Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/31/11

I cannot believe it's almost February! Despite being cooped up during this long, cold Minnesota winter, we are still eating fairly healthy in our house. I'm trying to clean out some things from my freezer and pantry this week, and so far my grocery list only has 5 items on it for the week! Here's what we have planned for the week:

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothies (new recipe - we'll see how my kids like this one!)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftover from Sunday), bananas
cold cereal, toast
bagels with cream cheese, fruit

Fish sticks (a new kid favorite - not from scratch but it's a treat every now and then!), apple slices, crackers
PB&J, crackers, grapes
Tomato soup, grilled cheese, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Hummus and pita chips, orange slices

Sunday: Homemade Pizza, lettuce salad
Monday: Vegetable Barley Soup (from the freezer), grilled ham and cheese, pineapple
Tuesday: Turkey and Spinach Enchiladas, refried bean dip (half of this recipe), chips
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: Beef and Bean Chili (yes, for the THIRD week in a row! My husband loves this stuff!)
Friday: Chipotle take-out!
Sat. and Sun: ??

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Computer area clutter - finished!

As I've mentioned at least 5,000 times since I started this blog, we live in a very small house. The only place we've found to put our computer is, unfortunately, on our kitchen countertop. Not the prettiest of all places, but it works. This space gets very cluttered with incoming mail, recipes and coupons, notes, magazines, preschool information, pens and pencils, etc. It is a part of my home that causes me anxiety because there is really no hiding it when people come over. So, as part of my de-cluttering for 2011 resolution, I decided to tackle this mess.

Here is the before:

I decided the vertical magazine holder (which you can't even see because it's hidden behind so much stuff) wasn't cutting it anymore. I wanted my stuff even more hidden. So I found this great, small (and cute) hanging file folder container at Target for $9. The hardest part was picking the many cute ones...but I went with a muted orange. Here's my new baby:

I tossed a bunch of old and/or outdated and unread magazines. I organized my piles of stuff into categories like bills, household information, preschool information, coupons, recipes, etc. Here is the "after" of my file folder box:

A good cleaning later, here is the finished space:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pear Blueberry Muffins

My little two-year-old is a fruit lover. His recent favorite is pears (I found a great deal at Aldi and got 8 pears for $2!) And forget about blueberries...I can't keep enough of them in the house for my little guy. So, I decided to make a pear/blueberry combo muffin which turned out really well. I found a base recipe but changed quite a bit of it to make it a bit healthier and suit our family's tastes. (Note that I'm still getting my family used to the taste of sucanat so I'm making a gradual transition - you can use more in place of the brown sugar if you like, or just use brown sugar if you don't have sucanat.) These also freeze very well. Enjoy!

Pear Blueberry Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 T. butter, very soft
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sucanat
2 eggs
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 cup pears, peeled and diced
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger. In a medium bowl, cream butter with brown sugar and sucanat. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the yogurt. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. (The mixture will be quite thick.) Stir in the pears and blueberries. Fill the muffin cups evenly with the mixture. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/24/11

My husband has FINALLY surpassed the two weeks of "Phase 1" of the South Beach Diet (no carbs, no fruit, no sugars) and we have now entered a much more enjoyable and menu-planning-friendly "Phase 2" (whole grain carbs and most fruit allowed). However, two the "Phase 1" meals are such hits that we are having them again this week: the Beef and Bean Chili and Chicken Parmesean were delicious! (And I made the Pork Satay last night and husband said it was some of the best pork he's ever had). So, despite eating very healthy, we are also eating very well. Here is what is in store for us this week:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (leftover from Sunday), bananas
cold cereal, toast
Pumpkin Spice Granola (didn't make last week), yogurt
Whole wheat bagels, cream cheese
Pear Blueberry Muffins (from the freezer - recipe to come soon!)

Chicken strips, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
PB&J, pickles, apple slices
Creamy Mac and Cheese, orange slices, green beans
Vegetable soup, crackers, cheese sticks, apple slices

Chicken Parmesean, whole wheat noodles, lettuce salad
Beef and Bean Chili, lettuce salad
Chipotle Beef Burritos, whole wheat tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream
Chicken Quesadillas, green beans, applesauce
Tilapia (didn't make last week), broccoli

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/17/11

This week, I'm still trying to be a good, supportive wife and help my husband out with his second week of "Phase 1" of the South Beach Diet. But let me tell you, the cookin' ain't been easy, ladies. Yes, I'm getting lots of great recipes from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook, but I miss my make-ahead meals of casseroles, crock pot meals, and spaghetti. The good news is that we are eating lots of fresh, nutritious, whole foods during this grand experiment. With the exception of the chili, all of the recipes for suppers are new this week.

Here's what's in store for us:

cold cereal and toast
Pumpkin Spice Granola (new recipe), yogurt
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes (with blueberries, leftover from Sunday!)
Cinnamon Swirl Toast (new recipe), fruit

Creamy Mac and Cheese, orange slices, peas
Hummus with pita chips, carrot sticks, apples
Cheese Quesadillas, refried beans, chips, pears
PB&J, crackers, cottage cheese
Fried Egg Sandwiches, fruit

Chicken Parmesean (with some whole wheat noodles for me and the kids), broccoli
Beef and Bean Chili (yes I made this last week and I'm making it again!), lettuce salad, carrot sticks
Pork Satay, green beans
Tilapia, lettuce salad
Tomato Basil Soup, cannelini salad

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Great Pantry Clean-Out - completed!

We live in a very small house. But one of the many things I love about our little cozy house is that, despite its small size, our house has a very nice-sized kitchen and walk-in pantry. I often wonder what I would do without my pantry. shameful as it is, my lovely pantry is often turned into the "shove it in there for now because I don't want to deal with it" spot. Plus, because our house is so small, the pantry also holds the recycling, kids' art supplies, brooms and mop, step stool, and extra folding chairs. There have been times when I haven't even been able to walk in to our walk-in pantry. As I stated in my previous post, my pantry just one of the areas of my home that needed good gutting and organizing. Here is the shameful "before picture"...(blush):

(Yes, that is a 12-pack of Diet Coke floor. And yes, I wrote a few a months ago about how I was giving up Diet Coke. But in my defense, my mother had come up for a visit and she drinks Diet Coke, so I bought some for her during her stay. I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't snuck one or two during naptime since, but I'm doing much better.)

Wow. I threw out nearly a bag of stale and old crackers, chips, and some expired beverages. (What a waste, right?) I also emptied TWO bags of dried up Play-Doh containers, broken crayons, used up coloring books, and old art projects. I moved some things around, cleaned the floor and shelving, and...
The "after":

It feels so good to have this cleaned out and organized. Not to mention it's great to be to actually walk in to my walk-in pantry.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of 1/10/11

We are leaving for Florida in less than a month!! Hooray for vacations in warm, sunny weather. We cannot wait to escape the sub-zero temps of Minnesota in February. But, my hubby is a bit concerned about hitting the beach after this cold, comfort-food-filled Minnesota winter. So, he is following the South Beach diet this month in preparation for a beach life in a few weeks. We both followed the South Beach diet a year or so before we had children, and with great results. While I am not a fan of fad diets, this one really promotes healthy eating, whole and unprocessed foods, and low sugar. I felt terrific when I generally followed the South Beach eating plan. Don't we all strive for that every day?

That being said, I'm trying to help him out and support him this week by creating a menu plan following the "Phase 1" foods of the South Beach Diet. All of these recipes I found in this cookbook I bought about four or five years ago, The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook by Arthur Agatston. Should be a tasty week! The kids and I will eat with hubby in the evening (but will secretly eat our carbs during the day when he's at work!)

Blueberry Muffins
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (freezer), fruit
cold cereal and toast
oatmeal, bananas

Poor Man's Pizza, pears
Hummus, pita chips, carrot sticks
Tomato soup, grilled ham and cheese, apples

Monday: Beef and Bean Chili, cantaloupe

Tuesday: Greek Meatballs, Creamy Cauliflower Soup, lettuce salad

Wednesday: Kale and lentil stew (and probably some sandwiches for the kids)

Thursday: Chinese Steamed Chicken (and probably Creamy Mac and Cheese for the kids)

Friday: Mexican Chicken Soup, spinach salad

Saturday: Baked Barbeque Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The kitchen organization - completed!

So far, I'm doing pretty well on getting rid of stuff and organizing various parts of my home that have been driving me batty. One of the items on my list was my kitchen - cupboards were stuffed with way too many things that I haven't used in years, Tupperware containers with no lids, and kitchen gadgets I never used...or even opened.

After a couple of good nap-time cleaning sessions, I got it done. I am a tad ashamed of the "before" pictures, but this is all about honesty amongst us moms, right? Here are the before and after pics:

The area above my microwave...cluttered with vitamins and unused glassware and bowls:

I got rid of a box of glassware for donation, threw out old, cracked dishes, and moved the vitamins into the cabinet:

One of my kitchen cupboards that housed everything from our griddle, colanders, pasta bowls, Ziplocs and juice pitchers.

I gave away plenty of unused items, filled up another box for donation, and made room for everything we still need and use:

The dreaded Tupperware cupboard. Now that my kids are old enough that they aren't opening this up and playing in it every day, there was NO EXCUSE for how bad it had gotten. In my purging haste, I forgot to take a picture of the "before". I filled an entire large garbage bag with unused or mismatched containers for donation. No threat of items falling out on me when I open it now:

And another "cannot get this door closed" cupboard, filled with mixing bowls, baking pans, muffin tins, cookie sheets, and cooling racks. Again, I forgot the "before" picture. This is the one cupboard that I didn't get rid of anything in, since I use everything in there. It just needed a good organizing and cleaning:

I have plenty left to do to get my little house in order, but cleaning out parts of my kitchen was a pretty good start. Even my husband was impressed. :-)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hot Cocoa Mix

I live in Minnesota. I don't think my feet or hands have been warm since October. Therefore, you can understand my affection toward hot, comforting beverages (like my favorite Chai Tea Latte mix). I finally stopped buying the packages of hot cocoa mix because, at the rate my kids and I were drinking it this winter, I kept running out of it and it was eating up too much of my precious grocery budget - plus some of the ingredients were a little scary. So I started making my own mix, made with only three ingredients that I always have on hand. This isn't as sugary-sweet as some store-bought mixes, but it is more cocoa-y. (Like that word?) Here's our new favorite recipe:

Hot Cocoa Mix

1 c. sugar
2 c. powdered milk
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

Pull all ingredients in blender or food processor. Cover and blend until powdery (about 15 seconds or less). Store in an airtight container for up to six months (although it will not last that long!). I use about 2 -3 heaping tablespoons of mix per small mug of hot boiling water, but you can adjust to your taste.

Oh yeah...and don't forget the marshmallows.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday over at Life As Mom ... check out her great blog!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The kids' room - completed!

This is my first follow-up to last week's post regarding simply being overtaken with too much stuff. Number one of my list - and my highest stressor during the day because I was on the verge of falling and breaking a leg if it didn't get cleaned up - the kids' room.

The day of my post, here is what my kids' room looked like. Gulp...the "before".

This is only a 10x12 room that is shared by both of my kids, ages 2 and 3. (Yes, my oldest still sleeps in a crib. We have taken the front off two different times to convert the crib into a daybed, but she hates it and says she will fall out. Whatever makes her happy!) My awesome hubby took three - yes, three - days off recently and was able to entertain the kiddos in the basement and living room while I purged their room of too much stuff. Unused baby dolls. Unused stuffed toys. Shape sorters that haven't been touched in seven months. Trucks that have been stuck under someone's bed for six months and therefore won't be missed. It all went ... and amounted to three large grocery bags plus one large box full of stuff for Goodwill. (I must admit that I was saddened to think of how much money I could've made by selling this stuff at a garage sale, but I have absolutely NO place to store the stuff until this Spring.) I was even able to drop it off for donation that afternoon so it didn't just sit there in a corner of my bedroom for three months.

And happy sigh...the "after."

Granted, these pictures were taken after everything was picked up before naptime. As I write, Princesses are strewn all over the floor again. But the important part is that there is now a place to STORE the princesses and trucks neatly. And that makes me a happy SAHM.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Menu Plan - Week of 1/3/10

Nothing too crazy or spectacular with this week's menu plan. Just trying to keeping it simple (and healthier than how we've been eating lately!) and also trying to clean a few things out the freezer. Here's what's in store this week:

Hubby took the day off (hooray!) so he's cooking. Not sure what he'll make.

Vegetable Barley Soup (freezer), grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, cantaloupe (on sale at Aldi this week for only $1.49!)

Wednesday: Spaghetti with Crockpot Marinara Sauce, cantaloupe, lettuce salad

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Cheddar Turkey Enchiladas (freezer), hot bean dip, pears (another Aldi sale this week - 4/.99!)

Saturday: clean out the fridge night, or soup and salad

Sunday: maybe out to eat?

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