Friday, May 29, 2009

Mother's Day

Yes, I realize that Mother's Day was on the 10th of May, but I'm still working on my gift for my mom (who's reading this so I have to be discreet until she's received the gift). It's homemade and around my home I don't have a lot of time so it's been slow-going and quite a process. But the end result will be beautiful and I can't wait to give it to her. I know that she'll appreciate all the time and hard work I put into her gift (hint, hint mom). So stay tuned to see the finished product! Should be great!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Macaroni Salad

This is another recipe that I grew up with. My mom usually has everything on hand (especially in the spring/summer) in the pantry and freezer which made it a "quick" side. Sometimes we didn't even wait for it to chill in the fridge, we'd just dig right in. But I'm a fan of having it chilled.

Macaroni Salad

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 cups mayo (can use less)
1 lg green pepper, chopped fine
1 cup carrots, chopped fine
1 cup celery, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 (12 oz) pkg macaroni (I used regular macaroni, my mom uses shells)

Cook noodles until tender. Mix first 4 ingredients and pour over veggies and noodles. Mix well and chill several hours or overnight for best flavor.

This makes an ice cream bucket full of salad. It's not easy to cut in half because of the sweetened condensed milk, but if you have another use for the other half of sweetened condensed milk go ahead and halve this recipe. And enjoy. We've been eating it all week and it still tastes great!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weighing In

Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

Well, I'm not able to weigh in. Our scale stinks. We're getting a new one tomorrow. There's a little dial on the front to change the calibration of the scale. I had it set to where it needs to be and my husband reset it to what he thought was zero, but zero is actually about 8lbs off. Then my dear children played with it so now it's off by about 25lbs. So, we're going to get a new scale.

I haven't measured myself again because my Shredding has been sketchy. I did it for three days in a row. Skipped days 4 and 6. So, I'll just say that I'm easing into it. Next week Wednesday The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans is starting a new summer challenge so don't forget to sign-up and weigh in!! Then I'm going to kick it into high gear. I also might have a workout buddy and that will help hold me accountable.

Hopefully this next week will be better for getting my Shred on. I'm getting used to Jillian yelling at encouraging me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Shred - Day 2

I've been procrastinating all day. I've cleaned out my sweatshirt drawer, sock drawer, changed all the sheets in the house, attempted to mop the kitchen floor, decluttered for our garage sale, anything to keep me "too busy" to Shred. But the evening is coming to a close and I have to get my Shred on. And I'm not looking forward to it. As the day has gone on, I've gotten more sore: shoulders, pecs, armpits, knees, and thighs. Yikes. I'm dreading the Shred but I know that if I quit now (on day 2) I'm a big loser and not the good kind of Loser. So, I'm going to pop in the DVD and I'll let you know how I finished.

** Update: Ok, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I realized that I'm poor at jumping rope. That will take some time to improve. I've been doing the modified version of most of the exercises except the abs. I don't feel like I'm getting much out of the modified version of the abs, so that's where I go all out. I think my cardio is the worst and my abs the best (which if you look at me, you wouldn't be able to tell that there were abs under there). ;) But soon, you'll be able to see those hard-working abs...

Now is a great time to join The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Pants. I hear that there's a new challenge starting on June 3rd. Are you up for it?

Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finger Jell-O

There are a few different recipes for Finger Jell-O: the Jell-O Brand finger jell-o and the Knox Brand finger jell-o. I combine them both to make the BEST finger jell-o!!

Finger Jell-O

4 pkg Knox plain gelatin
3 boxes Jell-O (any flavor)
4 cups boiling water

Mix the Knox and Jell-O in a medium bowl. Stir in boiling water until all gelatin is dissolved. Pour into a 9x13 pan and let set in fridge for a minimum of 5 hours. And then enjoy!!

I think it's the best recipe because it's the most firm and it's very flavorful!

30 Day Shred

Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

That's right, people. I've joined The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Pants!! I'm not quite sure what I've gotten myself into, but I definitely need this!

The Sisterhood is finishing up their Shrink Into Summer Challenge and I've completely missed the boat on that one. But now, they're on their second round of The 30 Day Shred. They started last Wednesday, but today is my first day! I'm nervous and excited because I'm scared of Jillian I haven't worked out regularly and this accountability with the Sisterhood will be really good for me.

I took my "before" picture and my "before" measurements/weight. I popped in the 30 Day Shred DVD (which boasts of losing up to 20 pounds in 30 days), and I'm off. I'll let you know how it goes!!

** Update: I was about ready to quit after the second set of push-ups. And then Jillian said that there are 400 pound people who do this so I better keep up. That's why she's so scary motivating. I made it through. Only 6 more days 'til I weigh in and if I think about it in those terms (instead of 30 days in a row) it makes it easier. Plus it's only a 20 minute circuit workout...I just try to remind myself of that fact. ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese Mix-Ins

Macaroni and Cheese is a treat around our house. I don't usually buy it because for what you get, it's not really worth it. But my boys like it and so do my husband an I so I make it for lunch occasionally.

But I rarely make just mac'n'cheese. I grew up with some fun mix-ins and have recently added to my repertoire. All you need is a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and add these combos or make-up your own:

meat option: 1 lb ground beef
mix-ins: 1 can tomato soup
* kind of bland, but my boys like it

meat option: 2 small chicken breasts, shredded (about 1 cup)
mix-ins: 1 can corn and peppers, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1/2 tbsp chili powder
* my boys didn't really care for the tomatoes, but I did

meat option: can tuna
mix-ins: can peas
*I grew up with this one

meat option: pepperoni slices, quartered
mix-ins: 1 cup chopped green peppers, 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
* my husband likes this one (mostly because of the pepperoni)

If any of your family likes mac'n'cheese plain, you can always set some aside before adding the mix-ins. I hope you try to spice up your mac'n'cheese soon!! ;)

For more Kraft-inspired mix-ins click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Praying for Alex

I have been struggling with how to pray for baby Alex. He's not even a year old and has a heart defect that will require a heart transplant. He's been in the hospital since before Christmas 2008 and he, and his family, are still waiting for a heart.

Now, at first I thought this was simple: pray for healing and a heart for baby Alex. But every time I pray for him, I get sad. A new heart for Alex means a death of another baby. There are parents out there that will have to lose their young child and have to decide to donate organs. Another has to die for this one to live. It's vexing to me. It makes me terribly sad.

I'm just thankful that my God is a powerful all-knowing God who "in all things works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). I'm glad to know that I don't have to make the choice of who lives and who dies.

So I've just been praying for God's will on little Alex and I pray that if tragedy comes to another family that they are willing to give hope to other families by way of organ donation.

For more information on organ donation:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Korean Beef Short-Ribs

We bought a meat package through our local SHARE program and it included some ribs. I'm not sure what to do with ribs except to smoke them and BBQ them. And I don't know how to smoke, and I've tried to BBQ them before. They were good BBQ'd but I wanted to try something different. And this week seemed to be "Crock-Pot" week at our house, so I continued with the slow-cooking powers of my crock pot.

Korean Beef Short-Ribs

4-4 1/2 lbs short ribs
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 broth or water
1/4 cup soy or tamari sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dark sesame oil
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Spray crock with non-stick cooking spray. Place ribs in the bottom of the crock. Mix together onions, broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and pepper. Pour over ribs. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Cut rib meat off bones. Let liquid stand for 5 minutes; skim off fat. Stir sesame oil and red pepper flakes into liquid and return meat to slow cooker. Cook 15-30 minutes on low.

Serve meat over rice and garnish with sesame seeds. I also steamed some frozen mixed Chinese veggies.

My Notes:
  • I had only 2+ lbs of ribs, but I still made the full amount of sauce because I like things saucy. ;) And am glad I did. If I made 4 lbs of meat, I'd probably double the sauce.
  • I used some frozen green onions. They worked great. If you need to garnish with green onions or use them fresh (not cooked) don't use frozen, they'll be soggy. But if you're using them in a recipe like Korean Beef Short-Ribs or meatloaf, they'll work just fine.
  • I didn't have any fresh ginger so I substituted 1/2 tsp of dried ground ginger.
  • I substituted the dark sesame oil for the regular since I had that on hand.
It took a bit of time (10 minutes or more) to get the meat off the bones. But the end result was terrific. I will definitely be making this again! Yumm-O!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing

I've been making Chicken and Stuffing since just after college. It was my "signature" dish when I was sharing an apartment with two friends. Today, I tried something different and cooked it in my crock pot. I knew I would be busy this afternoon and wouldn't have time to cook dinner later. Again, I apologize for no pictures, but it sure tasted great. The meat was so tender and moist. And it was really easy to throw together.

Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can use cream of chicken if you want)
1 can of milk
1 box corn bread stuffing (or another type of boxed stuffing)
1/2 stick butter melted

Spray the crock with non-stick cooking spray (I use Pam). Lay the chicken breasts in the bottom, top with sliced cheese. Mix the can of cream of mushroom soup with the milk and pour over cheese. Top with the box of stuffing and pour melted butter on top. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

I worried about how I was going to get the chicken out of the bottom, but when I put the serving spoon in, the meat just fell apart. It was so delicious. I hope you try this one soon. Enjoy!!

(If you want to bake this dish in the oven, only use half a can of milk and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Menu Plan 5/24 - 6/20

Menu planning has really been saving our family money. If I stay on task and have all the ingredients in the house, I'm not tempted to order a pizza or call for Chinese. It's been a great time saver as well. Today, I had dinner in the crock pot by 10:30am and when the boys and I returned from errands and my husband from work at 5:30pm, dinner was ready. And it was good!!

Week 1 - May 24-30
Sunday - homemade pizza
Monday - grilled chicken breast, broccoli and cauliflower salad, grilled bread
Tuesday - BLT's, macaroni salad
Wednesday - breakfast
Thursday (Date Night) - fried egg sandwiches, potato chips, veggies
Friday - Chinese delivery
Saturday - leftovers

Week 2 - May 31-June 6
Sunday - homemade pizza
Monday - baked chicken legs, mashed potatoes, creamed peas
Tuesday - shredded beef taquitos (For the Love of Cooking), Spanish rice
Wednesday - breakfast
Thursday (Date Night) - leftovers
Friday - crock pot chicken, baked sweet potatoes with spicy brown sugar
Saturday - grilled burgers, chips, veggies

Week 3 - June 7-13
out of town

Week 4 - June 14-20
Sunday - out of town
Monday - frozen pizza (arriving home that afternoon)
Tuesday - Asian chicken breast (For the Love of Cooking), Oriental salad
Wednesday - breakfast
Thursday (Date Night) - leftovers
Friday - BBQ sandwiches, tater tots, mixed veggies
Saturday - chicken and rice

Monday, May 11, 2009

In the Mail

Little did I know there were some surprises for me in the mailbox on Friday. We hadn't gotten the mail in several days so I knew the box would be full, but I wasn't expecting this:

How exciting!! I'm going to enjoy reading through all the recipes and marking them up with Post-it Notes so I remember what I'd like to try. Have you gotten any surprises in your mailbox lately?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To all you mothers out there...this one's for you:

Thanks Sue! This was so good that I thought I should pass it on!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Homeschooling Lesson 8

This week we finished with the Letter 'H h'. The memory verse was a lot easier this week and he already knows pink and the number 8, so he's doing really well.

Today, we made Peanut Blossom cookies together. It was a lot of fun and it's a great cookie to make with your toddler. I had him putting the ingredients in the mixer and rolling balls of dough for the cookies. He had a hard time with the sugar so we switched. Right now, he's helping me "wash dishes" in the sink while the cookies are in the oven. It was a fun lesson. Next week the theme will be cars/trucks. And I know he'll enjoy that!!

KFC Offers "Rain Check"

Christy, a friend of mine, let me know that because of the volume of coupons given out for a free Grilled Chicken meal at KFC, you will be unable to redeem them. But they are offering a "Rain Check" if you bring in your coupons. Make sure to check out the details. Oprah did a good job of promoting the new Grilled Chicken at KFC, but I guess KFC wasn't ready for Oprah...and all of us frugal people wanting a free meal. ;)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chicken Empanadas

This is a recipe from one of my bloggy friends, Sarah, at Short Stop. Her Chicken Empanadas looked delicious and I'm so amazed that it's a recipe she came up with on her own (minus the "extra butt")! Way to go, Sarah!! She has given me permission to post her recipe here for you all to enjoy (please check out her blog for the full tutorial and all the beautiful pictures to go along with it). It's really simple and it's so yummy!!

Chicken Empanadas
Sarah's Recipe

2 chicken breasts, roasted
1 jalapeno, seeded (if desired)
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1 small onion
8 ounces Mexican blend cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (15 ounce) package of frozen pie crust or homemade pie crust for a double crust pie

Place chicken, jalapeno, red pepper, green pepper, and onion in a food processor and process til blended and chopped. Or finely chop on a cutting board or mat into very small pieces. Remove from food processor and place in a medium bowl. Add Mexican blend cheese, cream cheese, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.

Roll out pie dough and using a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or edge of a drinking glass, cut dough into circles. Using a pastry brush, brush edges with water.

Place one rounded teaspoon of filling into each round, and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Gently press the edges closed to seal. Using a fork, make indentations all the way around the edges to seal completely.

Place the empanadas on a greaased, foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the crust is golden.

Serve warm with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole, or ranch dressing for dipping.

*Note: These are appetizer-sized Chicken Empanadas. This recipe makes a TON of these. Store remainder in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in oven or toaster oven until heated through.

Ok, here are my notes:
  1. I omitted the jalapeno. I'm intimidated by using this spicy vegetable.
  2. I didn't have any green peppers so I just used red and orange.
  3. I didn't use the full 2 tsp of cumin and I thought it was spicy enough - maybe 1 1/2 tsp.
  4. I used 2 (15 ounce) packages of refrigerated pie crust. 1 package wasn't enough. I don't know if I wasn't rolling out the dough thin enough or if I wasn't using enough filling in each empanada (even though the filling was oozing out of the pastry).

These are delicious and the recipe does make a lot. It was a really simple process and we enjoyed this yummy snack!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FREE Grilled KFC Dinner

*Updated 5/7: coupon is no longer available to print.
**Updated 5/8: KFC unable to redeem the free coupons but will offer a "Rain Check".

Alright, I'm not one for KFC and most of you know that. It's just TOO greasy. But now, they're offering grilled chicken. And from May 5-19 you can get a free meal from KFC!! However, the coupon is not valid on Mother's Day. Click here to print your coupon for a free meal of grilled chicken, two sides and a biscuit from KFC!!

Thanks to:
* We Are THAT Family for her frugal Works-For-Me Wednesday tips (Seriously, head over there today, there are a ton of great tips!!)
* Colored With Memories for the link to this great deal
* The Oprah Show for partnering with KFC to feed America

Works-for-Me Wednesday: I'm a Cheap Date

I'm a cheap date...when I want to be. I'm usually not too cheap on a Thursday night because I like to go out to eat (spending $10 at our favorite restaurant - for the two of us). But, we've been cutting back on the spending so we're not eating out like we used to. So with the help of Redbox and Target here's the cheapest movie date ever:

Monday night movie and popcorn

- Redbox movie using the free code texted to my husband's phone every Monday
- Target's popcorn and a soda combo $1.50

That's right people! A movie, popcorn and drink for $1.50!! Can you get more frugal than that?! I'd like to see you try! Let me know if/how you've become a cheap date.

Check out We Are THAT Family for more frugal tips on this week's Works-For-Me Wednesday.

**I know that you can make popcorn at home and watch a movie from the library (and have a FREE date), but there's NOTHING that can beat movie theater popcorn...except Target.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Curried Chicken Salad

This recipe is from Pampered Chef's Main Dishes cookbook. This chicken salad tastes very fresh. While I was making it, I thought there was a lot of fruit to chicken ratio, but it was very delicious!! You can cut it down to one Granny Smith apple if you like and add another cup of chicken. I served this salad on whole grain bread but it would be excellent on croissants.

Curried Chicken Salad

1/2 cup light mayo (I used regular)
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
3/4 cup celery, sliced
1/3 cup green onions with tops, thinly sliced (I used a yellow onion that I had in the pantry)
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into sixteenths and sliced
1/3 cup pecans, chopped (I omitted)

In a small bowl, blend mayo, yogurt, curry and salt; set aside.

Dice chicken, cut grapes in half and thinly slice celery and green onions. Core apples and cut into sixteenths then slice. Combine chicken, grapes, celery, green onions, apples and pecans in a large bowl. Add mayo mixture and mix lightly. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Enjoy this yummy refreshing salad with slices of cantaloupe.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cowboy Caviar

This is a recipe I got from my dear friend, Sue. It's so delicious and not what I expected at all the first time I had it. It's sweet and salty all together. It's really yummy and it makes a TON so be prepared!!

Cowboy Caviar

1 can shoepeg corn
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 can chopped black olives
1 can or jar of chopped green olives (I omitted)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional, I omitted)

Drain cans, rinse beans and mix all ingredients.

Boil together:
1 cup oil
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Pour over mixture and refrigerate overnight. Serve with Frito Scoops. You may need to drain off some of the liquid.