Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BATCH COOKING :: Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

**updated on 8/4/2010**

Get ready to fill your freezer with 5 delicious chicken recipes. What’s great is that 2 of these recipes are perfect for busy nights and use the crock pot. One of the recipes is a healthy replacement for your kiddo’s favorite chicken nuggets.

Be sure to look for bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale. Each bag usually comes with 6-8 pieces, so buy at least 5 bags. If you spend $6.00 per bag, your meals still cost less than $6.00 each!!!   OR you can purchase bags of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a lower price. 

** Don’t forget to add these meals to your Make-a-Menu Calendar as soon as they hit the freezer!!**

MENU MAKER MOM’S FREEZER MENU:
Tropical Chicken
MMM’s Crunchy Chicken Tenders
Sensational Chicken and Potatoes
Parmesan Chicken
Hurry Up Chicken Fajitas

INGREDIENTS:
1/3 cup BBQ sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1 cup spaghetti sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup orange marmalade
4 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp. flour
4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. minced garlic (fresh or jar)
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cumin
2-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. season salt
4-1/2 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/3 cup bread crumbs
30 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Small box/bag of cornflakes (about 14 oz.) (store brand is great, or use coupons to get FREE cereal!)
2 Green peppers
2 onions
4 potatoes
1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
4 cups milk
4-6 slices mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan Romano cheese, grated
1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks

FREEZER SUPPLIES:
2 quart freezer bag, 3 gallon freezer bag.  Label your freezer bags:

1 quart-size bag with “Tropical Chicken”
1 gallon-size bag with “MMM’s Crunchy Chicken Tenders – bake on cookie sheets at 350 for 10-15 minutes”
1 gallon-size bag with “Sensational Chicken and Potatoes”
1 gallon-size bag with “Parmesan Chicken”
1 quart-size bag with “FAST Stovetop Chicken Fajitas”

KITCHEN TOOLS:
3 large mixing bowls, 2 cookie sheets, 1 shallow bowl, 1 medium mixing bowl, food processor or blender (optional)

STEP-BY-STEP:
1. 4 HOURS or ONE NIGHT BEFORE: Marinate 6 chicken breasts in ¼ cup Italian salad dressing in the refrigerator.

2. Cut 10 chicken breasts long-wise into ½” strips. Put one half the strips into the bag labeled “FAST Stovetop Chicken Fajitas”. Add 2 Tbsp. minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. canola oil, ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, ¼ tsp. ground cumin, 1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice to bag. Squish and squeeze to coat. Seal and freeze.

3. Cut the other half of the chicken strips further, into 2” slices. Put into the medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. flour over top and toss together. Put into the bag labeled “Tropical Chicken”. Seal and freeze.

4. Heat oven to 350. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Pour 4 cups milk into a large bowl. Cut 8 chicken breasts into 1” strips. Put into the milk.

5. Process the corn flakes by using the pulse function of your food processor or blender until the flakes are crumbs,  but DO NOT MAKE THE FLAKES INTO DUST!!!   If you don’t have a food possessor or blender, just put the flakes into a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin.

6. Pour the crushed corn flakes into a large bowl. Add the season salt, 4 tsp paprika, 4 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp pepper to the flakes. Place chicken strips one at a time in the mixture, pressing down to coat very well.  You have to press the coating into the chicken with your hands AS HARD AS YOU CAN.

7. Place strips on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 15-18 minutes or until juices run clear. When done, cool then place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and flash freeze for an hour. Place in bag labeled “Chicken Tenders – bake on cookie sheets at 350 for 10-15 minutes”. Seal and freeze.

8. Put 6 chicken breasts into the bag labeled “Sensational Chicken and Potatoes”. Pour 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing on top. Seal and freeze.

9.  Heat oven to 350. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

10. Remove the 6 marinating chicken breasts from the refrigerator. In a shallow bowl, add ½ cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. dried parsley, ½ tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper. Press chicken pieces one at a time into crumb mixture.

11. Place coated chicken pieces the prepared cookie sheet. Pour any extra crumb mixture on top of chicken pieces. Bake approximately 30-45 minutes or until juices run clear. Cool. Flash freeze. Place in bag labeled, “Parmesan Chicken” and freeze.

SERVING INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Tropical Chicken – Thaw. Place in CROCK POT. In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup orange marmalade, 1/3 cup bbq sauce, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, ½ tsp. ginger. Pour over chicken. Add ½ sliced green pepper, ½ sliced onion, 1 small can pineapple chunks (drained). Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with steamed rice and fresh steamed broccoli.

2. MMM’s Crunchy Chicken Tenders – Place frozen strips on a cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until heated through.

3. Sensational Chicken and Potatoes – Thaw. Pour into CROCK POT. Top with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Cut 4 potatoes into wedges and lay on top of chicken. Top with ¼ cup Italian salad dressing, 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with a big green salad.

4. Parmesan Chicken – Preheat oven to 400. Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce into a 9” x 13” casserole dish that’s been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place thawed chicken parmesan pieces in the sauce, then turn to coat.  Cook in oven for 10 minutes. Top chicken with mozzarella slices and bake another 10 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with crusty Italian bread and a big bowl of salad.

5. FAST Stovetop Chicken Fajitas – Drain marinated chicken, saving juice. Slice 1 small onion, one small green bell pepper, and one small red bell pepper. Heat one Tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet. Put chicken and bell peppers into skillet. Stir fry on med-high heat until done, adding liquid an necessary. Serve with tortillas, Spanish rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, sour cream, and salsa. OLE’!

Monday, July 26, 2010

MENU MAKER MOM DOESN'T HAVE A MENU!!!!



I don't have to cook this week!!!  I don't even have to have a menu!  My mom, the girls, and I are going on vacation to New York City!!!  (and yes, I am shouting!)

I'm doing the HaPpY DaNcE!!!!  Yipee!

Oh, don't worry about the Man of the House... he has meals prepared for the entire week.  (SPOILED!)


As I've cooked over the last week or so, I packaged up a plate and froze the containers.  And if you're going to ask me why they're not labelled... 

He will just have to be surprised.  (I'm evil that way!)

~~~*~~~

I won't be posting much this week, since I'll be livin' it up.  But I'll be back next week with photos of our week in the Big Apple! 

Have a WONDERFUL week, friends!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday :: July 19 - July 25

How do Mondays seem to creep up faster and faster?  Summer is just racing by.  We are loving every last second of it!

As I cook this week, I'll be making enough to freeze in single-serving portions for hubby.  He'll be feeding himself next week as the ORIGINAL Menu Maker Mom (my mom), this Menu Maker Mom (ME), and the Teenage Twins head to New York City. 

Yes, I said NEW YORK CITY!!!!!  I'm so excited!  I'll fill you with more details this week...

***************************

Here's what Menu Maker Mom's family will be eating this week:

Monday - Cheese Enchiladas (stay tuned for the recipe and photos later in the week!), Spanish Rice, Avacado salad, Tortillas, Lemonade

Tuesday - Porcupine Eggs (from the freezer!), steamed fresh green beans, brown rice, gravy, iced tea

Wednesday - Frijoles with leftover spanish rice, cornbread, lemonade

Thursday - Cheesy Saucy Crockpot Chicken (dump chicken in the crockpot; cover with Campbells cheddar soup & 1/2 a can of Rotel), buttered egg noodles, fruit salad, iced tea

Friday - Out to Chilies (thanks for the gift certificate, Candi!)

Saturday - GAME NIGHT!  Grilled hot dogs, Homemade Chili, grilled stuffed jalepenos, Grandma's Potato Salad, relish tray, fresh watermelon, Fritos

Sunday - Sunday Roast with potatoes and carrots, Angel Salad, rolls, gravy, pumpkin pie, iced tea

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Have an AWESOME week, my friends!  Life is good!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

FUN FOODS :: Marshmallow Cupcake on a Stick!


My daughters went to the birthday party of one of their friends yesterday, and this is one of the favors they received. 

IT'S JUST TOO STINKIN' CUTE!!!!

I'm going to have to try making these.  It's simply a very large marshmallow drenched in colored sugar, then topped with colored icing and sugar candy decorations.  Set inside a colorful cupcake wrapper, then impaled on a skewer, it becomes a Marshmallow Cupcake on a Stick!

Here it is in a cellophane bag and ribbons:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

GARDEN GOODNESS :: Red Bell Peppers


Don't those look absolutely yummy??? Full of vitamin C, moist on the inside, crispy, sweet, totally organic, just waiting to be dipped into hummus or sauteed with fajitas. 

WOWZA!!!  YUM!!!

This pic was taken at the end of last month.  Now the plants are worn out.  Burnt up in the South Texas summer sun.  They've given their gifts, and for that I say, "THANKS!"

Can't wait to replant next month!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday FUN Day: The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Even though they have cell phones, computers, music galore, wii games, movies, trampolines, bicycles, a golf cart to drive, etc., etc....

Teenagers get bored easily.

Hmmmmffff...

My girls were sitting around one afternoon, saying "We're bored!". 

Yes, teens love to say, "I'm bored".  Actually, it's not a statement.  It's sort of a whine. 

Teens love to whine.

And smart mom's love to reply to a whiny "I'm bored" with "If you're bored I have some chores for you to do". 

That reply ALWAYS shuts 'em up and gets 'em busy real fast!!!!

After I made my obligatory reply to their sighfully made boredom statement, creativity kicked in.  The bored teens decided they wanted to plan a Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  They asked, I gave permission, and I told them that this would be THEIR party, not MINE.  I gave them a budget of $20.00 and promised my help and support.  Of course, Nana purchased a few decorations.  (Grandmas always like to help out!) 


What an awesome experience!  Along with having a GREAT time, the girls learned to plan something from beginning to end and stuck to their budget.  They made their costumes, as did their friends.  We even fashioned a Mad Hatter's hat from an old cowboy hat and paper mache!  They did the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, made invitations, did the decorating. 

This Mama is proud of what they did!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Mad Hatters Tea Party
The cast of characters:
Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Alice, White Queen, Chesshir Cat


Menu

Finger snacks
On the table:  bowls of Gummy Worms, Skittles, and M&Ms


Main Menu
Missie’s Marvelous Devilled Eggs
Chicken and Cheese Sandwiches
Skewers of Cantaloupe, Strawberry, and White Grape
Relish Tray of Cucumbers, Carrots, and Pickles with Creamy Ranch Dressing
Potato Chips
Sammie’s Lucious Lemonade


Dessert
Mini Cupcakes made of spice cake and cream cheese frosting.
Cupcakes have "Eat Me" written on them just like the little Petit Fours in the movie!


Mad Hatter’s Tournament
Bubble Blowing Contest
Pin the Tail on the Rabbit
Flamingo Croquet
Frisbee Toss
Spoons card game
Wii: Alice in Wonderland

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There's hummus among us...

I just love hummus.  It's creamy, slightly tangy, and oh so nourishing.  It's got a perfect mix of high quality fiber and powerful protein.  So cool and yummy served up with pita bread, cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery.  When you throw in the fact that hummus is pretty much a whole food that's super low in bad fat, you just can't ask for more!

Unfortunately, hummus is expensive when you buy it at your deli.  Luckily for my budget, it's so easy to make.  The stuff whips up in a jiffy!

Follow along with me as we make enough for several day's worth of lunches or snacks:

INGREDIENTS:
2 clove garlic
1 (10 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained (save the liquid)
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
spices to taste (use what you like:  cumin, or basil, or chili powder, or smoky paprika for example)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tahini (If you can't find it at your store, you can order it here:)


Just a few ingredients here.  See how easy??  You can do this!
(You can see here that I like mine with cumin.)

Put the garlic in a blender or food processor and chop.  Put the drained garbanzo beans into the processor, along with the lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic, and salt.  Whir it up until it's quite mealy in texture. 

Add some of the reserved liquid through the chute and process some more.  The texture should end up like thick peanut butter.  Not too stiff, but not too loose.  Just make it the way that looks best to you!

When done, mound your hummus into a dish and drizzle with a good quality organic olive oil.  Pair your hummus with pita bread, olives, and fresh veggies of your choice. 

Thought I'd stop here and show you my old workhorse, the Cuisinart food processor.  I love Cuisinart.  After all, they practically invented the food processessor.  Mine is at least 15 years old and runs like there's no tomorrow.  We use it to chop bushels of hot peppers and tomatoes to make vats of picante sauce, take it to our church picnic to chop buckets and buckets of onions, and also use it for the little everyday stuff. 

I love the Cuisinart!  My kitchen wouldn't be complete without it.  Think I'll go stare at it for a while.  See you in a few...  I'll leave you to look at Cuisinart's current selections.  (Please don't drool on your keyboard!)

I'm back now.  Here's a pic of the final product....

 

Mmmmmmm......  Healthy Heaven.....

Time to fill the freezer: Meatballs, Porcupine Eggs, Hamburger Patties, Meatloaf

Hi there, my Menu-Makin' Friends! If you've followed this blog long enough, you've learned that the best way to save money and plan your menu is to prepare and freeze a few recipes at a time, using common ingredients that are on sale. With that in mind, it’s time to fill the freezer with new Make-a-Menu Meals! As always, these are simple everyday-type meals that all your peeps will love. They will sing for joy when you serve MMM-Good Hamburgers, Italian meatballs, MMM’s Meatloaf, or Porcupine Eggs!


This week’s menu uses ground beef. Of course, if you’d like to fill your freezer with even more beef recipes for even more savings, be sure and click on the “Beef Plan” link on the left sidebar. If you find your ground beef on sale for less than $2.00 per pound, which I'll find at HEB this week, this entire batch cooking session should cost you just about $20.00. That's only $5.00 per meal for a family of 4!!
Here’s a couple of quick Make-a-Menu reminders:

1. Don’t forget to add your recipes to your Menu Calendar as soon as they go in the freezer!

2. Add any items that will complete your meal to your shopping list BEFORE your week starts. For example, on the week that you serve meatloaf, you might want to include green beans, mashed potatoes, and rolls. Be sure to add these items to BOTH your menu AND your shopping list. When you serve Italian Meatballs, you might need rolls if you are making meatball subs; or you might need spaghetti noodles if you are serving spaghetti and meatballs.

3. Check out my Make-a-Menu resources and instructions on the left sidebar if you need a refresher on how to make your menus EASY and STREAMLINED!  This is great for ALL families, especially those where both parents are busy working moms and dads!
Let’s get cookin’... Here's the lineup:

MMM-Good Hamburgers

Italian Meatballs

MMM's Meatloaf

Porcupine Eggs

**All recipes serve 4**

**********************************

INGREDIENTS

7 lb. Ground Beef
2 packets Onion Soup Mix
1 packet Beef Gravy Mix
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
½ c. Bread Crumbs (I keep a stash of make-your-own in my freezer)
½ c. White Rice
1 c. Onion, minced (about 1 medium onion)
2 tsp. Salt
1-3/4 tsp. Pepper
3 Eggs
32 oz. (2 cup) Spaghetti Sauce
15 oz. Can Beef Consommé
1 c. Water
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
¼ tsp. Garlic Salt
2 tsp. Basil, dried
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/3 c. ketchup
1/3 c. BBQ Sauce
2/3 c. Quick Oats

***************************************

Other Supplies:
2 Gallon Freezer Bags, 2 Quart Freezer Bags, Wax paper or Fold-over type sandwich bags, Aluminum Foil

***************************************

Step #1 - Make the MEATBALLS

Mix the following and form into 2” balls, then bake at 250 for 20-30 minutes. Cool and freeze in a gallon-size freezer bag.
2 pounds ground beef
½ cup onion
¼ tsp. Peppe
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Garlic salt
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 Egg

**Reserve 24-ounce can Spaghetti sauce OR 1-1/2 to 2 cups homemade spaghetti sauce for serving day

To serve, thaw in the refrigerator then cover with one 24-ounce can spaghetti sauce (or 1-1/2 to 2 cups homemade) and simmer. See "Serving Ideas" at the end of this article.

***************************************

Step #2 - Make the MMM-GOOD HAMBURGER PATTIES

Mix 2 pounds ground beef with 1 packet onion soup mix, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup bread crumbs. Form into 8-10 patties. Place patties into fold-over type sandwich bags or separate by wax paper or foil. Freeze in a gallon-size freezer bag.

To serve, thaw first, then grill, broil, or pan fry. Serve on hamburger buns with all the fixin's and fries or corn on the cob, or with onions and gravy and mashed potatoes. MMM-Good!

****************************************

Step #3 - Make the PORCUPINE EGGS

In a large bowl, mix the following and form into 8 balls. Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and fry the meatballs, or bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool, place into a quart-size freezer bag. Freeze.

1 pound ground beef
½ cup rice
½ cup minced onion
1 tsp. Salt; ½ tsp pepper
1 egg
½ cup spaghetti sauce (freeze the other ½ cup until the day you serve this)

To serve, thaw the meatballs. Place in a casserole dish or crockpot. Add ½ cup spaghetti sauce, 1 15-ounce can of beef consomm√©, 1 cup water, and 1 packet beef gravy mix. Bake 40 minutes at 350 or cook 4 hours on low in the crockpot.

*****************************************

Step #4 - Make MMM’S MEATLOAF

In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients. Dump the whole mess into an aluminum foil lined loaf pan and press down into a loaf-shape. Freeze until almost hard. Remove from the pan, wrap with more foil, and freeze in a gallon-size freezer bag.

2 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 packet onion soup mix
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup bbq sauce
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup quick oats
1 tsp. Pepper

To serve, thaw in the fridge. Place back in the loaf pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

********************************

Serving Ideas:

1. Italian Meatballs are great in soups and stews. They can be used on sub sandwiches and of course, served with spaghetti sauce and spaghetti noodles. They are also superb when sliced in half and placed on homemade pizza!

2. MMM's Meatloaf leftovers make great panini sandwiches!! Leftovers can be crumbled and served over egg noodles for a great dinner too!

3. MMM-Good Hamburgers can be served on buns with all the fixins' along with french fries or corn on the cob, or they can be pan fried and smothered with onions, mushrooms, and gravy then served with a side order of mashed potatoes with peas and carrots.

4. Serve the Porcupine Eggs over a small portion of rice, along with steamed green beans (I love the fresh, of course, but in second place come the steamer packs!  Talk about easy!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - The Camping Edition!!!



Hi Friends!  Welcome to my Menu Maker Mom.  We just returned from enjoying the beautiful outdoors this past week, and we were roughing it at one of Texas' most fabulous rivers, The Frio!


 I use the term, "roughing it" rather loosely.  If you have wi-fi service, cable tv, a refrigerator and air-conditioning, is it still considered camping??? 

Well, I say it is.  And I deserve to say it is.  After all, my dear husband and I enjoyed tent camping with twins from babyhood on into childhood.  It was quite an adventure! 

While I was sad to see the end of our tent-camping era, I barely looked back as we loaded our first travel trailer with our camping supplies.  Air-conditioning!  Indoor plumbing!  Air-conditioning!!  Refrigeration!  Air-conditioning!!!  Okay - I mentioned air-conditioning thrice because we live in South Texas. 
Air-conditioning is a BIG DEAL!!!
******************

Here's what we dined on during our trip:

Day 1
Breakfast at the taco joint on our way out of town!
Lunch - Frio Pies (bagged Fritos, chili, cheese), Mini carrots with ranch dip
Snack - Chips and Queso
Dinner - Grilled Hamburgers, Ranch Style Beans
 

Day 2
Breakfast - Pancakes, sausage, Mom's Sticky Syrup
Lunch - Sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit, sliced cucumbers
Party Appetizer - Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Bombers (stuff fresh peppers with cream cheese, top with a shrimp, wrap with  bacon, and grill.  WOW!!!)
Dinner - YUMMY Q'd Baby Back Ribs, Grilled polish sausage, pasta salad, BLT salad

Day 3
Breakfast - Migas (fry corn tortilla strips, add breakfast sausage, pour on some whisked eggs, top with cheese.  Stick it in a tortilla and pour on the hot sauce.  YUM!!)
Lunch - Hot Dogs, Mac 'n Cheese, Veggie tray, fruit
Snack - Layered Mexican Dip with Tortilla chips
Dinner - Taco Salad
Dessert - mini brownie cups

Day 4
Breakfast - Bean and Cheese Tacos, salsa
Lunch - Sausage wraps, grapes, chips, sliced cucumbers
Snack - summer sausage, crackers, sliced apples, sliced cheeses
Dinner - Mesquite Grilled Chicken Thighs, fresh Green Beans and Potatoes, sliced garden tomatoes
Day 5
Breakfast - Pancakes, sausage, Mom's Sticky Syrup
Lunch - Tuna sandwiches, chips, pickles, fruit, veggie platter
Snack - Queso, guacamole, tortilla chips
Dinner - Surf & Turf!  Grilled steaks and salmon, baked potatoes w/ fixins', green salad
Dessert - SMORES!!

Day 6
Breakfast - Migas again (recipe is above)
Lunch - Hot Dogs, Mac 'n Cheese, Veggie tray, fruit
Snack - Shrimp cocktail, veggies & ranch dip
Dinner - Grilled chicken kabobs, Uncobbed corn (2 teens in braces!), Karen's slaw

Day 7
Breakfast - Pancakes, sausage, Mom's Sticky Syrup
Lunch - Sausage wraps, grapes, chips, sliced cucumbers
Snack - eat it all up!  (clean out the snack basket!)
Dinner - King's Buffet (eat up all the leftovers!)
Day 8 - going home day
Breakfast - Muffins & fruit
Lunch - sandwiches at home
Snack, Dinner, Dessert - Megan's Wedding!!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Apron Strings (and my Chocolate Crinkle Cookie recipe!)





Whether you cook a lot or just a little, if you cook at ALL, you are bound to stain your clothes from time to time... UNLESS you happen to be wearing an apron.  Yes, Grandma was right!  You should put on your apron before you start mixing up bowls of creamy gooey chocolate frosting or frying up finger-lickin'-good pieces of crunchy chicken just like the Colonel! 

I love aprons.  They can be totally utilitarian, or pretty, or sexy, or even silly.  They come in styles that can cover the bottom half of you or the whole enchilada, which is what I generally wear.  I'm only 5'1", and when I stand in front of a counter, any stains will be right at my tummy.  Always looks pretty.

In these photos, my girl is wearing her Daddy's apron.  I made it for him 3 Christmases ago.  The name tag on the front is actually a tag from his brother's military uniform.  It's all sentimental... and totally utilitarian.  It has an adjustable neck strap and front pockets.  And it's made in a cammo fabric, so that the cook can go incognito when necessary!

Yes, I love aprons.  I love finding an apron in a thrift store or antique shop.  I wonder about the person who made it.  Did they make it for themselves or was it a gift?  I wonder about the person who wore it.  Was she a mom or a grandma?  How many meals did she make while wearing it?  Did it just sit inside a drawer?  Did it hang on a hook?  Maybe the owner wore it while tending her garden, filling her pockets with eggs that she carefully carried back to the kitchen. 

My imagination just takes me away.

****************

 
CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together oil, chocolate, and eggs.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add to flour mixture and mix well with a spoon. 

Chill dough for several hours.

Heat oven to 350 F.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets by spraying with non-stick cooking spray or covering with parchment paper (my favorite method).  Fill a small bowl with the powdered sugar.  Create dough balls about the diameter of a quarter.  Roll each one in powdered sugar.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: CROUTONS!

Don't you just love croutons?  I mean really, what's a garden salad without those little crunchy squares of flavored bread?  Luckily for me I almost always have a stash.  After all, there's always a couple of slices of left over bread or rolls to be dealt with.  With these little bits of bread, my freezer stays stocked with bread crumbs and croutons!

Here's last night's leftover sliced and buttered bread.  It sure was good!  Now, it just sits and waits to be forgotten and thrown away.  But not in this house!  I'll give it a second life as crunchy croutons.


This is so simple!  Just cut the bread into small 1/2" squares.  Spray the bread cubes liberally with non-stick spray and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings.  I used garlic salt and italian seasoning.  Mix the bread cubes with your hands to distribute the spices.  Spray some more and sprinkle some more, if you need to. 

Spread the bread cubes evenly on a cookie sheet, broiler pan, or any other flat pan that can go into the oven.  Set the oven temp at 250 degrees F.  Bake for about half an hour to 45 minutes.  Basically bake until the bread cubes looks like croutons!


Cool your croutons before storing them in a tightly sealed container.  I store mine in the freezer, just to be safe.  Can't wait to add them to my salads this week!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Menu Maker Mom ~
Makin' Yummies... Stuffin' Tummies

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday:: Sun, June 27 - Sat, July 3



Welcome to Menu Plan Monday at Menu Maker Mom!  For those of you who are new, Menu Plan Monday is hosted by OrgJunkie.  Stop by and visit!

It'll be an easy week for the cook (that's ME!  Menu Maker Mom!) around here.  Taking the girlies to Camp Nana and Grandpa for a few days of fun and games, which will give MMM time to paint the hallway.  I love having a summer painting project, big or small.  It makes the house smell fresh and somewhat new for a couple of weeks.  When I head back to work in the fall, I will look back at my painted hall and feel like I really accomplished something.  It's proof that I was productive!

I'll be cooking just for my man this week, until the girls come home.  I say that I'll be cooking "for" him for two reasons:  First, truth be known, when the kids are gone I wouldn't cook at all if hubs didn't need to be fed.  I could survive on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bowls of cereal easily!  Second, I LIKE doing this for him.  He appreciates it, and it makes me feel good to make him happy.  I hope he feels the same happiness knowing that I appreciate it when he mows the lawn or washes the dishes!

To those of you who aren't married, or maybe are newly married, it might seem rather silly to find so much joy in mundane tasks like cooking a meal or washing a dish.  It took my husband quite a few years to begin to understand that the way to a woman's heart is not by buying her expensive jewelry, even though a nice bauble here and there is VERY appreciated.  Truly, the way to her heart is through the dish water! 

Yes, it's those mundane tasks like cooking, mowing, washing dishes, and folding clothes that when done for each other can lead to warm, fuzzy, loving feelings... sometimes even HOT feelings!!  If so many couples would understand this concept, think of all the marriages would be saved.  :)

Sorry for being so sappy.  Hmmm....  Sappy rhymes with happy. 

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Well, here's what I'm servin' up this week:

Sunday - Homemade pizza made on crescent dough, Garden salad

Monday - Bean and Cheese Nachos with fresh, homemade salsa

Tuesday - Chef Salads with fresh rolls

Wednesday - Grilled Hamburger Patties, Country Green Beans and fresh New Potatoes

Thursday - Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders, sliced fresh tomatoes, macaroni-'n-cheese

Friday - Spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread

Saturday - Beef Tacos, Layered Bean Dip, fruit salad

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Coming next week:  My Camping Menu (includes breakfasts)

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Menu Maker Mom~
Makin' Yummies... Stuffin' Tummies

Friday, June 25, 2010

9 Ways to Stay Cancer Free - from the Environmental Working Group

~Quoted from the EWG website~

"According to a new report from the President's Cancer Panel, environmental toxins play a significant and under-recognized role in cancer, causing "grievous harm" to untold numbers of people. EWG's own research has found that children are born "pre-polluted" with nearly 300 industrial chemicals, pesticides and contaminants that have been found to cause cancer in lab studies or in people."

"Four of every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and two of every 10 will die from it. Beyond talking to your doctor about lifestyle changes that are known to make a difference -- stopping smoking, reducing drinking, losing weight, exercising and eating right -- there are things you can do to reduce your risk."

"Here are some simple ways you can reduce your exposure to potentially cancer-causing chemicals:"

"1. Filter your tap water. Common carcinogens in tap water include arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is disinfected. A simple carbon tap-mounted filter or pitcher can help reduce the levels of some of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water and home water filters at EWG's National Tap Water Database."

















"2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets. Those built before 2005 are likely coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing. Learn more from EWG."

"3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals. "Fluorochemicals" related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain treatments in the home."

"4. Stay safe in the sun. More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG's sunscreen database."

















"5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Long-lasting cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in animal fat."  (Addition from MMM:  buy organic, grass fed beef and organic, free range chicken when possible.)

"6. Eat EWG's Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer. Eating from EWG's Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG's Dirty Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides."

"7. Cut your exposures to BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. Some of these chemicals cause cancer in lab studies. To avoid them, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA. Get EWG's tips to avoid it."  (Addition by MMM:  Remove plastic from your kitchen.  I use good old-fashioned glass and pyrex containers.)

















"8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. When you're shopping, don't buy products that list ingredients with "PEG" or "-eth" in their name."

















"9. Read the warnings. Some products list warnings of cancer risks -- read the label before you buy. Californians will see a "Proposition 65" warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing."

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Stay Healthy!

Menu Maker Mom ~
Makin' Yummies... Stuffin' Tummies

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BEES!!!!


Take a look at that!!!  Do you know what it is?  BEES!!!!  Millions of them!!  And guess where they were?  On a branch of a tree in my front yard, right next to my driveway... where I had just parked my car!!!  Yes ~ They were right next to my car which held 3 noisy teenage girls, who poured out the doors, laughing, yelling, slamming those doors, and running.  YIKES!!!

The bees formed a dripping ball around the branch.  I'm assuming they were surrounding their queen.  They were calm and didn't to fly about much.  I prayed that if they decided to swarm about that they were not the aggressive type.  My mother-in-law had some bees chase her a couple of years ago.  She was mowing the lawn with the riding lawn mower, and the vibration must have aggravated some nearby bees.  As they began to swarm her, she hopped off the mower and ran toward the house.  All the while, the bees continued to chase her and swarm around her head.

She ran through the house toward the bathroom, still being chased.  A few bees still swarmed around her head as she ran.  After she dropped to the carpet and began to roll, the last remaining bees flew off.  My mother-in-law stood up shaken and stung.

As I looked at our buzzing, branch hugging bees, the thought of them possibly deciding to chase me gave me the chills, so I quickly went back into my house after snapping this photo!

After about an hour, I went back outside to take another look at our buzzing bees.  They were gone.  I guess our tree was just a rest stop for them as they travelled to their final destination.  Wherever they ended up, I hope the honey was good!

In honor of our flying guests, I offer my favorite bread recipe.  I make my bread in a automatic bread maker, and it makes my whole house smell so yummy.  Once done, it doesn't last long around here, as my hubby and daughters quicly slice the warm, yeasty bread and slather it with real butter and local, organic honey.  YUMMM!!!

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HONEY WHEAT BREAD

1 pkg. yeast
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2-1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
1 egg (room temperature)
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. warm water

Put dry ingredients into automatic bread maker.  Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mix.  Bake the bread on the Whole Wheat setting of your bread maker.

Serve with butter and honey!

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If you enjoy making this bread, you might consider getting several Zip-Lock baggies and filling each with the measured out dry ingredients.   You can be making bread every few days, if you like, and your family will once again give you the MAMA!!!  (Don't forget ~ that means Most Awesome Mother Award!!!)

There are lots of bread makers on the market, and you can spend a little or a lot.  Here are a couple of examples:

SO YUMMY!!!! 
And Soooo  M-M-M Good!!!

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Menu Maker Mom
Makin' Yummies...  Stuffin' Tummies

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father's Day Shrimp Boil

Hello, my old friends! It's me, Menu Maker Mom!!

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've shared. As an apology, I offer you my recipe for our shrimp boil!

This is such a fun party, and everyone has a great time. You can never go wrong when you offer shrimp and cold beer to your family and friends! Oh, and don't forget the mimosas... That's what we had, and they were so very refreshing!


This is a fun activity for a summer evening, and really pretty easy to do.  The aroma is very strong, so I recommend that you do this outside in a turkey fryer, and not in your kitchen with a large stockpot.  The most important part of the process is the timing.  Follow the timing that I list and it will all be cooked to perfection!

SUPPLIES:
Gallon-size zip lock bags
Kitchen Timer
Boiling Basket
Turkey Fryer
















INGREDIENTS (I put the meat and veggies into large Zip-Lock bags, so they are ready to be emptied at the right time) :

2 Crab 'n Shrimp Boil bags by Zatarain
1 bottle Crab 'n Shrimp Boil oil by Zatarain
1 cup salt
3 large onions, peeled and cut in half
2 bulbs garlic, top cut off (don't separate the cloves, leave whole)
2 lemons, cut in quarters
10 ears corn, shucked and cut in half (can use frozen halves)
3 pounds link sausage (down here we like Polock's Wedding Sausage!)
4 pounds raw shrimp, large size without heads
3 pound bag small red potatoes

FOR SERVING:
Cocktail sauce
Lemons, cut into wedges

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Set up the turkey fryer with the boiling basket. Fill with water and set it on the fire. Bring water to a boil.
2. Once water boils, add the 2 bags of Crab 'n Shrimp Boil, the bottle of Crab 'n Shrimp Boil oil, the salt, and the garlic. BOIL 15 MINUTES.
3. Add the potatoes. BOIL 7 MINUTES.
4. Add the corn. BOIL 5 MINUTES.
5. Add the sausage. BOIL 5 MINUTES.
6. Add the lemons and onions. BOIL 3 MINUTES.
7. Add the shrimp. BOIL 3 MINUTES.
8. Strain out the water and empty all the goodies in one of the following two ways:
     (a) If you are serving from a buffet-type table, pour the shrimp and goodies into the aluminum turkey pan. You can see from our photo that we served this way, as we had other salads and sides that required a plate and fork.
     (b) If you are serving the traditional way, cover a table with several layers of newspaper. Pour the shrimp and goodies down the table. Everyone eats with their hands! When done, wad up the paper and all the mess and toss into the garbage can! Easy!

Be sure to have cocktail sauce and fresh lemon wedges on the table.  A little Tobasco sauce is good too!

Hope you have a chance to try this out. It is so much fun and gets everyone involved in some way. Be sure to have lots of ice cold beer on hand and take plenty of photos.
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Menu Maker Mom ~
Makin' Yummies... Stuffin' Tummies

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!


Wow! 2010!!! Seems like life just seemed to zip by this year. The faster it goes by, the more I realize that I need to 'stop and smell the roses', as the old saying goes. Last year was so full of family fun, and I just love thinking about all the events that we shared. Since I haven't posted since October, I thought I'd show you what was going on in our household!

During September and October we attended a slew of volleyball games. Being that we live in a rural area, going to a game in another school's gym means traveling, which means we had a few late nights out during the work/school week. No matter... I just love watching my girls play!


Another happening this Fall was my birthday. I turned 45. OMG! That sounds soooo old! Here's the boots my wonderful hubby bought me. I LOVE them! The last time I had a new pair of boots was for my 16th birthday. YES, 16!! I think I was due for a new pair!


Halloween was so much fun. We carved pumpkins and went trick-or-treating. This year was interesting, as it was the first year that I didn't make the girls their costumes. They got together with a friend and designed their own costumes and put it all together themselves. They were "catnappers". No, they didn't fall asleep. They were some type of burglar that takes cats. Don't ask.

In December, the twins showed their animals in both our local Chapter Show for our FFA, and at a prospect show. "B" (pictured on left) won her first showmanship buckle and was so proud of herself! They both have done a fab job raising, caring for, and training their animals.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas volleyball came to an end and basketball started, the girls participated in their school band concert, club volleyball startted for Baby B, there were tryouts for Winterguard for Baby A and then practices stared, there were family events to participate in, and finally thyroid surgery for me... More on that later.

Through it all I managed to stay pretty well organized, and I had all my shopping and planning done by December 13th. My surgery was on the 17th, and recovery was very quick. We ended up sharing a very relaxing holiday, and we all spent two full weeks at home together. It was a wonderful Christmas!

We ended the year on a high note by adding a new member to our family. We're so excited to introduce our new little girl, Trixie!

As the new year begins, I'm thinking about the changes and growth I hope to experience this year. Do you make resolutions? I usually make a resolution or two, and while I don't think I've ever succeeded 100%, having a plan sends me on the path of positive change. Change is good.

Here's what I'm planning this year:

1. Go to bed earlier. It's amazing how much better I feel when I get 7 hours sleep versus 6!
2. Scrapbook all our photos this year.
3. Have friends over for game night at least once every 2 months.
4. Pay off at least 3 debts.
5. Complete the Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred (do all 30 days!) and the Slim in 6 program. I have both sets of DVDs, so there's no reason not to exercise!!
6. BLOG REGULARLY!! I have so many more menu plans to share!

It's going to be an awesome year with so much to look forward to!

Menu Maker Mom ~
Makin' Yummies. Stuffin' Tummies.