New Year for Out of that Box

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beginning in January this blog will be once again breathed to life. I promise. Scouts honor. (I was never a scout, but my husband was- does that count) There will be some changes, but all for the better. I can't wait!

To get the ball rolling, tomorrow I will post recipes and pictures of some fabulous fudge and pecans that were made as Christmas gifts...

Stay tuned.

~ Amanda

Happy Birthday Jennifer





A very happy birthday to Jennifer, one of the awesome contributors to the blog! I hope your day is super blessed!

<3 Amanda

Quinoa and Black Beans

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I know it has been a long time since anything was posted on here so I thought I would revive the blog.

My name is Jennifer and I am the one who did the little chicken sammiches. Here is another really easy recipe that turned out really yummy. My kids are now at the point in their lives where everything is yucky and they don't like it. Well they liked quinoa and black beans. I was surprised as heck that they asked for seconds. BOTH boys.

This recipe is very healthy and doesn't take hardly any time at all to put together. And it is awesome. It serves 8 (so it says but I had more than one serving all by myself and my kids did too) and it is only 210 calories per serving. Pretty good if you ask me.

Ingredients
1 tsp canola oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed)
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Chicken mixed with 1 1/2 cup water (this is some pretty flavorful broth mix, come to find out)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (use however much you want. My son doesn't like spicy so I cut back a bit but you use what your family prefers)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional) (I used corn and boy was it delicious)
2 cans (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed (I went even healthier and got the less sodium kind)

Directions
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute about five minutes.

Rinse quinoa with cold water for a few minutes.

Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir frozen corn into saucepan and continue to simmer about 5 more minutes. Mix in the black beans.

Top with cilantro (I did not) and enjoy.


Healthy, Easy, and Delicious.

Dishes approved by Nicholas!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hi! I'm Kelly and I am so thrilled to be contributing to Amanda's blog. Love it! I love cooking and baking even more. I am the mom of one great eater, Olivia (age 7), and one picky eater, Nicholas (age 5). Today I am sharing 3 recipes that are Nicholas approved. All are hot sandwiches/hoagies.

Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes
(can use beef or chicken)

1 lb ground meat
1 cup water
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 pkt onion soup mix
4 tablespoons tomato paste

Cook meat until brown and crumbly over med-high heat. Drain. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Broil buttered buns in oven. Serve with french fries.


Fabulous French Dip Sandwiches
(one of the few times I eat red meat)

4-5lb brisket or boneless beef round roast
1 Can beef broth
1 can french onion soup
vegetable oil
garlic salt
onion salt
pepper
1/8 tsp oregano (optional)
provolone cheese
hoagie buns

Cut brisket in half. Using a small amount of vegetable oil, place brisket in skillet and season with garlic salt, onion salt, and pepper and brown on both sides. Put in crock pot. Cover with beef broth and french onion soup. Cook on high 5 to 6 hours. Pull out meat and shred. Put back in crock pot with oregano. cook on low another 2 hours.

Put meat on hoagie buns and top with cheese. Broil these in the oven to melt the cheese and toast the buns for just a couple of minutes.


Sloppy Chicken Pizza Joes

nonstick cooking spray
3lbs ground chicken
2 14oz jars pizza sauce
2 C total frozen red and green pepper and onions. I use fresh ones though.
hoagies
provolone

Brown chicken in spray coated pan until no longer pink. In crock pot, stir together pizza sauce and veggies. Stir in cooked chicken. Cook on high 3 to 4 hours or on low 6 to 8 hours. Broil hoagies with cheese and then remove and add sloppy chicken mixture.


Hope you enjoy these easy recipes! I am always looking for new quick meals to fix, especially with school starting soon.

Out of that... Oven?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My oven is out of commission. There's nothing wrong with my oven. There's something wrong with the gas that makes my oven go... it's not there. But, that's neither here nor there, the point is- who wants to cook in the middle of the summer. I already have window units running on overdrive throughout this house racking me up a 450.00 light bill. Sorry, did that just give you a stroke. I should have put a disclaimer before that sentence, kind of like they do for strobe lights. Warning: If you're weak at heart or easily shocked please just close your eyes until this sentence passes. Yep, that's one big bill, so I can't in good conscience crank up that oven to 400 degrees and heat up this house any more than it is. So, I have had to forgo baking yummy breads and desserts and just making simple recipes that usually get me through, like Chicken and Dumplings. Then my Granny gave me this :


The Rival Roaster. I cannot wait to try this. My grandmother never used it. Ever. It was still in the plastic. I've been researching recipes all over the internet to cook in this little beauty and I can't wait to pass them onto you. Apparently, anything you can cook in an oven can be cooked in this bad boy. Looks like I can bake brownies without baking us all in the process! I can't WAIT!

Little Chicken Sammiches

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ok, so this is my first guest appearance and first time posting something I have cooked. So if I missed a step, please forgive me. My name is Jennifer and hopefully you like what I post. I don't know how well it does on the healthy scale (well really I do but didn't want to say that it isn't healthy..because it isn't) but sometimes you just gotta fix what you have on hand.

I am going to start off by saying that this can be altered in so many ways to make it your own. I think that each time I make it, it's a bit different depending on my mood or my kids' moods. I don't measure a thing when I make this particular item. It's all about eyeballing it to your happiness.

Here we go.

Here's what you will need: mayonaisse, mustard, drained canned chicken breast (or tuna if you prefer). Everything else is what you want.

My line up is this

Plus this


And of course these to make our sammiches


Ok, so now that you have the jist of what is involved let's get started on combining them all.

I put the chicken in a bowl and then add the rest of the ingredients. How hard and technical, right?

I put in the mayo to my liking. I like enough to coat the chicken but not make it too slimy or wet because I still have mustard AND pickle juice to put in. Yes, you read that right. Pickle juice. Yum. I then put in a bit of mustard for color and a hint of taste. I am not a huge fan of mustard so I don't go overboard but it does add a nice zing to the mix.

So now that I have the chicken all gooey with mayo and mustard, I add my bacon (which I obviously crumbled up....and add as much as you want. You could add a lot or just a little) and onion powder (I hate the texture, crunch, and taste of raw onion but you like it be my guest to add fresh onion) and garlic salt. I'm careful on the garlic salt because the bacon is salty already. I don't need to be so bloated I can't button my pants the next morning, know whatta mean?

I then chop some pickles and add them to the mix. I didn't have cheese in the picture but I add it to my dinner. I get shredded cheese and put however much we want in it. My hubby loves him some cheese so I put a nice handful in there plus a bit more. Pepper of course must be in there. What's a meal without pepper? I taste my mix and add a bit of pickle juice to top it off. And viola!!

I bake the bisquits according to the package. When they are done I cut them in half to make a sandwich. I put the mix on the bisquit and stick it back in the oven at 250 degrees for about 7 to 10 minutes (long enough to melt the cheese). When it's done I let it cool off a bit and then put a slice of tomato on top and gobble it up.

Like I said, it isn't healthy but it sure is tasty. My kids will actually eat it and my hubby likes it. It is an easy dinner for those nights you just don't have time (or patience) to fix an all-out meal.

The finished product.








5 Minute Microwave Cornbead

Monday, August 9, 2010


So what is a girl who wants cornbread to do when her oven isn't working? Simple. She googles ways to fix her favorite foods in the microwave. I found this recipe but didn't really think it would be as easy as it sounded, but, boy, was it. In my humble opinion, it could have used a little more sugar, but otherwise it was very tasty cornbread. Like the reviews say, nothing can beat the crispy golden cornbread crust from the oven, but in a pinch this certainly holds it own!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl.
  2. Heat in the microwave on high, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 3 minutes, rotating the bowl halfway through cooking if the microwave does not have a rotating tray.

~Amanda

Laundry's Super Hero

Tuesday, July 27, 2010





Laundry soap has to be one of the most overpriced household items on the planet. Well, next to toilet paper.




Do you know how much toilet paper a household of 8 can go through? It seriously borders on ridiculous. Anyway, I digress.




We use A LOT of laundry soap in this house. I have been content to use the cheapest laundry soap possible, stain remover, fabric softener, dryer sheets, etc, but I thought that there must be a better way. So, we started off small. While baking one day I noticed the baking soda container said to use baking soda in your wash to get you clothes cleaner. I sing the praises for the many uses of baking soda. It cleans things like no one's business, but I never thought to throw it in with my laundry. I bought a 14 lb bag and set out to see what this miracle cleaner could do for my laundry.




The first few times I used it, the only thing I changed from my normal routine was throwing a cupful in with the wash. I was amazed at the results. My clothes were so soft and smelled so clean. So, after a few times I braved changing up the routine and nixed the liquid fabric softener step. The laundry still came out nice and fresh and soft. Then, I thought, hmmm... wonder what it will do on stains. Well, a little vinegar-baking soda- toothbrush action later and most of the stains I tried it on came out. Mustard is permanently embedded in my brand new white shirt, but we don't need to discuss that. It just makes me sad.




Since I was on such a roll, I decided to cut back the amount of laundry soap I was using, and lo and behold, my clothes were still clean and fresh and I cut my soap usage in half. That, my friends, was cause for a victory dance the likes of which this world has never seen. Angels rejoiced... well, okay, maybe not, but it was a very exciting discovery. I haven't completely got out of the laundry soap box but homemade laundry soap is definitely in my near future.




I'm (we're) Back

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Through a series of cosmic events I had to let the Out of the Box challenge and blog go for a while. I am happy to say that we made it 20 days through the challenge before we had to forgo it. However, it made some definite changes in our lives and I'm glad that we stuck with it for as long as we did.
And, even though the 30 days has long been over I have gotten emails from people who actually read the blog curious as to if I'm going to start it up again. Well, I am and I ain't. How's that for straightforward? I have coerced a group of friends (who I dearly love and who are obviously very gullible and/or easily persuaded) to help with the blog. So, this will no longer be a one man show. It will be a collaboration of moms who have one thing in common (except for the fact that they all are blessed to know me) - we want what's best for our family's health, diet, finances, spirituality, and everything in between.
It's a diverse groups of ladies from all over the country (thanks Lois for moving out of state so I could say that). We range in age from mid-twenties - (gasp) forties, have children that range from toddlers to teens, home schooled to public schooled, brunette to blonde, crazy to well, we're all a little crazy, but you get the point. I am SO looking forward to sharing this experience with the ladies and with the two of you out there who actually read this thing ;-).
Check back often to see what we have to say, because, well, that's another thing we have in common. We all have A LOT to say.

~Amanda

Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I just discovered that Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen has a fabulous homemade ingredients tab. Lots a wonderful ideas for staying out of the box (or can).

You can find :

homemade baking powder
homemade butter

even homemade Won Ton Wrappers (for those buffalo blasts)

I can't wait to try some of these recipes.

Fun Snack Recipes from Family Fun

I received this in an email today and had to share. Family Fun has a lot of great family ideas (imagine that) but these snacks go above and beyond. And most look super easy to make.

http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/after-school-snacks-photo-gallery-872859/view-all/

Spider-Man Lunch (Lunch- Day 15)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I forgot to post lunch from today. Heck, today's been one of those days I'm glad I remembered to feed my kids lunch.

We made grilled cheese (see aren't you glad I remembered to post this). However, they weren't any grilled cheese. My husband, never being one for moderation, used the cute little Spider-Man pan to grill web designs into our sandwiches. Am I a lucky woman or what?

Chocolate Pie (Dessert - Day 15)

Desserts are back! Yay. Not because my children have improved their behavior but because Momma needs some chocolate.

I have attempted in the past to make pie crust. I actually attempted it on Thanksgiving Day and failed miserably.

With two hours until dinner.

When I was the only one bringing the pies.

I cried a lot that Thanksgiving.

My sister, Stephanie, felt so bad for me that she bought a nice pie crust in a box for me that year for Christmas. We're thoughtful like that.

So, with a couple of years worth of cooking under my belt, I thought I'd give it another shot. And then I found this recipe.

And the angels rejoiced.

Are you kidding me?, I thought. A pie crust that I don't have to roll out, that only takes 5 ingredients, that I don't even have to use a bowl to mix it! The baking gods surely were smiling on me today. My next thought was that it probably tasted like dirt. I have a way looking at things from both angles. It's a gift.

However, it did not taste like dirt. It wasn't the best pie crust ever, but for quick desserts at home or if you're in a pinch it works. I'm going to give you the new and improved recipe I used because I know you're going to want to jump up and make this.

Easy Pie Crust

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk
Method to the Madness

1. Mix all ingredients in a 9" pie plate.

2. Press into bottom of pan and onto sides.

3. Poke holes into the bottom and sides.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

5. Fill with favorite pie filling.

*** if you're pie filling needs to cook it is not necessary to bake the crust first, or so I've heard

Chocolate Pie Filling

Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. butter
Method to the Madness

1. Mix cocoa, sugar, flour, and salt in saucepan.

2. Add egg yolks and half cup of milk.

3. Stir.

4. Add remaining milk and bring to a boil.

5. Stir until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.

6. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

7. Stir until it cools.

8. Pour into pie shell and refrigerate.

or, you could just buy a pack of instant pudding, mix it up, and make a pie that way. It's still homemade, right?




Homemade Spaghetti Reborn (Dinner- Day 15)

I tried it again. It's been two weeks. I thought that was enough time to get back on that horse. My last attempt at spaghetti sauce, although not an epic failure, was not the best thing I have ever eaten. So this time I shook things up a bit. I went with this recipe that a friend of mine (and lovely mother to my step-daughter) suggested.

Needless to say, it was as good as promised. It was very easy to make, however, the constant stirring for hours was a little overkill. I don't think it needed that long to cook to be honest. I only let mine simmer for about an hour and half and I still had to convince my kids that I didn't get it out of a jar. They were, in fact, so convinced that I did cheat on this little challenge that they were threatening to go on Facebook and out me for the liar that I am. Little know-it-alls. The only problem with the sauce was that there wasn't enough for my large family. I like my spaghetti very saucy (kind of like my husband likes his women) and there just wasn't enough for that. Next time I will certainly double the recipe.

Spider-Man Pancakes (Breakfast-Day 15)

1/2 way through the challenge. Wow. Time has flown by.

This morning my darling husband woke up and made the kiddos pancakes. Somewhere from the recesses of my cabinets he found a small Spider-Man frying pan (find it here @ Amazon) that I had bought, like, a year ago. They were the cutest things ever and a big hit with the kids.



Spiderman Pancakes

Ingredients

milk (1 1/4 cups), butter (3 tbsp. melted), egg (1), flour (1 1/2 cups), baking soda (3 1/2 tsp), salt (1 tsp), sugar (1 tbsp)

Method to the Madness

1. Mix all dry ingredients together.

2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.

3. Pour onto heated griddle, frying pan, rock (whatever you have).

4. Flip when edges begin to brown.

5. Top with yummy whipped cream or fruit (if you use syrup, try to find one without HFCS).

Pork Chops with Green Beans (Dinner - Day 14)

I looked up a lot of recipes when we decided to have pork chops for dinner. All I could think while looking at them was, really? Why do you wanna go and ruin a perfectly good pork chop? So, we went and cooked them the old fashioned way. Salt, pepper and a pan. Pan "fried" pork chops are the best. I'm not sure if it's because that's what I grew up on or because they're just that good. My suggestion: if you're accustomed to smothering your pork chop with every item known to man, or deep frying (as my husband likes) then try this much simpler chop. Your waistline can thank me later.

PBJ Rwwwwr! (Lunch - Day 14)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Awhile ago my sister and I stumbled upon this cute little dinosaur sandwich cutter at Wal-Mart.

Before I used cookie cutters but they wasted so much bread. These specialized sandwich cutters cut right to the crust so no wasted bread.

You can find these here, through Toys R Us, for $2.99.

It's worth it to hear your PB and J growl and fight each other all the way to your mouth and it's a great way to jazz up yet another boring sandwich.

Also, if you serve these with celery on the side like I did, you kids will inevitably turn the celery stalks into trees for the dinosaurs to munch on before the big T-Rex (your child) eats the other dinosaur.

** sidenote: if you have all girls, or your kid isn't into dinosaurs, my sister has this cute heart cutter that works the same way.

Cinnamon Rolls (Breakfast - Day 14)

For Christmas my sister, Courtney, got me this:


I love this cookbook. I love Pioneer Woman. I have followed her blog for years. If you don't then you should. Go now. Read it. It will change your life. You can come back later.

Okay. So, wasn't that fabulous? You're welcome.

Anyway, this morning I made the cinnamon rolls from the Pioneer Woman cookbook. They were as fabulous and she said they would be. And easy. The recipe is here. If you noticed, this recipe called for yeast. Yep, I knew it would happen one day and I didn't mess it up too incredibly bad. The first time I tried to use yeast I had to proof it and it got all foamy and I got all flustered. This was not the case this time and it worked out fine. Yay me.

I did not make the maple icing because, well, I didn't want to. Instead I just mixed some powdered sugar with a little milk and a teensy bit of vanilla. A little goes a long way, so be careful.

Yummy, yummy. Pillsbury has nothing on these cinnamon rolls.

Pioneer Woman vs Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls

Pioneer Woman
Calories: 254 Fat: 11 g
Ingredients: flour, sugar, oil, yeast, milk, baking powder, baking soda, butter, salt, sugar, cinnamon



Pillsbury Grand Cinnamon Rolls
Calories: 320 Fat: 10 g
Ingredients: Enriched bleached flour, water, sugar, partially defatted soybean oil, cottonseed oil, dextrose, wheat starch, baking powder, salt, cream cheese dried, cornstarch, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavors, whey, polysorbate 60, propylene glycol, yellow 5, red 40, butter, tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate added to protect flavor.

I compared the Grand Pillsbury Rolls because the cinnamon rolls I made were way bigger than your average cinnamon rolls from a can and was more comparable to the Grand Cinnamon Rolls.

Did anyone else notice that cinnamon is not listed as an ingredient on the Pillsbury rolls? Wow.


Taco Soup (Dinner - Day 13)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Let me preface this by saying I have made Taco Soup before. Many times. My sister, Steph, was the first to make it and I stole it.

Blatantly with no shame.

Because that's how I roll.

Anyway, it's a family favorite. Normally I would use taco seasoning from a package, canned kidney beans, and canned tomatoes. However, I challenged myself to use as many things as I could that didn't come out of a package or can and almost succeeded. I forgot to buy tomatoes, so I had to use canned diced tomatoes, but that'll be our little secret. Right? Good.

This was the best soup ever. Not sure what made the difference but it was awesome. I even had my sister taste it and she said that it was "very, very good". Trust me, getting a compliment out of one of my sister's is akin to pulling out their toenails, so "very good" in "Atwood sister talk" means "this is the best soup I've ever had and it's a thousand times better than anything I've ever made". It's true. It's our own little sister language.

I am going to try and re-enact the recipe here for you, but honestly it was a great big hodge podge. So, here goes.

Taco Soup

Ingredients

1 lb hamburger meat, 1 32 oz can diced tomatoes, 1/2 package of cooked kidney beans, and seasonings (salt, pepper, cumin, chili pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder), 1/2 pound cheddar cheese, tortilla crumbs

Method to the Madness

1. Cook beans according to package. I used the quick-soak method but ended up boiling them for about 15 minutes, instead of 2 like I was supposed to (darn Facebook chat). Next, I let them sit for an hour, per directions. Then, I simmered them for 2 hours.

2. Pat yourself on the back for making beans and sticking it out the three hours. Go you!

3. While beans are simmering brown hamburger meat and drain.

4. Drain beans, add hamburger meat and tomatoes. Add 2 cans of water.

5. Add seasonings. The amount varies with how much you want to use but I used about a tablespoon of cumin, chili powder, and around 2 tsps. of everything else.

6. Bring to a boil.

7. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning as you see fit.

8. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour.

9. Sprinkle tortilla crumbs on bottom of bowl.

10. Dish soup and top with cheddar cheese.

11. MMMMMMMMM.


Spaghetti Lunch? (Lunch- Day 13)

Spaghetti. A staple dinner around this house. Want something quick and fast that you can still pretend is semi-healthy? Spaghetti it is. However, having some leftover noodles on hand (but not enough to make a full dinner) we opted for this dinner for lunch. For some reason this seems foreign to me, even though I've shoveled Spaghetti-O's down my kids since they were toddlers. Since I didn't have any canned sauce I just tossed the noodles with a little butter and some canned diced tomatoes. The kids tolerated it and ate it although I didn't here any of the normal "Wow, this is the best lunch ever". However, I also didn't hear any "Ew. Gross. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Eat. This.", so I will call this lunch a 5 on a 10 scale of go to lunches (but, a healthier alternative to Spaghetti-O's for sure!)

Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday (Breakfast, Day 13)

My kiddos are on a toast kick. I'm thinking maybe it's because it's the closest thing to cooking that they get to do. To me, I think some eggs and toast make a pretty balanced breakfast. Instead of using butter and jelly, try topping the toast with all natural almond (or peanut) butter. Combined with an egg and a side of oranges you have pretty much given the Food Pyramid a what's up for the day.

Fiesta Lime Chicken (Applebee's)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This is my favorite recipe of all time. I love, love, love Applebee's Fiesta Lime Chicken and I could never find a recipe that even came close, so I had to make one up on my own a few years back. This recipe is the closest that I've come up with.

Fiesta Lime Chicken

Ingredients
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6)
Tequila Lime Marinade (you can buy this ready made or make your own*)
1/2 c of tequila
Nacho cheese soup (or melted Velveeta, about 1 cup)
sliced Monterey Jack cheese

Method to the Madness

1. Place chicken into large Ziploc bag.

2. Pour marinade into bag and refrigerate
(anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight - it's up to you)

3. Brown chicken, over low heat, in skillet

4. Layer chicken in casserole dish and drizzle with tequila.

5. Top with a spoonful of nacho cheese soup or melted Velveeta.

6. Place Monterey Jack cheese slices on top of soup.

7. Bake @ 350 degrees until cheese is completely melted.

8. Use the leftover tequila and make yourself a margarita.

9. Enjoy.

This is my go to recipe for marinade if I can't find the right one
(I use the HEB brand, it has the best flavor)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Place the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and cayenne pepper into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the liquid smoke, lime juice, tequila, vegetable oil, and cilantro until evenly blended.
  2. To use the marinade, pour into a resealable plastic bag







Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta (Olive Garden) Recipe

My sister's favorite restaurant is the Olive Garden. I personally think their food is a little bland and over-priced, but that's just me. The only thing I can remotely tolerate is the Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta appetizer. It is simply delicious. A few years ago I learned how to make it on my own (via Google) so that my sister couldn't lord it over my head anymore to go to that awful place. Here is a recipe similar to the one I use. Sometimes I leave out the sour cream because, well, sometimes I forget that it's in there and don't buy it.

Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, such as ciabatta or semolina, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 3 c. shredded smoked provolone
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese
  • 8 tsp. fresh diced tomatoes
  • Fresh chopped parsley



Method to the Madness

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Mix all ingredients together.

3. Place in a greased casserole dish and bake until bubbly (about 8 - 10 minutes)

4. Serve with Italian bread, sliced thinly




Buffalo Blasts (Cheesecake Factory)

Buffalo Blasts from the Cheesecake Factory are like little pillows of heaven. They are the best appetizer out there as far as I'm concerned (and here at 2:30 in the morning that's all that matters). My sister and I searched long and hard to find a recipe that simulated that mouth watering taste and have tweaked it to heavenly perfection. We have made these for countless parties and they are always a big hit.

Buffalo Blasts

Ingredients
pkg. of won ton wrappers (around 50), cooking oil (at least 3-4 cups), boneless skinless chicken breasts (3-4),
Franks Hot Wing sauce, minced garlic (about a tsp), and cream cheese (1/2 cup or so)

Method to the Madness
1. Boil chicken

2. Chop chicken into tiny pieces.

3. Put chicken into food processor along with garlic, cream cheese, and Franks sauce
(amount depends on how hot you want them)*

4. Blend until just mixed**.

5. Heat oil. If not using a fryer, be sure to have enough oil to cover the won ton completely.

6. Put spoonful of chicken mixture into middle of won ton and fold into a triangle.

7. Wet the edges of the won ton and seal shut
(I keep a glass of water nearby and just dip my finger into it)

8. Continue until you run out of chicken
(the amount varies with the size of the won ton but you should be able to get about 30-40)

9. Make sure that oil is ready, around 300 - 325 degrees
(you can also tell by dropping some water in- sizzle = hot)

10. Drop in 3-4 won tons at a time cooking until just brown (literally takes like a minute)

11. Continue until they're all cooked.

12. Serve and accept the accolades of praise you will receive.

* always err on the side of caution with hot sauce. It's better to add a little then to make them too hot. Serve them with some sauce on the side for those who truly want them hot.

** if you don't have a food processor, use a blender. That's what I do and it works out every time.

*** I just wanted to see if you would read this :-)




Day 11 - Not A Cooking Kind of Day

Today was a day of leftovers and picnics. I spent all day cleaning the house to get ready for a youth function that I barely had time to take a shower, let alone cook. Tomorrow is a day of youth events, kid festivals and birthday parties, so I don't think there's a lot of cooking going on. I see fruit and grilled cheese sandwiches in my near future.

However, so as not to be a total let down I am going to post 3 of my all time favorite "restaurant rip off" recipes. Dining in is a wonderful way to save money and you know all of what's going into your food!

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits (Dinner- Day 10)

Friday, April 23, 2010

As I mentioned earlier today this was a very trying day for me. When it came to dinner, I wanted something nice and comforting. I thought about making pancakes, but, seriously, I can't even flip a grilled cheese sandwich. It's a horror what I do to a pancake.

So, I thought I'd try my hand at some homemade biscuits and gravy. Biscuits and gravy have a special place in my heart. The first night I met my husband we ended up at IHOP sharing biscuits and gravy at 4 in the morning, so there's a different sort of comfort that comes to me from those teeny bits of doughy goodness. You can find the recipe I used here (or just scroll down the page). I've made homemade biscuits before so not much of a challenge there. Gravy on the other hand...

Gravy is something that comes out of a package and you add water to it. End of story. I've never tried it any other way. But, I didn't have any packaged gravy (darn challenge) so I tried my hand at homemade sausage gravy. IT WAS FANTASTIC. I'll have to make 2 batches next time the kids were literally scraping of the pan. And it's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Trust me, if this joke of a cook can do it you can to...

Sausage Gravy

Ingredients
sausage (1 lb), milk (1/2 - 2 cups), flour (8 tbsp)


Method to the Madness

1. Brown the sausage in a pan.

2. Add flour a tbsp at a time

3. Add milk and stir constantly.
Depending on the consistency you want is how much milk you want to use.

4. Salt and pepper to your liking.





Baking Powder Biscuits

(from a 1933 Recipe
)

Ingredients:

2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3/4 cup milk

Sift Flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut in shortening or butter. (this is where I use my hands by rubbing the butter into the flour). Add milk gradually, stirring until soft dough is formed. Turn out on slightly floured board and lightly "knead" for 30 seconds, enough to shape. Roll 1/2 inch thick and cut with 2 inch floured biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased sheet in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits. You can also make tiny tea biscuits that are only 1 1/2 inches wide with a small cutter or glass bottom. These are great served with tea, jam or honey. Makes 24.





Sopapilla Cheesecake Pizza

Yesterday I made a fabulous pizza using this recipe.  Then, yesterday, I had a fabulous friend give me the idea for a wonderful dessert pizza.  So, here it is...  (shout out to Lois for this awesome idea)

Sopapilla Cheescake Pizza

Ingredients
prepared crust**, 2 blocks of cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, cinnamon and sugar to taste

Method to the Madness
1. Mix cream cheese, cup of sugar and vanilla together

2.  Lick the spoon (trust me, you don't want to miss this step)

3. Spread mixture over pizza crust and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar

4.  Bake @ 350 for around 15 minutes (until warm)


** to prepare crust make according to directions and bake for 15 minutes, or until done

I cannot wait to try this out!


Quesadillas - (Lunch - Day 10)

A quesadilla has to be one of the quickest fool proof lunches around. 2 tortillas and some shredded cheese, heat in the oven for 5 minutes and presto-chango a Mexican delight. Quesadillas can also be heated in the microwave for a SUPER quick lunch, but the tortilla is a little soggy soft that way. You can also throw left over shredded chicken or beans on it for a little pizazz (jazz hands anyone?). Quesadillas also make a good lunchbox alternative for all you crazy people who send your kiddos off to the glorious public or private school and enjoy the quietness that is your house for 8 hours a day.

Fruit, again... and how I feel about Ding Dongs (Breakfast, Day 10)

Cantaloupe.

That was the menu for this morning. I had planned breakfast tacos, but a sudden upset in my family kept me up all night and my kiddos ended up with cantaloupe. This being their absolutely favorite fruit on God's green earth didn't hurt matters. I heard no complaints, especially when the older girls ask if they could mix in some strawberries with it.

Not having done the breakfast tacos I feel that I have let the two of you who actually read this blog down. However, after beating myself up over it, I realized that the cantaloupe symbolizes my effort. Having a very large family means that things go wrong at a moment's notice. You could have everything planned to perfection and your kiddos will be sure and take care of that for you. Then you're up all night with a sick kid and your thinking standing and cooking eggs is almost as appealing as having your eyebrows threaded (that's a story for another day) and you look for an alternative. Well, lo and behold, the only alternative around is healthy snacks, fruit, and yogurt whereas two weeks ago the alternative was powdered donuts or pop tarts.

By the way, can I digress? Thanks, I was going to anyway because, well, it's my blog.

I do not for the life of me understand the parents with obese children who go on Oprah and lament about their children's weight. Then you see 6 year old 500 pound Sally Sue shoveling ding dongs in her mouth for breakfast and I know you must be thinking what I'm thinking. Little Sally Sue didn't buy those ding dongs, you ding dong. Just don't buy the ding dongs. How hard is that? Anyway, as I said, I digress...

So we ended up with fruit, again, and I am okay with that. Oh, and I should state for the record that I have nothing against ding dongs (of the cake variety)

Snacks and Desserts- (Day 9)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I haven't posted snack or desserts for the week for two simple reasons.

- for snacks this week I bought a huge amount of bananas, apples, and oranges. The kids have just been helping themselves at snack time. I really like the simplicity of it, but I know that it gets old. I just don't have in me this week to make fancy snacks.

- the kiddos lost dessert for the week. Makes it easy for me, although they are very upset. Gotta hit 'em where it hurts, right? Makes it hard on me, because, well, I like sweets. But, maybe they'll straighten up and I can try that Pina Colada Cake I've been trying to get around to making since last week.

Easy Pizza from Scratch (Dinner - Day 9)

This by far has been my most gratifying recipe to date, well, next to my Tequila Lime Chicken - but that's for another day.

Tonight we were supposed to have Taco Soup, with chicken. I really thought I was ahead of the game by cooking double portions of chicken last night. This afternoon, when I got ready to cook, the chicken was no where to be found. On my hunt for the lost chicken my 14 year old sheepishly admitted to throwing it away last night. Argh! This would have been a perfect time to open up a box of macaroni and throw on some hot dogs and call it a night. Why didn't I, you ask? Because due to this little experiment there are no boxes of macaroni or hot dogs to be found. Great. Fantastic. This little challenge is all fine and dandy when you're prepared for it, but what about when your plans get blown?

Since I already had 2 cans of diced tomatoes ready and waiting for the taco soup I thought, what the hay I'll try my hand at spaghetti sauce again. We just had that last week though, and I really hate repeating dinners. I mean, really HATE it.

So, the next option was pizza sauce.

Since I invested in a 5 lb bag of flour I assumed I was halfway there for the ingredients to make a crust. So that's just what I did. And might I say, it turned out great.

I used this recipe for sauce and I used this recipe for the crust.

I should mention that with the sauce I just pureed my two cans of tomatoes, rather than use the paste and such it called for. I followed all the other directions exactly. The sauce was so good I ended up having to shoo my big girls out of the kitchen because they were eating it straight out of the pot.

I also followed the crust recipe exactly. The crust doesn't need yeast, which was a must for me since I'm scared of yeast. Truly, there's something wrong with it. It creeps me out. Which is why I'll probably never make my own bread. Even though it did not have yeast in it, the baking powder still makes it rise nice and thick.

Method to the Madness
1. Make sauce and crust per recipes

2. Place the dough in the middle of a well greased pan or on a pizza stone, work from the middle and push towards the outside with your finger.

3. After the dough is the right thickness for you put it in the oven.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes. You want the dough to lose the shiny-ness.

5. Spread sauce evenly over dough. Sprinkle with your favorite toppings.

6. Put back in the oven and heat until cheese melts.

Our toppings: Italian sausage, 1 c mozzarella cheese, and 1 c cheddar cheese (I made a second pizza and put Frank's hot wing sauce on it- it is the best pizza ever!)


I think everyone should try this at least once. It was that good.


Recipes
(in case you didn't follow the links)


Sauce:
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 (29 ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, saute garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired thickness. Use in Deep-Dish Sausage Pizza, Tomato Artichoke Chicken or any recipe that calls for pizza sauce. Sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week.



Crust:
2 1/2 c. flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder (if using baking soda use half and omit salt)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. oil
3/4 to 1 c. water

Mix dry ingredients. add 3/4 cup water and oil. Stir until it forms a ball. If dough is stiff, add more water.

The dough will be soft, not sticky. Knead on a floured surface for 3-4 minutes.

Bake at 400°F for 15-25 minutes.




Roll Ups (Lunch- Day 9)

There is something to be said about making your food fun. And, as I've said before, if you roll it they will eat it. To cut down on the carb intake in this house I forwent the tortilla and just rolled up a chunk of mozzerella cheese with a piece of ham. I gave the kiddos celery and carrots on the side.

Yogurt and Fruit (Breakfast- Day 9)

That's what we had, yogurt and fruit. Very simple but healthy breakfast and also something the kids can have by themselves, say, if mommy stayed up late watching movies on the computer.

Yogurt is one of the foods that I think are perfectly okay to use pre-packaged, kind of like milk. But, like milk, you could milk your own cow and you can make your own yogurt. That's why I went with White Mountain yogurt because it can be used as a starter to make your own yogurt. Will I ever be brave enough to breed my own bacteria to feed to my children? Probably not, but the opportunities there. So, here's my comparison...

All Natural Yogurt vs Dannon Yogurt

White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt (1 cup)
Calories: 140 Fat: 9 g
Ingredients: Grade A pasteurized whole milk and live yogurt cultures (L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, and B. Bifidum)

Dannon Yogurt, All Natural Plain (1 cup)
Calories: 160 Fat: 8 g
Ingredients: cultured grade A low fat milk, sugar, water, less than 1 % corn starch, natural flavor, pectin, locust bean gum, lemon juice concentrate and active yogurt cultures including L. acidophilus

The only problem with the natural yogurt is that it is very tart. You may need to add a little sweetener of some sort.

Homemade Chicken and Noodles (Dinner - Day 8)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tonight I was going to make taco soup. Unfortunately, I had no idea how long kidney beans took to cook, so... look for them tomorrow. I resorted to homemade chicken and noodles. I decided that I was going to try my hand at my own noodles and have been putting it off. Mainly because it seemed like a lot of work. I know, I know, I am that lazy.

It was, however, one of these easiest recipes I've tried.

Ingredients
flour (around 5 - 6 cups), egg (4), water, salt, pepper, whole cut up chicken


Method to the Madness

1. Mix 1 egg with half a shell of water
2. Add flour, a half cup at a time (up to 2 cups) until stiff dough forms
3. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick (Repeat up to 4 times for a full pot of noodles)
4. Cut using a knife.
Or, if you have a super awesome grandmother like I do, you can use your noodle cutter she bought you for when you were planning on marrying "that other boy". It looks something like this:


5. Meanwhile, boil chicken until juices run clear.
6. Remove from water and let cool.
7. Skin, debone, and cut up chicken.
8. Throw back into the pot along with noodles and cook for about 20 minutes.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Voila!

**Note: If you choose to only use chicken breasts, especially skinless ones, you will need to add chicken boullion or prepared chicken broth to give it flavor. **

I normally make this using No Yolk Egg Noodles, so here's a break down of the difference

Homemade Noodles vs No Yolk Egg Noodles

Homemade Noodles (68 grams)
Calories: 168 Fat: 1.6 g


No Yolk Egg Noodles
Calories: 210 Fat: .5 g

Not enough of a difference as far as nutitional value and ingredients to really warrant making a change. However, the homemade taste of the noodles surpassed the packaged one hands down.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Lunch - Day 8)

Grilled cheese is a favorite of mine. I cannot for the life of me cook it, though. I always, always burn it. Everytime. Never fails. Even today. I went through 2 sandwiches before I got the timing right. This is why I loved Grilled Cheese Uncrustables so much. Perfect everytime. But, this challenge kept me from my beloved Uncrustables. I miss you Uncrustables but I don't think that we can be friends any longer.

Because we had toast this morning I opted out of buttering the bread for the grilled cheese and just sprayed the pan with cooking spray and threw it on. The taste wasn't altered all that much and it was healthier to boot.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich vs Uncrustable Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Calories: 210 Fat: 11 g
Ingredients : Whole Wheat Bread (stone ground whole wheat flour, water, brown sugar, yeast, wheat gluten), cheddar cheese slice (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes)

Uncrustables Grilled Cheese
Calories: 140 Fat: 6 g
Ingredients: BREAD; ENRICHED UNBLEACHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, UNBLEACHED WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, YEAST, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: WHEAT GLUTEN, SALT, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (MAY CONTAIN ONE OR MORE OF: DIACETYL TARTARIC ACID ESTERS OF MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES [DATEM], MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, ETHOXYLATED MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, CALCIUM PEROXIDE, ASCORBIC ACID, AZODICARBONAMIDE, L-CYSTEINE), YEAST NUTRIENTS (MAY CONTAIN ONE OR MORE OF: MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM SULFATE, AMMONIUM SULFATE), CALCIUM PROPIONATE (MAINTAIN FRESHNESS), CORNSTARCH, ENZYMES (WITH WHEAT). PASTEURIZED PROCESS CHEESE SPREAD: CULTURED MILK AND SKIM MILK, WATER, WHEY (FROM MILK), SODIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, CREAM (FROM MILK), CORN SYRUP, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVE), GUAR GUM, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, ENZYMES.


As you can see, as far as calories and fat are concerned, Uncrustables appear to be more healthy (although they are signifigantly smaller than an average sandwich). However, I'll take the grilled cheese over that list of junk any day!

Cinnamon Toast w/ milk - (Breakfast - Day 8)

Wow. It's day 8. Crazy. I am currently without a camera, so, no pics for now but I'm going to keep blogging away. It's really the only thing keeping me to this challenge (well, that and the overall health of my children of course).

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon toast. It's one of my kiddos favorite. I usually take about 2 tbsp of butter and mix in a little cinnamon and sugar then put it on the toast. In order to make this a little healthier I spread just a small amount of butter on the toast and then sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on it. They didn't complain. It really tasted about the same.


Cinnamon Toast vs Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Cinnamon Toast (1 slice)
Calories: 105 Fat (Total): 5 g
Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Bread (stone ground whole wheat flour, water, brown sugar, yeast, wheat gluten), unsalted butter, cinnamon, sugar


Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Calories: 130 Fat (Total): 3 g
Ingredients: Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, Rice, Flour, Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil, Fructose, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Cinnamon, Soy Lecithin, Trisodium Phosphate, Caramel and Annatto Extract Color, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients)Vitamin (Niacinamide)Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride)Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Minatare)Vitamin A (Palmitate)Natural Flavor, A B Vitamin (Folic Acid)Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Nonfat Milk.

In fairness, a small amount glycerides and soy lectin are also found in the bread I used.





Hamburgers and Fries - (Dinner - Day 7)

Monday, April 19, 2010

My husband was home for dinner tonight which is always a treat. It means I don't have to cook and it's most likely going to be something on a grill. I love grilled food. Unfortunately, it also means I get to update my blog while dinner's being cooked and miss my photo op. You know what a hamburger looks like, so I don't think we really need visual effects anyway.

We made home fries to go with the hamburger. And, well, whether they're out of the frozen food section or you peel them yourself (or have your 14 year old do it, in my case) any time you dump something into a hot vat of oil, it's pretty much lost any nutritional value. But, I did cut back on the amount of fries each kid could have. Baby steps, remember.



At home 1/4 lb Burger vs McDonald's Quarter Pounder

At home Burger
Nutritional Information: Calories - 470 Fat: 27 g


McDonald's
Nutritional Information: Calories - 510 Fat: 26 g

The ingredients are pretty much the same but I must point out that McDonald's quarter pounder has 1.5 g of trans fat which is extremely unhealthy for you.

** at home burger info found at sparkpeople.com**

Ham Revisited (Lunch - Day 7)

The glorious thing about lunch is - there are no rules. You can pretty much serve whatever you want for lunch and no one thinks it's strange. It's the only meal where you can get by with leftovers every meal. Or, at least, it is in this house. So, we revisited the ham that we had for lunch last Tuesday. The kids still loved it. They had it with what I like to call a red fruit salad with watermelon, strawberries, and red grapes.

Ham and Fruit Salad vs Ham Sandwich and Chips

Ham and Fruit Salad
Ham
Calories : 163 Fat (Total): 9 g
Fruit Salad
Calories: 62 Fat (Total): .2 g

Ham Sandwich and Chips
Sandwich (w/ cheese and mayo) Calories: 270 Fat (Total): 9 g
Fritos Calories: 160 Fat (Total): 10g

**sandwich info via Sparkspeople Nutrition**



French Toast Casserole - (Breakfast - Day 7)

I had a nice Betty Crocker moment in the kitchen cooking breakfast as all the sleepy eyed kiddos wandered in following the sweet cinnamon-y aroma this morning. Big change from before this challenge when I would still be sleeping as they're helping themselves to Poptarts.

There, of course, was a moment before I emulated Betty Crocker and seemed more like the Incredible Hulk. That's what happens when your casserole is ready for the oven and, for the life of you, you know that you saw that cinnamon somewhere...



and then you remember you saw it while brushing your teeth! Yep. That's my bathroom. And that's my cinnamon. I like to think that there is a cute little gnome who roams my house at night and plays funny little pranks on me. (Don't spoil my illusion - it's the only thing that keeps my kiddos alive)

Anyway, I made French Toast Casserole (click for recipe) this morning because that's what I had in my pantry. It's very simple. I kind of over cooked it but the kids still liked it.

I'm trying something new so that I can get the full effect of this challenge. I am going to compare products that I would normally serve to my children throughout the day to see how what I am doing now is improving it.
French Toast Casserole vs Aunt Jemima French Toast Sticks

French Toast Casserole
Nutritional Information: Calories (per serving): 207 , Total Fat: 7.2 g
Ingredients: bread (ground whole wheat flour, water, brown sugar, yeast, wheat gluten) , milk, sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla

French Toast Sticks
Nutritional Information: Calories (per serving): 280 , Total Fat: 10 g
Ingredients: Bread, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate), Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Water, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, Yeast and 2 percent other

French Toast Casserole is a better option and I guarantee it makes your house smell better.

Challenge Day 5 and Day 6

Day 5-
I did not plan a menu for Day 5 because I knew that Tony's birthday party would take all day and I knew I wouldn't want to cook. I will make mention however of the awesome sandwiches I made. I found this great garlic and Parmesan french bread at the store. We topped them with roast beef, ham, turkey, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, provolone and Swiss, lettuce and tomatoes. They were the hit of the party.

Day 6 -
Pretty uncomplicated day. Running late for church so everyone got a banana for breakfast. Then the youth from church had a lunch fundraiser (lasagna) and so we ate at church and brought one home with us for dinner. Very simple meal with absolutely zero preparation on my part (My favorite kind)

Fajitas - (Dinner Day 4)

My husband made wonderful fajitas from flank steak. I took a lot of nice pictures of them. Unfortunately, the memory card wasn't in the camera and I don't know how to get to the pictures. So, let's pretend they looked something like this...



There is nothing generally unhealthy about a fajita. The unhealthy comes from the things you top your fajita with. Sour cream, guacamole, queso... you get the picture. We served our fajitas with lettuce and tomato only (with much complaining - my kiddos like their sour cream) and peppers. To counteract the dryness of the fajita I put on a little salsa.

Ingredients

2 lb flank steak, limes (at least 2), cumin, beer (any cheap kind will do - you don't need a lot)
bell peppers and onions

Method to the Madness

1. Marinate steak in beer with lime juice, overnight or for at least 2 hours.

2. Slice onions and bell peppers into 1 inch slivers.

3. Saute.

4. Cook steak on open top griddle or on an outdoor grill.

5. Cook for about 10 minutes (flank steak is really thin).

6. Slice against the grain of the meat and add peppers and onions to the grill.

7. Cook for another 1 -2 minutes

8. Pour yourself a margarita and enjoy.

Possible side dishes are spanish rice or charro beans. We had fresh salsa and chips.

Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gooseberry Patch is giving away the first chapter of their new Circle of Friends Cookbook. This chapter has 25 recipes for Macaroni & Cheese! Take a look!

http://www.scribd.com/doc/28304485/25-Mac-Cheese-Recipes-by-Gooseberry-Patch

The these look great.

Sandwich Deluxe - (Lunch - Day 4)


As I have said my week has been rough. I think I chose the worst week ever to start this little challenge. Anyway, my sister came by and asked me to go shopping. As I was bolting out the door I casually told my husband to fix lunch. Famous last words.

I came home to my wonderful husband frying up a whole pan of bacon. Bacon is a staple in this house. Bacon is always in the refrigerator. Bacon is one of the main things I was trying to eliminate with this little challenge. Before I could say anything he quickly stated that he couldn't find the menu, but he saw the bacon and thought bacon sandwiches would be fine. Not just any bacon sandwiches , but bacon and ham sandwiches using my delicious ham leftover from Tuesday's lunch. So, I let him continue, mainly because I was so grateful that for the first time in a week I wasn't the one cooking. In his defense, he did add lettuce and tomato to it and made a beautiful fruit salad to go with it. It could have been worse, we normally have it with greasy potato chips and some kind of dip. See, baby steps...

Veritable Smorgasbord - (Breakfast - Day 4)

This morning was supposed to be fruit salad. However, when I opened the refrigerator I noticed little leftovers from the week: 2 eggs, 2 blueberry muffins, about 1/4 block of cheese, 1/2 container of yogurt, and a whole lot of fruit. So, in the words of Templeton the Rat, I declared a veritable smorgasbord breakfast and let the kids pick out whatever they wanted. I'm not sure what was eaten but I know that it involved a lot of creativity and giggling. And, are you ready for this, since I began this little journey I have virtually elimanated the "junk" from out of there, it was all healthier choices. Maybe I'm not such a colossal failure after all...

Reflections - Day 3

Today was a good day. Maybe it's because my husband came home and I felt a little sanity return. It was one of those days that made me rethink this whole idea. I was tired, it was late, we had softball, I have a birthday party to plan, etc. I was really wishing I had some corn dogs to heat in the microwave for dinner and just be done with it. However, I didn't and I stuck with my plan. Chicken sandwiches by far were not the healthiest alternative for my family. Barbecue sauce is not one of the main food groups. I went with all natural sauce because everything else has HFCS. (If you don't know about HFCS you can read this article). You can make your own sauce, though. Who knew? Not me. I will next time though. I eat barbecue sauce with everything. I'm not a ketchup kind of girl. But now it's late and I am putting an end to this very long day. Until next time.


*** In case you noticed that this post was posted on Friday it's because I was so tired that I forgot to publish this post. Did you really expect anything less?

"Da Bomb" Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (Dinner - Day 3)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Thursday nights are busy around here. Thursday nights are softball and karate nights. Thursday nights make me wish I were on a Hawaiian island somewhere just me and my cabana boy...

Needless to say, Thursday night call for quick and easy meals. Meals that could, if need be, be eaten, say, in the car when you're running 15 minutes behind schedule.

I originally wanted to make a plain barbecue sandwich. You know, with nice fatty pieces of red meat. But, I had chicken. So, I made Barbecue chicken sandwiches. It was really simple and we were all pleasantly surprised by the result. (My middle kiddo, K, is currently licking the bowl).

Here's what you need.

Ingredients
(makes 8 sandwiches)

3 chicken breasts, Barbecue sauce, buns (I used whole grain white wheat)
** You can make your own barbecue sauce, I didn't, but you could.
**** If you buy barbecue sauce, make sure that it does not contain HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP ****


Method to the Madness


1. Boil chicken until water is almost completely evaporated, should take about 30 minutes.

2. Brown the chicken slightly in the pot.

3. Use a fork and scrape the chicken. This will shred it.
(Believe it or not I had to Google how to shred chicken, shameful I know)

4. Add barbecue sauce and put on a bun.

I had intended on making homemade potato chips that I learned from my pal Jamie. However, we ran out of time (did I mention Thursdays are busy). So, I was really glad I had this healthy alternative on hand.
They are the best chips around. And the only tortilla chip I can stand without salsa.

Jamie's Homemade Spaghetti Recipe

Here is a much easier, and I hear, better version of homemade spaghetti sauce:

Ingredients

4 cups (2 14.5-oz cans) stewed tomatoes
2 cups (3 6-oz cans) tomato paste
2 cups (2 8-oz cans) tomato sauce
2 cups water
4 whole bay leaves
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp black pepper
2 pinches oregano
2 pinches rosemary
3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
2 whole small onions (or one medium-large yellow onion)
1 tsp salt
10 pinches parsley flakes
2 lbs Italian sausage


Method to the Madness

1. Chop the onion(s).

2.Brown the sausage either as links cut into 1/4" - 1/2" thick slices or as ground sausage.

3. Mix all ingredients together in a large pot and simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasoinally and taking care not to burn the sauce.

Thanks Jamie!

Tomato and Cheese Toast - (Lunch - Day 3)


My kids eat a limited number of veggies. The one they can all agree on is tomatoes. (I know, scholars, it's a fruit, but it's my blog and I can say what I want)

This was really easy to make, but didn't turn out quite like I had hoped. For some reason I have the hardest time getting my food to look pretty. The taste is fine, but it never looks good.

Ingredients

slice of bread (we used whole wheat), slice of tomato, butter, garlic powder and cheese (1/8 lb)- grated


Method to the Madness

1. Spread small amount of butter onto bread and sprinkle with garlic powder.

2. Broil until toast is, well, toasty.

3. Remove from oven.

4. Add tomato and sprinkle cheese on top.

5. Put back in the oven until the cheese melts.

6. Tell your toddler it's pizza so she'll eat it.

The End

Arctic Oranges (Snack - Day 3)

These snacks were a colossal fail. This is the recipe. The idea was to hollow out the inside of the orange and mix it with juice. Blend it and then put it back in the rind. Freeze. Enjoy.

This is how it went: Cut cute little zigzag pattern on top of orange. Try desperately to scrape the inside of the orange out. Look at the destroyed rind and the orange mess everywhere and declare that everyone can just have an orange whole.

Still healthy snack that did not come from a package. Mission accomplished.

Blueberry Muffins ala Paula Deen (Breakfast - Day 3)


This morning it was rainy. And gray. And cold. I almost decided not to make the blueberry muffins. I thought about oatmeal instead. Oatmeal says dreary to me, I don't know why. But, I really wanted to give it a go so I did.

I followed this recipe to a T. No mistakes, absolute perfection on my part.

Okay, you caught me.

The first time I made them I used 4 cups of flour instead of 2 cups. I forgot I was using a 2 cup measuring cup. It was early.

Anyway, I discovered it before I added (and wasted) the blueberries, thank goodness.

I followed the directions exactly the second time.

I expected those little nuggets of perfection at the top of this post.

Instead this is what I got :


The kids were actually a little afraid of them. But, they ate them and stated for the record that they were okay. I personally think Jiffy Blueberry Mix tastes better but that's just me.

Reflections - Day 2

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This little experiment has proven to be harder than I thought. The recipes are simple enough, it's the things that I didn't think I would miss. I snuck to the store and bought a soda (shhh... it's our little secret). It was that or down the cooking sherry.

This house was in chaos today.

It's in chaos everyday, but today was a chaotic exception.

I should have known how the day would go when I failed to wake up in order to make breakfast and the kiddos helped themselves to Honey Nut Cheerios. Rather than beat myself up I'm glad that I had a semi-healthy alternative for them to choose from. The rest of the day challenge-wise was great.

The Buffalo Chicken Wraps were "off the chain", by that I mean they were delicious. The spaghetti took a while to make but I think if I go with canned tomatoes next time it will be much better. I know, it's not container-free but not all foods that come from a can are horrible. And sometimes, let's face it, if it's sanity versus convenience I'm choosing convenience (in moderation).

I for one am looking forward to tomorrow and all it's yummy goodness.

Out Of That Box Copyright © 2009 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template for Bie Blogger Template Vector by DaPino