box day – cheese and crackers, raisins, apple slices, animal crackers

Monday: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili (a hubby request), served Cincinnati-style over whole wheat spaghetti noodles, fresh pineapple

Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Drumsticks (carryover from last week), pasta salad, mixed vegetables, apple slices with maple whipped cream

Wednesday: Mongolian Beef and Broccoli (new recipe – one of my husband’s favorite dishes so I hope it turns out!), pineapple

Thursday: Hubby working late - Clean out the fridge night for me and the kids

Friday: Slow Cooker Barbeques (we'll have these ready to go when mother-in-law arrives later at night), chips, baked beans

Saturday: CrockPot Angel Chicken, broccoli, fruit

Sunday: Hubby's choice or out to eat!

Baking and Extras:
Apple Pie (daughter's request to make with mommy)
French Bread (for the Apple Cinnamon French Toast and Croutons)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too busy? Really?!

I know I haven't been posting very often lately. If it weren't for Menu Plan Monday I feel like I wouldn't post at all. The truth is, I have quite a few recipes stacked up that I need to post. I have a few fun kids-craft-type things to post, too. But seriously, I have had NO time. Or no energy? Tough to tell the difference sometimes. Really, how can a no-work-out-of-the-home-stay-at-home-mom have no time? Well, now I know...naptime has been filled with cleaning, organizing, paying bills, laundry, and grabbing a quick lunch for myself. By the time the kiddos are in bed, I'm too exhausted to even think about being creative with a post. I usually love posting in the early-morning hours - before the kids are up, a quiet house, and nice hot cup of coffee. But the kids have been getting up earlier...and crankier (but that's a whole 'nother story.)

The moral of the story is...I'm still here. I'll post something (hopefully) worth reading soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 9/27/10

The darling, super-duper-extra-hard-working-for-his-family hubby will not be home in the evenings most of the week this week, so I'm planning kid-friendly (yet healthy...therein lies the trick, right?) meals for me, my toddler and my preschooler. Nothing fancy, but hopefully the kids won't mind that I decided NOT to feed them boxed mac and cheese and spaghettios all week long (as tempting as it is!)

Here's the plan for the week:

Raisin Bran Muffins
Breakfast Cookies
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer)
oatmeal with bananas and raisins and toast

Turkey wraps, crackers, apple slices
PB&J, chips, carrot sticks
Vegetable soup, crackers, orange slices

Monday: Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, carrot sticks with homemade ranch, cantaloupe

Tuesday: Homemade Chicken Nuggets (recipe to come soon), oven fries, green beans

Wednesday: (Hubby should actually be home this night) Chicken pot pie (made with leftover crockpot chicken from last week), lettuce salad, cantaloupe

Thursday: Spaghetti with slow cooker marinara sauce, applesauce

Friday: Out to eat!

Saturday: Clean out the fridge night

Sunday: BBQ chicken drumsticks, pasta salad, mixed vegetables

Please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning inspiration!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I Love Thursday - Mendota Sparkling Water

As some of you know, I gave up Diet Coke nearly two weeks ago. It has been amazingly easier than I anticipated. Around noon every day, I craved that yummy goodness of an ice-cold Diet Coke. I thought giving it up would cause me to be sluggish and cranky since I figured it was the caffiene I needed and wanted. Well, the day I gave up Diet Coke, I bought a six-pack of Mendota sparkling lemon water. Now I have one of these every day instead of my Diet Coke and they are awesome. The ingredients: Carbonated water and natural lemon flavor. That's it.

It turns out that it wasn't the caffiene I necessarily craved from my Diet Coke, but instead it was the carbonation. I really need that extra little zip in a drink in the afternoon that tap water doesn't provide. So the new "thing I love" is now sparkling water, which has allowed me to (almost) kick my Diet Coke habit!

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday at the Diaper Diaries.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A lazy, tired SAHM's supper

After a terrible night's sleep, hosting a playdate that morning, chasing around two kiddos, cleaning up after the playdate, and a hubby that was having a work-related dinner out on the town and wouldn't be home that evening, I had zero - zippo - nada - absolutely NO energy or desire to cook a supper for myself or my children on Monday evening.

So what to do? My daughter actually suggested a picnic lunch (despite the fact it wasn't lunchtime), which sounded like an excellent idea to me. So five minutes and one full muffin tin later, supper was served. I cut up a PB&J sandwich and put each piece in a muffin tin, surrounded by pretzels, pickles, apple slices, and a cheese stick for each kid. I spread a blanket on the kitchen floor and we had ourselves a little kitchen-floor-picnic. Hardly any dishes or cleanup and the kids loved it. I even got a chance to sit and rest for a few minutes on the floor with my kiddos, which allowed me to gather up enough energy to take them to the library after our meal. Everyone was happy!

(And yes, those are tattoos on my children's forearms. You send your kids to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon with their dad, and they come back with tattoos).

Nutritionally, would I do this every night? Certainly not. But I'm tucking this idea away for future very-tired-SAHM-by-herself nights. So maybe every other night, then?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 9/20/10

A few meals didn't get made last week so are carried over to this week. We're mostly eating from the pantry and freezer again, which provided for only grocery shopping for necessities this past weekend (fruit, bread, milk, and cheese).

Here's what's on our menu this week:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer), bananas
French toast (leftover from the weekend)
Honey crunch granola with yogurt and stawberries
cold cereal and toast


Tomato soup, grilled cheese, grapes
PB&J, carrot sticks, pretzels
Cheese quesadillas, apple slices

Monday: husband won't be home so the kids and I will likely have sandwiches

Tuesday: Taco Mac and Cheese (carryover from two weeks ago - made with ground turkey instead of beef), lettuce salad, fruit

Wednesday: CrockPot Chicken (carryover from last week), baked potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie (with leftover chicken), lettuce salad

Friday: Clean out the fridge night

Saturday: Three Cheese Ziti (freezer), breadsticks, orange slices

Sunday: Homemade pizza, lettuce salad

Extras and baking:
Granola bars
Banana bread

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Frugal Friday - save on shopping by donating clothes!

Do you have a Herberger's near you? If so, there is a terrific opportunity to save 20% on nearly every item you buy by bringing clothing donations to their store for Goodwill. Near the entrance of the store, you will find a table where a clerk will collect your clothing donations and give you a 20% off coupon for each item - yes, each and every clothing item - you donate. That can really add up to a LOT of coupons! The best part (besides, of course, cleaning out your closet and donating clothing to a good cause) is that these coupons can also be used on most sale items as well.

I haven't typically shopped Herberger's (I've been trying to stay out of department stores lately!) except in the last few months I have scored some great deals on kids' fall clothes and some items in their kitchen department. I believe this Goodwill coupon deal goes for another week or two, so check it out if there is a Herberger's in your area.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life As Mom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 9/13/10

Dear ol' hubby was gone a lot of evenings last week so we didn't stick to last week's menu plan much. (I don't cook big suppers when it's just me, a toddler and preschooler). I'm looking forward to carrying over last week's meals into the coming weeks. We are still without ground beef and our freezer supply is slowly dwindling, which is a good thing. What a blessing to ever have to say, "Man, we have too much food in this freezer!" Here is what we have planned this week:

Honey Crunch Granola with yogurt and fruit
cold cereal and toast
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer)

picnic lunches outside on the nice days
tomato soup, grilled cheese, and apple slices

Monday: hubby won't be home in the evening so it's Poor Man's Pizza and leftovers from the weekend for me and the kids

Tuesday: Swiss steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob

Wednesday: Spaghetti with slow cooker marinara sauce, lettuce salad, orange slices (Does it seem like we have this spaghetti with this sauce at least every other week? Well, we do. It is awesome, my kids love it, and it's a great way to get them to eat some veggies!)

Thursday: Lentil Rice Casserole, lettuce salad, fruit

Friday: Clean out the fridge night

Saturday: Cheesy Green Enchiladas (new recipe - made with leftover frozen pork instead of chicken), chips and salsa, green beans

Sunday: Crock Pot Chicken (new recipe - my first try at making a whole chicken), roasted potatoes, carrots

Please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today is the day...

that I will enjoy my last...yes, last...Diet Coke this afternoon.

I'm giving it up cold turkey tomorrow. So when I say I'm going to enjoy it today, I mean really enjoy.

I do only drink one (usually one...okay, sometimes two) each afternoon. I really look forward to it. It is my afternoon pick-me-up during naptime (okay, usually a little before naptime). But seriously, look at the ingredients on the side of the can. Is this what I'm putting into my body each and every day? I stress over feeding my kids the occasional non-organic grape or apple, yet apparently see nothing wrong with putting aspartame and phosporic acid into my body each day?

The start of my downfall was that darn lure of the siren song of McDonald's. "$1 soft drinks, any size." And any soda-loving, caffeine-addicted mama knows just how goooood McDonald's fountain soda is. Seriously, do they put crack in that stuff? Why is it so good? I often found myself pulling in to the drive-thru this summer to get my cheap-o (just $1.08 with tax...) super-duper extra-large Diet Coke as my afternoon, 0-calorie "treat." Nothing wrong with this, right?

Well, two things happened:
The first instance: While running errands one day, my daughter sweetly asked her obviously-cranky mama from the backseat, "Mama, do you need a Diet Coke?"
The second instance: My 3-year-old and 1-year-old were playing in the living room. My daughter grabbed their sippy water cups, handed one to her little brother, and said, "Here, let's drink our Diet Cokes."

That about broke my heart. I'm trying to set a good, healthy example for my kids, and here they are thinking that it would be neat to drink Diet Coke out of their sippy cups. Yikes. Yes, I know it could be worse. As I told this story to a fellow SAHM yesterday, she laughed and said, "It could be a lot worse. They could've said 'Budweiser' instead of Diet Coke."

Everything in perspective, right?

Anyway, today is my last day of cold, refreshing, aspartame-filled, caffeinated yumminess. May God help me and family in the days to come.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 9/6/10

I'm still in the same boat as last week with no ground beef and trying to use up various cuts of meat and chicken found in my freezer. (My deep freeze is now less than half full! I can't believe the progress we've made in using up what we've had in there.) This is a pretty big "eat from the pantry and freezer" week with a couple of new recipes thrown in for good measure. Here's what's in store for the week:

Whole Wheat Strawberry Banana Muffins (freezer)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer), bananas
cold cereal and toast
Cinnamon Raisin toast (from Finding Joy in My Kitchen), bananas

Tomato soup, grilled turkey and cheese, apple slices
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
PB&J, carrots and chips

Monday: Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff (new recipe), broccoli, lettuce salad

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos (carryover from last week), chips and salsa, canteloupe

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Barbeque Chicken Drumsticks, tator tots, frozen mixed vegetables, fruit

Friday: Taco Mac and Cheese (new recipe from the $5 Dollar Dinner Mom), green beans, honeydew melon

Saturday: clean out the fridge night

Sunday: grilling or out to eat?

Baking and Extras:
Banana Bread
Carrot Puree (from Finding Joy in My Kitchen) to keep in the freezer

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things I Love Thursday - EasyLunchBoxes!

I am one of those sorry little people that walk around all the time saying, "I never win anything." But that never stops me from entering a good giveaway - and I was lucky enough to win the giveaway for Easy Lunch Boxes hosted by My Life As A Domestic Nerd (check out her site for really great recipes, like this Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake...need I say more?!)

At first, I thought I won a set of four containers, which I was thrilled with. But then yesterday I received the awesome box from the UPS man, opened it up and was even more thrilled to find out the giveaway also included a terrific insulated cooler tote! Let me tell you, these lunch kits are not the kind of plastic lunch containers made by your favorite storage bag company that you find next to the sandwich bags and trash bags at your local store. The Easy Lunch Boxes are super-sturdy and extremely well made; these things are going to last for a LONG time! My daugther, who starts preschool next week, was excited to help me wash them up and get them ready for her lunches next week. She will get to pick which color lid she wants each day, as well. Check out the website for cute, fun and different lunch ideas - this will help me get out of my PB&J rut!

I love these lunch kits! And from someone who previously "never wins anything" this giveaway really takes the cake! Thank you A Domestic Nerd and!

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursdays at Diaper Diaries.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 8/30/10

I enjoyed my week of all new suppers last week and was so surprised that, for the first time in a LONG time, I made nearly all of the dishes on my meal plan! (the exception was the creamy corn chowder; an evening at the State Fair followed by a night of pizza delivery didn't allow for the poor lil' chowder to be made.) We all liked the Pizza Roll-Up Burritos which were easy, yummy and really good leftover! I also liked the Ginger Orange Chicken, which also kept well for leftovers.

I was saddened by the discovery yesterday that I pulled the last pound of ground beef out of my freezer. We split a purchase of a grass-fed, hormone-free, organic, good ol’ South Dakota cow every year with my mother-in-law. I love having a stockpile of good ground beef, roasts and steaks in our freezer. Well, so much for the stockpile. We are now left without ground beef for a while, unless I discover some good, organic, and reasonably priced (now there’s the kicker) ground beef at the grocery store or at a farm near the Twin Cities. So you’ll notice two big things about this week’s menu: (1) it’s unfortunately ground beef-free; and (2) I’m giving my CrockPot a major workout this week. Until we make our next trip to South Dakota, I think there will be lots of chicken and different cuts of beef on this girl’s menu.

Here’s what I have planned for the week:

Whole Wheat Banana Strawberry Muffins (from the freezer – the kids and I made these for the first time last week and they are awesome!)
Granola and yogurt
Cold cereal and toast
Granola bars

Picnic lunches (sandwiches, crackers, carrots, pickles, etc.)
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple slices, carrot sticks (this is where I need to give a huge shout out to Laura at Heavenly Homemakers for this terrific homemade Ranch dressing/dip simple, healthy, and my kids LOVE IT and now can't get enough carrots to dip in this yummy ranch!)

Monday: Crockpot Angel Chicken with broccoli, lettuce salad

Tuesday: Chicken Wild Rice Soup (made with Angel Chicken leftovers), Honey Mustard Salad, fruit

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos, chips and salsa, green beans

Thursday: Round Steak with black beans (new recipe), brown rice, mixed vegetables

Friday: clean out the fridge night

Saturday: Three Cheese Ziti (carryover from a couple of weeks ago), broccoli, lettuce salad

Sunday: leftovers or out to eat?

Please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taco Soup

We love this super-easy soup in our house. Made with lean ground beef or turkey, beans and tomatoes and corn, it's a great way to get plenty of protein and even some veggies into my kids' diet. This soup is awesome served with sour cream and crushed tortilla chips on top (and my hubby and I enjoy a couple dashes of Tabasco in ours, as well). Enjoy!

(This photo makes me realize I need to research how to take good blog photos. I realize this bowl of soup doesn't look the most appetizing in this photo, but it's good...take my word for it.)

Taco Soup
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
32 oz. low sodium beef broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. low sodium taco seasoning (I use 3 T. of this homemade taco seasoning mix from Laura at Heavenly Homemakers)
1 can corn with peppers, drained

Brown beef or turkey. Drain.
Stir in broth, beans, tomatoes, and taco seasoning.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Stir in the corn right at the end of simmer time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 8/23/10

I’m in a rut…so this week I’m celebrating an “All New Recipes” for supper week! Since it’s supposed to be another warm week (which, in Minnesota, I’m thankful for because the snow will be flying before I know it), I also searched for recipes that required very little or no oven time. I’m looking forward to trying these new recipes and testing them out on my family.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (Freezer), bananas
Cold cereal and toast
Honey Crunch Granola (from Clay in His Hands)with yogurt and fruit

Picnic lunches with sandwiches, crackers, and fruit
Chicken strips, cottage cheese, apple and orange slices

Monday: Huevos Rancheros (recipe from a friend; hope to post it soon), chips and salsa, apple slices

Tuesday: Pizza Burritos (from Debbie Does Dinner), Caesar salad, green beans

Wednesday: Ginger Orange Chicken, brown rice, snow peas, fresh pineapple

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Skillet Tacos, chips and salsa, fresh fruit

Saturday: Creamy Corn Chowder (from Our Best Bites), grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, fruit

Sunday: Clean out the fridge night!

Extras and baking:
Raisin Bran Muffins (for freezer)

Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas and recipes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My new fall wardrobe...for how much?

I did a ton of my fall/winter clothing shopping last weekend at my local consignment store. I cleaned out my closet earlier this summer and consigned quite a few items. Instead of cash, I opt for receiving store credit (which gives me 55% of what the store sells the item for, compared to 45% if I were to receive cash). I called the store and they informed me I had over $70 in store credit waiting for me. So, hubby stayed with the kiddos while they napped and off I went to happily shop (by myself - sans kiddos - bliss).

Here is what I got:

1 Josephine Chaus jacket (outerwear)
2 casual jackets (one was Talbots)
1 Express sweater
1 American Living shirt
1 pair of jeans
1 Arden B. jean skirt
1 pair of Liz Claiborne khaki pants
1 pair of Levi’s shorts for next year for my little guy
1 pair of Levi’s jeans for my little guy

And what did I pay out of pocket?? .... $12.05!!

Even my husband was impressed. I hit some great end-of-the-season sales where some items were only $2 (which, oddly enough, weren’t even summer items, like my boy’s Levi jeans, the Express sweater and the jean skirt.) Yes, I sadly used up all of my credit but that’s what it’s there for, right? This is better than garage sales!

This post is linked to Frugal Friday hosted by Life as Mom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

31 Days to Build a Better Home Challenge Update

I've fallen miserably behind in the 31 Days to Build a Better Home Challenge hosted by Today's Housewife. I'm trying to keep up/catch up, and here's my progress:

Day 12 - Bless your church staff and volunteers.
I would've totally been on this one...if we actually belonged to/attended a church. Sadly, we haven't gotten around to making this part of our Sunday routine. We use the excuses of "not enough time," "kids are too young", and "I don't trust strangers in the nursery watching my kids." Well, this daily challenge was a great reminder that it's time to put those excuses aside and start visiting some churches to find one we like.

Day 13 - Have dessert.
Done. Completed. And then some. Thank you Dairy Queen!

Day 14 - Visit a farmer's market or road-side stand.
This didn't get done on this day, but we have visited the farmer's market twice this month. I always go overboard and buy too much, but I love me some affordable, fresh, organic produce.

Day 15 - Try a new recipe this week.
It's in the Crock Pot right now, as I type. I am making these pork chops (never tried them before but they smell wonderful!).

Day 16 - Clean out a closet.
Um, this was totally on my weekend to-do list while the kids would be away. Well, hubby's work schedule didn't accomodate so now he is not taking the kids to the grandparents. No mini-vacation for this SAHM, but hopefully I'll tackle this closet during tomorrow's naptime. Just too much cooking during naptime for me today to think about my messy closets.

Day 17 - Do something your husband would normally do around the house.
Check. Our van got broken into overnight. Windows smashed and stuff stolen. So I was the one that called the police, the insurance agent, and the glass company. Everything was cleaned up, replaced and ready to go by the time hubby got home from work. Normally he would like to take charge of these things, but this SAHM took care of it all.

Day 18 - Write a love letter.
I'm going to do this right now...bye bye. :-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 8/16/10

So last week's menu plan was a bit of a bust. My husband ended up having a crazy week at work and really was only home for supper once or twice all week long, so I didn't prepare a lot of the things I had planned. I managed to make him the Vegetable Lo Mein with pork postickers a few days later than planned, which made for one very happy hubby.

Now on to this week - how short it is! This mama is looking forward to my second SAHM vacation at the end of this week. Dear Hubby is planning on taking the kiddos to South Dakota for a visit with the himself! I plan on staying home, doing a little fall/winter clothes shopping for the kiddos (I did my own clothes shopping on Saturday...more to come on that later this week!), cleaning out a closet or two, and relaxing a bit. I will miss my kiddos and hubby dearly but the time by myself will be awesome.

So, I only have three nights of meals planned this week - all simple but yummy, nonetheless. These meals are all based on things I already have on hand, as the only grocery shopping I did this weekend was for milk and bread! Here's our plan for the week:

Banana bread, fruit
Cold cereal, toast
Yogurt and bananas

I foresee picnic lunches all week long.

Monday: Spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce (sauce from the freezer), broccoli, cheesy garlic toast, caesar salad, canteloupe and grapes

Tuesday: Honey Mustard Lime Chicken Drummies, brown rice, romaine salad, leftover broccoli, fruit salad

Wednesday: Pork Chops (new recipe), hash browns, frozen mixed vegetables, leftover fruit salad

Thurs. - Sun.: vacation!

For more menu planning ideas, tips and recipes, please visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Need help with lunchtime!

So my daughter has been big into her "picnic lunch" this summer. We usually pack a lunch and eat it at a park or in our backyard. However, on the not-so-nice days, we find ourselves stuck inside with a mommy standing in her pantry, staring blankly at the shelves and wondering, "What to make today?"

I give in every so often and make Mac'n'Cheese from the box or Spaghettios (a very occasional treat in this house) but would really like to steer clear from processed foods. So Please Help Me!!

I'm looking for quick, yummy, healthy, toddler/preschooler friendly lunch ideas and recipes. Do you have a staple lunch item for your little one? Do you freezer-cook and make your yummies ahead of time? Any help is appreciated! Please leave me a comment and/or a link to your great (and much-needed) lunch inspiration!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

31 Days to Build a Better Home Challenge Update

Given the current state our home (or as I like to call it, "SnotFest 2010") I have fallen miserably behind with Today's Housewife 31 Days to Build a Better Home challenge. Here is my update:

Day 7 - Flirt with your husband all day (and all night)
- Miserable fail on this one. Sick kids. Husband working extremely long hours. Very tired mama. This one just didn't get done. Raincheck?

Day 8 - Bless your parents and in-laws
- I sent my mom a letter with pictures of our visit to their farm last week.

Day 9 - Do something nice for a neighbor
- I had every intention of baking chocoloate chip cookies to bring to our new neighbors who moved in across the street last week. Well, a heat index of 103 degrees kind of put a wringer into my plans, since I didn't feel like heating my house up to 90 degrees with the oven running. Plus I didn't think the new neighbors would appreciate my toting along my two snotty lil' kids (mmmm...that would really make the cookies look appetizing.) The forecast calls for only 80 degrees this weekend, so I PROMISE to do my baking then!

Day 10 - Take a picture
- I take pictures of my lil' ones almost daily so this one wasn't too challenging for me. Even snotty and sneezy and teething(are those three of the Seven Dwarfs?), my kids are still cute and photo-worthy!

Day 11 - Clean your computer
- Yikes, thanks for the reminder on this one. Lysol wipes and swiffer duster in hand, I got this job done. Now I just need some of the keyboard air spray stuff, though. Oh well, the job is 90% done.

To join the challenge or get inspiration from other's (much better) accomplishments, please visit Today's Housewife!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


What's been going on in this mom's life lately:

1. Two kids sick with bad colds.
2. A major lack of sleep due to said sick kids.
3. A husband that is super-busy at work and is essentially home only 4-5 hours in the middle of the night to catch a few winks of sleep.
4. Super hot and humid weather upwards of 100 degrees.
5. Numbers 1 through 4 above lead to number time to blog or be creative at all. Hope to return to normalcy soon...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 8/9/10

This week's menu was compiled a bit differently than normal. I went grocery shopping yesterday morning (the fridge and cupboards were pretty bare after the kids and I were gone for five days!) and then planned this week's menu this morning based on what I have on hand. (Perhaps not the most efficient way of doing it but time was limited this week.) I'm looking forward to trying two new recipes as well as making a favorite of my hubby's that I don't make too often (the Lo Mein!)

Here's what I have planned for the week:

Raisin Bran Muffins (freezer)
Parfaits (made with Honey Crunch Granola, plain yogurt with a little honey mixed in, blueberries and bananas)
cold cereal and English muffins

our standard picnic lunch on nice days (sandwiches, cheese sticks, crackers, raisins and juice boxes)
chicken strips, cottage cheese and apple slices


Monday: For mom and dad - Vegetable Lo Mein (hubby's fave request) and Trader Joe's potstickers; kids will eat buttered noodles and/or leftover pizza from Sunday night

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Salsa, Black Bean and Beef Skillet, tortilla chips, pineapple

Thursday: Slow Cooker Pork Chops, hashbrowns, frozen mixed vegetables, lettuce salad, pineapple

Friday: Cheeseburger Pie (new recipe and I'll try it using this homemade crust), carrot sticks, apple and orange slices

Saturday: Leftover buffet - It's "Clean out the fridge" night!

Sunday: Three Cheese Ziti (new recipe), broccoli, caesar salad

Freezer cooking extras and baking:

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Banana Bread
Chocolate chip cookies (for new neighbors across the street)
HashBrowns (for freezer)

This post is linked to I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Raisin Bran Muffins

I love to have a yummy, healthy breakfast on hand and ready to pull out of the freezer at any given moment, and these Raisin Bran Muffins fit the bill. I've tweeked this recipe from a very popular, very yummy, but not-so-healthy recipe that calls for all white flour, a lot of oil and a ton of sugar. After a few tries, I think I found the winning combination to "healthify" this recipe a bit.

Raisin Bran Muffins

4 cups Raisin Bran cereal
1/2 c. Fiber One cereal (or All Bran, but I had Fiber One on hand).
1 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. oat bran
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. buttermilk

Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (mine only took 15). These muffins freeze well, or the mix also keeps well in the fridge to bake as you need them. I make these in muffin-top pans and usually yield a baker's dozen.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Memory Game - free!

We survived the trip to and from my parents' farm this week. The kids and I enjoyed four nights/five days of fun and relaxation with the our family. It's always so great to spend time with family (my kids adore playing with their cousins!) and, although I love living in the Twin Cities, it makes me a little sad that we don't live closer to them so we could see them more often.

But - now we are back in full swing. I got up extra early this morning to make sure that everything was unpacked and put away before the kids got up so we could hit the ground running and get back into our "at home" schedule, routine, chores and fun.

Part of our at-home fun is playing the game Memory. I loved this game as a kid. My daughter is three years old and will be starting preschool next month and this is the perfect game for her to start developing some of the matching and memory skills that this game provides. However, I didn't buy the game - I made one myself for free. All it took was a quick trip to your local home improvement store and collect some paint samples (I chose the Disney colors because they come shaped liked Mickey Mouse!) I chose two of a few primary colors and there you go - your very own "do it yourself" Memory game!

This is a great way for my kids to practice matching and color identification. Both my preschooler and toddler love this frugal, fun game.

This post is linked to Today's Housewife - check out their "31 Days to Build a Better Home" challenge - as well as Life As Mom Frugal Friday!