Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Bit of Texas Pride

Mmmm....  Texas Style food is the BEST!  There's nothing better than waking up to a pan full of flaky biscuits, warm and fresh out of the oven.  I'll bet you think they are lots of work to whip up, but I promise you they are easier to make than Grandma's were! 

Follow me, and I'll lead you to a recipe that will make your family happy, fill your freezer, and give you a taste of old-fashioned Texas pride!!!

Before we get to that amazing biscuit recipe, I want to share another bit of Texas Pride:  Texas Style Barbeque!!  Is there anything better in life than a slice of tender smoked brisket or a rack of savory baby back ribs?  And doesn't the thought of a pan full of peach cobbler or pecan pie cobbler just make your knees week?

Let me share a bit of the Texas lifestyle with you.  There's an old BBQ joint located in Adkins, Texas, just outside of San Antonio.  The place is called Texas Pride.  How can you get any prouder to live here than to name your restaraunt "Texas Pride"??  One of the many reasons that I love living here in this state, a place that I've called home my entire life, and a place that generations of my family have called home, is that we have so much pride in who we are. 

The feel of going back in time hits you as soon as you pull into the parking lot.  When was the last time you were greeted by a parking attendant on horseback? 

Walking up to the restaraunt, you begin to feel that you have gone back in time to the old towns of times gone past. 

I remember riding one of these at the grocery store when I was a little girl.  I'll bet you have the same kind of memories!

Once you enter the building, the awesome aroma of wood smoke and meat just fills the air.  Right away your stomach starts to grumble!  (I don't know who this guy is who ended up in my photo!)

This sign just cracked me up.  And for you who don't live in Texas, Big Red is the most amazing soda ever.  It's fizzy, red, unmatchable deliciousness!!!

Here's one of our trays with some of our goodies:  Baby Back Ribs and Pit Smoked Brisket (in the wrappers), mac-n-cheese, cole slaw, beans, and peach cobbler.  Our other tray had more ribs and brisket, cheezy potatoes, green beans, and pecan cobbler.  YUMMM!!!

Holy Cow! 
While there was a concert in their music venue, we had such full tummies, so we decided to share a dance out in the parking lot under the Texas stars and the full moon, then ride off into the South Texas sunset.
 Now that your tummies are grumbling for some South Texas grub, here's a recipe for you!
Waking up Sunday morning, we still had that feel of old-time Texas in our hearts.  There's no better way to satisfy our nostalgic feelings than to bake up some super easy Homemade Biscuits ~ Texas Style.  Did I tell you that these wonderful old-fashioned biscuits are FREEZABLE!??  Make some on Sunday morning, and have biscuits for the rest of the week.  No cans of biscuits in The Menu Maker Mom's kitchen today!  No strange chemicals either!
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, very soft
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
Enough milk to thin the yogurt until it's the consistency of buttermilk
In a very large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Using two forks or a pastry blender, blend in the butter until you can't see any big chunks any larger than a tiny pea.  I have also done this in my Kitchenaide mixer, using the whisk attachment.
Mix up your yogurt and milk in a small bowl.
Add the thinned yogurt to the flour and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon. 
Turn the whole mess out onto a surface covered with another 1/4 cup of flour.  Knead the dough only about 10 times.  It will feel quite wet, not at all like pizza dough or bread dough.
Pat the dough out until it's 1" thick.  Cut out your biscuits with a biscuit cutter, clean can, or glass that is about 2-1/2" in diameter.  Just press the cutter straight down, don't swivel it around to cut the biscuits.  Straight cuts make higher rising biscuits!
Bake your biscuits at 400 degrees farenheit for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. 
Flash freeze any extras, then transfer to a plastic freeezer bag, and pop them into your freezer.  Place frozen biscuits on a cookie sheet, bake at 425 for about 15 minutes for fresh homemade biscuits any time!
Makes 24 2-1/2" biscuits.
Wanna bite?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


We L-O-V-E brownies at my house!  To make life easy, I keep this delicious brownie mix on hand.  Makes it easy to have the yummy chocolaty confections any time we need a quick bite or a quick gift to give.

Do you like my brownie pan?  My hubby and kids picked this up for me because they know I love all sorts of kitchen gadgety kind of things.  In addition, all four of us always have a RACE for the corners of the brownie pan, and this special cooking pan solved that problem for sure!  Now everyone gets a corner or side!!!! 

I hope you have a chance to whip up some of this brownie mix before school starts!  When I don't bake these brownies in the wonderful brownie pan, I use a mini-muffin pan.  My kids and I have always loved eating Brownie Bites!  Just be careful not to overcook them if you use the muffin pan.  If overcooked, you end up with little brownie ROCKS!!!

When you bake the brownies, get creative!  You can add nuts, chocolate chips, or M & M's.  You can ice the brownies, dust with powdered sugar, or leave plain. 

Lastly, this brownie mix makes GREAT gifts!  Try putting one full recipe (2-1/2 cups of the mix) in a jar or a sealable plastic bag, along with the instructions, to make a thoughtful gift.  You could even give your entire mix and instructions along with a brownie pan as a gift!  The ideas are endless!!



6 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
8 cups sugar
One 8-oz. can of cocoa powder
2 cups vegetable shortening

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cocoa.  Mix in the vegetable shortening, using forks or  a pastry cutter until you can no longer see the vegetable shortening.  You can do all of this in a food processessor too.  If your processessor is small, break the recipe into two batches.   Store the mix in an airtight container.  I don't know what the shelf life of this mix is because it gets used up quickly in my house!


Baking Instructions:

2-1/2 cups Incredible Brownie Mix
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
OPTIONAL:  2 Tablespoons milk
OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup of nuts or candies such as chocolate chips or M & M's

In a medium bowl, beat the mix, eggs, and vanilla with a spoon until completely mixed, smooth and creamy.  If the mixture is too thick, add the optional 2 tablespoons of milk.  Fold in the optional ingredients, if desired.  Spread in a greased 8 x 8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Take it out before the sides look too dry!

**P.S.  You can double this recipe and put into a 13" x 9" pan***


Happy baking and Peace to you all!!!
The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


What's Think-It Thursday, you ask? Well, it's your day to prep for the rest of the week. You can make life in the kitchen much easier for the rest of the week if you do a little planning and leg work on Thursday. 

What's up with THURSDAY, you ask?  Well, here's my rationale.  I like having everything ready to pick up supplies for the following week on Friday after work, or on Saturday morning.  I don't want to have to go back to the store either.  Who has time for that???

So, I like to get my thoughts together on THURSDAY.  Just takes a quick minute to pull it all together!

1. Make sure your menu is made out and posted. Be sure to make certain that your menu selections are appropriate for your schedule this week.
2. Set up your Make-a-Menu Box.
3. Do you have plans for your lunches and the kiddies' lunches for the upcoming week?
4. Check to make sure you have all the supplies you'll need. If not, add them to a grocery list.

If you get all this done today, you will be a happy camper this week... You might be crowned The Mama again!

The Menu Maker Mom

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MONDAYS WITH MOM.... on Wednesday???

Hi Y'all!  CRAZY week over here, and I'm finally able to visit with you via the Mondays with Mom series... on Wednesday! 

In this video I do a quick demo of the Lunchtime Make-a-Menu Chart.  I hope you get yours started today!  It will make your lunchtime menu planning go super smooth, it will help you make interesting lunchbox combinations, and it will keep everyone happy!

Please let me know if you've got suggestions, comments, questions, ideas.... You name it... I'd love to hear from you!  I answer all Facebook messages and comments on this blog.  You can find me on FB at 

MAKE-A-MENU :: All about the Lunchbox!

Oh no! Back-to-School season is beginning to rear its ugly head. Whaaaaaa!!!!! Run! Hide under the trampoline or inside the camper! Shhh... We'll just pretend we don't know that the school bell will ring in a few weeks!

Well, we can cry or run and hide as much as we want, but we would be wasting valuable time... time that could be used to get ORGANIZED!


Here's what I am challenging you to do: Make a "Make-a-Menu Lunchtime Chart", which is a list of items your kids love to eat for lunch. This is going to be placed in 2 places. You will post one copy near the lunch prep station (Yep, we're going to put a station together and your kiddies are going to make their own lunch!). You will post another copy in your Make-a-Menu Notebook.

STEP #1:
Get out a sheet of paper. Make the following columns: Drink, Main Meal, Vegetable, Fruit, Snack. Sit down with your kids.

STEP #2:
List as many items under each column as you can think of. Don't worry about coordinating the drink with the main meal, or the vegetable with the fruit, or whatever. Just make the list.

STEP #3:
Then type it up and make it look pretty!  Print out your two copies.

STEP #4:
When you are done, add some of the items to your grocery list and then put the lists into the Make-a-Menu Binder.

We will get the lunch station assembled later. Your job between now and the beginning of school is to get lunch boxes, containers, thermoses, etc. organized. You will also need to be searching for awesome deals on the items your kiddos listed on the favorites list. In addition, you'll need baskets or containers for organizing the food items.  I'm going to use plastic stacker pull-out drawers, because my kitchen is small.  Basically, just think about finding a location that keeps everything in one place and is accessible to the kids.

By the way, if you or your hubby/wife take a lunch to work this system is for you too! Make a lunch list for everyone in the family!!

And lastly... The truth is that part of me secretly looks forward to school and the daily routines that follow. There's the thought of a cleaner house to look forward to. And there's the though of not being in perpetual meal preparation mode while my children eat anything that doesn't move. But don't tell anyone my secret, especially my girls...

Monday, August 13, 2012

MAKE-A-MENU - Baby Step #5 (What to do with leftovers)

"What???  Leftovers???  We HATE leftovers!!!"

If your family cries out in pain when you serve up yesterday's yummies warmed over for today, you need a plan for making those "yesterday's specialties" just as special today.  So what should you do?  Package up those leftovers with plans for re-creation, add them to your menu calendar, and stick them in the freezer.

Don't serve your "left-over creations" the night after cooking the original.  Put it on your MAKE-A-MENU Calendar for another day, and everyone will think you are an AWESOME cook!

Which leads me to today's assignment

Today, please set up a section in your Make-a-Menu Binder with the following tab: Leftovers. There you'll add "recipes" for your leftovers.

For example, we had pot roast with gravy, peas and carrots on Sunday. We had lots of leftovers. I dumped everything in a zip lock and labeled it "beef pot pie". I then went to my computer and typed up the "recipe": The ingredients listed include a packaged pie crust, bagged pot roast leftovers, additional gravy, 1 potato, additional veggies.

While it seems silly to write down these ingredients, it will help me when shopping. Remember that we use our Make-a-Menu Binder to set up a menu and shopping list step-by-step, and one of the steps is to look at the recipe and add the ingredients that you don't have to your grocery list.

If you develop "recipes" using your leftovers, your picky family won't feel like they are eating warmed over stuff from last night and not one of them will revolt or roll on the floor or gnash their teeth and cry. And they will not call you the Soup Nazi. You might, however, be awarded The MAMA! (Most Awesome Mother Award)

And lastly, stretching your menu with leftovers will save you time and money! Cha-ching!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MAKE-A-MENU :: Baby Step #4

Hi Y'all!  We've spent the last 3 days baby-stepping our way in menu-making land, and now we're ready to put it all together.  We're ready to make a menu and shopping list based on what the sale items of the week are so that we hear "KA-CHING" in our bank accounts!

I'm so excited!!!  Are you???

In Make-a-Menu  :: Baby Step #3 I gave you a list of supplies that you need to assembly your menu planner.   Hopefully you have those ready. Get a cup of coffee or a glass of icy cola, grab your supplies, and let's get started!

We're going to do this in 3 easy steps!


Step #1:  Choosing your recipes...
* Pull out your favorite grocery store's sales flyer. What kind of main ingredients are on sale this week? For example, is there an awesome deal on chicken, hamburger meat, or pork chops?
* Choose one main ingredient that is on sale to focus on and then pull out your Baby Step #1 Family Favorites List.
* Choose 5 recipes from your Family Faves using that main ingredient. Using printer paper or notebook paper, make a recipe page for each meal by printing it out, scanning it, or whatever you need to do to get it into your notebook.  Even if it's a meal that isn't a "recipe", like something quick you just throw together, write it down in recipe fashion.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.  DON'T SKIP THIS STEP!
* Jot down the ingredients for the recipes you choose to cook onto your grocery list. When you are done, put the recipes behind the appropriate tab in your notebook.
* When you are done with the flyer and Family Favorite List, put them into your new notebook. You can put the flyer in the front pocket and make a tab divider for your family favorites.

Step #2:
* Write the 5 recipes on your calendar. It's a good idea to separate the recipes over several weeks, if you can. That way your family doesn't have to eat chicken 5 days in a row if at all possible. We don't want them to revolt and demand trans-fatty nuggets from Fast Foodie Land!!

Step #3:
* SHOPPING DAY and time to prepare your food for freezing in recipe portions!  After you purchase the ingredients, it's time to do a little prep work if at all possible. Making sure that the main ingredient is packaged in a convenient manner is crucial! At the minimum, meat should be sealed in single-cooking-session packages. But hopefully, you'll have time to do a little extra prep work such as frying up the ground beef and packaging it in 2-cup bags, boiling the chickens and doing the same, marinating a bag of "dump" chicken, or making up a batch of meatballs, for example.


You can go check out your freezer and apply this lesson to any main ingredients you already have. It will make your menu planning and cooking effortless and... yes.... BRAINLESS!!!

Also, if there is a recipe you've been wanting to try, just apply the same principles: Print it out... put it in the appropriate section... add it to your shopping list... add it to the menu... buy the ingredients... cook it...

When you are done, please go have some more chocolate and wine.... again...   You deserve it.


Peace to you all,
The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time

Saturday, August 11, 2012

MAKE-A-MENU :: Baby Step #3

Hi Y'all!  I hope you're enjoying this tutorial series on making your OWN menu planning system that works JUST FOR YOU and your family!   We're half way to finishing now, and I hope you're beginning to see how your binder is going to help you!

Now that you have your menu-making skills well under way, it's time to make this system really pay! Yes, I said PAY! You will pay less at the grocery store, and extra money in your wallet is just like a paycheck!  We're going to focus on loss leaders, which are the items that the grocery store reduces each week hoping that you'll stop by to purchase.

For today's project, you're going to need a few supplies:
1. dividers
2. a hole punch
3. notebook paper

After you gather your supplies, it's time to get the notebook set up. Here are the labels for your dividers:

1. My menus
2. My family's favorites
3. Chicken
4. Beef
5. Pork
6. Fish
7. Desserts
8. Breads
9. Appetizers
10. DIY Mixes
11. Untried recipes

Does it sound a little like a cookbook? Well, in a way it is! It will become a cookbook of your family's favorite meals.
Go and get this set up. Keep it simple! Please don't put anything in it yet!!

And when you're done, don't forget to eat chocolate and drink wine.  Very important that chocolate and wine... so don't forget this step!

Peace to you all,
The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time

Friday, August 10, 2012

MAKE-A-MENU - Baby Step #2 - Making a Menu in 3 easy steps!

Hi y'all!  So glad you're here today to tackle the Make-a-Menu Plan - Baby Step #2!  This is super easy, so let's get right to work:

To get started, here’s what you’ll need:
1. Your Make-a-Menu Binder which should have your Make-a-Menu Calendar, list of Family Favorites, and list of what’s already in your freezer.
2. Family Calendar.


Let's Make-a-Menu in 3 easy steps!

STEP #1:
Get your blank Make-a-Menu Calendar. Choose a meal theme for each day of the week. Write down the themes above the day-of-the-week columns on your calendar. Here's mine:

Sunday – casseroles, some type of big meal like a roast or roasted chicken, grilled meats
Monday – sandwiches, salads, soups
Tuesday – Italian, pasta, beef
Wednesday – Mexican, beans
Thursday – Chicken, fish
Friday – hot dogs, hamburgers
Saturday – Calzones, pizza, or another day of grilled food

STEP #2:
Get your family’s calendar. Look at the schedule. Are there any nights that will be too busy for cooking? Plan for using the slow cooker, using leftovers, having sandwiches or some other quick meal, or you’ll need to have something ready to cook straight from the freezer. Note this on your Menu Calendar. Put the Family Calendar away.

STEP #3:
It's time to Make-a-Menu! Get your list of “Family Favorites” and your list of and meats or meals “Already in the Freezer”. Using those two lists, start filling in your calendar with what you already have. To save time, try to cook meat one night and use it again on another night. As you use a "Favorite", check it off the "Family Favorites" list.

Try to get the current week and maybe the next week filled in. Keep on going and fill in as much of the month and the upcoming month as you can, using the ingredients you already have.

(Here, I have the daily theme and menu items highlighted in yellow. The notes to myself (crockpot, vacation) are highlighted in pink. I wish I new how to download a document the right way so you could really see this. At least it gives you a general idea.)

When you're done, check your fridge and pantry and see if you have all the other ingredients needed to comlete each meal. What about extras like garlic toast or rolls, salads and other side dishes? Make notes of any groceries that you will need to complete the meals. You should pick those items up this weekend, and then your week will be on autopilot!!!


Congratulations! You’re done! Put all your lists back in your Make-a-Menu Binder. Hang your Menu Calendar where you can see it. With this menu you’ll be able to use what you already have, save time, save money, and not end up at the junk-food store.

Don’t forget to check your calendar each evening after the evening meal is over and the kitchen is cleaned. Do you need to take some meat out for tomorrow? Set up the slow cooker? Chop onions?

Stay tuned for Baby Step #3, when we’ll talk about SAVING MOOLAH with loss leaders to stock the freezer and fill up our Make-a-Menu Calendar at the same time.

Until then...
Peace to you all,
The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time

Thursday, August 9, 2012

MAKE-A-MENU ::- Baby Step #1

Good morning, Menu Makers!

I'm reposting the original MAKE-A-MENU :: Baby Step #1.  Sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning and refresh yourself.  After all, it was 2008 when I originally posted this!  2008!!!  Can you believe it??

If you have ANY questions about this, PLEASE post your question, or go to my facebook page (link is in the right sidebar) and join the conversation there! 

For anyone who is struggling with menu making, for anyone who ran through McDonald-land last night because you had nothing to cook or no time to cook, for anyone who is spending waaayyy too much on groceries... This is for you!

Today we’re going to get started with our menu planning! For those of you who already have a handle on this job, more power to ya! For those of you who are challenged in this area… Read on.
We’re going to take this in baby steps over the next 5 days.  This is Day #1, here is your "baby step" task for today:

You can start your own personal menu-planning service in 5 easy steps!:

STEP #1:
Get a small binder for your menus. You will keep this in your kitchen.

STEP #2:
 Print out blank calendars for this month and the next two. Don’t try to get fancy here! Just print out a calendar. I used Microsoft Works. Took me a minute at the most. Here is my blank calendar. See how simple and boring it is? It was quick.

STEP #3:
On a seperate sheet of paper, make a list of supper recipes that your family members like. GO AND ACTUALLY ASK EACH PERSON. You might be surprised at what they tell you!! If you have a few more minutes, organize this list by meat category. For example, my family likes chicken patties and various dump chicken recipes. I’ll be prepping these with the chicken that is on sale. But more about that later!!
STEP #4:
On another sheet of paper, make a list of meat items you already have in your freezer. Don’t forget to categorize!

STEP #5:
Put your calendars and your lists in your binder. Don’t put anything else in your binder for now!

Congratulations! You're done for for today! Wasn’t that exhausting?? Now go eat some chocolate or take a nap.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beef Cooking Plan :: "Have your steak and eat it too!"

When sirloin, round steak, or chuck steak are on sale, it’s time to stock up and plan on putting these awesome recipes in your freezer. Hunting season’s coming, and these recipes would be wonderful made with venison too!

This set of savory dishes will fill your freezer with 3 crockpot and 1 skillet dishes. Get ready to enjoy the rich flavor of Beef Bourguignon, yummy and slightly tangy Beef Stroganoff, spicy south-of-the-border Carne Guisada,and tender Swiss Steak. From start to finish, this cooking session will take you an hour without interruptions. When you’re finished, don’t forget to add these meals to your Make-a-Menu Calendar!

On your mark, get set, go!

4 Gallon-size plastic freezer bags
large skillet
large bowl
counter-top blender or stick blender
scale (helps to weigh meat)

8 pounds steak
Seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s
3 slices bacon
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried mustard
2 large onions,
chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
12 pearl onions
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup red wine
6 cans beef consommé
1/8 tsp. crushed dried basil
2 carrots, chopped
½ tsp. thyme, crushed
1 tsp. pepper 1 clove fresh garlic,
minced pinch of nutmeg
5 Tbsp. Bolner’s Fiesta Carne Guisada Seasoning

12 button mushrooms
¼ cup sour cream
Egg Noodles

Label the 4 plastic freezer bags as follows: Carne Guisada, Swiss Steak, Beef Bourguignon, Beef Stroganoff

Slice meat as follows:
2 pounds of cubes
4 pounds 2” long thin strips
2 pounds cut into single-portion steaks

Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. flour in the bag labeled “Carne Guisada” and add 2 pounds of the thin strips. Shake really well to coat all the meat. Add 2 cans consommé and ½ cup diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel) Freeze. Add the meal to your menu on a night you need a slow cooker meal.

Chop all your vegetables and set aside in bowls or on paper plates.

Make the Beef Bourguignon by doing the following:
(a) Dredge the beef cubes in 1/3 cup flour, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, and ½ tsp. thyme.
(b) Cook the bacon in a large skillet. Remove from the pan when done, putting in a large bowl, and leaving the cooking fat in the pan.
(c) Saute ½ cup chopped onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 chopped carrot, and 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley for 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Pour all this into the bowl.
(d) Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the pan and sauté the pearl onions. Add ¼ wine to the pan to deglaze, cover and steam for 10 minutes. Pour onions into the bowl when done.
(e) Pour ¾ cup wine plus 1 can consommé into the bowl.
(f) Pour all the contents into the bag labeled Beef Bourguignon. Freeze when cooled. Add the meal to your menu on a night you need to use the slow cooker!

Make the Stroganoff:
(a) melt 1 Tbsp butter in the same skillet as above, sauté 1/4 cup chopped onions.
(b) Add the remaining (2 pounds) thinly sliced meat to the pan and brown. Add 1/3 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, the basil, a pinch of nutmeg, 1 tsp. dried mustard, 2 Tbsp. flour, ½ Tablespoon tomato paste, 2 cans consommé and the sliced mushrooms.
(c) Pour into the bag labeled “Beef Stroganoff”. Freeze when cool. Add this meal to your menu when you have time to use the stovetop.

Make the Swiss Steak:
(a) In the same skillet, which is now empty again, add the 2 Tbsp. canola oil and lightly brown steaks on both sides. Remove steaks to a platter.
(b) Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the pan and add ½ cup chopped onions, chopped green bell pepper, chopped celery and sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 can consommé.
(c) Blend the heated mixture from the pan by either using a stick blender right in the pan or transferring to a countertop blender.
(d) Pour the blended mixture into the plastic freezer bag labeled “Swiss Steak”. Add the steaks to the bag. Cool then freeze. Add this to your menu on a night you have time to use the stove.




Beef Bourguignon: Thaw. Pour into the slow cooker. Cook 4-6 hours. (Honestly, I just put mine in the slow cooker completely frozen, then cook 8 hours.  The food police are going to come get me!)  Before serving, make rice and a side vegetable. Saute button mushrooms and add to the slow cooker.

Beef Stroganoff: Thaw. Heat on the stovetop for 30 minutes. Turn stove off and add ½ cup sour cream. Serve with egg noodles and steamed green beans.

Swiss Steak: Thaw. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours or until tender. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Carne Guisada: Thaw. Pour into the slow cooker. Remove ½ cup of the liquid and mix with 5 Tbsp. Bolner’s Fiesta Carne Guisada Mix. Pour  the mix back into the slow cooker and stir to distribute. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with hot tortillas and a large green salad with avocado.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Mondays with The Menu Maker Mom ~ A video disaster

Hi there!  Do you need a good laugh???  Then watch my video, where I attempt to introduce myself to you.  My poor quality video has me making about a billion strangely weird contorted faces.  I should be in the face-making olympics!!!  Oh, they don't have one?  Well they could start one and name it after me!

Any self-respecting person would just scrap the video project and get some video lessons, but I worked all day long at this poor quality video and I'm going to share it anyway! 
If you live near me, and you see someone walking around town wearing enormous sunglasses and a hat, as she hides in the shadows... yep, that will be me.  Actually, if it's not me, then it's one of my children.
Until then, enjoy the laugh!

Peace to you all!

The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mama's Pizza Kitchen

Mmmm….  Can you smell that?  Welcome to Mama's Pizza Kitchen.   I wish the internet had smell-a-vision because this kitchen smells absolutely scrumptious!! 
It’s Saturday night, Pizza Night around here.  The flavorful aroma of cheesy pepperoni pizza just fills the air.  Everyone’s tummy is grumbling, and kids are repeatedly crying out, "Is it ready yet?"   A movie is ready to be played, the sodas are chilling in the fridge, and the obligatory salad has been made.

I say obligatory, because every good Mama should have fresh veggies prepped for the meal…  but we all know that when there’s fresh homemade pizza coming out of the oven, the salad might just go untouched.  Consider it great planning to have tomorrow’s salad already made!  Yeah, that’s right…  Act like you planned it that way!

Making the pizza dough isn’t very hard at all.  I haven’t purchased a premade pizza crust in years, because these are just so easy to make.  You can even freeze the dough if you parbake it for 10 minutes or so, cool it, then wrap it well. 

Don’t let all the steps in this tutorial scare you.  I really broke it down, so you could get a good look at the whole process.

If you don’t have a mixer, then mix it up by hand.  It will only take you a few minutes longer, and you can get an arm work out too!!!

As for the toppings, do what you like.  Anchovies, pineapple, ham, sliced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, taco meat, jalapenos…  the sky’s the limit here!
Are you ready to make some pie?   If the answer is yes, then gather the following ingredients:
Ingredient List

3-1/2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons yeast or 1 packet yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

STEP #1:  Dissolve the yeast in warm water

 Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of WARM water.
You can do this in a cup or in your mixing bowl.
If you dissolve the yeast in warm water in a cup,
transfer it to your mixing bowl when you are done.

You can see that the yeast it completely dissolved.  It's even a bit bubbly after mixing and sitting for a bit.

STEP 2: Add the rest of the ingredients
Add 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons olive oil to the bowl.
We're ready to start mixing now....

STEP 3: Mix the dough (Make a mess)

On medium speed, mix until the dough is pulling from the side of the bowl.
Did you read that little post script on the photo?  It says, "P.S.  You are going to make a mess.  It's okay."
And if you're doing this by hand in a large bowl, you can read that out loud twice.  And smile while you're doing it.
Don't forget...  the kids can clean this up.  What did we have them for anyway???
STEP 4:  Add flour and knead your dough

Mix that dough up, then when you see it pulling away from the side of the bowl, it's time to start adding flour.

Add 1/2 cup of flour, then mix.  Then start adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until a ball forms.  When you have a nice ball that isn't sticky, STOP adding flour. 

Kneed your dough in your mixer for 2 minutes. Your dough should be soft like Play Dough.  Don't make it stiff.

If you're not using a stand mixer, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get a work out!  Knead your dough by hand for 5 minutes.
STEP 5: Roll the dough into a ball

When you are done kneading your dough in the mixer or in a bowl, take it out and form a large ball.
Pretty, isn't it?  
STEP 6: Grease your bowl

It's just about time to put our little dough ball down for a nap, but first we need to give the bowl a quick spray with non-stick cooking spray.  You can oil it with some olive oil instead if you like.  Just make sure the bowl has been greased so the dough doesn't stick.
STEP 7: Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover

Put the dough ball in the bowl and say goodnight!

Cover your dough with plastic wrap or a plate.  The goal is to keep the air out.  We want our dough to stay slightly warm and we don't want air to dry it out.

STEP 8: 
Oops....  looks like miscounted my photos!!!  Go on to #9.  Don't tell anyone that I'm not perfect.

STEP 9: Get the dough out of the bowl

After about an hour,  your dough should be much larger, smooth, and puffy looking.  It smells good too!

Take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface.  I use a roulpat, which is a flexible rolling mat.  That keeps my counter clean.
You can leave your dough ball all intact so a large pizza can be made, or you can cut it into smaller chunks of dough. 
As you can see, we are having individual personal pizzas tonight!
STEP 10: Sprinkle cornmeal in a pan

Whether you are using a pizza stone or a cookie sheet, if you sprinkle some cornmeal on the pan, your pizza won't stick.  The dough sort of rides on top of the cornmeal. 
Don't forget to do this part!

STEP 11: Roll it out

Roll out the dough on your floured surface and transfer to your pan!
The traditional way to prepare pizza dough is to pat it out, and the fun way to do it is to throw it up in the air... but I like to roll it. 
I've tried throwing it, but ended up tossing it to the floor.  The 10-second rule does not apply to dough landing on the floor.  You pretty much have to chunk it and call Dominos.
STEP 12:  Add your toppings!

This is where the real creativity begins.  We have pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni, freshly sauteed mushrooms, cooked sausage, green bell pepper, freshly grated parmesan cheese, sliced onions, sliced olives.

Put your favorites on your pizza.  Go crazy! 
 Load it up and try new stuff.  Be wild and have fun!

STEP 13:  Bake and serve!

That's it!  Although I broke it into a lot of tiny steps, it really is super easy and you'll never want a store-bought pizza again.  Have a blast making pizza memories with your family!
Peace to you all,

The Menu Maker Mom

Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Yummiest Fish EVER!

Summertime, sweet summertime!  We just love summertime in South Texas.  A few of the BEST things about living down south near the Gulf of Mexico are the beach, the fishing, and the seafood.  Having friends who own a boat and lodge is always a benefit too!   
On a recent vacation to the gulf coast, we were lucky enough to be invited to the Horn, Fin, and Feather Lodge, operated by the parents of some dear friends of ours, and part of the El Sauz Ranch, which is located near Port Mansfield, a cute fishing spot.  On the first evening of our visit, we drove to a bay-area waterway where we fished off the bank.  Holy Moly!!!   The kids would cast their line and within MINUTES there would be a huge tug! 

Here I am reeling in something...  I'm sure it was an alligator gar.  We caught lots of those prehistoric-looking fish that have a head like an alligator.  They are really ugly, and have a face that only an alligator gar Mama would love!! 

We caught a channel cat or two... 

We also caught several BEAUTIFUL redfish, one that was somewhat of a prize.  Little did I know that lots of spots on a fish are a prize to reel in.  And little did I know that a 32” redfish was a big fish to catch!  Beginner’s luck, I guess!  We all had so much fun that evening, we weighed and tagged “The Big One”, and the men filleted and bagged the fishy for the next day’s dinner.

And in true South Texas fashion, we made a new friend. 

Let me introduce you to Bob.  Here he is with his beautiful daughter and the 48" alligator gar they just rescued from the bay water.  Bob is a rancher, fisherman, farmer of “chuckers”  (that’s a story for later!), AND Bob’s a fireman.  (Firemen like to cook, or so I’ve heard.)  Bob had a recipe for cooking the redfish that did not disappoint us at all.  So yummy!!!

Here’s what he did: 
Bob took the redfish and laid it skin down on heavy duty foil.  Using a sharp knife, he scored the fish all the way to the skin, but not through the skin, leaving it intact.  He smeared butter all over the fish, even down into the cuts he had just made.  Then he topped the fish with Pico de gallo with chopped avocado.  (Pico de gallo a mixture of tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, with a shake of salt.  Bob added lots finely diced avocado to his pico.) Finally he took the foil with fish on top and put it on the grill over hot coals, cooking it until it was flaky and cooked through.

I’m not a true fan of redfish, but this stuff was over-the-top delicious.  Even my picky “I don’t like fish” teenager thought it was some good chow!

I can’t wait to visit El Sauz ranch again.  It was a piece of South Texas heaven. 

I also want to share this beautiful photo of a plant I found growing on the property.  I was told this is called a “Love Vine”.  I have to have one.  I'm going to start hunting for one today, so I can look at it and think of the day we reeled in the yummiest fish ever!
And finally, I leave you with these photos.  Sunsets and nights on the coast are just amazing.  Can't wait to experience this again!

Peace and Joy!
The Menu Maker Mom
Feeding the family ~ One menu at a time