Monday, March 4, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - 3/3 thru 3/9


I enjoy eating a variety of things, and I really enjoy trying new recipes.  So I try to incorporate new recipes into our weekly meal plan.  For sanity's sake, one, maybe two, recipes per week is plenty.  I find new recipes all over - blogs, cookbooks, Pinterest, personal recommendations.  When I see something that looks good, and might work well for our family, I add it to a list.  Then, I pick one out to try as I make the weekly meal plan.  

So here's what we'll be eating this week. 

Sunday - Bacon-Pork Burgers with Coleslaw {new}, Fries
Monday - Spaghetti and Salad*
Tuesday - Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Wednesday - Crock-pot BBQ Chicken, mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - Fish fry at the local Catholic Church
Saturday - Barbacoa Tacos 

Honey Turkey and Swiss


Cake **

* We are swapping sandwich and pasta night this week because Kat is starting tumbling classes!  Classes are on Tuesday from 5:30-6, so dinners for the next 6 Tuesdays will need to be super quick!

** The box mix from last week that was supposed to be cupcakes (but never happened) became a layer cake for this week.  

This post is linked at's Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First Loaf of Bread

As I mentioned in my last menu post, I try to make one homemade treat each week.  I didn't get around to it this week though.  Instead, I finally found the confidence to try making bread.  I've made plenty of quick breads - banana bread, apple cinnamon bread, zucchini bread...  But nothing that involves yeast.  Yeast is scary!  It requires proper temperatures and rising times, resting and kneading.  But after reading a few tutorials, I decided to give it a go.

And the result...

Looks like bread, and happily tastes way better than the "light wheat" bread that I buy for sandwiches.  

I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  Honey-Oat Pain de Mie.  Don't be overwhelmed by the name! Pain de Mie is a sandwich bread typically made in a pan with a lid (I had to look it up!).  I love oats, and I figured this was bread that we would actually eat; surprisingly, toddlers don't really care about artisan bread!  

The recipe was amazingly easy to put together - just 6 ingredients, plus water.  I used a bit of whole wheat flour (about 2/3 cup) in place of some of the white flour, but otherwise followed the instructions exactly.  I let Kat help with the kneading; who needs play-doh when you have bread dough!?  And while the whole process took several hours, the amount of hands-on time was probably only 20 minutes (less than I spend on a batch of chocolate chip cookies!). 

The bread was slightly denser than I was expecting, probably because of the bit of whole wheat flour that I used.  But it is chewy and tasty and is delicious as toast with jam or nutella (my breakfast at work on Thursday and Friday), as cinnamon sugar toast (whole family's breakfast on Saturday), and as the base for a peanut butter sandwich (NerdDad's snack on Saturday evening). 

So, I have gotten over my fear of yeast!  And I'm inspired to try more!! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - 2/23 thru 3/2

Our meal planning is a constant work in progress!  I love eating a variety of things and trying new recipes.  But for ease of planning, I have instituted a loose structure to our meal planning....
  • Meals that take a long time to prepare or are very hands-on are limited to weekends
  • Monday is "sandwich" night, something super easy to prepare to start our cooking week off on the right foot.  "Sandwich" can be anything from grilled cheese, to hamburgers, to quesadillas; virtually anything that meets the premade bread/carb base with meat/veggie filler/toppings.
  • Tuesday OR Wednesday is pasta night.  The other is whatever strikes my fancy.
  • Thursday night is leftover night; I try to get as much out of the fridge as I can before the weekend (and grocery shopping).
  •  Friday night is pizza night.  NerdDad suggested that we start this tradition.  And I love it for so many reasons.
 I will share more of my meal planning strategies next week.  But for starters, anything that doesn't get made gets pushed to the next week... see BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizzas and Cajun-spiced Tilapia below...

Saturday - Ordering Pizza at Grandma's house with out-of-town visitors
Sunday - Cajun-spiced Tilapia, Jambalya Rice, Zucchini
Monday - BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizzas
Tuesday - Hard-shell Beef Tacos and Black Beans, with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese {taco seasoning recipe}*
Wednesday -BLT Pasta {Recipe #18 here}{new}
Thursday -Leftovers
Friday - Pepperoni and Green Pepper Personal Pizzas
Saturday - Pigs-in-a-Blanket **

Leftovers (still a bunch from last week)

Carrot and Zucchini Bread Baked Oatmeal (leftovers from last week)

Cupcakes ***

* In an effort to eat slightly less meat, I've convinced my family to mix a can of black beans with our taco meat.  Kat loves it; she's a bean fanatic.  NerdDad has grown to appreciate it.

** NerdDad will be out, so it'll just be me and Kat for dinner.  And Kat is an expert at making Pigs-in-a-Blanket!

*** From a box, because I'm willing to make a few compromises to save some time.

This post is linked at's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making Whoopie!

Whoopie Pies, that is!

 We make a family trip to the library about once a month. And I almost always pick up a cookbook to look through. On the most recent trip, I came home with 1,000 Easy Recipes: Super Fun Food for Every Day from Food Network Magazine. From just looking through it (haven't tried much yet), I love that it includes both basic recipes, as well as spin-off and adaptations. And everything is normal everyday food!

This week, I needed a recipe for something sweet. Since Christmas, I've been trying to make a dessert or treat each week rather than purchasing something store-bought/made. If we're going to eat junk, I'd prefer to know what's in it!

I came across a recipe for Easy Whoopie Pie (similar recipe here).  I had all the ingredients on hand, and could use up the marshmallows that had been in the pantry since our fall bonfire - WIN!  I planned to have Kat help me make them while Buddy napped yesterday, but a last minute trip to the pediatrician for an ear infection nearly foiled our plans!  Instead, Kat helped me mix up the ingredients before dinner.  The dough needs to chill before baking, so I threw it in the refrigerator while we did the dinner-play-bedtime routine. 

Once Buddy was in bed, I did the baking while cleaning up the kitchen and prepping bottles... First batch into the oven, set timer for 8 minutes, load dishwasher.  Get next batch ready, assemble marshmallow pies, second batch in, timer for 8 minutes, clear table and wipe counters down.  Get next batch ready, assemble marshmallow pies, second batch in, timer for 8 minutes, prep next day's bottles.  DONE!  Pretty efficient use of time!  And now we get to enjoy these:

The cookies are very chocolately - the recipe calls for melted semisweet chips and cocoa powder.  And the texture is fudgy, almost like a brownie.  The filling is simply a large marshmallow (how easy is that?!).  I followed the recipe exactly, except that I chilled the dough for more than 30 minutes.  I used my small OXO cookie scoop (cookie making made easy - get one!) and got 42 cookies, which made 21 whoopie pies!  Whoop whoop!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - 2/16 thru 2/23


In January, I discovered the yumminess that is Baked Oatmeal.  It's like a healthy dessert for breakfast.  It satisfies my desire for something warm as well as my perpetual craving for cereal with milk.  And the recipe is easily adaptable to stave off boredom.  I've made several versions already: Zucchini Bread, Gingerbread, Blueberries and Cream, Carrot Cake.  I couldn't find a good Carrot Cake version that included everything that I wanted, so I made on up;  I hope to post the recipe soon.

Here's what else we'll be eating this week...

Saturday -Valentine's Date Night In from Columbus Fish Market, Chef Boyardee for Kat *
Sunday - Mustardy Pork with Apples and Onions from Dinner a Love Story {new}
Monday - Chicken Enchiladas {new} and Salad **
Tuesday - Spaghetti and Salad
Wednesday - Orange Chicken, Rice and Asian Veggies
Thursday - Pigs-in-a-Blanket ***
Friday - BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizzas
Saturday - Cajun-spiced Tilapia, Jambalya Rice, Zucchini

??? - Buffalo Chicken from the deli for NerdDad, Leftovers for me

Carrot and Zucchini Bread Baked Oatmeal

??? - Whoopie Pies from Food Network {new}

* NerdDad and I decided to do a Date Night In for Valentine's Day, since finding a sitter we trust with our kids is a bit challenging right now.  Kat had canned pasta (while I try to avoid these, I figure a splurge every now and then is fine).  And we all shared some corn chips and guacamole (from Trader Joe's - best guac!), as sort of an appetizer since Date Night didn't start until after bedtime.

** This made the last menu, but we were busy and it got put off until this week.

*** Mom has to work late, so this is an easy dinner for NerdDad and Kat. 

This post is linked at's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Striving for Balance

When I returned from maternity leave, I worked part-time for one month.  A combination of days off and work from home days made the transition back to work a bit easier, more gradual.  Working part-time also gave me a glimpse into the possibility that I could manage most of my job and get to spend more time with my kids! So I approached my boss about working four day a week on a permanent basis.  To my surprise, the change took a lot less convincing than I thought it would. 

So now I am working my normal 8:30am-5:30pm schedule on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (and bringing home 80% of my previous salary).  And I'm spending Wednesdays with my kids! 

Today is my first Wednesday at home.  Only time will tell how the shift at work will go, and to be honest, the change has me anxious and feeling a bit more stressed than usual.  But I know for sure that I am looking forward to spending more time with Buddy and Kat.  I am excited to get to do a few of the activities that I've enviously heard stay-at-home moms talking about - story time at the library, mid-week trips to the zoo, art projects that take more time than I had on busy weekends. 

More on this change soon, but for now, I'm going to go enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shopping Success

I have a big fancy work party next weekend and need a new dress.  Kat needs new shoes.  So I decided to be daring and conquer both tasks with a single mall trip.

Sure - this might not sound daring to you... but unlike many women, shopping is not one of my hobbies.  I  try to avoid the mall if at all possible.  And usually, finding a dress is about as challenging as establishing a colony on the moon.  For this occasion, my ideal dress allows me to wear a full-support bra (thank you breastfeeding), isn't too clingy (giant mommy pooch), is modest enough to wear around colleagues but still flattering, and maybe a color other than black.  And if that wasn't enough, since I was going to get Kat new shoes, she would have to come with me.

I prepared for this adventure by planning a crock-pot dinner (Chicken Curry) and throwing it all together to start cooking at lunch time.  Since dinner was hands-off, I wouldn't have to worry about rushing home.  And I decided that leaving just after her nap would give me optimal Kat cooperativeness.  During naptime, I pumped so that NerdDad would have milk to feed Buddy while I was gone.  And just before we left, I snuck a pack of fruit snacks into my purse.

The store where we got Kat's last pair of shoes no longer carries her size (what's up with that?!).  She has wide feet, so the pickings were pretty slim already.  Since find a dress had a more concrete deadline, we moved on to that.  And somehow we made it past the kid play area with minimal whining.  Score!

When we get into the first department store, Kat announced that she had had enough of the stroller and wanted to "walk myself".  So we played "Follow Mommy", which surprisingly worked perfectly! She very obediently followed me around while I browsed each rack and picked out four dresses to try on.

And now here is the most amazing part of this story...  The first wasn't bad, but a little too casual for this party.  And the second was AMAZING!  In fact, it was so amazing, that I didn't even both trying on the other two dresses! The dress met all of my criteria AND it was only $60!  Thank you shopping gods!  Check back after this weekend; I'll post pics.

P.S. The rest of the trip was a success too: Kat got new shoes and sunglasses, Buddy was napping when we got home, and dinner was ready!