Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I have realized something about myself recently.
I don't like to create things.
I do like to edit, revise, change, adjust, alter, modify, adapt and transform.
I'm just not so much into the creating.
I don't look at a blank room and see painted walls, pictures hanging and furniture all aligned.
I see a blank room.
I don't see a bunch of ingredients and make up a recipe.
I adjust recipes to make them my own based on what I like and what I have.

This blog was intended to keep me accountable, help others with things I have learned along the way, and have fun writing. I do enjoy writing, but for me (at least with this blog) it has become more of a job, more of a chore, more difficult than I would have thought. It has become a chore for me to come up with posts, to try and think about what others might want to know about and then write about it. I've decided that is just not me. I am not a twitter fanatic because I do not constantly think about tweeting what I am doing, but instead I just enjoy what I am doing. And in the same way, I am not always thinking about writing about the things that I am doing and learning. I am just doing and learning. At least at this stage in my life, with 2 kids under 2 and a husband and 2 part time jobs and a house, etc. this is where I am.

I thought about just stopping this blog, cold turkey, with no notice, but I know even though my content has dwindled a bit, I do still have followers (mom, I'll still share recipes with you!) and I wanted to help you understand where I am at right now. For me, right now, it is simply practical to stop this blog...at least for now...

Thank you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - June 14

I get a break from meal planning and from cooking this week (From Sunday dinner through Friday breakfast)!

Breakfast: whatever is provided for me

Lunch: whatever is provided for me

Dinner: whatever is provided for me

Snacks: Apple Breakfast Bars (scroll down for recipe), bananas, applesauce, variety of muffins with veggies in them (beets, zucchini, carrots)

A simple week! And a nice break to help me feel renewed about plans and cooking when I return.
Head over to Orgjunkie for more ideas for menus.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Yard Sale Advice

I recently had my first yard sale. I had been trying to decide off and on for a few weeks if I really wanted to do it, when I wanted to do it, and how hard core I wanted to do it. Since I had been thinking about it, I had been gradually gathering things to sell.
Then, one Friday night I was looking at Craigslist for other sales and found out my neighbor was having one! Perfect. It's gotta be good to have a neighbor doing one since you can get each others business. I quickly got to work on making it happen the next day (even knowing my in-laws were coming in town that day)...

I recently asked in a post what are some of your best tips for yard sales? I got some helpful tips from there, and some good ones from the Today Show a while back as well. Here's what worked for me:

Leading up to the sale:

I had already spent time (very small amounts here and there) in the weeks (and months, really) leading up to this day gathering things that I would want to sell. I would put them with like things and was collecting them all in one spot of the house (the basement) for this such occasion.

The night before the sale:

I listed my sale on Craigslist with address, date, time and somw of the main items or categories of items I knew I would put put.
I went to the bank to get some small bills and change.
Then I went to Wal Mart and picked up some bright neon poster board (when I am out looking for sales, I LOVE it when the signs are bright, big enough to see before I am at the turn and with writing big enough to actually read. The signs can really make me want to visit a sale or not, so I knew what I wanted here!).
I also bought the price stickers because I hate having to ask about every item...it didn't take too long and was worth my while in the end.
After the kids were in bed, I pulled all of these items right up to the front door, ready to go out the next morning.
Then I sorted through the items, pricing each item (or group of items) at what I would want to pay for the item at a sale.
I made sure again that all like-items were together so that the process of putting stuff out in the morning would be quick (and thoughtless, since it was going to be early!).
I made my posters to go on some street corners. Where we live there are so many different ways to get to our house, but I chose just a few of the main intersections to mark (and it helped that our neighbors put signs out too, so this doubled our chances). I would have hung them that night as well, but there was a good chance for rain and storms, so I had my posters and staple gun ready by the door for the morning.
Made sure to have everything together by the front door, ready to go for the morning.

The morning of the sale:

I asked my neighbors (who were already out getting their stuff on the lawn as well) where they put their signs and then left to quickly hang my signs around the neighborhood streets and busy intersections.
While I was away, my husband starting taking out tables (helpful to not have to make everyone bend to the ground for all items) and then all of the items that were to be sold. This was easy for him since I had already grouped things.
One thing to note: I put cheap "tablecloths" on my tables so people would not assume they were for sale.

During the sale:

I had bags (from when I forget my reusable bags at grocery stores) available for people to take things home.
I had a calculator for quick addition of items to be bought. No need to think too hard early in the morning.
I wore an apron with front pockets in it so that I would not have to have a cash box and different items sitting out (looking sloppy and not being readily available). I kept my small bills and some change, ready for transactions, and also kept my calculator in here so it was close by at all times.
I made sure to greet/talk to everyone that came by. It helps to make conversation and find the balance between making them feel welcomed and making them feel like they can't look at/think about what you have available. I didn't want to feel overbearing since I am more of a "just let me look" shopper.
I would go lower on a price (but previously decided on how low I would go on some bigger items so I would get caught in the moment and go lower than I was willing), but I was also willing to make a counter offer if I felt the offering price was too low.
I would give a discount if someone was buying more things, especially like items, or if someone was looking for a while and I thought a slightly lower price would help them make a decision. For most things, I would rather have it gone and get some money for it, than to just take it back inside at the end of the day.
I visited the sale next door (nothing to do with hosting a sale except convenience, and theirs was to raise money for a trip so I felt helpful by buying jeans for $.50 from them!).

After the sale:

Decided what I just wanted to get rid of quickly (books, lots and lots of books) and put these in the van to go to a local store that buys books.
Took everything else back down to the basement for a future sale at some point. I feel less cluttered with this stuff out of the way, so I didn't want to try to incorporate these things back into daily usage.
General cleanup of the front of the house.

We made close to $200. Not amazing, but not bad either. And it was close to $200 more than we had before. It was worth it! The weather was beautiful! My toddler slept through most of it, and played with some toys we had out for sale for some of it. And my baby just laid around lazily, taking it all in I suppose. Glad I did it. Wouldn't want to do it every week, but would definitely do it again when the time is right.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - June 7

Most weeks we do not get to half of what I plan for or what I think we will get through. Things come up, we have other cravings, meals last longer (more leftovers) than I plan for, etc. But looking back at last weeks plan I am amazed that we made/ate everything on the menu! Good times!
The granola was great as a breakfast item and snack item with yogurt, and I am finding the best way to get it crunchy (the way I really like it) is to do the amount of time suggested (or sometimes a little more) and then turn the oven off and leave the granola in the oven as it cools. Seems to work like a charm!
The butterscotch oatmeal was good, but I wouldn't make it everyday. I prefer to make baked oatmeal and have it ready for the week. I don't need much variety to survive (strange, since I love trying new things!).
We got a lot more lettuce again from our garden and we made meals out of salads 3 times. Salads are good for you and you can put just about anything on top to make it fun and exciting. This was one way.
And the rest of our meals were also good, and simple. The way I like it!

This week will be a "clean out the fridge, freezer, pantry" week before we leave for a bit (away at camp where our meals are planned for us and I don't have to think/plan at all...except for my toddler...). We have a few tomatoes right now that will make for good tomato sandwiches. Also have zucchini from our co-op that will make for some good muffins and maybe a side salad. And picked up some leftover hamburgers and hot dogs from a party that we will eat as well. And I will also be preparing some snacks for my toddler for the following week. Should be even simpler than this past week, but still enjoyable. What do you have planned for your week.

Head to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great ideas!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Get Outside! And Get Wet!

This may be obvious to some, or even to most, but get outside this summer! It's easy and cheap and fun!

We do not have a big yard, or fancy toys, but we get outside and we have fun.

Of course, there are lots of things to do, from walking/running to playing in the playground, from a sandbox to a swimming pool. It's been hot around here lately and water just sounds good. Of course, this could be difficult if you are in a drought or you live in a townhouse/apartment, but otherwise, get out and get wet.

There is always a simple hose. This is a favorite around our house. For watering the lawn, washing cars, filling buckets, and chasing after mommy!
Or you can upgrade to a sprinkler! Easy fun without having to carry around the hose.
If you're lucky (or if your kids are lucky) you might get a baby pool with a hose!

And if you're really lucky, you might belong to a local pool (or better yet, have your own) and just go swimming everyday.

But for now, and for us playing in the water is fun and cheap, and it is pretty limitless if you let little imaginations run wild!

Here's to a great summer! This is what works for us.

Simple Salad

I LOVE salad. I love that it is healthy. And versatile. And tasty. And can be frugal.

We've gotten some great lettuce out of our garden this year and it's made for some great meals. We easily make an entire meal out of salad, and we did that tonight. Cut the lettuce this morning, cleaned it, added some strawberries (that are still for a great price around here), found some mandarin oranges in the cupboard, had some already-cooked chicken in the refrigerator, then added some cashews and dried cranberries for toppings. And then topped it with some dressing I had made last week. A Poppy seed dressing. What a great combo!

We normally make the salad right in the bowl we are going to eat it out of, so an even amount of lettuce and toppings in each of two bowls (we like a good amount of toppings, but measure to your preference):

Fresh lettuce
Mandarin oranges
Sliced chicken (cooked of course)
Dried cranberries
Poppy Seed dressing

Dressing (adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up and Annie's Eats):
1/2 C Apple cider vinegar
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C splenda
1 Tbs Dried minced onion
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp Salt
1/2 C Light mayonaise
1/3 C apple juice
6 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp Poppy seeds
Combine all ingredients through juice in a food processor and blend well. With feed tube open, gradually add oil while blending, continuing until fully blended in. Add poppy seeds and pulse until just blended. Store in air-tight container in refrigerator until ready to top your salad.

Baked Oatmeal

I was recently asked about the baked oatmeal I make. I was asked in a comment (through comment moderation) and for the life of me, I cannot find that comment again so that I can reply and tell you how I do it. So, here's to hoping that you come back and see this post. This is the baked oatmeal I make. I make many different versions of oatmeal (my son loves it, and I have enjoyed many different recipes) but often fall back on this one for ease, low cost, and also for enjoyment! Unfortunately, I found this recipe before I started using Evernote (which automatically tracks the URL) and I do not remember where I got the original recipe, but I've made many of my own adjustments and variations.

(bad picture, but the only one I had in my archives from making it)

Baked Oatmeal (I get 6-8 servings depending on my toddler's appetite)

1 1/2 C quick oats
1/4 C wheat germ
1/4 C ground flaxseed
1/8 C sugar (I've also used splenda, but this adds more cost)
3/4 C milk (I've used 2% and vanilla soy)
1/4 C applesauce (I've also subbed spinach puree to help my son get more veggies)
2 eggs  (or 1/2 C egg substitute but this adds more cost)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (I use homemade vanilla)
*From time to time, I've added about 1/2 C frozen blueberries
**Total Cost (when using regular sugar and eggs) is slightly over $1. For the whole pan! Great cost for a week of breakfast for my son!
Heat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Spread into greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden and top is crusty. Spoon into bowls and top with milk. Or, do what I do and cut into 8 servings, store in the fridge (or freezer) and use for a week of already made breakfasts for toddler. When doing this, I simply add a little milk, heat for about a minute, then break up and stir to your desired consistency.

What I like about it:
sweet without too much sugar
it has wheat germ and flaxseed
the cost is very low
it is simple, and yet very versitle
it is both soft on the inside and crispy on the outside

Do you have a favorite oatmeal? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 31

Last week turned out a bit different than I planned...I think that happens a lot around here! It was mostly changed by family being in town and then a short visit "out of town" to visit family, with a bunch of salad in between using lettuce from our garden.

This is lettuce and herbs!

And our garden is ready to pick about this much again! Good thing we like salad! 

Yogurt and Almond Ginger Granola
Butterscotch oatmeal
Baked Oatmeal

Salad! with a variety of toppings and dressings depending on mood and availability

Snobby Joes (never got to last week)
Poppy Seed Chicken (also never got to)

Homemade granola bars

For more great meal ideas, head over to Orgjunkie!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homemade Snacks

In my quest for saving money I have realized that snacks are greatly enjoyed in our house, but can also be the culprit of more money spent than should be reasonable for the benefit of them...
I have always loved making my own applesauce, and have recently enjoyed finding the best granola recipe. I have also been working on the perfect granola bar (another day, another post) but have also tried to make some other snacks recently.
My first was roasting chick peas. It sounded fun and interesting, I like crunchy, I figured it should be healthy, and a good change from nuts...I read many different ways to add spice and flavor (I chose sweet) and different ways of roasting, like adding flavor before vs. after roasting (I chose before). I would like to try again, adding the flavor after the roasting and see what this does. They took a lot longer than what I read, but were definitely best fresh. I made too many to eat them all fresh. Hubs was not that excited. Luckily my toddler was!
I also had my first attempt ever at making bread (besides making quick breads like this amazing apple bread that I love!). I don't have a fancy mixer or a bread machine or the time/patience for lots of kneading and rising, so I think I qualified for this recipe I found.
 (letting it rise while I found other things to do...)
I made it 100% whole wheat and was very excited for the result, especially when it was right out of the oven (and with a thin layer of nutella). I think I did it on a cooler day recently and had a hard time with the rising, but it eventually got there and it was good. And easy. And I am going to make it again. Soon.
Making snacks from scratch works for me! Got any homemade snacks you love and want to share?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 24

I found myself very inspired last week to make lots of recipes, including some to put away in the freezer for a rainy day. I tried new ones, altered old ones, and found some favorites. I was most excited, though, about finding acceptable ways to get more vegetables in my toddler's diet. I added beets to pancakes after seeing this recipe and then I was inspired and added some pureed spinach to my old faithful baked oatmeal. My son loved both, and he's getting extra veggies!

I also got some cheap apples and zucchini last week and went on a small baking fest:
Zucchini Fries (these were fun!)
Chocolate Cupcakes (I made some alterations based on what I had on hand and not sure if this messed me up or what, but I had a hard time getting them cooked all the way through...but they had good flavor)
Apple Breakfast Bars (need to scroll down; I actually froze them all, so not sure how they turned out)
Chai Apple Bread

This coming week is looking like a week full of vegetables for us. We have a LOT of lettuce from our garden and I am excited to try out some new dressing recipes. And the weather is getting warmer and lighter, more vegetable-filled meals just sound better!

Baked Oatmeal
Breakfast Cookies 

Spinach Salad (have made this before and love it)
Snobby Joes (I've decided recently I want to try my hand at lentils...we'll see...)
Carrot Salad

Chicken Salad
Dinner on the Grill
Corn on the cob

I usually plan more than we need, so we'll see how that goes this week. What's on your menu plan? Head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more great idea!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

5 Ways to Find Simple Motivation

I've realized that I am not the most self-motivated person ever. But I've also realized that there are things I can do to work with the little bits of motivation that I do have once in a while.
Here are some simple ways find some motivation (I'm referring mostly to house work/projects, but could be for anything):
1. Set a Deadline. Maybe it's today, or tomorrow, or next week, but it's a deadline and it will help to know when it has to be finished.
2. Set Goals. Make them SMART Goals, but make them none the less. This will help to make sure it really can happen.
3. Use high energy times. I have been finding that if I make myself get up earlier than everyone else, I can use this time to get a lot done. It's quiet and I have energy and excitement for the new day, so it's a great time for me to get things done.
4. Have people over. Whether it's for a meal or a night, this helps me to be more motivated to keep the house cleaned and finish projects we are working on around the house (like the kitchen right now).
5. Make a plan. Just like making a meal plan helps me to stay motivated to make healthy meals for my family, so does making any other plan. It helps to know what I want to do and how I want to do it (could be a to do list or a chore chart, for example).
Bonus. Don't get discouraged. This only leads to feeling less motivated to keep going, even (and especially) when you feel as though you haven't been doing well. There are always rough days, or days when it feels like nothing gets done, but there is always usually tomorrow (if you start the day right!).
This might be more of a reminder for me today than for you, but either way, I am going to go follow some of my own advice...
This is what Works For Me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 17

 Last week was pretty much filled with leftovers and food from my freezer stockpile. It was great for saving time and renewing my desire for cooking and trying new foods (and a great thanks to Super Healthy Kids for some fun, new ideas!).

Yogurt with granola (so far, this is my favorite granola! I do make some alterations, but it's a great recipe to start with!)
Power Puff Pancakes
Gnarly Muffins

Chicken BBQ with cole slaw
Salad with Fruit

Black Bean Burritos
Catalina Cranberry Chicken
Dinner on the grill with a side of veggies

Home made bread with nutella
Banana rollups
Granola Bars

This post is connected to Menu Plan Monday with I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kitchen Makeover

We are not done, but I wanted to post some progress pictures of our kitchen that we (mostly my husband) are working on. This process doesn't really give me an excuse for the state of my kitchen tonight...
That's just from pure laziness...and I'm sure none of you have ever let the dishes pile up like that...but I have. I'm no stranger to unloading my dishwasher only to immediately fill it completely with what's in the sink! I need to get this under control. Now.

This remodeling process started on a whim with my husband ripping out 3, yes 3!, layers of linoleum to uncover the hardwood floors. We are in the process of redoing the floors, counters, cabinets and walls. I'm so excited with it so far! 
The before of the floors.
Part of the process...
The walls in progress.
Getting closer...
Now I should go do those dishes...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Finding Simplicity and Balance

I have been on a quest lately. Mostly in my mind, and probably a bit more passively than actively, but none the less on a quest. I have been thinking about it a lot lately, and have had a few conversations with my husband as well, but reading a couple of blogs this morning only reiterates my need and desire to become more active than just thinking. This blog article is pretty long, but I find much of what he is saying in "The Difference: Living Well vs. Doing Well" reflects a lot of how I feel with wanting to simplify. And then another one talks about "Balance and Well-being" and my life is not to the extreme of hers and my blog not taking up as much time, but the principles in general that she shares really reflect how I am feeling.
There are things in my life I feel take up too much time and attention and I have worked to make these areas simpler. For example, picking out meals for the week/month can be time-consuming, but I find that using Evernote helps me to have all recipes in one spot, lets me tag them and find what I want quickly and easily, lets me quickly paste pages and recipes I find on the internet, and lets me continually update with my changes and alterations. This has cut the time I spend on this task greatly. But then there are other areas of my life that I haven't found the best solution for. Like finding time for keeping my house clean, grocery shopping, doing laundry, doing home improvement, spending quality time with my kids, working part time, coaching volleyball, blogging about life and other issues, all the while trying to be a wife and mom and friend...
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed at what seems impossible, and sometimes I feel highly motivated and can find the time and desire to get an immense amount of stuff done in a day. And I do love checking things off of a to-do list, but I do not want my life to become one big to-do list! I want to enjoy the process of living, to enjoy all that God has created for me to enjoy!
Some small steps I am taking to work on balance and simplicity:
I am planning a yard sale and I am excited for how much I hope to sell, for how much I hope to get out of our house and feel like we don't have so much stuff around that we don't need.
I am working to create structure in my day, but with flexibility so that, again, I am not bound by a life of to-do's.
I am trying to make sure I make it a priority to work out on a daily basis because I know how good this makes me feel, physically and emotionally.
I am trying to find times and places for my toddler to interact with others his age so he can grow socially and so that I can try to meet other moms possibly in similar life stages.
I am also trying to be more inviting about having others over for a meal, or making it a point to get out of the house and interact with other people and families. It's good for all of us! Relationships can be hard but they are so good!
I am trying to use small amounts of time to clean/cook/do housework instead of getting overwhelmed at all that needs to be done and the time that needs to be involved and not doing anything as a result.
I am trying to make sure I take a little time for myself each day, even if it is just a little extra time in the shower, I know I need it and I know I feel better after it.
How do you simplify? How do you find balance? I'd love to hear about it. And I'd love to keep you involved in my process as well, as I hopefully begin to see how my small changes make big impacts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Boogie Wipes work for me!

I have a toddler who pretty much didn't get sick for the first 14 months of his life. For some reason, though, the last couple of months have been a different story. And boogie wipes have been our friend. 
I don't think I would have ever bought them on my own. I am the 'I'm sure it's nothing special' type of person, especially when the cost is a bit higher. But a pack was given to us and I (and I'm sure my son even more so) have greatly appreciated them! And I think they are soft and moist enough that my son does not try to run away from us (most of the time)! And I don't have to look at a crusty and/or runny nose all day!
This is what works for me (though hopefully this season will quickly pass us by!). Visit We Are THAT Family for more great tips today.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 10

I made more granola and granola bars this past week when we returned to town and a little bit to normalcy. I made "the best granola i've ever had" with some variations of course, and also these "superpower granola bars" (you have to scroll down the page a bit) with minor changes. Both were good. The bars were sweeter than any I have made thus far, and the granola was a crunchier one, which I like!

My husband made this orzo chicken and it was great! It said it served 4, but the first time we ate it there were 4 adults, and we had more left in the pot than what we ate! Guess our servings weren't as big, maybe since we had a salad with garden-fresh lettuce on the side! mmmm.

This week may be a lot of leftovers with the chicken dish and also making some meals with leftover beef tenderloin that my husband grilled for mother's day! It was fabulous, and I am thrilled we get to have more. If you have a great recipe that includes leftover meat I'd love to hear about it. I am thinking maybe a stir fry and maybe on top of another salad from the garden, but I am open to other ideas too.
We will hopefully enjoy a couple of salads, more strawberries and avocados, and corn on the cob that is coming into season now too, as well as simple grilling meals.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To Yard Sale or Not To Yard Sale?

Is it worth it?
What makes it worth it?
What makes it NOT worth it?
Is a yard sale a valuable way to declutter and downsize?
What do you do with your little kids during the sale, if you have them?
What is your best tip from your experience of doing (or not doing) yard sales?

I haven't ever personally held a yard sale, but I want to this week (unless I get scared off after I get your answers) and obviously need to really get the best tips you have for me.

Thanks! This might be my favorite 'works for me wednesday' because I get to show how not perfect I am and how I need help (with what may be very simple for someone else). To post your question, or help answer someone else's, head on over to We Are THAT Family.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - May 3

 Last week was a little off, and we ended up not even eating as much as planned. My favorite was probably just a salad that we made with lettuce from our "garden," avocados that have been on sale, strawberries that have been on sale, mozzarella cheese left from another recipe, and some raspberry vinaigrette. It was so simple and so amazing!
This week is going to be a bit off again...Hubs and I went out of town with the youngest to coach a volleyball tournament and then hang out an extra night for anniversary/birthday celebration, so Sunday and Monday meals will be out of town. Tuesday lunch is provided at our staff meeting, Wednesday dinner is a Cinco de Mayo party at a friends, Thursdays are rushed as I leave early to coach volleyball, Friday we are having a friend over for dinner...whew.
So, hoping for more salads for lunches, and will probably make guacamole for the party.
Also, Chicken with orzo, mushrooms and peppers for company, chicken bbq for lunches, oatmeal for breakfasts, and leftovers for other meals. It's going to be a simple week and hopefully a cheap week (besides the eating out parts)!
For more great menu ideas, head over to Orgjunkie.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apples, Apples, Apples

I've realized recently just how much I like apples. They have so much to offer, from the nutritional benefits to versatility! And when they are in season and priced right, they are a great buy!
These are some of the ways we have found to incorporate them into our diet (especially during the sales).

fresh fruit. for a snack, especially with some cheese or popcorn
applesauce. with granola on top, by itself, homemade or store-bought
in baking recipes. very often substituted for oil or butter in our house.
in pancakes, breads, and muffins. adding moisture and nutrition to make a healthy version.
in meals. in very delicious meals like this apple and sausage pie.
baby food. a great starter for any baby learning to eat.
toddler food. as a snack, chopped up, with a side of cheese and nuts. makes a great snack.
in a grilled cheese sandwich. oh so delicious!
for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
in cooking or baking
fun to go apple picking. easy to peel with a fancy peeler. family-friendly. nutritious. it's just that simple.

This post is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap. Head on over to find more great recipes with fruit in them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Some Gnarly Muffins!

I have a 16 month old son who is getting better about trying new and different foods. But it hasn't always been this way. He went through a definite picky stage. A stage where he would just look at something and refuse to eat it if it didn't look familiar. Because of this stage I worked hard at getting creative to get fruits and veggies (mostly veggies since he is really okay with most fruits) into foods that looked familiar. A great recipe I found recently has some great grains and added fruits and veggies, and until I can get more of the veggies into his diet without hiding them (who knows...that may be years!) this is what works for me!

I started with this recipe for Gnarly Muffins from Joy the Baker. I made a few alterations of my own, but the abundance of carrots and apples in mine made them nice and moist! Here is how I made them:
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c flax seed meal
3/4 c wheat bran
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c shredded carrots
1 c shredded apple
1/2 raisins
3/4 c milk
1/2 c egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, mix all dry ingredients.
Add carrots, apple, and raisins.
In a small bowl, mix milk, egg and vanilla. Add to dry/fruit mix and stir just until moistened.
I filled my 12 silicone muffin cups totally full and baked them a bit longer because they were bigger. Took mine close to 30 minutes.
Eat, and enjoy. And share with your family members who don't get all their fruits and veggies!

Other foods that look familiar and I can add healthy stuff to: pancakes, dips, sauces, and yogurt, to name a few.

This is what works for me. Head on over to We Are THAT Family for more great posts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Baby Food Galore!

I am at an in-between stage right now, with a 16 month old who is eating more in the way of table food now and an 8 week old who is definitely not eating food yet. But I made all of my own food for the first kid and am very excited for even more possibilities the second time around. My first actually would never eat the store-bought stuff. I tried with a few things that were freely given to us, but I was secretly okay with him liking my food better!
I am linking up over at 5dollardinners today and wanted to select a few posts that I wrote when I was on this adventure with my first son.
Bananas and Apples
Applesauce cost comparison
More cost comparisons here and here
I didn't have any cookbooks, didn't have any special tools, didn't even have a submersion blender at that point. Just used the food, water, pots, a blender, ice cube trays (and as he ate more I used muffin tins to make the portions bigger), baggies and a freezer. It's all quite simple and cost-effective, there are tons of combinations you can do with putting foods together (like avocado and banana or peaches and pears, etc). Can't wait for this stage and more experiments with son #2!

Menu Plan Monday - April 26

Well, last week's menu plan did not happen AT all. Oh well. We did eat, we just ate random other things, like lots of avocados since they are great right now. And lots of strawberries because they are in now too. And some pizza that my husband got from a place we like from out of town...yeah, it was an off week and I am excited to get back on the plan.

Five Grain Hot Cereal
Baked Oatmeal
Yogurt and Granola (going to make a variation of this basic recipe)

Chicken BBQ Sandwiches
Baked Chicken Fingers (a definite favorite around here)
Hopefully a salad from the garden

Leftover Pizza from the weekend
Black bean burritos (but without the tortillas, served with chips, and with avocado on top)
Macaroni and Cheese (to take to a potluck meal)
Clean out the fridge

We will be out of town Friday through Monday for work/play, so we will be eating out some next weekend and don't need to make as much this week.
For other great meal ideas, head over to Orgjunkie.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - April 19

This Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon and Mushrooms from last week was probably our favorite. Actually, my husband's favorite by far! An exciting moment for me though was my picky toddler son actually eating all parts of this Brown Rice Casserole we had with peas. It was another successful week of meals.
This week will be a bit off for us. We have my in-laws in town and went out to eat last night, for lunch today, and quite possibly for dinner again tonight.
I have a dish that was in the freezer, a past with ground turkey dish, that I will reheat and have available for one dinner and possibly lunches.
Other meals we will be having:
Mozzarella Chicken and Rice Skillet
Breakfast for Dinner
Spinach Lentil Soup
For other great meals and ideas, head on over to Orgjunkie today!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quest for the perfect granola!

 I have been on a little bit of a quest lately for the perfect granola. For a long time I had no desire (or maybe I was just afraid to take the time and effort) to make my own granola. Once in a while I would buy it and enjoy it, but it was to expensive to buy on a regular basis, so I would just do without. Out of sight, out of mind.
But recently I have decided it would be good. and fun. and challenging. and cheaper to try out some recipes than to buy. I started searching for ones that looked like they had ingredients I would be able to find and I would be able to enjoy and also for ones that had good reviews and were somewhat healthy. And then I started saving them to my Evernote.
And then I started trying them out. Here are some that I have tried and my reviews (things I look for in a granola recipe: flavor, crunch!, ease of prep, and household approval):

Honey Crunch Granola (I like that this one has flax seed and wheat germ for added nutrition. i used almonds and did not have apple juice at the time. this was not my favorite so far, but was also my first, so I will give it another try)
Apple Granola (very simple and very few ingredients, but not crunchy enough for me. I added peanuts to have a little extra nutrition and flavor)
Honey Cinnamon Granola (enjoyable, but not my favorite. not as crunchy and not as much flavor as I would like...but still a good recipe and I like that it also has wheat germ in it)
Baked Granola (I've made this one twice, first time was very crunchy and with great reviews in my house...second time not so crunchy...must try again soon. I used applesauce instead of the oil and I did not have/use hazelnuts or cherries)
Mix-n-Match Applesauce Granola (I used less sugar, almonds for my nuts and cranberries/raisins for my dried fruit. very crunchy! and the ginger adds a new flavor I had not yet had with granola. A+)
More recipes I'd like to try soon:

Energizing Granola
Pumpkin Spice Granola
Peanut Butter Granola

Other endeavors? finding the best homemade oatmeal. and a bigger try at making granola bars... I've tried a couple of recipes, but these make me even more nervous than the granola for some reason...
Got a great recipe I should try? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMW - Peeling Apples

I know apple time is generally in the fall, but there have been some good prices around here lately so I have been making recipes with apples and making applesauce. I love, love, love homemade applesauce! My biggest frustration with making applesauce is peeling them! Reasons why I don't like hand peeling? (1) I tend to cut myself with knives so I am always a little tentative about it.
(2) I feel like I lose some of the apple if I can't peel thin enough with my knife.
(3) It doesn't take forever, but it does take a while.

Back to the apples I have been buying...I recently found this apple peeler on Amazon, read some great reviews, and bought it with some birthday money. And I love it! 

It is sharp, it is fast, I don't have a fear of cutting myself, it is fast, it peels very close to the skin...and it is fast! So basically I am enjoying it thus far. And enjoying making things with apples so much more, and really looking forward to the fall and even more apple mania!

This is what is working for me. To learn more and join in the fun, head on over to We Are THAT Family today.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Amazing Apple Bread with Thanks to Joy the Baker!

I didn't have this in my meal plan for last week, but had all the ingredients and just got the urge to make it one day, and boy am I glad that I did. The worst part? It only lasted 2.5 days with 3 of us in the house thoroughly enjoying it's goodness. The best part? It was SO moist!
Apple Walnut Flax Seed Bread.
Forgot to take my own pictures of the process, but it was easy, pretty fast, and oh SO good!
The only changes I made were using unsweetened applesauce instead of the melted butter (I try to make these simple substitutions for healthier items whenever possible) and egg substitute instead of the two eggs (use the sub a lot in baking and the real deal mostly when actually eating eggs).
I think I might have to make another loaf real soon!

Menu Plan Monday - April 12

Last week was a good week for food! The smothered chicken was really good. My husband raved about it, and he doesn't normally like cooked carrots, so this was a double positive. And my son ate some of the chicken and bacon with us! This omelette was also amazing and got great reviews! We used less apple in smaller chunks with colby cheese and no walnuts. Would definitely make both of these again...easy, good, frugal! I forgot I didn't have all the ingredients for the granola I was going to try, so I made this baked granola again that we really liked. It wasn't as crunchy this time for some reason, I must have done something wrong because it was great the first time!

Slow Cooker Oatmeal (nice to wake up on Sunday and have breakfast already made! first time using steel cut oats. no sugar in it, could be a little sweeter, but I did omit the apple since my son was weird about it in the oatmeal last week. would like to try these oats again with a different recipe)
Granola and yogurt
Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon and Mushrooms; asparagus
Brown Rice Casserole; peas
Tuna Panini; fruit
Banana Pancakes made while listening to Jack Johnson sing about it!

I am excited for this week of food too! Will report back about what exceeds our expectations!
For more great meal plans and recipe ideas head on over to Orgjunkie today!