It's weekly menu planning time again and I'm feeling chatty!
I usually sit down with my calendar for the week so I have a better idea of what lies ahead. Some nights might need to be an earlier dinner while others might need to be a crock pot meal. There is always something going on and each week is different. I try not to go too heavy on one type of meal but instead planning a nice variety through the week. There is always at least 1 night of fish and I try to incorporate some vegetarian meals, too. (this is not always easy as Chris and Edmund are big meat eaters).
For awhile I got in to a bad habit of planning meals with too much variety. I was always making something new which isn't always bad but I was reminded that there are a lot family favorites that I was forgetting. Now I try to include just a couple of new recipes with our tried and true favorites. I've learned that sometimes just a new side dish is enough.
I've also learned to be flexible. Often leftovers go to work with Chris for lunch but sometimes there is more than enough for another dinner that I hadn't planned for. Occasionally things just come up unexpectedly and our dinner plans have to change. I no longer allow that to rattle me. I simple adjust to the situation. Meals get rearranged - sometimes to another night, sometimes to another week. No big deal.
Each week, I check my freezer and pantry. I ask the family for suggestions. I pull any cookbooks or magazines with recipes that I want to try. I sit and plan, re plan, and then plan some more. Meals get planned then scribbled out. Some get shifted from one night to the next. Eventually I get a plan that I am happy with. All that is left, is the grocery list.
Each week the menu is posted on the refrigerator so the kids know ahead of time if they are going to complain or not. At the end of the week, I write out our (actual) menu in a little notebook. This notebook has been so helpful. When Chris says "can you make that thing you made when..." It's there in the book so I don't have to remember.
I don't make a breakfast or lunch menu. I also don't make dessert during the week. Dessert is a weekend treat. On the weeknights , however, there is always plenty of fruit or yogurt around. We also have the Cookie of the week for an occasional sweet treat.
This week's menu:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Okra and Summer Squash
Lime Baked Fish
Jamaican Pork Chops
with Pineapple and Black Beans
Chopped Salad with Chicken
Raw Veggie Strips
Edmund and Chris are camping with the Boy Scouts
Chaz, Topher and I will play it by ear.
Monday, March 31
Sunday, March 30
Weekends around here are less structured. Less hectic. Just... less.
As it should be.
Weekends are meant for slowing down and savoring the moments. A week full of to-do lists, errands, and laundry looms ahead but for now, we just enjoy what the day brings.
This weekend brought big platters of sugar covered beignet, pitchers of fresh juice and cups of steamy hot coffee. (as well as a few extra boys with big appetites!) The beignet recipe comes from this book. (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois) I can't begin to tell you how much I'm enjoying this book! It really makes fresh hot bread for breakfast so simple. I had piles of beignet coated in sugar and ready to go in next to no time at all which is exactly how long 5 hungry boys want to wait to eat.
And for the rest of our weekend? Well we'll just have to wait and see what the day brings. Whatever that happens to be, though, I can promise you it will include licking powdered sugar from our fingers!
Friday, March 28
1. Learning:: a new skill
2. Learning:: a new game
3. Learning:: a better way
Six One Way is a great photo collaborative between two blogging moms (who just happen to have 3 boys each, too) Three photos each, once a week, of everyday happenings. They opened this project (here) to other moms and I've decided to join in the fun.
1. Topher has been learning to tie his shoes. He's really been struggling with it and it's cause for a great deal of frustration in his part. He's almost there!
2. Last week my mother in law and her mother came for a visit. While she was here she taught us a new game, Chicken Foot. We've been having a blast playing it!
3. Chaz is a lefty. Unfortunately his teacher is not and doesn't have much experience with lefties. When he prints, Chaz forms his letter from right to left instead of left to right. Now that he is learning cursive, he finds writing to be very difficult. I have been working with him to learn the "right" way to form his letters and hold his paper to make writing in cursive less of challenge. (Chaz also often draws pictures upside down and then flips the paper when he is done. A little different but it works for him.)
Thursday, March 27
Chaz just loves school and he really likes his teacher this year. She is leaving in the next week or so to have a baby and won't be back until the Fall. The class is having a baby shower for her tomorrow so I made a little gift for Chaz to give her. Using the simple bib pattern from this book as my guide, I sketched out a pattern. I didn't feel like going to the copy shop to enlarge the pattern in the book.
We know that Mrs. H likes lime green and is having a girl so I looked through my fabric bin for some appropriate fabric. I had just enough of this floral piece for a little bib. The back is from a terry dish towel from my kitchen. The edges were frayed but the main body of the towel was like new. Perfect for cutting apart for this project.
Chaz went looking through my sewing basket and found a few fabric yo-yos. He picked out his two favorite and turned them in to a card. I think we'll be making more cards with yo-yos. I love it! (if I do say so myself!)
I've got another baby gift in the works now. It's another girl so that will be fun. A nice change from all the boys things I'm surrounded by.
Wednesday, March 26
This photo is for you mom! If I could I would send some meatballs to you but since I can't, this will have to do until you visit again. xo Me
My menu planning notebook is filling up with all sorts of wonderful meals and ideas. I thought I should get back to sharing some of that here again. This week is a special one. Along with Easter, we are also celebrating a birthday! Because of Cub Scouts, Chaz decided he wanted his Birthday Dinner a day late. Smart boy! This way he is able to relax and really enjoy his food.
In honor of this week's celebrations, I have a little gift for you. I am sharing my secret recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs! It's a highly requested recipe that I have, until now, closely guarded. Enjoy it!
Braided Easter Bread
Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb
Greek Style Yogurt with Strawberries and Honey
Onion Glazed Grilled Salmon
Black Bean and Corn Salad
Wednesday Chaz's Birthday Dinner
Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs
Cheesy Garlic Toast
Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Zucchini and Summer Squash Quiche
Texas Style Beef Stew
The boys are having a sleepover. We'll probably do "make your pizzas"
"The World's Best Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs"
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 c fresh bread crumbs (about 4 slices of good bread whirred in the food processor)
1/4 c seasoned dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbls chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 big fat cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg lightly beaten
3/4 c warm water
Combine all ingredients lightly in a large bowl. (your hands are best for this) Don't compress or your meatballs will be hard and a little dry. From in to meatballs - what ever size you prefer. We like them slightly smaller than a golf ball. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350º until done and a little crispy on the edges. The exact time will really depend on how big your meatballs are.
1 Tbls olive oil
1 baseball sized onion chopped
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c Chianti or other good red wine
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbls chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 Tbls chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbls chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
*When the meatballs are done, scrape up all the browned bits from the cookie sheet and add them to the sauce.
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch Oven. Add onions and saute until translucent, 5-10 min. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook on high for about 3 min, cooking down the liquid slightly. Stir in the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for an hour or so (or longer, it doesn't matter. Though you'll probably want to cover the pot if you go for longer than an hour). Add the meatballs whenever they are done and gently stir.
I always double or triple (or sometimes more!) the recipe and then freeze in meal sized portions. I do think that one batch of meatballs is probably good for two batches of sauce. The sauce and meatballs are not only wonderful with pasta, but they make a great meatball sub or even a filling for a calzone. Don't forget to plan for all of the meatballs that will be snuck from the pot while the sauce is cooking!
Tuesday, March 25
NINE! Already! You are growing too fast. Happy birthday, Chazmataz! We love you, loads.
9 Things About Chaz
by Charles T
1. I'm funny because I make people laugh. I make them laugh by being silly. I like to be silly
2. My favorite foods are pepperoni pizza and spaghetti. But not at the same time! I like my mom's spaghetti and meatballs the best.
3. I like monkeys because they are just like me! I can climb like a monkey and I like to eat bananas. My favorite monkey is Curious George!
4. I have cool hair because it is red. Not a lot of people have red hair. People like my red hair and they are sometimes jealous that I have red hair and they don't. I don't have curly red hair, though.
5. I really like school! It is fun. My favorite subject is Language Arts and Reading.
6. I love to read. A lot! I could read 4th grader books in kindergarden. I didn't always like that though because no one else in my class could read yet. Now I don't care about that. My favorite kinds of books to read are mysteries and adventures. I like to read the same books over and over again if they are really good. This bugs my mom.
7. I love the Red Sox! I really liked it when they won the World Series. My Mom, my Grandmom and Grandpa, and my Grandma Mimi all like the Red Sox too. That's because they are real smart like me!
8. My cousin Licia calls me NASA. She thinks I look like the boss at NASA. Licia is an astronomer, I think. She's pretty cool and she is the only one allowed to call me NASA. (She likes the Red Sox, too!)
9. When I grow I am going to be an inventor. I want to work with my friend Travis. He's my best bud. We are going to invent the Hover Disk (don't steal that idea!)
Monday, March 24
This week's cookie is a little less cookie and a little more.... I don't know, something else. A snack, maybe? A breakfast on the go? A healthy treat disguised as something sweet?
This week I made granola bars.
I love how easy they are and so customizable, too. The boys can pick their own combination of fruits, nuts and seeds to make a treat that suits their tastes. Much better than store bought (then again isn't homemade anything better than store bought?)
14 oz can condensed milk
2 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried fruit of choice (diced apple, cranberries, raisins, etc)*
1 cup seeds of choice (pumpkin seeds, sesame, sunflower, etc)*
1 cup nuts of choice (we need to be nut free so I just split this cup between the fruit and seeds but peanuts or almonds are a nice choice, too)*
* this time I used 3 cups of Not Nuts Mountain Mambo nut free trail mix by Enjoy Life. You just need a total of 3 cups of whatever combination of stuff you like. If you add chocolate chips, they'll get all melty and very unchip like but that might be ok, too.
Preheat the oven to 250 F. Oil a 9x13 baking pan (I just line it with parchment paper. Less to clean up). Lightly oil a large mixing bowl.
Warm the condensed milk in a saucepan. Combine all the other ingredients in the oiled bowl. Pour the warm milk over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spread the mixture in the prepared pan with a rubber spatula or with your hands (light coated with oil so the gooey stuff doesn't stick. You can get CSI-like and wear gloves but I don't have any and haven't bothered to get some.)
Bake for 1 hour. Cool for 15 minutes and then cut in to bars. Makes 16-24 bars depending on how big you like them.
Enjoy! These store really well. I keep them in a cookie tin lined with some of the same parchment paper that I lined the baking pan with. (I'm frugal that way!)
Sunday, March 23
Sunday, March 16
This week's cookie is a quick and easy cookie. It also happens to be a gluten free cookie using potato flour and rice flour instead of wheat flour. The batch is a small one but the cookies taste best when they are fresher. I think it's better to make a second batch halfway through the week than to try and double the recipe and make it last.
Raisin Spice Cookies
1/2 c honey
1/2 c coconut oil
1 c brown rice flour
1/2 c potato flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/2 c raisins
Preheat oven to 375º
Cream together the honey, oil and egg. Add all ingredients except raisins. Mix well. Stir in raisins gently. Drop on to a prepared baking sheet. Slightly flatten the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Friday, March 14
March is Women's History Month and Chaz's class decided to write essays honoring a woman that they each admire. Chaz chose me (an I am indeed honored!) This morning we were all invited to come to the class for a little tea and to hear the essays being read. The children did a wonderful job and there wasn't a dry eye in the room! Not all the students chose to honor their mothers. Some chose an aunt or a grandmother or a good family friend.
Mom is a special person. Mom is fun because she plays with me. She is helpful because she helps me with my homework. Mom is nice because she makes everyone happy. She is nice to be around because she helps me when I am confused. Mom is SPECIAL!
He wrote so much more (apparently I have "a lot of secrets"!) but this is the part that he read aloud. He had a hard time reading it - every time he looked at me, he'd smile and then wasn't able to read. We avoided eye contact and he did a great job.
Chaz, you are so special to me too!
Tuesday, March 11
I had a request this week for Oreos. I'm not feeling up to figuring that one out right now so we compromised. This week's cookie is a White Chip Chocolate Cookie.
White Chip Chocolate Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/ tsp salt
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. in a separate bowl, cream butter, both sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chips. drop by spoonfulls on to a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, until centers are set. Be careful not to over bake as it is hard to tell if they are done by color.
Sunday, March 9
Weekend mornings are for slowing down. On the weekend, our routine is different and our breakfasts are different. During the week, we are in a bit of a frenzy to get off to school and work on time. Breakfast must be something that will sustain but is not too time consuming to prepare. Then the weekend comes. Oh how we love the weekends!
One such special weekend treat is big sweet cinnamon rolls. My favorite recipe is made the day before which eliminates the need to get up at a far too early hour. (The leftovers, if you are lucky enough to have any, make a really special weekday treat after everyone else has gone off to school or work for the day!)
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbls cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins (optional) -I soak them in 1/4c orange juice
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.
Lightly oil a large mixing, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and brown sugar and sprinkle over the rectangles. Then sprinkle the raisins over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log and seal the seam. Cut the dough into 18 equal pieces; place the pieces in 2 greased 8 x 8 inch baking pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.
I usually make one pan for breakfast and freeze the other. When they are frozen, I just thaw overnight on the counter and then bake as normal in them morning. You can make a glaze if you wish. I never do, though.
Thursday, March 6
It's snowing out - again! This time it's a big messy snow. I'm staying in and keeping cozy in my lounging pants. The pattern is from Amy Butler's In Stitches. I used a vintage sheet that came from Chris' grandmother. They are so soft! The sheet was used - a lot - so the pants have that wonderful broken in feeling. I think Amanda said wearing hers feels like staying in bed while walking around. Yep, that's it exactly!
I'd love to make some more. I just wish that I had some more old sheets or at least a good thrift shop to find some old sheets. No matter, I suppose they'll be just as nice made from some fabric from the fabric store.
Just a little lounging for me today, though. It's only Thursday and there is still work to be done. Just a few more rows first....
Wednesday, March 5
Today I am...
drinking... too much coffee
starting... a sourdough starter
listening... to Rodrigo y Gabriela
making... yogurt (inspired by this post to dust off my yogurt maker)
soaking... beans (for soup and for sprouting)
savoring... Green & Black's Maya Gold
preparing... for a visit from Chris' mother and grandmother
avoiding... cleaning the bathrooms (boys are so messy!)
helping... with a science fair project (a solar powered water heater)
thinking... about taking a class in hydroponic and organic gardening
dreaming... of Spring flowers
planning... a few new skirts
hoping... for a slow weekend
Tuesday, March 4
Not exactly what I had planned but good none the less. This week I made Butterscotchies. But... I got distracted and left out a key ingredient - 3 cups of oatmeal! So these cookies are predominately butter and sugar. Like I said, still good, just not what I had planned. (and not the prettiest of cookies)
1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
grated peel of 1 orange
3 c old fashioned oats
2 c butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 375º
Beat butter, both sugars, eggs and oatmeal and orange rind in a large bowl. Mix together the rest of the ingredients (except for the chips and oatmeal) in a separate bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until well mixed. Stir in the butterscotch chips and the oatmeal.
Drop spoonfulls on to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes. They get dark but that's ok.
Monday, March 3
March is certainly coming in like a lion! This weekend was in the high 70's. Last night we had thunderstorms. The wind was howling and the rain was pounding. Today - snow! Can you believe that?! Snow in Texas. We thought, for sure, we had left that behind.
It started out very light. A little sleet and freezing rain and then a few flakes. Can you see it there? It's hard I know but it's there.
Dinner was abandoned. The boys were too exciting to eat. They just had to stand there and watch it. They tried briefly to catch a flake on their tongues but there just weren't enough falling for that.
Topher caught a few though. See? Snow! Sort of.
But while we were at Cub Scouts this happened.
Then it did this.
And now it looks like this.
I don't imagine that there will be much left tomorrow, though. Once the sun comes out again, I'm sure it will melt and Spring will once again be on the way.