Saturday, February 8, 2014

Monthly Meal Plans


I can't believe it's time to do another Menu Planning Session, where did the last month go. I decided to do 6 weeks this time just because I feel like we are so busy lately.  I like to hand write mine out, so feel free to print the picture or you can find a blank menu planner version here. If you missed last month's Menu, click here.

This past summer when I was teaching my Proverbs 31 Group I created a Menu Planning Binder that has been a life saver.  (I will be posting on that in the future, along with all the printables I created so you to make your own.)  Basically it is a binder that contains our monthly meal plan for dinner, packed lunches, and breakfasts. It includes my favorite tried and true recipes, my blank shopping list organized by our favorite supermarket aisle, and my theme night list. 

Each night in our house has a theme, Mexican, Italian, Soup/Sandwich, etc. I explained it all in last months post so feel free to click the link above.  It's helpful to have everything in one place and if my hubby needs to help out with dinner or lunches it's all there for him to find.  We try to eat clean as much as possible so when there are items like onion soup mix, cream of anything, or ranch mix, I like to make all of those myself.  Especially if I can't find a clean alternative, but you can use whatever suites you and your budget! F=Freezer (Previous Meal I doubled and froze the extra to help me later on) P=Pinterest, and it also has which of my boards I pinned the recipe on for easy access.


Meatball Sub w/Fresh Mozz
Homemade Hot Dog Buns
Day 1: Oven Baked Meatball Subs (using leftover Meatballs from last months menu) and Homemade Hot Dog Buns, mine didn't turn out as fluffy as hers as they fell during the egg wash but they were still good.
Day 2: Chili Colorado Burritos (made in Crock Pot-I'm using Venison but you can use beef)
Day 3: Asparagus Frittata (Love utilizing our Farm Fresh Eggs we get each week)
Day 4: Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce (I found my Ravioli at Aldi's but other stores carry it in the freezer section, or you can make your own easily with wonton wrappers)
Day 5: Cube Steak in the crock pot
Day 6/Day 7: We will not be needing dinner as we are attending a Marriage Simulcast at our church.
Day 8: Chili w/Corn Bread-Crock Pot (in my freezer as I doubled it last month.)
Day 10: Pumpkin Pancakes with our favorite Apple Sausage.
Day 11: Ranch Cheddar Burgers (I will be doubling these, and freezing the extra when I make them for later in the month)  I make my own Ranch Dressing Mix it's better for you.  (This recipe is adapted from MomonaMission.me) If you are really adventurous you can make your own yummy Hamburger buns. (This recipe is made into sub rolls but I did Hamburger buns instead.)
Day 12: One Dish Meat/Potato Meal Crockpot-(I'm using venison, but you could use beef, this is a new recipe for me so stay tuned)
Day 13: Chicken Parmesan with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and semi-homemade sauce. This is another great meal to double and freeze.  I use Barilla Pasta sauce and then doctor it up with Basil, Oregano, honey, garlic, and onion powder.
Day 14: Hot Chicken Salad (This is a family favorite, so I will double this and put a pan in the freezer for a later meal.)
Day 15: Black Bean Soup with Cilantro Lime Rice, we like to add some On the Border Queso (not very clean) but it adds a nice kick and I feel like I'm eating  Qdoba Queso Nachos. This also freezes great, I like to do quart bags for lunch.  Just make sure that you put the soup in one bag, the rice in another and then I use a third bag to combine them together to make it easier to pack. Just make sure to save that outer bag and reuse it.
Day 16: Taco Casserole (This is a new one for us so I'll let you know how it goes)
Day 17: Denny Style French Toast (This is seriously the best French Toast ever. I do like to add a tad bit more vanilla. We like to make a double batch and Freeze the leftovers flat on a cookie sheet then bag them in a gallon freezer bag for quick breakfasts.  Simply pop it in the toaster straight from the freezer and you are ready to go.
Day 18: Taco Meat (I will double this to freeze some for a later meal.  We can do nachos, tacos, or my favorite Taco Salad with some yummy Salsa Ranch dressing.)
Day 19: Balsamic and Sweet Onion Venison Roast (Crockpot) I'll be using Venison for this one, new recipe for me so fingers crossed it's a good one.
Day 20: Lasagna Roll Ups (We love these better than Lasagna, easy to serve and freeze great. This will be doubled and frozen for a later meal.)
Day 21: Garlic Honey Chicken (In my freezer from last month's double)
Day 22: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese on Homemade Bread
Day 24: Eggs in a Baguette (This is a new one for me so stay tuned to see if it makes the cut.)
Day 25: Southwest Burgers with Homemade French Fries (I also Double the Burgers for the freezer, this rub recipe is from Mom On a Mission, it tends to be spicy so cut back on the Cumin if you want it not so hot.  I love a nice big piece of Avocado on top to help cool the heat.)
Day 27: Pumpkin Ravioli (See Day 4)
Day 29: Chicken and Biscuit Stew (This was in my freezer from a previous month)
Day 30: Taco Meat (See Day 18)
Day 31: Breakfast Grilled Cheese with Bacon
Day 32: Ranch Burgers (See Day 11)
Day 33: Bacon Cheese Potatoes with Meat Loaf
Day 34: Million $$ Spaghetti (This is a new one for me so stay tuned to see if it makes the cut)
Day 35: Asian Chicken Stir Fry (Using Garlic Honey Chicken had from last month in freezer, with mixed veggies and brown rice)
Day 36: Hot Chicken Salad (See Day 14, this is a doubled freezer meal from earlier)
Day 37: Mexican Manicotti (see Day 23, this is a doubled freezer meal from earlier)
Day 38: Scramble w/Sausage  (We don't use the peppers and add some broccoli)
Day 39: Ranch Burgers (See Day 11, Double this for next month)
Day 41: Lasagna Roll Ups (See Day 20, this is a double freezer meal from earlier)
Day 42: Chicken Cordon Bleu with Parmesan Dijon Sauce (The Sauce makes this.)

F=Freezer (Previous Meal I doubled and froze the extra to help me later on) P=Pinterest, and it also has which of my boards I pinned the recipe on for easy access. I'd love to have you follow me on Pinterest, I have ton's of great Room Mom ideas as well. (More on those to come.)


Let me know if you try any of these I'd love to hear what you liked.  Also do you do theme days at your house? If so what are the themes you use?




Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Best Way to Clean Grout

With my husbands job coming to a close in 24 days we have been starting to prepare the house for sale just in case.  The job openings here in Michigan are few and far between and since I am no longer teaching that means we go where hubby finds work.  I trust the Lord and will go where ever he sends me. Either way it's a win-win in my book.  If we do end up putting it on the market it is ready to go, if we don't my home is clean and organized.  I love my home and our community, we have been blessed to live in it for almost 10 years.

In my process to get the house ready one thing that I've been searching for forever was an easy way to clean grout.  We have a huge Kitchen with an eat in area that is covered with 18 " tiles and lots of light colored grout.  I finally found what I had been looking for.  Check out the before and afters. The before is some very nasty dirty grout from 9 years of little kid feet.  Now don't get me wrong I clean my floors weekly, like hands and knees scrub but this stuff would not come clean. In under an hour I had done my entire floor.
Before
After










So here is the secret weapon. A drill, a package of round scrubber brush refills from Target (The kind with a hole in the center), a 1/4" X 5" bolt, 2-1/4" washers, 2-1/4" lock washers, and 1 1/4" hex nut. (Total cost of hardware $.47, I had everything else at home.  The 2 pack of refill brushes are around $3 and the Oxi Clean is around $6 in case you don't have it.  I got the idea from a video I saw on YouTube here.  Simply take the bolt start with then a lock washer, a regular washer and then the brush, follow it up with another regular washer, a lock washer and then the nut. That's it, you have an amazing power scrub brush that is great for more than just grout.  Like the corner of your showers, the kitchen sink drain, back of your toilet, the list is endless.  Plus it's just plain fun to clean with a power tool.  (Thanks to the hubs for making this contraption and letting me use his drill.)

The Oxi Clean water ratio I used was 1/4 cup Oxi Clean to 4 cups Hot Water. I found that anymore Oxi Clean than that left you with a ton of residue.  You will still have residue and will need to wet mop it, I had to wet mop twice to get rid of white residue but it was well worth the results.  Just a tip this cleaning machine has power, I got so into cleaning I didn't even realize that I was shooting cleaning solution up the walls, whoops.  Consider this fair warning otherwise you will end up wiping down all your walls afterwards as well. That was fine with me since it was just another thing off my list in getting the house in tip top shape for sale.  Doesn't my kitchen look amazing.  I couldn't stop there though, cleaning is addicting.  I headed upstairs to do the master bath.
All I need is some white fluffy towels and we are good to go.  Now it's time to enjoy a nice cup of coffee with some of my healthy homemade creamer and take a minute to rest and enjoy some quiet time with the Lord before we tackle the next project, getting stains out of the carpet (more to come on that).
Love my Spa Retreat
My Sparkly Floor.
All Clean

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Healthy Breakfast Foods for the Freezer

My breakfast stockpile in my freezer was getting low and all the snow is keeping us here at home so today was the perfect baking day.  My oldest is 12 and has been wanting to learn all of her momma's special recipes so today we worked together.  I can't believe she is that old already.

The first thing we made was Pumpkin Waffles, I LOVE pumpkin and not just around the holidays either.  Pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin waffles are some of my kids favorites and I'll happily serve them these over regular ones due to the added pumpkin and whole wheat flour benefits. I'll have to post my Pumpkin Pancakes later this month, I have perfected this recipe and everyone raves about it.  I prefer these now over our regular ones.

E agrees his sister did good.
 Here is the recipe for our Pumpkin Waffles. We doubled the batch so the kiddos can eat some after I make them and I have plenty left for the freezer.  I let them cool completely and then place them in gallon size freezer bags, laid flat in the freezer.  My kids grab one out of the freezer in the morning frozen, pop it in the toaster and they have a healthy, hot breakfast perfect for these cold Michigan winters. 

Since the oven was already on and hot, and I had extra pumpkin left, we decided to whip up our Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. No use wasting all that electricity. These are always a crowd pleaser and freeze well.  Since the oldest was still manning the waffle maker my youngest daughter assisted on this one.  (She's 5 so the help was limited but she did great.)

Here is the recipe, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. (It was adapted from Mom On a Mission.)
I don't double this recipe as it makes 24 regular size muffins plus 24 mini muffins, or 36 regular size.  These are great out of the freezer also and the whole wheat flour and pumpkin make me feel better about giving these to the kids as a baked good. The baby was crying for the "muffies" before they went into the oven, that was sure a long 12 minutes waiting for them to bake. A one year old doesn't understand the need to bake things.

We finished off our morning baking with another batch of my Maple Roasted Almonds. (See my previous Healthy Freezer Friendly Snacks Post) It took us under two hours and now we have a freezer full of yummy breakfast treats and a healthy snack. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Caramel Coffee Creamer

We love coffee in this home.  I never really did until I had my third child five years ago and then it became a sort of necessity.  Having kids after the age of 35 seemed a lot harder than when I was in my twenties or even my early thirties. A while back I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying my morning coffee with flavored creamer when I started reading the back of bottle, the ingredients list.  You know that place that tells you what you are actually eating and drinking. Let me tell you I was more than just a little disturbed by the ingredients listed.  I mean really what are some of these things and where is the milk. I don't see milk in there anywhere.

Thus began my search for healthier options to flavor our morning coffee.  I found several websites with different recipes claiming they were the best, but I 'm the kind of cook that likes to look at several different recipes for ideas and then create my own from there.  My husbands request for the first flavor I should attempt was Vanilla Caramel.  

My first try I used vanilla and caramel syrup and that was no where close to what I was looking for. Not bad but the flavors just weren't strong enough.  The second time around I used brown sugar to create the caramel flavor, that was much better. (I would have liked to use the healthier Sucanat but I was out) It took me three tries to get the proportions right, but I feel like I've finally got my first attempt at creamer down. I tested it with my Beautiful Womanhood group and it got rave reviews. So without further ado:

The Best Vanilla Caramel Creamer

What you are going to need:
  • Milk (your choice, almond, rice, regular whatever works for you)
  • Half and Half
  • Vanilla (This comes from Mexico and the flavor is so much than store bought, I've seen it in Shipshewanna and local Mexican grocery stores. I'm lucky enough to have parents that winter near Mexico so I stayed stocked.) 
  • Agave (light)
  • Sucanat (or Brown Sugar)
  •  A Pot  and Whisk
  • A bottle to store the creamer in (I use my old creamer bottle I saved and it works perfectly, but you could also use a mason jar.)



The Recipe
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1 1/2 cups Milk
3 T Vanilla
3 T Agave
3 T Sucanat (Brown Sugar)
Put all of the ingredients in a pot on the stove and heat, stirring occasional until it begins to simmer.  (MMMMM, this is when it starts to make the entire house smell so good)  
Let it simmer for one to two minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove it from the heat.  
Let it cool. 
Pour into your bottle and enjoy. 

Tips
Since you will now be drinking real milk, it does need to be refrigerated. The expiration date of your creamer will be the same expiration date of the milk you used.

All that's left now is for you to enjoy it. I will be working on remaking some of our other favorite flavors in the near future. Comment below and let me know what flavor you'd like me to try next. 



Monday, January 20, 2014

Healthy Homemade Snacks For Your Freezer

Little Man Helping Dad Fix the Sink
I hope everyone enjoyed yesterdays monthly meal plan post and the recipes to go with it. Today I needed to restock my freezer with healthy kids snacks.  My four kiddos sure can eat. I think that's because they are going non stop.  I have no idea where they get that trait from. (Hmmm, me! LOL)

I feel a lot better knowing that the snacks they get are healthy and I know what's in them.  Their favorite snacks by far are fruit, homemade smoothies, fresh juice from our new juicer, Cliff Fruit Twists, and mom's homemade goodies.  Today I made Microwave Chex Mix, Maple Almonds, and quick no bake Granola bars. I also added in a special treat of Peanut Butter Cookies with Valentine chocolate hearts to be frozen and saved for our special Feb. 14 dinner.  I always double or triple the recipes when making them so I can stash some in the freezer for later in the month.  I'd rather just clean up a mess one time, wouldn't you? Usually I make all the snacks for the entire month in one day. Remember the snacks are only as clean as the ingredients you put in them so check those labels. My freezer is now restocked and ready for my hungry kiddos to get home from school and ask, "What's for Snack?".  The next thing I need to replenish is our breakfast freezer stash.

Follow the links to see the recipes:
Maple Almonds

Maple Almonds (I use my slip mat I found at ALDI for $5 to bake these, it was one large one but I cut it in half to fit each of my baking sheets.  They only have these around the holidays and they sell out fast.)

Homemade Chex Mix (from Mom On a Mission, love her) Made in the Microwave, it can't get any easier than that.  I double the batch so I have plenty to freezer.  I put 1/2 cup each in snack bags and then put as many snack bags as I can fit into a large gallon freezer bag and freeze it that way for on the go snacks.



Granola Bars
No Bake Granola Bars These are made on the stove not in the oven and are perfect for those hot days when you don't want your oven on.  I like making them as I can have these on the stove top and other items in the oven like my Maple Almonds. These were a very special treat as you can see with mini M & M's, I never put those in there but it was a birthday snack for my girl. She was so excited about these.

Peanut Butter Cookies I like my cookies soft and chewy so don't over bake these unless you want them crunchy. I always pull them out when they are still soft to the touch and let them sit on the pan for 5 minutes before taking them off.


What are some of your kids favorite snacks?  I'd love to hear some of your ideas.  Be Blessed.
Valentine Peanut Butter Cookies

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monthly Meal Plans

Since I haven't had the time to run my monthly freezer cooking classes a few ladies have been asking me what I do for dinners.  When I was teaching I began planning our meals a month in advance.  This allowed me to shop less and saved money.  I start by taking inventory and shopping from my freezer and pantry as much as possible first to also help save money.  I stock up on items on sale and stash them away in my outdoor freezer and basement when they are on discount (Like meat, cheese and condiments we use often.)  I also shop multiple stores so I can save the most money.  Usually ALDI, Sams Club, and Meijer. I use to do major couponing but since we started eating clean it's not worth the time.

We do Clean Eating as much as possible. What that means for us is no hormones, no preservatives, and no artificial.  Basically if we can't pronounce it and don't know what it is it's not going into the shopping cart.  We aren't legalistic about it and do have our occasional Family Movie Night Treats, and Cap N' Crunch (my childhood treat). Clean eating for us has been a process of transformation over the past few years.  I do pack my kids lunches each day also. Look for an upcoming post on how I plan those out for the month as well.

We use daily themes to help us in our planning.  Our dinner themes are
Monday-Soup/Sandwich)
Tuesday- Mexican
Wednesday- Breakfast
Thursday- Turkey Burger (Or Burger)
Friday-Crockpot (This is the day I volunteer at the kids schools)
Saturday-Italian
Sunday-Chicken
If you follow me on Pinterest I have boards that have recipes specifically for each theme night.  I like to hand write my menu as you can see below, but you can get a blank copy to fill in for yourself here.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce -I found this Ravioli at ALDI after Thanksgiving on Sale and stocked up, you can also make your own or find it in the Freezer Section at Meijer.  I don't add the cookies in this recipe either. 

Italian Chicken (Freezer Recipe) with Nann Flat Bread and Homemade Greek Italian Dressing (These are From Mom on a Mission, I love her Recipes)

Chili and Cornbread (I double the batch, See Recipe and freeze the extra batch for later-that's just being smart! Freezer tip: When freezing soup, lay them flat then they are easier to stack when frozen)

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas (I try to do at least one meat free recipe a week, this helps with food cost. I will also double this for the freezer for later.)

Frittata with Sausage and Broccoli (This is a basic Frittata recipe but alter it as you want.)

Southwest Burgers with Homemade French Fries (I also Double the Burgers for the freezer, this rub recipe is from Mom On a Mission, it tends to be spicy so cut back on the Cumin if you want it not so hot.  I love a nice big piece of Avocado on top to help cool the heat.)

Garlic Honey Chicken with Rice

Homemade Pizza, Homemade Dough and Sauce Recipe

Whole Chicken In Crock Pot (I got my whole chicken in Amish Country but Aldi's does have them pretty cheap.)

Crockpot Tomato Soup with Basil Pesto Grilled Cheese (great with tomato) on Homemade Bread (Update: This soup recipe was not my favorite, I am going to try and find my old one that I loved. It was a Weight Watchers recipe with Rotel in it.)

Taco's with Tortilla Land Tortillas (The best ever, I get them at Meijers) I get my taco seasoning in a big container at Sam's Club and it has no MSG! This is another great recipe to double and freezer. On the recipe in this link I've included ideas on how to use that frozen Taco meat later, like a Taco Braid, or Taco Pizza.

BBQ SpareRibs and Salad (my mom's recipe)

Cream Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Greek Marinated Wings and Drumsticks (I don't use mayo but sub Greek Yogurt)

Basalmic Glazed Pot Roast in the Crockpot (the leftovers are great for Sandwiches the next day)

Tortilla Soup with our favorite On the Border Chips

Chili Colorado Burritos (Smothered Burritos Crockpot style)

Ranch Cheddar Burgers I make my own Ranch Dressing Mix it's better for you.  (This recipe is adapted from MomonaMission.me) If you are really adventurous you can make your own yummy Hamburger buns. (This recipe is made into sub rolls but I did Hamburger buns instead.)

Crock Pot Cube Steak

Hot Chicken Salad

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Update: I enjoyed this but the kids not so much.)

Pumpkin Pancakes

Meatballs with Homemade BBQ Sauce 

Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa (This is a new recipe so I can't attest to how good it is yet)

Spicy Rigatoni with Brats and Peas (I omitted the Pepper Flakes, to hot for the kiddos and added in some Chicken Spinach brats I get at Sams Club, yummy and good for you.)

Asian Honey Chicken

Hope you enjoy this post.  Let me know what you think if you try any of the recipes above.  Feel free to share this on Facebook and Pin It on Pinterest.

God Bless,

Julie





Friday, April 19, 2013

Run Your Race

Running, it’s the new “in” thing to do, 5k’s, 10k’s, Half Marathons, Marathons, Adventure races. All those bumper stickers proudly displaying the mileage the driver has accomplished, 13.1, 26.2, 50 (what was that person thinking). It’s enough to make the non-running enthusiast want to gag.  I use to be a runner, I too wanted to proudly display the 13.1 sticker on the back of my family bus, but alas my aging knees had other plans. I must admit I wasn’t 100% disappointed when I was no longer able to run, as I never really loved running. I did it out of pure discipline as I trudged along towards the goal I had set for myself.

 Lately I have felt like I have been running this race called life more out of self discipline and necessity than out of joyful obedience. It’s in those times when I tend to lose sight of the joy available to me. I begin to feel weighed down, tired, and honestly a little grumpy.  God’s word calls us to “Always be full of joy in the Lord.” (Phil 4:4) No matter what we are facing.

 If you look up the origins of the word joy you can find it derived from the Greek word GÄ“thein which means, “To Rejoice.”  Joy isn’t just a feeling; it’s an act of obedience we are called to carry out.  Each day I have a choice, I can choose to Rejoice in the Lord, and to focus my heart and eyes on him and his plan for my day or I can trudge along with my eyes focused on my own self set goals.

 Learning to have joy in the Lord means letting go of the expectations you have set for your life and allowing God to show you his.  It means learning that my life isn’t going to look like anyone else’s, my body isn’t going to look like anyone else’s, my family isn’t going to look like anyone else’s and that is OK because God created me unique with my own talents and strengths in his perfect image, for his delight.  And you know what he did the same for you too.  When we are able to let go of control and to trust his will when it doesn’t make sense that is when we will find true rest and joy. Only then will we fully be able to love the race we are running because then we can be sure it is the one God has called us to run.  The best news is if it’s the one God has called me to run I know I’ll finish first because I’m the only one he has equipped to run it. That is one race I can run joyfully.