Monday, July 26, 2010


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


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. 


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.


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


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

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:

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**



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.



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.



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.