My status update

My status update

It’s kind of funny how the term “status update” has now become a regular part of our vernacular. My husband often texts me with the simple request: “status update?”

I have a lot of friends who say they can’t come up with one Facebook status update in a day. Not me! I have to control myself to keep from posting five or ten. I guess I just have way too many words roaming around in my brain. Today is one of those days.

Here are some of my status updates on this hot Saturday in July:

1. We are getting ready to send our three big kids off to summer camp next week! The boys will be gone for a week, and the seven-year-old will go for the last three days of the week. I’m a mix of excited, nervous, scared and ready! I’ve been spending the day making sure they all have everything they might possibly need for a week without Mom. They all needed new PJs that were suitable for wearing “in public,” rain ponchos, sandals and quite a few other things.

2. One of the big things I still need to do today is put together “care packages” for them to open while they are at camp. As a novice camper mom, I hope I will send the right things and the right amount! I don’t want them to feel like the other campers got better care packages! Oh, the pressure!!

3. A few weeks ago, we decided we REALLY needed to go on some type of vacation before this summer comes to an end. My idea of a vacation is usually to stay in a really nice house or cabin surrounded by lots of outdoor activities. A hot tub is pretty much essential to my definition of vacation. We are trying to spend as little money as possible this year AND we wanted to go north instead of going south, which is what we usually do. So, we booked several nights at a campground in Mackinaw City, but in a cabin. It has a bathroom, but the sleeping arrangement is going to be pretty tight. I’ve been debating whether this qualifies as a “vacation.” (No hot tub, but we DO have our own toilet and shower!)

4. I was almost ready to cancel our reservation, but took another look at the campground today online. I really think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We will be able to ride bikes to the beach, swimming pool and playgrounds, plus see some cool stuff in the area. I’m looking forward to watching the sun set over the lake and cooking s’mores over a campfire. It will definitely be a different experience, but hopefully, we’ll love it!

5. I’ve decided to try my hand at crock-pot freezer cooking. I’ve been checking out lots of recipes on Pinterest and actually purchased an ebook about it today. I think this might be the perfect type of bulk cooking for me. I have tried bulk cooking in the past, but I really haven’t had great success with preparing and freezing meals that you bake later in the oven. I feel like they never taste as good after being frozen. I really like the sound of crock-pot freezer cooking because you just chop up all of your meats and veggies, put them in a bag and you are ready to dump them in the crockpot for dinner!

6. I got so excited about this idea that I bought a second, smaller crock-pot. Mine is so large that I usually have to cook a large quantity of food to keep it from overcooking.

7. Right now, I’m cooking filling for beef burritos in my large crock pot and “decadent chocolate cake” in the smaller crock pot.

8. Our cabin in Michigan has a small kitchen with only a microwave and mini-fridge. I’m thinking of taking a crockpot along and some freezer meals. Is this a crazy idea? It’s so expensive for our family to eat dinner in a restaurant, and we need to spend as little money as possible on this vacation! I’m not sure if I will be able to get the family to buy in to my crock pot on vacation idea!

9. We got our air conditioner fixed today. It feels great to have cold air in the house again!

10. With the boys leaving tomorrow, I am planning out some fun stuff to do with the girls! For the last three days of the week, it will be just the toddler and me. Who knows! Maybe I can even arrange a toddler playdate!

That’s it! So, how’s your Saturday going? Status update?

 

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September recipes

I think it’s funny that a lot of my friends think I’m super organized when it comes to meal planning. The truth is that for about nine months of the year, I am scrambling around at 5 p.m. trying to scrape together various cans of this and whatever meat I can find in the fridge to come up with something edible before my kids start eating “chip sandwiches” because they are so hungry. (Yes, they do think that putting potato chips between two slices of bread counts as a meal.)

Many days, my husband will save the day by picking up some meat for the grill. At least once a week, I justify calling Papa John’s since it’s right around the corner, and they can cook dinner in less time than I can.

Finally, I hit rock bottom. I get mad at myself for not planning. I kick myself for not going to the grocery store. I scream at myself for my empty pantry. And when I get mad, I go overboard. I overcompensate by creating huge meal plans, cooking in bulk, freezing up a month’s worth of meals. And THAT is the part that you usually see here on the blog.

I’ve noticed from reading my own blog, that I tend to do this right around the time school starts. I also seem to get organized around Jan. 1 and then again right before summer starts. For those three months of the year, I am totally organized and my family loves me.

Well, I went on a meal-planning rampage this weekend. We were in the car for 12 hours, driving to and from a funeral. During the drive, I went through two of my favorite cookbooks and marked all of the recipes I want to try. Being the complete geek I am, I then tracked down those exact recipes on the web sites of the companies that published the cookbooks, and I e-mailed them to myself.

When I got home, I entered them into my profile on allrecipes.com. That’s when I discovered allrecipes.com has a ton of new features which I have never used! I signed up to become a “supporting member.” This means I can organize my recipes into meal plans by dragging them onto a calendar. I can also assign them to shopping lists, and print out exactly what I need to buy for that meal plan. I can save my menus, making it easy to repeat them later. I haven’t had this much geeky, obsessive excitement since I bought the game “Myst” for my first Macintosh computer back in 1992.

I found enough new recipes to complete my meal plan for both September and October. This means I could have TWO full months of organization before my life falls back into disarray.

In the past, I think I have overwhelmed myself with my meal planning by assigning myself a new recipe every day of the month. This time, I decided that every other day I would throw in a no-brainer. These are the foods I cook all of the time anyway. I usually have the ingredients. They require no thought and very little effort. But I still have to put them in my meal plan to remind myself what I’m supposed to cook that night.

A few people on Facebook asked me to share this list, so here goes. I am majorly motivated by words of affirmation, so let me know if you would like to see my October list, as well.

All of the recipes (other than the sloppy Joe and chili) are from one of two cookbooks: “Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes” or Pillsbury’s “Fast & Healthy Cookbook.” In other words, you can either make them in the crock pot or they are quick recipes.

They also are all “family friendly” to some extent. With the exception of two of the recipes, which are risky, I’m fairly certain my family will eat them.

Finally, this menu does not purport to be healthy, low-cal or fat free. The recipes include tons of sour cream, cream cheese and red meat. Side dishes around here are usually green beans, carrots, corn or fruit cut up into slices. It’s not fancy, but hopefully better than we would get from KFC or Papa John’s if I didn’t cook.

Well, I’m off to the grocery store to use the shopping list generated from my meal plan! In the meantime, let me know your meal-planning secrets. How do you decide what’s for dinner every night?

My September Menu

Hamburgers on the grill
Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli
Spaghetti
Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup (with salad for those who won’t try it!)
Tacos
BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
Pizza (frozen, home made or delivery)
Italian Beef
Rotisserie Chicken (from the grocery store deli)
Chicken Club Wraps
Sloppy Joe sandwiches
My Favorite Chili
Hot Dogs/ Chili dogs
Company Pork Chops
Honey Mustard Chicken Wings
Pancakes with chocolate chips
Chicken and rice in crock pot
Hamburgers on the grill
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Spaghetti
Round Steak
Tacos and/or bean burritos
Beef with Apples and Sweet Potatoes (I’m not sure about this one, but I want to try it!)
Pizza
Caribbean Chicken and Pineapple Salsa
Rotisserie Chicken (from the grocery store deli)
Chicken and Apple Clams
Sloppy Joe sandwiches
Turkey and Twists in Tomato Cream Sauce

aug2011emily

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The BIG meal plan

Well, Hello! How are you, Long Lost Blog?
We have been having a great summer. We’ve been spending long days at the pool, hanging out with friends or going on adventures. But the summer schedule has taken a toll on my meal-planning efforts.
I’m determine to get back in a rhythm. I’m actually going to go to the grocery store, stock up my pantry and plan my meals for the next few months.
Here’s my idea: I’m going to enter my meal plan into my iCal so I get a daily reminder of what’s for dinner. I have about 55 dinners listed below, so I should be able to plan for the next few months. We’ll see how that goes!
Since people seem to ask me a lot about ideas for dinner, here’s my BIG LIST. Please leave any ideas for YOUR favorite meals in the comments so I can add them to my list.
The list includes simple stuff, like lunch meat or a rotisserie chicken from the deli, because I still like to schedule those meals, even though they don’t involve cooking. We also eat breakfast food for dinner at least once a week, so that category is actually DINNER!
A few other notes: When I make taco meat or Sloppy Joe, I cook 5 pounds at a time and freeze it in small quantities for a quick meal. I also cook about 10 pounds of chicken at a time and freeze it in small bags so I can make the chicken meals quickly. If I make manicotti or stuffed shells, I double the recipe and freeze an extra meal or two.
You will find links to many of the recipes below. The new meals I’m trying this month are: fruity breakfast burritos, taco roll-ups, ham and potato pockets and End of Summer Harvest soup.
THE BIG LIST
Breakfast

Waffles
Biscuits and gravy
Crepes
Fruity breakfast burritos
Pancakes
Chicken
Kluski noodles (cook in chicken broth with shredded chicken and carrots)
Chicken enchiladas (my favorite recipe is in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.)
Chicken and dumplings (I usually find a recipe on allrecipes.com and use refrigerated biscuits for the “dumplings”.)
Chicken club wraps (shredded chicken, bacon, green onions and ranch dressing, wrapped in tortillas)
Crock Pot
BBQ chicken thighs (chicken thighs, a bottle of BBQ sauce and about a cup of water)
Roast with veggies
Easy/No cooking
Lunch meat sandwiches
Chicken patties from freezer
Hot dogs
BLTs
Rotisserie chicken (from the grocery store). I either serve this as it is, or put it on salad. The leftover meat is great for other meals.
Ground beef
Meatloaf (I use the recipe on the McComick’s seasoning packet.)
Hamburgers on grill
Impossibly Easy Hamburger Pie (recipe on the box of Bisquick)
Italian
Manicotti
Spaghetti with homemade meatballs
Homemade pizza
Lasagna
Stuffed shells
Fettucini Alfredo
Mexican
Frito tacos (taco meat, with cheese, sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes served on Fritos)
Quesadillas
Tacos

Pork
Pork roast
Soup
Vegetable soup(Make the day after you have roast or pork roast with leftover meat.)


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5 pounds hamburger + 1 hour = 8 meals + 1 happy mom

I’ve been thinking about doing some bulk cooking for a long time. Years, as a matter of fact. Maybe even a decade.

I have a “once a month” cookbook. I read about it on blogs. But I always feel so overwhelmed at the idea of spending an entire day in the kitchen, that I give up before I begin.

But last week, when I was making my meal plan for the month, I stumbled upon an idea to cook 12 pounds of ground beef all at once and freeze it to make a dozen meals. Finally, this made sense to me AND it seemed doable.

I decided to start with 5 pounds of ground beef. I bought this bad boy:

This is really the most economical way to buy hamburger meat in the store where I normally shop. But I hate buying this big package because, quite frankly, I can’t stand dealing with raw meat.

I don’t like the smell. I don’t like handling it. So, when I buy this big package, I usually ask my husband to cut it into 1 lb. portions and freeze it for me.

But cooking it all at once made it seem more manageable.

This is how I made it into eight meals in one hour.

1. I divided the roll of hamburger into five 1-lb. sections. I put two pounds in a bowl, one pound in a small pan to cook and two pounds in a large pan to brown the ground beef.

2. I added the ingredients in this recipe to make mini meatloaves and hamburgers. I just doubled the recipe. I figured that meatloaf is basically the same thing as hamburgers. It’s just cooked a different way.

3. One recipe was supposed to make eight servings. By doubling it, I determined I would have 16 servings. I made five mini meatloaves, which would make one meal for our family. I formed the rest into 10 hamburger patties, which would make two more meals for our family of five.

4. I put the mini meatloaves and hamburger patties on plates and put them in the freezer while I did everything else. This made it easier for me to put them in storage bags later because they would hard and didn’t mush together.

5. I also used my large scoop and this hamburger shaper to make the hamburgers. This is my secret tip to avoid touching the raw meat as much as possible.

Meanwhile, all of that other hamburger was done browning.

6. I drained all of the grease and put it back in the pans. I added taco seasoning to the smaller pan. I froze this in two .5 pound portions. I realize this isn’t much meat and might not work for many larger families. But we never eat an entire pound of taco meat at a meal. Two of our children don’t like taco meat and I’m lucky to get them to eat a spoonful of meat. Instead, they load up on cheese and sour cream. So, we can stretch one pound of taco meat to make two meals.

7. I divided the other two pounds from the larger pan into three portions. Most recipes call for 1 lb. of ground beef. But you can really stretch your meat by using less than that.

8. I put two of those portions in ziplock bags and labeled them for the freezer. I plan to use one for either hamburger soup or chili. The other one I will use as a topping for homemade pizza. (That’s two more dinners.)

9. I used the final portion to pre-make chili cornbread squares. I made the recipe in a small square disposable pan. I covered it with cling wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil and finally put the whole pan in a 1-gallon freezer bag. I hate freezer burn, so this is my 3-layer protection plan, which always works for me.

It took me just over one hour to do all of this. I was able to clean all of the dishes at once and clean up all of that raw-meat mess, which I don’t like.

I also was happy that I was able to stretch the ground beef to make more recipes than I usually would if I opened 1 lb. packages. And I could freeze the mini meatloaves and hamburger patties in portions that were just right for our family. We won’t waste nearly as much food this way.

I realize that many families would eat much more meat than this at each meal, and that’s fine! It’s easy to double or triple the amount of meat used and still get a lot of bulk cooking done in a short period of time.

It Worked for Me! I’m linking this post to Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

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What’s for dinner this week… and the next… and the next…

OK. That’s it. I’ve had enough.

I can’t possibly be a good mom, tote around a growing baby in my tummy, keep the house clean, home school the kids, stay on top of the laundry, write my blog, tell myself jokes, take naps AND still be expected to come up with what we are having for dinner every single day around here.

I’ll admit it. I have completely stopped using my VERY OWN meal planning sheet that I created and then try to sell to other people in my everydayMOM planner.

But you know what? I got that thing out, and it was pretty darned helpful, I must admit.

I would love to say that after watching Julie and Julia I was inspired to create some truly gourmet dinners for our family. But actually, I’m striving for bland.

I decided that instead of planning out a whole month’s worth of menus, we are going to eat the same exact thing every week. That’s right. Every Monday, for example, we are having taco salad. Fridays are home-made pizza.

Same goes for lunches. If it’s Tuesday, you better believe we are having chicken nuggets, pumpkin muffins and corn.

We are going to try this for one month until everyone in this family knows that Thursday is pot roast. And maybe, just maybe, if I can master seven lunches and seven dinners without ever wondering what we are going to eat next, we can start having something else once in a while.

So, speak now, my dear family, or hold your peace for one month. Here’s what’s for lunch and dinner (don’t laugh!):

Sunday
Lunch: BLTs, fruit, yogurt
Dinner: Sloppy Joe sandwiches, chips, green beans

Monday
Lunch: Pizza, carrots and applesauce
Dinner: Taco salad, refried beans

Tuesday
Lunch: chicken nuggets, pumpkin muffins, corn
Dinner: Chicken in the crock pot, rice and steamed broccoli (I have a feeling my husband will have to work late on Tuesdays.)

Wednesday
Lunch: Sandwich wraps (tortilla with cream cheese, ham, cheese and whatever else you like… lettuce, avocado wrapped up and then sliced), fruit, cottage cheese
Dinner: Pasta with marinara or al fredo sauce, (grilled zucchini and tomatoes for me), garlic bread

Thursday
Lunch: Tomato soup, crackers, grilled cheese
Dinner: Pot roast in crock pot with potatoes and carrots, rolls

Friday
Lunch: Plain pasta, bagels with cream cheese, veggies
Dinner: Homemade pizza, salad

Saturday
Lunch: Hamburgers on grill or fish sticks, cantaloupe, baked beans
Dinner: Biscuits and gravy (I love breakfast for dinner!)
fruit

Snacks:
apples, pears, mandarin oranges, grapes, bananas
carrots, green pepper, cucumber slices
cheese sticks, vanilla yogurt with mix-ins
bagels, English muffins, Nutrigrain bars

There you have it. That’s what’s for dinner. And lunch. And snack.

Whew. Now I don’t have to think.

Please feel free to send me your ideas for next month. We might need a new rotation!

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