Good Eats…

Today I’m giving an unsolicited shout out for a service we’ve been using and sharing a couple of really yummy recipes we’ve tried recently.

A few months ago we started using Emeals.  We’ve tried several of the menu plans and have most recently settled on the “Clean Eating” plan as it seems to more consistently fit with how we eat.  The weekly menus have provided some great variety to meal times that had been in a major rut and the pre-planned shopping lists are easy to add to my regular list each week.  Most of the meals are super quick and easy to prepare and will often provide leftovers for the weekend.   What I may love most about Emeals, though, is their lunch menu plan.  Lunch has long been a frustrating meal to make…I don’t want to cook in the middle of the day, it’s just the girls and me here, and it really needs to be quick with minimal clean up.  Their lunch menu plan has been a life-saver this year. It has provided some great variety, and all the meals are designed to be “packed” lunches, which means they are very quick and easy to prepare.  The girls and I have both enjoyed them very much.  Win win!

As much as we’ve enjoyed the Clean Eating plan, the past couple of week’s menus have been pretty heavy on red meat and fish (neither of which we eat much of), so I’ve been trying out some Pinterest recipes.  And I’m so glad I did!  Here are two that we have really enjoyed this week…

The first dish we tried was these Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas.  Oh my.  So good!  And pretty, too!  I never make pretty food, so that was an added bonus!  It seems like it’s a very flexible recipe as far as what veggies you use.  I just used what we had on hand – jalapeno peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potato, onion, and frozen corn.  Even the leftovers were delicious.  This one is definitely going in the regular meal rotation.

We also tried this tomato basil soup recipe.  This is the closest I have found to replicating Jason’s Deli’s tomato basil soup.  I don’t own an immersion blender and had to pour the mix into my blender and back to the pot.  An immersion blender would definitely be easier.  I served this soup with grilled cheese sandwiches on a cool, cloudy night this week.  Very, very yummy.

Tonight we’re having a modified version of this beans and rice recipe – cheap and easy, which is about all I’m up for at this point in the week.  🙂

How about you – what’s cooking at your house this week?

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Our Food Story, Part I

When Matt and I got married, we came from two very different worlds.  And like pretty much every other aspect of our lives, our food backgrounds really couldn’t be more different.

I grew up in a home where both of my parents worked.  My mom cooked tasty food, but it wasn’t her favorite thing to do.  Once my brother (ten years my senior) went off to college and my dad was working a lot of evenings, it was really just her and I and I was a terribly picky eater, so often we would eat out or eat something quick and easy.  I grew up a “grazer” and ate pretty much whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In Matt’s home, his mom was at home and found satisfaction in preparing meals for their family.  She worked hard to make things healthful and as natural as possible.  They were organic health food before organic health food was cool. He grew up a member of the Clean Plate Club and pretty much only ate at designated meal times.

I’m not saying one is better or worse than another.  Both mothers were doing their best to provide nutritious meals for their families.  My only point is we came to the table (so to speak) in marriage with different backgrounds, liking similar foods, but used to eating in very different ways.

As the primary grocery shopper and food preparer in our family, I prepared meals the way I grew up eating them and I stocked the pantry and refrigerator the way it had always been done at my parents’ house.

While Matt enjoyed and appreciated this approach food, his waistline did not.  Over the years we have learned that he can’t eat the way I grew up eating.  And since I no longer have the ridiculously fast metabolism I once had (thank you, age 32, for taking that away without warning), I can’t either.  So, like so many aspects of our marriage, we’ve had to find out own way of doing food, nutrition, and mealtimes.  And I’ll share more about that next week.

***********

Here’s a recipe for this week.  It was rather accidental – something I’ve never done before.  I’m a big fan of recipes and following them exactly.  However, Monday was cool and drizzly and I had some potatoes that were growing eyes and needed to be used or tossed, so I threw some things together and made what may be my new favorite potato soup.

Accidental Potato Soup

  • 3-4 good sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • baby carrots as desired, chopped
  • 1 small to medium sized red onion, diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients into pot and heat to a slow boil.  Cook, stirring regularly, until potatoes are cooked through.  Serve with crackers or warm bread and enjoy!

This made a good-sized pot and my family nearly licked it clean in one night.

 

What’s Cooking Wednesday

So tonight I’m starting a new series here called….wait for it….What’s Cooking Wednesday!  🙂

I really need to give you some back ground on this topic, but that will have to wait.  Instead, because it’s getting late and I still have school to check, I will jump right in with what we had tonight and I’ll get to the back story of our food issues another time.

Tonight’s dinner was a new recipe and a huge hit.  Go ahead and give it a try!

Slow Cooker Spinach Lasagne

This is immediately after assembly. It baked up warm and gooey and wonderful. 🙂

This recipe was quick and delicious.  Click on over to Crock Pot Girls and check it out!

Make Your Own Granite Cleaning Wipes (or Baby Wipes)

Back when my girls were all in diapers, some wonderful soul introduced me to home made baby wipes.  They were fabulous and a major budget-saver.  Well, we’ve been diaper-free around here for nearly 3 years but I held on to that wonderful Rubbermaid bowl and lid because I knew it would come in handy again someday.

Today was that day.

I have been making my own granite cleaner for about a year and half and just keep it in a spray bottle.  However, one of my goals for school and life this year is to hand off as much of the house keeping as I possibly can to the girls and when it comes to cleaning, they can get a little trigger-happy and use a lot more of a spray than necessary.

Enter the home made granite cleaning wipe!

Here’s how:

  • First you have to find a lidded container that will hold the equivalent of half a roll of paper towels and about 3 cups of liquid.  This can be the hardest part.  Mine is a round, 10 cup Rubbermaid container, but use whatever works for you.
  • After that, take a large roll of paper towels and cut in half width-wise with a very sharp knife (you will end up with what looks like two giant rolls of toilet paper).  Be careful, the only stitches I’ve ever had came from doing this back in my baby wipe-making days.
  • Pull the cardboard core out of each half.  Put one half away for your next batch of wipes.
  • In your container mix this recipe:
      • 2 cups water
      • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
      • 1 tsp pure castile soap (peppermint, etc.)
      • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
      • 20 drops tea tree oil
      • 20 drops lavender or lemongrass essential oil
  • Set the half-roll of paper towels in the liquid.  Press lid on and allow to absorb for a few hours.
  • Once the towels are fully saturated, pull the first towel out from the center (where the cardboard core once was) and voila! you’ve got yourself a granite wipe!  🙂

When I posted this on Facebook earlier, I had a couple of requests for the baby wipe recipe as well.  The steps are the same as above, with the ingredients being as follows:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baby wash
  • 2 tablespoons Avon Skin So Soft bath oil or other gentle oil (I have seen suggestions of baby oil, olive oil, vitamin E…etc.)

Both projects are super-simple and work great.  Enjoy!

***Granite recipe from TipNut.com.

A Household Staple

While my enjoyment of cooking is a fairly recent thing, I have long enjoyed making breads of different kinds and thanks to my husband’s ravings on Facebook, I have received a lot of requests for my whole wheat bread recipe.  This is a recipe that belonged to one family friend and was given to me by another.  I had tried many times over the years to make whole wheat bread and it always turned out dry, crumbly, and rock hard.  But this bread…this is bread is YUM!

Whole Wheat Bread (for Bosch)

(Adjusted for Kitchen Aid by Me)

Grind approximately 5 ½ to 6 cups wheat (which should yield approximately 9 to 11 cups flour).

½  cup oil
½  cup honey
3 ¼  cups warm water
4 cups wheat flour
1 Tblsp dough enhancer (vital wheat gluten-optional)
1 Tblsp. Salt
2 Tblsp. yeast

Mix flour and other dry ingredients in mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix liquid ingredients.  Slowly add to dry ingredients.

Continue to add flour to about 8 to 10 cups total until dough begins to cleanly pull away from mixing bowl.  If mixer begins to sound strained, stop and knead by hand.

Coat dough with oil and allow to rise until double in a warm place under a towel.

Punch dough down and separate into two to three portions, approximately 1 1/4 # each. Shape into loaves and place into greased bread pans.  Return to warm place and allow loaves to rise under a towel. Heat oven to 350o and bake 25-30 minutes.

As the recipe states, the original was created for Bosch.  So, if you happen to have a Bosch, you can actually double all of the ingredients and this should make up to 6 loaves of yummy, warm bread.

If you do not have a Bosch, but have a Kitchen Aid then the type of KA will be important.  I have a “Professional 600” model and it can handle this amount of flour.  A good friend of mine has started making this recipe but has a less-powerful model, so she halves this recipe, but is still very pleased with the results.

Also, as you can see in the photo at the bottom, I get two very large loaves.  I can get three normal sized loaves out of this recipe, but they seem to be a bit drier.  So, at the request of my beloved, I make what you see below.

One more note on wheat.  I have been told that at least one reason why my former attempts at wheat bread were unsatisfying was because of the type of wheat I was using.  Until recently, I always just purchased the whole wheat flour at the grocery store.  Apparently, this has no nutritional value (or at least very little) and the processing causes it to lose many of the qualities that make for good bread.

So, on our Texas Tour in May, I bought a wheat grinder from a friend who was selling hers.  Now, I will confess, I have never tried this recipe with store-bought wheat and at this point I think I would sooner just buy a store-bought loaf of bread before I go through all the effort of making home made bread and risk it not turning out, but I suppose one could try it and see how it goes.  Regardless, I am now a convert to fresh ground wheat.  It is so much better and more flavorful.  If you do not have access to fresh ground wheat or a grinder, perhaps you can beg some off a friend so you can at least try it before deciding to invest in a grinder of your own.  The grinding process itself is pretty quick and (at least with my machine) could be entrusted to a responsible, older child.

Anyway, that’s the process.  It’s really an easy recipe and totally worth the effort!  Enjoy!

~ Sara

Time and Balance – Keeping It Clean

It’s spring!  Or, at least, we keep getting glimpses of spring and soon enough it will be here to stay.  For many of us as women, spring awakens dormant desires to clean, clean, clean.  It would be interesting to know what causes this internal urge we all seem to get around the same time of the year!  I know it has kicked in around here, so today I would like to share some little things I have been implementing over the past few months.

First, one of my goals for this school  year has been to pass on more responsibility to the girls.  Their activity schedules are getting to the point where they affect my ability to keep the house in order, therefore, they need to help pick up the slack.  We have implemented the Thursday Clean Up, which is either a quick sweep through the house with light dusting and bathroom cleanings or it might be a lengthier, more thorough cleaning of each room.  It honestly depends on what we have time for and how bad the house is.  Either way, we go into the weekend with the house presentable and me not panicking if we randomly decide to have friends over at any point during the weekend.

Second, for the past few years I have done a top-to-bottom scrub down of our house every spring once school is out for the year.  Last year, however, it took a toll on me and took a lot longer than I really had time for, so this year I am trying something different that I am hoping to maintain throughout the year.  Along with our regular weekly cleaning, we are deep cleaning one room/zone each week.  This includes, but is not limited to, dusting ceilings/corners, washing all trim/doors/baseboards, washing windows, and other things that don’t get done during the once a week sessions.  Based on the number of rooms/zones we have, we could potentially do the whole house once each quarter.  However, I know that there will be weeks/seasons when we can’t do this.  So I’m hoping that by being faithful when we have time, we can clean each room to this greater degree at least twice a year.

Third, with the girls taking on more of the cleaning, I have been trying out some home made household cleaners.  This is mostly because my girls really enjoy spraying the Windex and Pledge and excessive use of those can do damage to the budget!  One very simple product that we use during our weekly cleaning sessions is the dry microfiber cloth.*  While I feel like it tends to leave some dust behind, it really does a great job for everyday-type cleanings.   (*I am not promoting this particular cloth; I’m simply including the link as a reference.)

As for actual cleaners, I really like this granite cleaner recipe found on Tip Nut.  I also like several of the recipes at Mormon Chic, especially the window cleaner (plain club soda!) and the all purpose household cleaner.  I am learning that with the homemade cleaners you may have to do some extra polishing (and don’t let your cloth get too dirty/wet) to get a nice shine.  However, especially with the club soda glass cleaner, I am much happier with the end result than I am even with Windex.  Another great, simple product that I have come to love is plain vinegar and water.  I am amazed at how my chrome fixtures sparkle after this!

Well, that’s it for my house keeping tips for today! Happy Spring Cleaning!

~ Sara

A Family Favorite

Well, this isn’t the post I had planned for today, and I know I’ve never posted a recipe before, but I’ve gotten requests for this on Facebook, and it’s just much easier for me to keep track of these things over here if I ever need to find it again, sooooo…..tonight I’m posting my recipe for Taco Soup.  It’s not fancy, it’s super easy, and it’s oh-so-delicious.  When what’s for dinner makes my husband’s Facebook status, I know I’m doing something right.  😉

Without further ado….

Taco Soup

2 lbs ground beef (we use ground turkey), browned and drained

1 package taco seasoning

2 cans Ranch style beans (Texas style)

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

3 cups water

1 package ranch dip seasoning

1 can white hominy

1 can yellow hominy

1 can diced tomatos

Mix all ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.  Better yet, throw it all in the crock pot on low most of the day.  Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream and grated cheese (or queso for an even creamier texture).

We love this “pantry” recipe.  It’s a winter time staple at our house and I hope you enjoy it as well!

~ Sara