Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday

Works for Me Wednesday is a "blog carnival" that I've been following for a while that is hosted on Rocks in My Dryer. I love sharing tips with friends and family as well as getting tips from others. So, why not share what works for me?

1) Meal planning with an almost empty pantry
I'm sure many people have already found this site, but I still had to share. How cool is Left Over Chef? There's another site I need to dig up that lets you choose ingredients you have and it produces recipe options. I find it hard not to have preconceived ideas when I start clicking ingredients. It almost makes it easier when the pantry is almost bare!

2)Use your tools. Many people have collected appliances over the years that sit around and collect dust. Pull out the rice maker, crock pot, bread maker, mixer, and food processor. The rice maker and crock pot are excellent for easy meals. Prepare, start, and go take care of other things around the house or for work. Use the bread maker to prepare your dough. Most recipes come together in 5 minutes. It's amazing what you can get done in the 1 1/2 hours while the dough is being made. Use your food processor to chop in bulk. Use what you need now and freeze the rest. It's such a timesaver to be able to pull out a cup of diced onions out of the freezer and toss into your recipe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back to the grind

After a week of vacation over Thanksgiving, I headed back to work on Monday. This is the first Thanksgiving in 3 years that I haven't worked through the holiday (and vacations) due to major projects. Vacations are essential for recharging. I did stay pretty busy with orders from the business, but it was nothing considering I usually have to fulfill orders at night, early in the morning, or on the weekends. Bud and Sissy had school on Monday and Tuesday, but their afterschool care provider was on vacation. Monday we had a play date after school. Tuesday, Bud had a play date at a friend's house. Sissy and I ran some errands. Black Friday, I managed to finish all but one Christmas gift. But that was last week, I'm back at work now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

I'm trying to better organize life right now. I've always loved the idea of meal planning, but never made it happen. After reading a lot about it, I have finally decided to make the official plunge. Org Junkie hosts "Menu Plan Monday" each Monday. You can visit Org Junkie on Mondays to check out the bloggers who are participating. Lots of inspiration. I'm a vegetarian (22+ years) and get very excited when I see someone post a vegetarian meal plan. Even if it's not veggie, I still get some great ideas. So, today, I'm going to post my first Menu Plan Monday. I'm not going to post my link on the MPM post on the site, but do go check it out. It's so worth your time! I'm still a little shy about the blog (don't laugh!). Here goes...

Monday- Veggie Beef, Cheese, and Noodle Bake
Tuesday- Veggie Meatloaf
Wednesday- Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken (I'll eat leftovers)
Thursday- Grilled Cheese
Friday- Home-made Pizza
Saturday- Slow cooker veggie taco bake
Sunday- Baked Ziti (my sister's recipe)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cooking at Home

In the past few months, we have been cutting down on going out to eat. We have been cooking and baking at home. I don't know that I would have ever thought that cooking a full meal for the family and cleaning up would be less stressful than going out, but it is. At home, there is less distraction for the kids and we don't have to worry about any potential mood swings. Those of you who have experienced 2-3 year old children know what I'm talking about! Not spending the money on dining out is less stressful, too.

Here are few handy tools I like to use to make things as easy as possible.

1. Rice cooker- a good friend, who is Indian, graciously offered to teach some tricks and tips for Indian food (30 minutes or less)for me and another friend of ours. I learned a lot and we had an amazing feast. This was the first time I was exposed to a rice cooker. Wow! It was love at first site. I queried my Mommies network and got some recommendations. I asked for one for my birthday. I was so excited when DH brought home my Aroma rice cooker from Costco. The one I got was silver and black. It was inexpensive, but works perfectly. Perfect rice and wonderful steamed veggies.

2. Breadmaker- I bought a breadmaker about 5 years ago. I tried a loaf and failed miserably. I was devastated. When we moved into our current house, I stored it in the closet. I was so bummed that it didn't work out. This summer I was inspired by several blogs. There were so many people that made all of their bread. Surely, I could do this! I asked the fellow mommies on my Mommies Network about their experiences. They shared recipes and tips. I pulled out the bread machine and sat it on the counter. It sat a couple weeks while I reviewed the manual over and over. I tried a load, it was a brick. I asked DH to try a loaf and it was the first survivable loaf produced in the machine. Then I decided that the dough making cycle would probably best suit our needs. Pizza dough! DH was just as excited as I was. Next, we tried pretzel dough. Amazing and perfect for to pack in the kids' lunches. Last weekend, we made dough for dinner rolls. They were fantastic. We repeated for Thanksgiving and they were quite the hit. The breadmaker has officially earned it's place on the counter. This weekend we made naan in the breadmaker. Best of all we are using whole foods- no High Fructose Corn Syrup!

3. Toaster oven- perfect for heating up naan or cooking quick meals.

4. Small stoneware bar pan- This stoneware is made my Pampered Chef. It fits toaster ovens perfectly. The little scrapers that come with it are wonderful, too. We use those every day.

5. Crock pot- We have an on again, off again relationship. I'm hoping it's on again soon. I broke my old one that I got as a wedding gift last year. I wasn't upset because it didn't have a separate insert you could pull out to wash. I got a new one for Christmas. It has timers, multiple settings, and you can pull the insert out to wash it easily. I've got a couple recipes planned for this week. It really is less muss and fuss.

6. The Sneaky Chef Cookbook- I love this book. It's been great to bring more nutrition into foods that the kids already like to eat. Many of my friends know I have a slight obsession with this book. I'll have to give reviews of the recipes we've tried. the rice cooker has been a perfect partner to this book.

7. The Magic Bullet- Talk about less muss and fuss, this little powerhouse is the real deal. I was dragging out my huge Cuisinart food processor to make purees and grind oats for The Sneaky Chef recipes. Oh, the mess and the cleanup! One day it hit me, I need to pull out the bullet. It was perfect when I was making Sissy's baby food. It is just the right size for making the purees.

Those are my favorite tools of the trade right now. I'm always interested in hearing about other's preferred cooking tools are.

Getting the hang of it

It's been a while. I'm hoping to get the hang of blogging. I read so many wonderful blogs daily and have been exposed to so much. It's nice to know there are other people out there with similar interests and even those with different interests I can learn from. I think that blogging will give me the opportunity to better organize my thoughts and my life.