"I want, I want, I want ... but that's crazy"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday night relaxing time

By request, tonight's dinner was my Super Simple Chicken and Noodles (recipe here). It's a pretty quick repeat, but I'm not complaining since it's "super simple" and I had no plan made out ahead of time.

It's Thursday, which means I get to not feel all stressed out because I don't have work in the morning. I work Friday evenings every week now. I get the kids off to school then I get to go back to sleep. It's nice that they're now old enough that they can spend a Friday evening at home alone (when I don't have to be sure to be there hovering over Munch to get her homework done.)

I called our stringer at work today to ask her about the bichon frise - it's her parents' dog. I asked if they might be willing to wait a couple of weeks for a positive answer on whether or not we want to take him. I have to find out if I'm going to be priced out of my apartment now that I'm about to be under new ownership. If we're staying, we'll probably take the dog. It's really just too good to pass up. Well, I'll have to meet him first, of course. 

Since my night is pretty much settled already - except for jumping on Munch's head every five minutes to get back to her homework - I think I'll get started on next week's menu. Btw, anyone got any good suggestions for recipe sites for easy, kid-friendly meals? I almost always alter the recipes significantly (so far, every one here is an original of mine except for the cabbage rolls), but I do like the recipe sites to give me ideas.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday dinner (belated): Mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes

I had no time to post Monday's dinner (see previous post), but this is the second time I've made mini meatloaves since I started my little food adventure, so I wanted to get the recipe up.

Mini Meatloaves

1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg
15 crushed Ritz crackers (can you tell yet that these are my preferred "filler"?)
1 T. Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1 t. soy sauce
1 T. chopped dried onion
1/3 c. ketchup
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper

glaze:
1/3 c. ketchup
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. ground ginger

Heat oven to 400F. Mix meatloaf ingredients thoroughly with hands. Divide into four even portions and shape each into a small loaf shape. Place on baking sheet covered with foil and sprayed lightly with olive oil.

Mix glaze ingredients in a small bowl and brush evenly over meatloaves to desired thickness. (I like a lot on mine.)

Bake 30-40 minutes or until glaze is nicely browned and loaves are cooked through.


At the same time, you can bake your potatoes.


Herb-roasted potatoes

4 med. russett potatoes, well-scrubbed, diced small and rinsed
Olive oil
Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning
Seasoned salt (Lawry's is always the best)

Toss potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with seasoned salt and seasoning. Toss together and season again until seasoned as desired. Spread in single layer on baking sheet. Bake at the same time as meatloaves. Turn pan and stir once about halfway through. They'll finish at the same time.


This meal is BEGGED for by the girls - especially the potatoes!

Remember, I'm cooking for myself and two girls, ages 14 and 11, so you might need to adjust your proportions to suit your family size.

Meh, figure something out

Colleen the kitten was spayed on Monday, so she was a world-class grump for that evening and the next. Being a kitten, though, she bounces back quickly, and though she still tires out quickly and isn't quite up to full speed yet, she can't seem to resist playing. 

Oh, and it appears her mama might be pregnant again. I'll be taking her to the shelter soon. It's time to get her out of the baby-making business.

I got a call Monday afternoon from my landlord saying my apartment building has been sold (four townhouse units). He said the bank appraiser and his brother would be by Tuesday to take pics, so the rest of Monday was naturally spent in cleaning.

Monday evening, I made mini meatloaves with roasted potatoes for dinner. Tuesday was paninis. (I'll post recipes separately). Tonight, Munch decided she wanted to use up the rest of the meat and bread and have another panini, so Gin and I each just had a baked potato after wandering around the kitchen going, "What do you want?" "I don't know. What do you want?" Etc., etc. Being sick and having my weekend shot by work meant no menu plan and, therefore, no grocery plan. It's kind of a "Meh. We'll figure something out." sort of week.

Oh, and I've got an opportunity to get - for free - a three-year-old male Bichon Frise. I'm tempted. It's probably not the greatest idea when I don't know what the status of my housing situation will be in the near future. I'll probably wait it out until I get a more definite idea and then decide on the dog. Tough decision though. (The girls, naturally, vote to get the dog, no matter what!) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another non-weekend

After arriving home at 2 a.m. from work last night/this morning, I tried to start up my computer, only to have it tell me that it couldn't start. I tried to run the startup repair upon prompting. Fail. Try again? Sure. Fail again. Try something else? Ok, how about a system restore? Fail. Again? Fail again. Third try? Finally, I was able to get it started. In the meantime, I'm reading an ebook, and by the time it finally starts up, it's 5 a.m. and I forget why I cared to get on in the first place. All I could think was, "Don't let my computer be dead!" Whew! Thank goodness it survived.

But I had to set my alarm for 8 a.m. My plan was to drive into Sidney at 8:30 so I could be at the animal shelter by 9 to do the paperwork to get our kitten in to the low-cost spay and neuter clinic Monday. $60 - not so low, really, but better than full price.

When my alarm went off, I was able to do some quick mental figuring. Isn't it funny how that happens? I figured, the Manchester United match starts at 10 a.m., so it will be over by noon. The shelter's open until 1. So I can go back to sleep, get up for the match and leave immediately afterward. That would put me in Sidney by 12:30. That was what I ended up doing.

On the drive in to town, my mother called to tell me that her dog was sick, so I shouldn't let the girls play with her if I dropped by. Not a problem. We weren't going anyway. She mentioned too that my stepdad just ignored the poor thing, saying, "Well, what can I do?" They've had that dog for more than 16 years, and technically, she belongs to him. I can't imagine just sitting back and watching her suffer. The girls' mouse died this week. They've only had him for a couple of months, but I couldn't sit and watch him suffer. We had him humanely put down. 

While at the animal shelter, I instantly fell in love with the sweetest, most beautiful big old mutt I'd ever seen, but fortunately my good sense kept me from bringing him home with us. We simply don't have the room for a dog that size, and with two cats, two fish tanks and a frog tank, we don't need more pets either (although, the mouse will probably be replaced. Since we have all the equipment and supplies, it's a matter of $1.69 to replace the mouse itself.)

The girls and I stopped and had lunch out, which we haven't done in quite a while, then made a quick trip to one store for some last-minute school supplies and another for some food (good staples purchased during a one-day sale). 

Tomorrow, I have to work, so I have Monday off (hence, the ability to take advantage of the spay and neuter clinic). I have to have the kitten in to Sidney between 7:30 and 8 a.m., so I have to leave home by 7 a.m. Some day off that is.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday dinner: tuna casserole

I have been sick all week, and it's not been fun. I'd already had Monday afternoon scheduled off work because it was the opening match of the season for my beloved Manchester United, but I was feeling awful by then already. I ended up leaving work Tuesday and Wednesday because I still felt terrible. I'm a bit better today.

Anyway, the menu got a little wonky because of it. (I also have now missed two weeks of spin classes. When I get back to the gym, it'll be like starting over. Ugh.) After making the stuffed meatballs, I said we'd have to find a use for the leftover sub buns. No problem. Last night was pizza subs, made with jarred pizza sauce and whatever toppings we wanted, topped with shredded mozzerella and popped under a low broiler.

Tonight, it's a family favorite: tuna casserole. I don't know how something so simple tastes so good, but tuna casserole night is never a disappointment. Here's my version:

Tuna casserole

1/2 of a 16 oz. bag of extra wide egg noodles
1 can of tuna, packed in water
1 can of cream of celery condensed soup
1/2 can milk
1 t. Weber roasted garlic and herb seasoning (I seriously use this stuff ALL THE TIME)
1/2 t. garlic powder
15 Ritz crackers, crushed
Italian seasoning

Cook the noodles in boiling water per directions on the bag. Meanwhile, in a 2 quart casserole dish, combine  drained tuna (No need to drain completely dry. By the way, I drain the juice into a dish for my cats. Happy kitties!) with soup, milk, seasoning and garlic. Mix well. When noodles finish cooking, drain well and gently fold into soup mixture. Top with crushed crackers and lightly sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the top.

Bake at 400F for about 25-30 mins. or until top is browned as desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday dinner: stuffed meatballs

I was far too sick Monday to cook, but I managed to pull myself together enough to make dinner on Tuesday. Monday's plan was stuffed meatballs, so that became Tuesday's dinner instead.

Stuffed Meatballs

1 lb. lean ground beef
10 Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
2 t. Italian seasoning
2 t. dried chopped onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

4 sticks string cheese (mozzarella), cut into 8 pieces each

20 oz. tomato sauce (this was left over from Sunday's stuffed cabbage, but you can use a whole 28 oz. can)
1 T. sugar
2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder

Combine beef, crackers, milk, egg, 2 t. Italian seasoning, chopped onion, 1/2 t. garlic powder and Parmesan cheese until well mixed. Take about a tablespoon of meat mixture and wrap around a piece of the string cheese, then roll into a small ball. You can make the meatballs larger if you like them that way. Place on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with oil. Continue with remaining meat mixture. Makes about 30 1.5-inch meatballs.

Lightly brown meatballs under broiler. 

Meanwhile, combine tomato sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 mins.

When meatballs are browned (don't worry if the cheese "pops" out of some of them), remove from oven and reduce temperature to 400F. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer meatballs to a 2-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over meatballs. Bake uncovered for 20 mins.

****

This was saucy enough that Gin and I had ours over spaghetti. Munch doesn't like spaghetti, so she had hers on a sub roll as a sandwich. Of course, that meant finding another use for the sub rolls. Another dinner....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday dinner: Garth Brooks' mother's cabbage rolls

So, last weekend at my mother's house, mom, the girls and I got onto the subject of food - naturally - and Gin mentioned that she would like more things with cooked cabbage. ... Yeah, I know, right? But I mentioned that really the only way I like cooked cabbage - other than in the form of saurkraut over some bratwurst - is the cabbage rolls my mom makes. She dug out the recipe, so that had to go on the menu.

This particular recipe I don't claim as my own, or even my mother's. She found it years ago somewhere, touted as the recipe for cabbage rolls that Garth Brooks said his mother made for him. I looked it up online and saw it appear in a few forums, but I didn't see an "original" anywhere, so I thought I'd go ahead and list it here, too. If objections happen to come down the pike at some point, I'll be more than willing to take it down, if there are copyright issues or something. I'd love to credit the original source, but I don't know what it is.

Garth Brooks' mother's cabbage rolls

1 head of cabbage, cored
8 c. water
2 T. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. vinegar
2 bay leaves (I failed to pick any of these up at the store, so I sprinkled some basil into the water. It sounded good.)

Sauce-
8 oz. can tomato sauce (I was shopping from memory, so I got a 28 oz. can instead. The leftover will be used in tomorrow's meal.)
1 c. beef broth
1 T. sugar
1 T. vinegar
1/2 t. cinnamon (this makes all the difference in the world!)
1 bay leaf (again, I didn't get any of these, so a little more basil here for us)

Filling_
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground black pepper
2 lbs. lean ground beef

For cabbage: Heat water, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar and bay leaves in a large stock pot to boiling. Add cabbage; return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 mins. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, carefully separate leaves.

Meanwhile, for sauce: Combine tomato sauce, beef broth, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to boiling (gently - tomato sauce splatters when it boils!). Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20 mins., stirring frequently.

Preheat oven to 350F.

For filling: Combine rice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pepper. Add beef and mix well, but don't overwork. (Overworking ground beef mixtures will make it tough.) Shape meat mixture into 12 small logs and roll up in cabbage leaves, folding in sides to leaves to enclose filling. 

Place cabbage rolls seam side down in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Pour sauce over rolls. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 mins. 

Makes 6 servings.

I remembered to snap a pic before I dug in! I split open the cabbage rolls and pour some of the sauce inside. The side dish is roasted potatoes, which is just russet potatoes diced and tossed in olive oil, then seasoned with seasoned salt and Roasted Garlic and Herb seasoning (a staple in my house.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday dinner: Super Simple Chicken and Noodles

My one-day weekend left my schedule messed up, so Monday had to be my shopping day. Since that's also Gin's cheer practice day, it meant running to the store at 6:30 p.m. for the week's food. By the time we got home, dinner was frozen pizza. I also didn't have the week's menu prepared, so we kind of had to do that on the fly.

Tonight, super simple chicken and noodles with a side of asparagus. Believe me, this meal ALMOST couldn't be any easier.

Super Simple Chicken and Noodles

1/2 a 16-ounce bag of extra wide egg noodles (these were left from a previous week, so don't look for a future recipe to finish the bag this week, as I'd usually do)
1 can chicken breast (I used the small can, but you can use a big one, if you like more chicken)
One can condensed cream of chicken soup (if you can find the cream of chicken with herbs, it's even better!)
Half a can of milk

Cook egg noodles in boiling water per instructions on the bag. Drain. While noodles are draining, put chicken (not drained), soup and milk in pot and stir together thoroughly. Return noodles to pot. Stir gently and warm through. Season to taste.

That's it!

My daughter liked it so much, she said she wanted it for her birthday meal. That's not true, of course. When her birthday rolls around, she wants to go to the sushi restaurant. But still, that's a pretty good review!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One day weekend

I get a one day weekend this week, and probably next, thanks to a coworker vacationing and another on maternity leave. I wish I'd known last weekend, since I felt like I wasted at least one whole day of that one too, and I was looking forward to a real one this week. Oh well.

Cramming it all into one day started with getting up to take Gin to her strength-training class, which is required for her to use the Wellness Center at the Y as a teen. I'd rather sleep in after working Friday night, but at least I finished work early and was able to get home at the relatively decent hour of midnight. (We spent the next hour sprinkling the house with diatomaceous earth to eradicate the flea infestation the cats have brought home.)

While Gin was at the Y, Munch and I went down to the farmers' market (I'm never in town when it's open, it seems.) We made a good haul: watermelon, bell pepper, onion, half a dozen ears of corn, peaches, some candy apple jelly and a loaf of blueberry banana bread (very tasty!). That only took half an hour, so we followed up with a trip to Goodwill. Munch got three pairs of jeans (one new with tags). I got a shirt, and I found a pair of Juicy Couture shoes new with tags that I couldn't resist picking up for Gin.

The rest of the day will be spent doing dishes and laundry, changing the water in the fish tanks (which is overdue) and making up next week's menu. I plan to shop for groceries Monday, after Gin finishes with cheerleading practice, since I have to work tomorrow. Rearranging an already hectic schedule is kind of a pain in the backside.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back-to-school blues? No! Shoes! :D

This post brought to you by Famous Footwear. All opinions are 100% mine.

FF-BiggestVictory-GIF_300x250(1).jpgI've already got one kid out of the house, but I've still got a 14 and an 11-year-old girl at home, so this time of year means ... back-to-school shopping. It's time-consuming. It's expensive. It's DULL. But wait... it's also NEW SHOES! 

With three girls in the house (I'm counting me), we do love shoe shopping. And Famous Footwear is making it even better for us. They've got all the current styles even my oh-so-fashion-conscious 14-year-old (she takes after me!)  and the cute stuff my 11-year-old still wants. And right now for back-to-school, they've got an even-better-than-BOGO deal! (BOGO = buy one, get one) It's BOGO plus 15% off!

Just print the coupon and redeem it at your favorite Famous Footwear store to get 15% off plus buy one pair, get one pair half off through Aug. 18. Don't miss out!

BOGO + 15% off Famous Footwear Coupon

So that means, one for Gin and one for me - plus 15 percent off. And one for Munch and one for me - plus 15% off. Oh, they might need more than one pair each. That's OK. The coupon's good for up to 21 pairs of shoes. :)

Can it get any better? As a matter of fact, YES. If you're a member of their Rewards Program or join while you're there, you can use the other coupon to get 20% off, instead of 15%! The Rewards Program is FREE and offers 1 point for every dollar you spend in the store or online. Points can be accumulated for certificates up to $100 a year (you know how I love loyalty rewards programs!) You also get a discount offer for signing up and other discounts and perks as a member.

I knew there HAD to be a reason to smile at "back-to-school" - I'll call it "back-to-NEW SHOES!"

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday's dinner: Upside-Down Nachos

I had to work Tuesday night, so I didn't have anything on the menu. The girls stayed at my mother's enjoying a fine pot roast while I got to spend the evening at the Board of Elections office covering what turned out to be a rather dramatic special election. It should have been dull. There were only two issues on the ballot. Here's one of them: My story

Anyway, since we all got a break from Mexican for a night, it was OK to use up those leftovers with tonight's dinner:

Upside-Down Nachos

Leftover 1/2 pound cooked and seasoned ground beef from Monday
Leftover 1/2 can seasoned refried beans from Monday
Taco sauce
1 c. shredded cheese
Another 1/4 of that onion from Monday, chopped finely
Shredded lettuce
Sour cream
Jalapeno slices
Tortilla chips (baked ones make for a healthier meal)

I'm cooking for three, so I divided the beef, beans and cheese into three microwave-safe bowls. Add a tablespoon or two of taco sauce to each. Stir well. Microwave each on high for about a minute, stirring every 15 seconds.

Remove from microwave and top each bowl as desired. Top with crushed tortilla chips and eat with a fork or spoon.

This keeps the chips nice and crisp and eliminates the mess!

You can see the only new ingredient is the tortilla chips after Monday's meal, so it's almost like getting two meals for one!

Oops, I forgot to take a picture again. I ate it too quickly!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Dinner: Mexican Pizza

My hectic summer schedule (which shows no signs of slowing for autumn) has prompted me to start making up dinner menus for the week. We've been at this for a few weeks now, and it's been going well.

The advantages are: 1) having a clear grocery list that eliminates random shopping and buying extraneous stuff - keeps the grocery bill down; 2) organizing the evening so I know what I'm making as soon as I finally get home every day; 3) home cooking more meals and avoiding having so many "convenience meals," although we still throw some of those in there, because we actually like them; 4) bringing more variety to dinner.

Since it's working out so well, I thought I'd share a few success stories and recipes, because who doesn't like recipes and easy, kid-friendly meal ideas, right?

This week began with a Mexican Pizza, a variation of an earlier one I'd had on the menu that was a huge success with the kids (and me, too!) I didn't take a picture, but I'll try to do pics with later recipes!

Mexican Pizza

1 Boboli or other prepared pizza crust
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 can refried beans
Taco seasoning (I have a huge container of this I keep around for adding a kick to all kinds of things)
Taco sauce
1 c. shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese

Toppings:
Shredded lettuce
Chopped onions (about 1/4 of one large, sweet onion)
Sour cream
Jalapeno slices

- Preheat oven to 425F. Brown and crumble ground beef; drain. Season with taco seasoning according to directions. (I brown a full pound and reserve half for Wednesday's meal.) Warm refried beans in microwave (I also save half of this for Wednesday.) Season with a little taco seasoning to taste. Spread the half can of refried beans over crust. Spread some taco sauce over beans. Evenly distribute beef over taco sauce. Evenly spread cheese over beef. Pop in oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is throughly melted and crust is browned as desired.

- Remove from oven and add remaining toppings, or slice into servings and allow each person to add toppings as they wish.

Easy peasy and everyone loves it!!