Monday, July 26, 2010

Funday Food and Perfect Sugar Cookies

I remember one time when I was grilling some chicken and I yelled at the guys that I needed a pot holder, and Mr. Rainbow Creek and Fatty both ran out of the garage and each handed me a welding glove.

What immediately came to my mind was Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck" jokes.

Now I see all these shows on Food Network and sure enough those BBQ champions are all wearing those redneck potholders. And they probably are teaching their one year old's to play with fire, but in a good foodie kind of way, don't ya think?

Destructo Boy with a look that says "I got this s'mores thing down, man!" It's all in the gloves of course.

Sometimes we do a little indoor food fun too.

Didn't they used to tell kids "don't play with your food!" Well what fun was that!!??

We found a good way to use up leftover frosting from cake decorating class, turn the kids loose with a batch of sugar cookies.

I went on a sugar cookie binge last year in search of the best sugar cookie recipe ever. This blue ribbon winning sugar cookie recipe is my all time favorite so far.

My secrets to a perfect sugar cookie:

They have to be frosted with a good buttercream frosting that sets up just a little hard on top.
I love frosted sugar cookies so much. And the milk in the frosting is the secret to keeping these soft and just a little moist.

I also make sure to get them out of the oven when they are just set and don't let them start to brown. Let them set up on the pan for a few minutes before removing to the cooling rack.

If they are browning too quickly turn your oven down to 325 degrees.

Nature Girl gives them her seal of approval too.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Frugal Friday - getting serious about saving now

Wow there is so much to be learned from blog hopping! I love some of the ideas I have been finding and I am starting a list of things I am planning to try.

The way I see it, this need to cut back and manage our money better is an opportunity to be more creative and use our talents. I love that we are working together to come up with creative ideas for having fun and living well even on a limited budget. And it has pushed me to become more proactive on my personal desire to simplify my life and become more self sufficient.

Here is a list of things I plan to try this week:
Grow celery from celery stalk bottoms: Premeditated Leftovers: Something From Nothing
Grow green onions from roots: Penniless Parenting
Make a sourdough starter: Frugal Creativity
Bake a batch of soft pretzels with the kids: hmm, can't find that link right now but it sounded wonderful and Destructo Boy loves soft pretzels and baking so that will be our Sunday Funday treat.

Oh, she found me, thanks Haleyleanne! Here is the link to the soft pretzels recipe.

One of our biggest challenges is finding fun and affordable things to do with the kids.

Here is what we will be doing tomorrow:

We have tuna salad, bread, chips, grapes and cherries and kool-aid so we should be all set for a day in the sun. When we get home we are going to make a batch of homemade plain vanilla ice cream. Yummm...
There is a Dragon Boat Race and Festival at Sloan's Lake this weekend so we are planning to take the kids. They have been really good about doing chores this week so we will give them each part of their allowance to spend. We have found that it helps a lot when we go places if they have a little money of their own to decide what to spend it on. It does seem to keep them from asking us to buy them trinkets and garbage.

Sis, who was the most brilliant single mom I have ever known used to go through the coupons with BB when he was young and let him pick which cereal and snacks he was going to "spend" his coupons on. She knew she was going to have to buy those things anyway, but it gave him a little buying power and he didn't wheedle and whine for things she couldn't afford. She is a genius, don't you think?

This week's challenge is to menu plan for 2 weeks using only what we have on hand. That shouldn't really be too hard because I went shopping and stocked up on neccessities today. I will probably try to push it into an extra week of using everything we can before shopping again, that will be more fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday dinner

My favorite, Pico de Gallo! Fresh tomato from my tiny garden, green onion, jalapeno and cilantro.
Grilled zucchini, yellow squash and jerk seasoned chicken breasts.
Serve with black beans and yellow rice.
We made homemade chocolate ice cream for dessert. Tried a Martha Stewart Wedding recipe and no one liked it. The flavor was too chocolatey and overpowered the creamieness. This really bummed me out because I looked at about a million chocolate ice cream recipes and chose this one. If anyone has a good tried and true recipe that is more kid friendly I would love to try it. We are thinking about making a batch of vanilla tomorrow and swirling the chocolate in.

The heat wave continues and our menu this week will be pretty simple and involve a lot of grillin' and chillin'.

Breakfast: cereal, bagels and cream cheese or waffles

Lunch: PB&J sandwiches, ham or turkey sandwich's, chili dogs and chips

Monday: burgers and brats, pasta salad, baked beans
Tuesday:Leftover chicken, black bean and squash tortilla wraps with cheese, lettuce and salsa
Wednesday: Grilled chicken, penne pasta alfredo, steamed broccoli
Thursday: Easy no bake enchiladas (recipe below), refried beans, lettuce
Friday: Ciabatta Cheese Steaks with the works, oven roasted potatoes (Rachael Ray's recipe. I am dying to try this, if you ever saw this episode of 30 minute meals you will be drooling. I am using sirloin steak since that is what I have in the freezer)
Saturday: leftover pulled pork from freezer, chips, baked beans
Sunday: Steak or chicken fajita's, rice, beans

Easy Enchiladas

In large bowl, combine cooked diced chicken or steak or taco meat, diced onion, and shredded cheese. (you can use leftover grilled squash or corn and black beans in the mix too if you prefer a veggie version)

Pour 1 large can or 2 small cans enchilada sauce into a wide shallow bowl.

Heat a TINY amount of oil in large skillet over medium/high heat. Lightly fry corn tortillas a few at a time to soften them. Remove from skillet, dip into the sauce and place the tortilla on a plate then fill with a couple spoonfuls of the filling and roll. Spoon a little more sauce over the top, microwave until cheese is melted, garnish with a little green onion. Serve with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes on the side.


Linked to: Organizing Junkie's menu plan Monday. Go check it out!
Fireflies and Jellybeans Show off Your Stuff Party

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Way late, but I do have a plan

At least I have a menu plan this week! Just finding the time to post it seems to be difficult.

We are still working on the finer points of eating big on a small budget, but I am getting better at it. I did the shopping by myself this week and bought the basics with a few meals in mind and figured we could get creative and make something up from what we have on hand. I am actually hoping to stretch my last shopping trip into next week, we'll see how that goes.

So the weather is HOT, HOT, HOT and we are cooking accordingly. Most of what I have planned will be cooked outside on the grill or baked in the roaster downstairs.

Did you know: If you have one of those big electric roasters you can use it as a small oven to bake in. I plug mine in down in the basement or sometimes outside and then we don't have to heat up the kitchen while we bake.

And now it seems that we have grown to a 3 grill family! With 8 people here we just didn't have enough room on the big grill so we sometimes have to fire up the gas grill and another small Weber to get a meal together. At least we have enough cooks to man/woman all the grills anyway!

For breakfast: waffles, cereal, bagels and cream cheese or eggs and toast
Lunch: ham, turkey, cheese or PB&J sandwiches, or hot dogs and mac and cheese

Sunday: Chicken under a brick, grilled corn on the cob, grilled potatoes, salad

Monday: Grilled pizza (recipe below)

Tuesday: (leftover chicken) Fiesta Salad with black beans and corn salsa and salsa ranch dressing

Wednesday: (beach day) chicken salad sandwiches, chips, fruit, brownies

Thursday: grilled steak, baked potatoes, salad

Friday: chicken enchiladas, refried beans, lettuce and tomatoes

Saturday: grilled chicken with penne pasta and alfredo sauce, garlic bread

How to Throw a Grilled Pizza Party!

Prepare dough:

In food processor or electric mixer:
3-3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 package rapid rise yeast (or 1 Tablespoon dry yeast dissolve in 110 degree water)
1 cup very hot (120 degree) water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Mix all ingredient to form a ball. Knead about 10 times on floured board. Shape into ball and drizzle a little olive oil in bowl to prevent sticking. Cover and let rise about 30 - 40 minutes

Divide dough into 6 portions. Roll out each portion on well floured board to make a thin circle about 8" diameter.

Move hot coals to one side of grill and place one or two pizza doughs on opposite side of grill for indirect heat. Allow crust to bake slightly, then spoon sauce on, add any desired toppings then top with mozzerella cheese, fontina and parmesan. Cover grill and bake for 5 minutes, rotate the pizza and bake a few minutes more until crust is browned and crisp and cheese is melted.

We always make a party of this, let everyone pick their own toppings from a topping bar and serve them up to order.

I am linking this post to:

Organizing Junkie Menu plan Monday

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fried Tortilla Cinna-Crisps

I have been trying to cut back on "off-budget" snack items around here. It seems that the kids can just go through them like there's no tomorrow. And then tomorrow they want more snacks. Go figure, huh?

So sometimes we have to get creative and cook up something fun and tasty to satisfy their bedtime snack craving.

The other night I pulled out my Fry Daddy and fried up some tortilla crisps and the kids thought it was an amazing new invention. I cut the tortilla's into quarters and only needed a couple inches of oil in the fryer. Cook them at about 375 degrees for a minute or so until they are bubbled up and just barely starting to brown.

Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. We did both since I have these handy little shaker dealies from Pampered Chef. I keep one filled with cinnamon sugar and one with powdered sugar for toast and French toast.

They disappeared as fast as we could make them! Be careful about little ones grabbing them too quick, as they are very hot when they come out of the fryer.

These make a great garnish on the side of a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a little peach or blueberry topping too!