Friday, September 28, 2012

Cleaning Up the Clutter: No More Mountains of Mail

     Oh how I wish this were true in my house. Once a week I try to tackle the mountain of paper in my home.  Before I can pay the bills, I feel compelled to throw out the ads and flyers that have stacked up all week. When I find the mail that is actually needing action, I set that in one slot of my organizer.  By the time I get that done I start to balance the checkbook, which usually ends in a headache. Then comes social correspondence such as invitations.
     On to the unloading of the backpacks with school information. I try to separate what needs to be done for homework from the artwork, worksheets, newsletters and flyers for fund raisers.  I need an office manager just for my papers at home! All this in a supposedly "paperless society."
   Let's see what Barb has to say about: Cleaning Up the Clutter: No More Mountains of Mail.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going Green

Sauteing spicy beans
    When I was making the Sloppy Joes I had nothing to serve as a side dish. Then I remember the blackened green beans that I had enjoyed at a local bistro.  They came with a side of mustard sauce for dipping. I changed their name to "green bean fries" to give them more kid appeal. Of course I didn't have a recipe so this is my interpretation.

Green Bean Fries

Put a medium flame under a skillet with olive oil.  Add one clove fresh garlic, pepper, and 1 teaspoon Cajun spice. Pour one bag frozen french cut green beans into skillet.  Use fresh green beans if available.  Cook beans until warmed through.  Meanwhile prepare dipping sauce by stirring together 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon horseradish, and 1 tsp ground mustard.  Serve as a side dish to your favorite burger or sandwich.  Happy Dipping!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hamburger Helper

Sloppy Joes with a side of green bean fries

    I spotted ground beef on sale at the market.  I made two meals and had a pound leftover.  I was about to freeze it since I couldn't think of what to do with it, burgers again, taco salad?  I was stumped for an idea. Then I opened up my cookbook and found sloppy joes.  I had never made them without the prepared stuff in a can.  So it was time to try a new recipe.

    I substituted a 29 ounce can of store brand tomato sauce for the ketchup. I omitted the Worcestershire sauce. I stirred in a packet of stevia for slight sweetness.  I diced a green bell pepper and threw that in the sauce. Hamburger buns were 40 cents at Aldi making this an inexpensive meal. Luckily we could eat outside, just in case they lived up to their messy name!
simmering sloppy joes from scratch

Sloppy Joes from Betty Crocker Cookbook

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 hamburger buns

Cook beef, onion, and celery over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until beef is brown; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except buns. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender. Fill buns with beef mixture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wok Around The Clock

Pork fried rice is nice. 

    It's 4:30. Do you know what your dinner is?  Yeah, me neither.  I was going to put a nice roast  in the oven at 3:00 p.m. for that cozy Sunday meal.  Well I got a little too cozy and ended up taking a little snooze. Then dinner time was fast approaching.  What to do?  Don't panic.  Don't call for pizza yet.  I can stir something up. Yes that's it; a stir fry night is just the solution.

I had made a pork roast with sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts two days before so there was meat leftover. We had eaten a second meal of "reruns" already.  Now it was time to transform what was left.

   I pulled out my cook book and found a recipe for pork fried rice.  My friend's daughter has been craving this dish lately so it would be nice to learn to make it at home.  I didn't follow it exactly.  It called for bean sprouts and green onions .  I used leftover peas, green beans and cut up Brussels sprouts.  I was hoping to make the sprouts more popular in this disguised format.

   I had quick brown rice that I had stocked in the camper.  I started that cooking first.  Meanwhile, I trimmed pork from the bone and diced the vegetables.  When the rice was almost done, I threw the veggies in to warm and tossed the eggs in following the recipe.

   What are your favorite meals in a hurry?

Pork Fried Rice from: Betty Crocker Cookbook

1 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 cup cut-up cooked pork
2 medium green onions, sliced
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Dash of white pepper

Rinse beans sprouts and drain. Cook mushrooms in oil 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add sprouts, rice, pork and onions. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up rice until hot. Move rice mixture to side of skillet. Cook eggs in oil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until eggs are thickened. Stir eggs into rice mixture. Stir in soy sauce and white pepper.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall In Line

Souvenir leaf from our honeymoon
      Despite the weather forecast of 76 degrees it has been a rather blustery day.  I guess the first day of fall has announced itself in my neighborhood.  I really don't want to pack away my shorts and flip flops.  I enjoy summer and all its outdoor activities, parties, and travel.  For no other two months out of the year do I feel compelled to join in on so many activities.  There is something about summer that makes me want to take advantage of every beautiful day.
      Although I love the fresh garden produce and Dan's creations at the grill, I am not much of a summer cook.  Shh, don't tell anyone it may ruin my reputation.  After a wonderful day in the sun or visiting with friends it is hard to motivate myself to cook dinner.  Maybe I need the weekday school routine to keep me on schedule.  The heat doesn't help my reluctance in the kitchen.

    Now with that little hint of chill in the air I am looking forward to warming up the oven with roasts and baked apples. With the change of seasons, it's time for me to get back to meal planning making cozy dinners with plenty to spare for another meal later in the week.  I'll have to use my new search box to look for my favorite recipes. What are your favorite fall dishes?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Deli

    When I picked up the roast on sale for $2.99 a pound and looked at the label of $11.96 I thought about putting it back.  It just seemed like a lot of money for one item.  Ironically a pound of roast beef at the deli sells for up to $10 a pound.

    I served the roast with mashed potatoes and green beans picked from our garden.  After dinner, Dan got out the electric slicer my parents gave me for Christmas.   The kids were mesmerized while he buzzed through the roast. Now we had plenty of lunch meat.  Our daughter's favorite lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  After becoming aware of a peanut allergy at school, she was thrilled to pack a nut free lunch.  I was happy not to spend my time and money at the deli counter!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh Nuts

   When my son began kindergarten, I think I was more worried about packing his lunch then him learning to read.  I knew he was curious and would do fine in school.  After the luxury of lunches at home I wasn't sure how to transport something healthy.  When I thought of school lunches the images that came to mind were corn syrup or salt laden packaged foods disguised as snacks.  Now I know these snacks are convenient, but I was very fussy about what went into my children for the first five years.  Why should I switch to less nutritious choices?  Portioned cups of mixed nuts are a great protein filled snack.  If you encounter nut allergies try these snacks that pack well and keep learners full and focused.

* Cheesesticks
*Babybel cheese. These come in wax packages that are fun to mold and shape after eating.
*Fruit. Apples and oranges travel better than bananas. I include an orange peeler stick.
*Fruit Strips,  the healthy cousin to fruit rollups made with fruit juice.
*Homemade Muffins
*Ants on a Log
*Laughing Cow Cheese on celery sticks or rice cakes.  These are fun for the kids to make.
*Applesauce.  Pour unsweetened applesauce into reusable cups or buy the unsweetened little cups.
*Fruit cups packaged in juice only
*Raisins. My lunchers love the mini boxes of "baby raisins" and we pour them into cups too.
*Pumpkin Seeds toasted or mixed with trail mix.
*Pumpkin seed butter. Tastes similar to peanut butter.  Makes a great sandwich spread or dip.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pack It Up

    I have to state off the bat that LL Bean is not compensating me for this post.

    With the little one starting kindergarten we purchased a backpack online in mid August.  I was going to wait to see if they would be reduced, but my husband was afraid it wouldn't arrive in time for school.  Three days later, they went on sale.  I e-mailed LL Bean and they credited me for the 20% price.
    My first purchase with their company was my son's backpack.  Two years later, he is going off to school with the same one.  This year we bought lunchboxes for both kids.  I may even go back and get one for my husband.  I really like knowing that I can return items if they don't last long.  In this economy, who wants to buy items that fall apart?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take A Dip

Dill Dip is going on the road

   As the summer winds down, it is time to start thinking about school lunches. I am not a big fan of cold cuts.   I prefer the cost and nutrition of natural peanut butter.  My children love my dill dip and vegetables.  It is a great appetizer for guests and parties.  Now it is going to make it's way into the school lunch box.  The children can choose their favorite vegetable and have a cup of dip to go with it.  The little Gladware containers are inexpensive and make it easier for me to send items without wasteful packing.

    Dipping is a fun way to eat your vegetables. It is also a great way to get a little dairy into the diet.  Plain yogurt is a staple at our house.  With no sweetener it can be used on baked potatoes, in cream sauces or in fruit smoothies.  This recipe is one I made up so I will try to be accurate.  What is your favorite healthy item to pack for lunch?

Dill Dip

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup Vegenaise (or Olive Oil mayonnaise)
1/2 capfull dried dill (approx one teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, pressed

Stir everything up and chill.  It tastes great the next day and can be thinned for a creamy salad dressing.  Serve with your favorite chopped, raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots and celery.