Monday, June 30, 2008


We've been on vacation since Saturday! We're camping in our RV with good friends, and having so much fun floating down the cool, cool river!

Here's what we're dishin' up:

For breakfast:
M - Bacon, potato & egg tacos
Tu - Sausages and pancakes
W - Fried eggs, hash browns, bacon, & biscuits
Th - Repeat Monday
Fr - Repeat Tuesday
S - Repeat Wednesday

sandwiches, fruit, chips, pickles - anything you can pack up and take to the water for the afternoon.

Monday - Marinated, spiced up, grilled chicken halves, green salad with home grown tomatoes, baked potatoes with all the fixin's
Tuesday - Make-your-own foil packet meals! Cobbler for dessert!
Wednesday - Fajita kabobs, guacamole salad, spanish rice, tortillas
Thursday - bbq'd pork ribs, cheesy potatoes, grilled yellow squash, green salad with home grown tomatoes
Friday - JULY 4TH!! - Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, chips & dips, pickles, corn on the cob. Home-made ice cream for dessert!
Saturday - time to go home - Pizza & salad night

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MENU MAKING PROBLEMS - Blood, Sweat & Tears

Sometimes you do the blood, sweat & tears work of making your menu, only to have your loving family sabotage your efforts with their demonic plans to "help" you in the kitchen. How dare they!!! Didn't they see the blood, sweat & tears? Here's an example of this problem:


Teresa at Mexican-American Border Cooking made this comment:

"Leslie, menu planning is so hard but you make it sound so easy. I've tried it before, you know to make grocery shopping a little easier, but two days into the week my husband and daughter start making other plans and there goes the menu. I'm determined to keep trying. Thanks for the great ideas."


Menu Maker Mom's answer to this problem is to go back to the lesson in Baby Step #1. Make sure you have each family member's input before you make the menu. If you are making their very favorite foods, they'll be less likely to interfere and more likely to give you kisses! Just remember not to just tell them "NO!!" to their request as if you were the Soup Nazi. When daughter or hubby announce that they want to try something new, promise to put it on the next menu.

Another way to solve this problem is to ask them to make the menu with you. If they are involved at the core of the process, they might be able to control themselves a little more!

Also, it's time to talk moolah to both of them. Explain how the menu will save money... money that could be spent on beer for hubby and overpriced, paper-thin t-shirts from Aeropostale for daughter!!

No, on second thought don't do that. That's a cruel joke. They will roll on the floor and cry and beat their chests with their fists when they finds out that the money will really be spent on gasoline and air conditioning. sigh.


Please go visit Teresa. Her blog is awesome and has the best recipes! Mucho gusto!!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My biggest kitchen tip in concerns your menu planning and staying on track.


If you have gone through all the trouble of making this menu, then make your hard work count. Don't stick your menu in a drawer or on a pile of papers that will swallow it forever. Stick it in a prominent place. Make it shine, make it noticeable, make it ever-so-important. It is a life-and-death situation!! Okay, that might be pushing it a little. Well, it's a "save-my-sanity situation" for sure!!!

Just remember the old saying, "plan your work and work your plan."

Now when it comes to checking your menu, you should do it twice a day. For example, before you finished your kitchen chores this morning and before you left for work or wherever you go... you should have checked the menu for tonight, making sure that everything is ready to go when it comes time to start supper.

Tonight, after you finish up dishes (or after kids and hubby finish dishes...), check out tomorrow's menu. Take out the meat, set up the crockpot, pre-chop a couple of things, just do whatever you can to make things go smoother. Chances are you won't have to do anything, you'll just feel relieved that supper will go on the table just as planned.

All the checking and prepping will ensure that you get the meal made just as you planned. If you skip the checking step in the Make a Menu sequence, you might end up with the shame of eating at fast foodie land. Eeeewwww!

Monday, June 23, 2008


This is what'll be dished up at my house this week:

Sunday - Roasted chicken with gravy, cheesy mashed potatoes, peas, sliced tomatos, rolls

Monday - BLT Sandwiches on split rolls

Tuesday - Crocked chicken tenders in soup-sauce, egg noodles, steamed broccoli

Wednesday - Chalupas with guacamole

Thursday - Lasagna, salad, garlic toast

Friday - Hot Dogs, Chips, Mac 'n Cheese, Veggie Dippers

Saturday - VACATION BEGINS!!! - Taco salad for first night.


BTW, here are some cute menu forms that you can download for FREE, made by Heavenly Homemakers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


One of the best things about having a menu and having all your ingredients on hand is that you can be very flexible. What I mean is that even though you have a calendar, and everything is written down, it is NOT written in stone! If you discover that your family would be happier with Thursday's dinner on Sunday, well by all means cook the Thursday meal! After all, you probably have all the ingredients on hand anyway because when you made your menu, you transferred all the needed ingredients to your shopping list and then went to pick them up.

I had planned on frying a chicken on Thursday and making lasagna today. But we ate homemade pizza last night. The kids ate ravioli for lunch. If I stick another spaghetti sauce-type meal in front of them they will revolt, roll on the floor, and swear that I am The Soup Nazi.

So, because I love them; and because I have my trusty, flexible menu; and because I have all the ingredients on hand; and because I love them... I will take pity on them and do a Make a Menu switch-a-roo. We will have Thursday's meal on Sunday and Sunday's meal on Thursday. And I will get the Most Awesome Mother Award (better known as the "MAMA").


(Of course, no one actually said this to me, or raised an actual pom-pom in my humble honor. If they did, I would have a photo of an actual human child or husband (or nephew or friend-of-child) waving thankful arms in my direction. So, pathetic as I am, I posed this very overpriced American Girl doll in an appreciative pom-waving stance.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

FRUGAL FAMILY FUN - the snacking frenzy begins

Now that we are into the full swing of summer, it's time to keep the kids busy, otherwise they turn into lazy, bored, argumentative aliens! In addition to keeping the kiddos busy, keeping the kitchen stocked with ready-to-eat, healthy, frugal snacks is a challenge too! The aliens have huge appetites and are never satisfied!! They want more and more and more and.....

I keep my fridge stocked with yogurt, string cheese, grape and strawberry jelly, homemade refried beans, corn tortillas, lots of seasonal fruit found on sale, sandwich meat, and cut up carrots, cucumbers, celery, and broccoli. I also keep ranch dressing in the fridge to use as dip for the veggies.

The freezer has frozen french fries, hard-boiled eggs, home-made hot pockets, ice cream, popsicles, frozen pizzas (some homemade and some purchased), pizza rolls, ready-to-bake homemade biscuits, home made waffles and pancakes, battered mozzerrela sticks, and whatever bargain treats I find at the grocery market.

My pantry holds bread, cereal, crackers of all sorts, peanut butter, chips and pretzels, ramen cups (I know this is not the healthiest..., but they really like it!), ravioli (ditto on the last comment), boxes of mac-n-cheese, raisins, peanuts in the shell and canned nuts.

There is a bowl on the counter with fresh fruit and the cookie jar has homemade cookies. (I make up several batches at a time and freeze.)

I don't ever hear "there's nothing to eat," and my girls have pretty healthy snacks for the most part. They don't use the oven yet, but do use the stovetop and microwave. They are capable of making things like grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese, and scrambled eggs. They love to make green salads and fruit salads.

Currently I'm looking for a deal on a good toaster oven. That way they can heat up frozen snack foods, biscuits, etc. (If you know of a great deal on a toaster oven or have a review you can share...Please comment!!)

Now with all this munching going on during the day, there are two problems that creep up: 1) The Mess!!; 2) "But I'm not hungry!" when supper is served. Here's how I tackle those two problems:

For Problem #1 - Sweet Pea's chore is to empty the dishwasher in the morning. The rule is that everyone is responsible for putting their dishes into it if they dirty a dish or two. Any cooks must put away what they have taken out and clean up the counters when they are done. If they forget, then they may not have any more snacks until it's done or until the next meal is served. Simple and it works. As the Soup Nazi said, "No soup for you!!" (One of my favorite Seinfeld characters!!)

For Problem #2 - At least an hour before supper is served Sweet Pea and Sugar Dumplin' know that there is a snack moratorium. The kitchen is closed! Don't even ask! Don't try to swipe a cookie! Sometimes they whine. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they swear that they will absolutely pass out if they can't have a snack because they are STARVING and they haven't eaten in a reaaaalllllyyy long time (at least half an hour). Sometimes they say the starvation is causing harmful pains and that I am a cruel kitchen dictator and possibly even The Soup Nazi.

But when supper is served, they eat it up, say they like it, smile, and kiss the cook.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH blog carnival

The Make it from Scratch blog carnival is originated at Our Red House . I'm new to the blog world, and the idea of going to a carnival while on the computer still hasn't made connections in my little brain. Still, I'm going to try to go to the carnival. My fingers are running over to the party via my keyboard right now!

My contribution to the Make it from Scratch carnival is the Tortilla recipe I promised in an earlier post. We made tortillas tonight with our Mexican Picadillo... Actually, my 11-yo daughter made it. While our mexican flapjacks weren't exactly round, they were totally yummy! Made me want to don my sombrero! Mucho bueno!!

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup shortening

1/2 - 3/4 cup warm water

1. Put the baking powder, flour, and salt in a big gowl. Mix well.

2. Add the shortening to the bowl. Mix with a fork or pastry cutter until it is mixed together. It will be dry and crumbly.

3. Add about 1/2 cups warm water and mix to create a dough. If it is too dry, add a teeny bit of water. If it is too sticky, add a teeny bit of flour. Only adjust with minimal amounts of ingredients at a time.

4. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should not be dry, and should almost be slightly sticky. If it absolutely sticks to your fingers, about a tablespoon of flour can be added.

5. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with a dishtowel or plate. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

6. Make little balls the size of golf balls. Roll them until flat with a wooden rolling pin. You might have to cover your rolling area with a little flour. Don't use too much, though!!

7. Cook the flat tortillas on a hot griddle until they have brown spots on each size.
8. Eat with lots of butter!
My mother frequently made us tortillas when we were growing up. We always felt so lucky! Her tortillas are so soft and just delicioso! Years ago, I asked her to tell me the secret to making such good tortillas and her answer was, "practice." I also asked the lady at our local taco joint, Rock House, what her secret was. Her answer was, "always use the same bowl."
(Actually, I make my tortillas with my Kitchen Aid Mixer, which I love so much that I want to marry it.)
So go pick out your bowl and name it "My Tortilla Bowl." Make your tortillas, then make them again, then make them again, etc., etc. You'll get the fluffiest, yummiest tortillas you've ever had!

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY - Cold watermelon, great friends, happy kids, cool river, hot sun... LIFE

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Buying a whole chicken can be quite a bargain over buying chicken pieces. Especially when you use a coupon! I recently used this Pilgrim's Pride coupon, and ended up with a chicken at just slightly over 50-cents a pound. Awesome deal! Click this Pilgrim's Pride link to print your own coupon and get the same deal!

Well, about that chicken...

I cook a lot. Pretty much all by scratch. I've done it for many years. (Okay - not that many. I'm not that old!) Instead of the usual roasting or boiling my little discount hen, I thought I'd split that bird in half, like a butterfly, and bbq it.

Due to my extensive so-called (by me only) cooking "expertise", you'd think I'd know how to cut a whole chicken in half by now. But I don't. On Father's Day I cut up a whole chicken and put it on a hot grill over smokin' coals. Tasted fabulous, was moist and tender, but it didn't look like a chicken anymore.

Wish I'd seen the following instructional video before committing the hideous poultry massacre.

How to cut up a chicken

Finally, click here for current printable TARGET coupons. And don't forget, manufacturer's coupons can be combined with TARGET Store coupons for extra savings!

Bluebunny Ice cream - $1.00 off! Print as many as you need!


P.S. For more Kitchen Tips, click on Tammy's Recipes!


Okay, Dave Letterman, move over! It's time for Menu Maker Mom's top ten.

This Tuesday's topic is:

Drumroll, please....

10. I work at a school, so I'm off for a few weeks!!

9. No homework for the girlies! Woo hoo!!

8. Catching up on cleaning, painting, decorating, gardening. I'm not a fan of the actual work of cleaning, but I am a fan of seeing my house in a somewhat clean state... So in this case, it is the product, not the process, that is important!!

7. More time to organize my coupons! (I am pathetically addicted to coupons. Please help me.)

6. Laying on the trampoline with my girls, and watching the clouds as they morph into elephants, houses, cars, donuts...

5. Did I mention that I'm off for a few weeks?

4. Swimming!

3. Doing lots of artsy crafty things with my girls. This is the opposite of #8. It is definitely the process, not the product!! Also, this is where we undo all the cleaning that is done in #8!!!

2. Vacationing in the RV is so much fun!

And the #1 thing that I love about summer... (more drumroll, please)...


Monday, June 16, 2008


Well, I had NO TIME for blogging, it seems!! My road was paved with good intentions, but my calendar was filled with so very much! Now that summer is here and life is finally slowing down, I can try to resurrect this idea.

I've been busy organizing my coupons and hitting the stores. I just love saving money, especially now that gas prices are gobbling up a larger portion of my budget. It's so much of a thrill to see those coupons add up... I feel like I'm in Vegas, baby!

In the rural community where I live we have an HEB, a Wal Mart, and a Super S. But soon we'll soon be blessed with a Walgreens! I can't wait!! I don't shop regularly at CVS or Target because I'd have to drive an hour to get there. That sort of eats up any coupon savings!

Later today, I'll be heading over to Super S to pick up a few things. I'll do a posting about my savings later on. They are the only store that offers double coupons, and since they're generally overpriced, I only use coupons combined with sale items.

Well here it is... My menu plan for this week:

Monday - Pan fried country ham with potatoes and green beans, rolls

Tuesday - Green salad with grilled chicken and black bean, corn, and lime salsa

Wednesday - Mexican picadillo with fresh tortillas (recipe to follow!)

Thursday - out to eat at the girls' softball party

Friday - We'll eat at a neighborhood party. Think I'll take a mexican layer dip. (recipe to follow!)

Saturday - Homemade pizzas! (recipe to follow!)
don't forget to visit for more ideas!