Sunday, February 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: March 1, 2010

I sometimes laugh at the fact that I like to menu plan and post my menu plans because lately my "plans" have always fallen through. It seems like if I make one or two things off a week's menu lately, I'm doing pretty well. Last week, we unexpectedly traveled with my husband for his work. He had some work to do in a city only 30 minutes away from my parents' farm, so the kids and I traveled with him Tuesday through Friday last week and stayed at my parents' home.

Last week, I only made one thing from my menu plan: Hot Beef Cheddar Subs and zesty oven-baked fries. My husband LOVES this meal and the subs are excellent left over, too. My dear, hard-working husband is traveling AGAIN this week (third week in a row!! sigh...) so the menu isn't too complicated and I'm carrying over many meals that I didn't get to make last week. The best part, though, is that the menu required no new grocery shopping as I already had all of the ingredients. Yes, I did sneak out yesterday during naptime (hubby stayed home with the kids...yeah!!) to do some basic grocery shopping (milk, eggs, bread, etc.) but it was only a small trip.

Today is March 1st and I'm challenging myself to actually keep track of exactly how much I'm spending on groceries this month. When I shop at "super" stores (mostly SuperTarget), it's easy to lose track of how much I spend on food because I also pick up toilet paper, baby wipes, etc. This month, I'm challenging myself to keep all receipts and keep track of our food costs. I know that I spend way more than I actually think I do, so this will be an eye-opener for me and an opportunity for me to really sit down and see where I can save.

Here is our meal plan for the week:

Banana Flax Muffins
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Peanut Butter Granola

Sunday: Homemade hamburger and mushroom pizza, lettuce salad, apples

Monday: Spaghetti, frozen broccoli, lettuce salad

Tuesday and Wednesday: Hubby out of town - leftovers for me and the kids

Thursday: Lentil Rice Casserole, honey mustard romaine salad, frozen mixed vegetables

Friday: Slow-cooker chicken tacos (recipe to be posted soon), leftover lentil rice casserole, tortilla chips

Saturday: Chicken taco salads (made with leftover chicken taco meat) for me and hubby, Chicken Cheese Quesadillas (with leftover meat) for the kids, tortilla chips

For more menu planning inspiration, check out I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Update: What I Did On My "SAHM Day Off"

Well, I said I wasn't going to do it. I said I wasn't going to feel like I was on the clock during last Saturday's SAHM Day Off. But I did. Here is rundown of my very exciting day.

First, I spent an exciting hour and a half at the car dealership getting my car's oil changed. A ridiculous amount of time wasted there, but I was able to get a few chapters read in Love Revolution by Joyce Meyer. I'm almost done with the book now and it's worth a read. The dealership was kind enough to wash my car for me so that checked off one thing on my "to do" list.

Next, I made a wasted trip across town to the children's consignment shop. I went in with three big bags of spring and summer clothes and left with three big bags of clothes. They only took a few of my items because they were overstocked in the sizes I brought in (mostly 2T and 3T). Sigh... I did find a cute black and red like-new Nike spring jacket for my little guy, though, for only $5.50.

I then drove down the block to "my" consignment shop where I had some bucks burning in my credit account there. I found a cute pair of capris, a short-sleeved sweatshirt and long-sleeved t-shirt. I love feeling like I walk out of there with "free" clothes because no cash was exchanged - I just used the credit I had from items I had sold there in the months past.

I tried to go to a leisurely lunch by myself. I drove next door to one of my favorites restaurants (Good Earth) only to find no parking spots and standing room only in the lobby (at 1:30 in the afternoon? really?). So then I drove to the nearby Starbucks thinking I'd just grab a mocha and a muffin. Again, no parking spots. Another sigh...

So a very hungry and caffeine-deprived Holly then drove across town to Aldi to do some stock-up-the-pantry shopping. I left Aldi with a cart full of canned goods, cereal, produce, AND a waffle maker for only $55! I loooove Aldi and I'm so happy that they are currently building a new one even closer to my house. The man ahead of me in the checkout lane was so unbelievably rude and cranky to the poor cashier. If anyone goes to Aldi, they know how terribly busy the cashiers are and how quickly they have to work. So when I made my way up to the cashier I utilized some of what I've learned by reading the Love Revolution and made a point to tell the cashier that he did a great job, I appreciated his hard work and I was amazed by how quickly he could scan all the items. The guy looked like at me like I was speaking in tongues.

I then drove to Arc's Value Village thrift store to donate the three bags of kids' clothes that consignment wouldn't take. I knew I was losing some good $$ by not finding another consignment to take them, but (1) I don't have the time, and (2) I don't have the room to store the clothes anymore! So off they went to a good cause and for someone else to enjoy.

Last on my list: the dreaded Target run. I stocked up with groceries, toilet paper, etc. for the week. I had milk, eggs and cheese with me on a fairly warm Minnesota winter day (a whopping 32 degrees!) so I knew I had to head home to bring home the groceries.

I was home for 4:00. The kids were both up from their naps. They were happy to see me and I was SOOO very happy to see them. It only took a few hours of busy errands for me to miss my lil' ones.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Menu Plan: Week of 2/22/10

Since our son was born (15 months ago...), we hardly eat out anymore. Not because we don't want to, but mostly because our son is very, how shall I say, "unpredictable" at meal times and can be, how shall I say, "overzealous". So we stay home and out of earshot of nice paying patrons at restaurants. It's actually a bonus because we save tons of money (and not to mention tons of calories!)by eating our meals at home. However, it is nice to go out and have no cleanup and no dishes afterwards! My hubby treated us TWICE this past week to a meal out with the kids (our son was mostly well behaved...).

Since I only cooked a few nights this last week, I'm refreshed and geared up for some menu planning and cooking (even though hubby is traveling AGAIN this week so my plan is a little light). I'm trying one new recipe this week - the lentil rice casserole courtesy of Sarah at Clay In His Hands. She always has such great, frugal, and healthy recipes so I'm anxious to give this one a try! Otherwise, the week is filled with family favorites - especially spaghetti made with my mother-in-law's homemade canned spaghetti sauce, filled with organic vegetables from her garden and no sugar! Yummy! (wish I had the recipe but that is her secret...)

Here is our menu for the week:

Sunday: Spaghetti, garlic cheese toast, honeydew melon, lettuce salad with homemade croutons

Monday: Lentil Rice Casserole, Honey Mustard Salad, melon

Tuesday: Hot Beef Cheddar Subs (my husband's favorite meal!), Zesty oven fries, frozen broccoli

Wednesday and Thursday: Hubby out of town so leftovers for the me and the kids

Friday: Slow Cooker Honey Chicken, brown rice, mixed vegetables, lettuce salad

Saturday: Homemade pizza with hamburger and mushrooms

For great menu planning ideas and tips, please visit I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Homemade Croutons

My husband enjoys a lettuce salad with almost meal, so we go through a lot of croutons in our house. My little girl loves them just for a snack, too. As tasty as the store-bought croutons are, I cringed when I read some of the ingredients in a box I recently bought: high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, monosodium glutamate, disodium phosphate, sodium caseinate, etc. Yikes!

I've been making homemade croutons when I have some extra bread laying around and my hubby loves them - even more than any kind I buy in the store! Plus I know all of the ingredients and know that they are reasonably healthy for my family. I made my most recent batch this week from leftover bread bowls I made on Tuesday for broccoli cheese soup. This batch turned out awesome!


4 c. bread, cut into approximately 1-inch cubes
3 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I always use a little less)
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together spices in a bowl. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in bread to coat. Season with the spices and stir. Lower flame and saute for 1 minute. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes. Stir, and bake and additional 4-5 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't burn.

Feeling guilty about a "SAHM Day Off"

My dear hubby has been very busy at work lately, working long hours and also traveling out of town. Although I know how blessed I am to be able to stay home full time with my two kids, it has been a rough couple of weeks being the sole caregiver to two toddlers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with little to no assistance on most days. I love my job as my mommy and wife but I am just plain tired. A little bit of "me time" is needed - and my hubby said that tomorrow (Saturday) is "my day"!! He said I could take the whole day and do whatever I wanted and he would take care of the kids all day.

This happens every so often but I always feel like I have to rush home to help with the kids. I usually run some errands by myself (consignment, Target, etc.) and then hurry home. But I'm willing myself to STAY AWAY tomorrow! Maybe even till suppertime! I know I have to go get my car's oil changed in the morning...but what to do after that? I do have the typical errands to run (drop off at consignment, grocery shopping at Target). But after that, the day is mine! I really should get my hair cut and colored, but I'm not in the mood and feel like that will be a huge waste of two hours! Instead, I think I may find a cozy coffee shop somewhere and snuggle up with a Mocha, a really fattening muffin, and finish the book I'm reading (Love Revolution by Joyce Meyer). Or maybe I'll be super crazy and go see a movie all by myself! No kids needing to rush to the potty, no sippy cups to fill, no princess DVDs to change, etc. etc. Just me for a few hours...sigh.

We'll see. I'll probably get the car serviced, get groceries, and head home by lunch because I feel guilty being away from my kids and hubby for more than two hours. Why do I do this? Why the feelings of guilt? I know that no one can stay at their job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and be healthy. I know that although I no longer wear high heels and a suit to work every day that I still work extremely hard. I know that in addition to me needing to be away from my kids every now and then, my kids also need some time away from me.

I know all of this. Yet every time I go out by myself, I feel guilty. I check my watch constantly and feel like a timer has been set and I need to rush home. And then once I get home and get the inevitable backseat of groceries unloaded and put away, I'm back on the "mommy clock" taking care of the kids and feeling resentful that I didn't get any good, quality "me time" away.

Is this my own doing? Mostly, yes. Why do SAHMs do this? When I worked outside of the home I never felt guilty for staying home on a Saturday. Why are things so different when we work at home? I have yet to figure this out. Although I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I know how lucky I am to be able to stay home with my two adorable kids and take care of my kids, husband and home. But the guilt sets in when I start to feel bad for wanting (okay, needing) to be away from my kids for a little while. God blessed me with two happy, healthy dare I ever want to be away from them? But I know that I will not be the mom and wife I need to be - should be - unless I regroup every now and then by myself. This is for my family's sake and my own well being. A happy mama makes a happy household. And I want us to be HAPPY!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crock Pot Wednesday - Turkey Chili

I love my slow cooker. Especially since I can usually assemble supper during my kids' naptime, plug it in, and not worry about it until it's time to serve up supper! It's not unheard of for me to cook at least two meals a week in my slow cooker. This time of year, my favorite is this great, easy, healthy recipe for Turkey Chili. I'm sneaky and even add in a couple chopped carrots for extra veggies and vitamins - and nobody is the wiser! My toddlers like it served on top of spaghetti noodles, Cincinnati-style, with cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!

Slow-Cooked Chili

1.25 lb. package lean ground turkey
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 16-oz. can chili beans, with liquid
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

Brown ground turkey in skillet. Drain. Transfer to slow cooker.
Stir in remaining ingredients (except cheese and sour cream).
Cover. Cook on Low 8-10 hours or on High 4 hours.
Garnish with cheese and sour cream.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Easy Pizza Dough and Pizza Sauce

I have to credit my mother-in-law with this recipe. It is the easiest and tastiest pizza dough recipe ever, plus much healthier than any store-bought-in-a-tube crust. It may sound too easy to be good, but please give it a try! I've tweeked it a bit and added some whole wheat flour and it comes out crispy on the outside and soft in the inside...perfect!

Pizza Dough

3/4 cup + 2 T. room temp water
2 T. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add the ingredients in a bread machine in the order listed. Select the "dough" setting and push start. (this takes about 1 1/2 hours in my bread machine) It's that easy!!

When done, grease a pizza pan (or cookie sheet, which we use - makes for a little thinner crust) well with a couple tablespoons of olive oil before speading out the dough. Top with your favorite toppings and bake at 425 degrees until the cheese browns a bit and bubbles in the middle (usually about 10-12 minutes).

Here is my super simple recipe for pizza sauce. No need to buy the pre-made stuff. This can be made with three ingredients that I guarantee you have in your pantry!

Pizza Sauce

1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 T. oregano
1 T. basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Mix the ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Spread over pizza dough. (This will make a little more than you need so save the extras for breadsticks or dipping crust!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Plan 2/15/10

I think my hubby (and my kids, for that matter) are getting a bit bored with some of the tried and true family favorites I rotate in and out week after week. So, this week I'm trying one new recipe - soup with a bread bowl. We'll see how it turns out. It's a little more high maintenance of a recipe than I like, but I'm livin' dangerously this week. Here's our menu for the week:

Sunday: Homemade hamburger and mushroom pizza (recipe for the awesomely easy pizza dough to follow later), lettuce salad, strawberries

Monday: Stuffed Spinach and Cheese Shells (from the freezer - I made a triple batch a few months ago and froze them), fruit salad

Tuesday: Broccoli Cheese Soup in a bread bowl, lettuce salad

Wednesday and Thursday: husband out of town so it will be simple stuff and leftovers for me and the kids

Friday: Apricot Chicken, frozen mixed vegetables, roasted red potatoes

Saturday: I have NO idea...probably good ol' spaghetti?

What's on your menu this week? Head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for great menu planning ideas and tips!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turkey Spinach Enchiladas

I made Turkey and Spinach Enchiladas for supper tonight. This is an easy, (mostly) healthy, yummy recipe that my husband claims is in his "Top 5" dishes that I make. It also gets this SAHM's stamp of approval because it meets my supper recipe requirement: it can be assembled during the kids' afternoon nap time and kept in the fridge till baking time! This makes a large pan full of enchiladas with plenty for leftovers. Enjoy!

Turkey and Spinach Enchiladas

1 package (1.25 lb.) ground turkey
1 c. salsa (I use mild for the kids. Pace Thick & Chunky, or comparable store brand, works well).
1 tsp. cumin
8 oz. cream cheese (I use the light 1/3 less fat kind)
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
whole wheat tortillas
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (the original recipe calls for 2 cups but I only use about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350.
Brown turkey over medium heat.
Add salsa, cumin and cream cheese to browned turkey. Cook until cream cheese is melted.
Add spinach and simmer for 7-10 minutes.
Spray 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Spoon mixture into tortillas, roll and add to pan.
Top with the drained diced tomatoes.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Remodeling...before and after!

We moved into our house in February 2002. We didn't have any children yet. Hubby was in his first year of practice and I was finishing up my last year of law school. We were so happy to be moving out of our apartment and into our first home. 925 square feet. 2 bedrooms. 1 tiny bathroom. Yes, it was tiny...but it was our's. I remember our realtor telling us, "You think you'll be in this house for more than three years but I guarantee that you won't."

Fast forward eight years. Add two kids, a finished basement (an extra 250 or so square feet), a second downstairs bathroom, a third basement bedroom, a remodeled upstairs bathroom...and we're still in our lovely little home. We love our house and are blessed to be able to live here.

This is all a preface to our last "big" interior remodeling project in our lil' house. While we finished the basement three years ago right before Alison was born, we never got around to re-doing the terrible, icky storage shelves that led down to the basement. That's the only way I can describe them...icky. We stored things on the shelves that were better suited for a garage, like old paint cans and tools. But these were out in the open for everyone to see. Here is what it looked like:

Last week, we (and by "we," I mean our awesome handyman neighbor with the assistance of my hubby on some finishing work) tore out the old shelves and built custom wood cabinetry and shelving leading down to the basement. We finally feel like our little house is complete now. I can't wait to fill the shelves with some nice books and family photos. Here are the after photos:

On a side note, I realized again last week how lucky I am to have the opportunity to not have a job outside the home. During the awful construction process, I was able to pack the kiddos up and head down to my hometown to stay with my mom and dad for a few days. If I were still working, I wouldn't have been able to do that. It was confirmation again that I made the right the decision for our family when I quit my job with the full support of my awesome hubby.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Whole Wheat Muffins

I made a batch of Whole Wheat Muffins this morning for hubby and the kids. I get so sick of serving them plain old toast every morning so it's nice to mix it up a bit every now and then and make a fresh batch of muffins in the morning. This recipe is from the book Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving by Jonni McCoy. Super easy, healthy, yummy, and the extras freeze very well, too. My husband likes them because they aren't too sweet and the kids (and I) love them with just a little bit of honey. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Muffins

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ c. pure maple syrup
1 c. water
½ c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.
In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients and mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry.
Mix just until blended and do not over mix.
Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin tins.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Menu Plan: Week of 2/8/10

The kids and I are back from six days away at my parents' home. We had some remodeling done in our house so the kids and I packed up and escaped the chaos and mess of construction. The end product was fabulous (pictures coming soon!) and we are so glad to be back home. However, we got home at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and I was left without groceries and a menu plan. So, this week I'm throwing together a menu based on what I already have in the freezer and pantry.

Monday: Baked Spaghetti, lettuce salad, frozen mixed vegetables

Tuesday: Turkey Spinach Enchiladas, tortilla chips

Wednesday: Leftover Buffet

Thursday: Frozen Perogies with marinara sauce, lettuce salad, frozen broccoli

Friday: Slow Cooker Honey Chicken, brown rice, green beans

I'm still working on creating links to some recipes so bear with me. Recipes for some of these dishes will be coming soon! Enjoy your week!

For more menu planning ideas, please check out I'm An Organizing Junkie

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

28-Day Organizing Challenge

I'm participating in I'm an Organizing Junkie's 28-day organizing challenge. I have some small spaces that I will be organizing (hopefully), like a small kitchen countertop and cupboard, a junk drawer, two closets, and the shelving going down to our basement that is being remodeled this week. I'll post before and after pictures as I go (as embarrassing as the "before" pictures are...). Wish me luck!

For more organizing ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freezing Peppers

I hit an awesome sale at Cub Foods last week and stocked up on lots of pantry and freezer items. Quaker Oatmeal Squares for $1.39 a box? Four pork loins for $19.99? Sign me up! I was also amazed to find red, orange and yellow peppers for only $1.00 each! I LOVE red peppers but they are so extremely expensive that I normally don't cook with them. However, with this sale, I got two red peppers and one orange pepper, but my menu plan in the next week or two doesn't accomodate any pepper recipes. So I decided to dice two of the peppers and slice one red pepper and freeze them for stir fries or casseroles later. We'll see how it turns out, as I've never frozen a fresh veggie before. I'll keep you posted!

Menu Planning: Week of 2/1/10

We have a very abbreviated menu plan this week. We are having some remodeling done in the interior of our home this week (before and after pictures will hopefully be posted next week!) so the kids and I are escaping the remodeling mess and madness and heading to Grandma and Grandpa's for a few days. That leaves my hubby home alone with construction and, sad to say, no make-ahead meals. However, he'll have a couple nights of leftovers from Monday's plan supper:

Monday: Slow Cooker Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, pasta salad, frozen broccoli (note that in this chicken recipe, I use only 1 T. of brown sugar and also shred the chicken, once cooked, and put back into the sauce for an hour or so. Yummy!)

Tuesday through Saturday: Out of Town

Looking forward to sharing more meal plans and recipes in the weeks to come (when we're actually at home!)

For more menu planning ideas, please visit: