Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seasonal Menu Plan:::Monique

I finally did it! I put together an entire menu for March, April, and May.

This is what it looks like. I then use my weekly planner and pull off what we would like for the week and then go shopping. I did a special meal for this week since Tuesday is St. Patrick's Day but other then that they all came from this master plan. I'll post more about this tomorrow or Monday.

It does help with the shopping also. I have a good idea when we go to Sam's or Vitamin Cottage how many of something I will need for the next three months. We can't afford to buy everything at once for all three months but the cheaper things I can pick up and then more expensive items (like meat) we decided we would only buy a months worth.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Perhaps it is radical for many of us in this advanced day and age, but to the Williams is normal.

To be honest we actually eat leftovers several times a week, and only once in awhile do the younger ones complain because, hey, peanut butter is better. Sorry, my darling little ones...we are skipping the p.b. for a bit. Rat poop, no thank you.
So tonight we had...leftovers. I have to say that all of us did not eat the same thing. Brandon, Taylor, and I had the leftover chili that my wonderful husband made. He made it Saturday evening as I was in bed with a sinus headache. Oh yes, I will admit that I thought my head was going to explode...not a pretty sight. All I have to say is that on Sunday when we woke up I was able to go to Mass. My head was no longer throbbing as it was the night before. Yes, the chili was spicy, I was sweating like a pig while I was eating it, but it was delicious. I will have to get the recipe from him, but right now he is asleep.

The rest of the children had left over chicken breasts and red rice...aka Spanish Rice.

Boring, perhaps, but it hit the spot!

So, I am posting to give leftovers a shout out! They are good, and hey you can change them up a bit if you would like something different. Like the left over chicken could have been made into chicken tacos, by cutting them up, adding some olive oil, and throwing them into tortillas! Look at it as is being green!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Confessions and Reaffirmation:::Monique

This week was our 15th wedding anniversary.  We ended up going to Casper that day and since our huge tax return was on its way in just a couple of days we splurged.  Actually, I was too lazy to pack a lunch getting ready for my meeting but, hey, it was a good excuse!  So, there is the confession. Now, for the reaffirmation.  Nobody enjoyed our lunch out except for me!  We spent almost a week's worth of groceries for nothing.  DH was not happy with his and the kids barely picked at their meals.  Shaylan did eat her seafood chimichanga but it was an expensive little booger.  So, we have resolved ourselves to taking our lunches with us to Casper.  We also had money left over before DH got paid this week which is a miracle itself.  I think it is because we haven't eaten out at all this year until Wednesday.  We went about 42 days without going  out to eat!  Woo Hoo!  I bet we can refrain from eating out again until we go on vacation next month.  So how is everyone else doing?  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Survived!:::Jenn

Picture the Splitting Headache Mama who has pushed through and been productive in spite of it all. This is the same character who knows she had dance class at 4PM which would make 5:30 dinner a challenge--the heroic soul who planned early in the day to pull out a frozen meal (chicken, broccoli, and pasta casserole) that would mean a balanced meal in one dish--one that would cook while she shuttled das kinders to artistic venues. Now picture the same Splitting Headache Mama rushing back into her lair of domesticity (kitchen) to ensure the five extra cooking minutes have not rendered the meal unfit for a family. Are you with me? Can you feel the energy? Now feel her complete confusion, transformed into utter dejection as the opening of her high tech culinary creator (stove) released no heat. Can you see the salvation dinner sitting there in it's cold, frozen defiance, laughing at the unsuccessful attempt to turn it into something usable. If you are still with me on this one, still feeling Splitting Headache Mama's pain (literal or figurative, either one will work), you will understand the amazing strength and perseverance she showed when she took her dejected creativity and went back to the drawing board. She forced herself to open the vault of creativity (refrigerator) and make another attempt. She fought off the Take-Out Monster who attempted to force her to the phone, and endured the "oh they don't really need dinner" doubts that Bad Mommy tried to send her way. Out of the vault came pieces of salvation (leftovers) to be nuked into acceptable (if eclectic) versions of sustenance for a questioning family. Hunger overcame the "we're having what with that?" doubters, and dinner was one again saved. (Enter dun ta da dunnnnn music.)

Sorry no pictures this time, some meals do not warrant being remembered forever!

Friday, January 30, 2009


We went to Casper today for my husband's post-op doctor appointment.  I knew this was coming up, and since his appointment was at 10:30 a.m. I knew we'd be there for lunch because we had grocery shopping to do as well.  Thanks to Jenn's post, I started thinking about what to take yesterday.  First, I decided to hard boil some eggs.  Then, I asked my husband what else he would add to make packing a lunch better for him.  He suggested adding some fruits and vegetables.  So this morning I cut up some cucumbers, green peppers, and baby carrots.  I also took a few bananas.  This morning I packed everything in my L.L. Bean canvas bag.  Here's the list:

6-7 cloth napkins
loaf of bread
peanut butter
container of hard boiled eggs
granola bars
bag of sliced veggies

I also made everyone some watered down juice in their new water bottles.  Liam got one of these for school and I liked it so much I bought everyone one.  It is nice to make them all at once in the morning and everyone has their water/juice for the day.  

We ended up going to Sam's before we ate so we had a few additions.  The daughter refused to eat peanut butter and eggs so she had some cheese that we had just bought, then all the boys had to have some also.  :)  So we added some cheese to the menu and I also found some semi-natural brownie bites for dessert.

The real test was when we got home.  I asked hubby how lunch was.  He was pleased!  He was even happy we are saving money and was satisfied with the addition of the eggs and vegetables. Yeah!  I'm so happy we are figuring out a way to make this work.  I think it would be even more successful if we would go to Casper on a day other than Friday (meatless for us), and if we bought a cooler.  I would have also added trail mix and cheese sticks if I would have had them on hand.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Well, I have had a super busy week, and have some confessions.  I ate out twice in two weeks for work-related things. I forget that a local breastfeeding coalition meets at restaurants, and my "boss" wanted to go out to talk over work things. So, basically, I'm updating my caveats to include things that are tax-deductible. I'm sorry, but it just has to be this way. At least the whole family isn't included in these outings, and I'm trying to be both frugal and healthy in my choices. Sorry.

Monday, January 19, 2009

All They Are Cracked Up To Be!:::Jenn

These perfect little packages of protein, what's not to love? As I am not a vegan, and I buy cage-free, organic eggs, I have nothing but admiration for these little gifts. They are fast, easy, economical, oh so very versatile and always a hit. I can use them in a million different recipes ( well I haven't actually tried, but I have faith). A pretty jar of the hard-boiled versions leaves me prepared for a jaunt into the world with no concerns about hungry kids, and equally prepared for snack time. They can easily be transformed into a meal themselves (egg-salad sandwiches) or used to improve another entree (green salad or tuna sandwiches). The "incredible, edible egg" indeed!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan in a Frenzy:::Jenn

The time is ticking away and I have not yet accomplished the dinner goals previously set by an overly ambitious morning shopper. The same one who looked at these lovely eggplants in the store and heard their call to become something tasty.

Instead they sit all too whole and tidy. Finally, determination and frenzy strike the cook...

and slicing commences. Such a small first step, but the lovely quater-inch planks inspire more frenzy.

Next, we tackle those googly eyes (well we actually put the munchkin to work upon them as they were a bit intimidating with that milky stare).

A quick dip in the pool...

oh crumb! #@&**@#!' action...

and into the fire we go. This tried and true mix of olive oil, a bit of smart balance to raise the smoking point and a touch of butter to kick up the flavor (and the calories) yields tender and tasty morsels every time.

Out of the fire they came, and into a roasting pan to be layered with mozzarella (courtesy of the Bug) on a thin bed of marinara sauce.

Dump the extra oil and add a splash of red wine for deglazing the pan, whoosh! I tossed in the rest of the marinara to warm and meld flavors before...

spooning on top of the cheese and broiling for about 5 minutes.

Out came that oozy, gooey wonderfulness that is baked cheese. So we kissed it with a bit of Parmesan for company...

and served it with a chair of bowlies.

Layered on a bed of greens, this was a meal fit for royalty. Or maybe it just tasted that way to a hungry crowd, but we all ate too much!

A bit later than our usual 5:40PM supper time, but well worth the wait. Another meal saved by the frenzied chef.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meals On the Go:::Jenn

I grew up in a family that packed a cooler for every trip. We just didn't eat out, ever. We happily traveled all the way to Washington, DC and never considered eating anything not out of the cooler. We also made regular trips around the state with the same expectations. Part of this happiness came from the fact that mom had mad cooler packing skills. She knew how to stock it full of things we loved or didn't get often. Things that tasted good at room temperature (I still drool over the thought of warm cheese) and that were either fun to eat or took a while. Also, she balanced those with things that were hearty and nutritious, so we didn't end up feeling gross. We got yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, trail mix, cheese sticks, sunflower seeds (lots of time involved in those), and chips (which we never got otherwise). Imagine my surprise when I met my DH and he balked at this understood concept that, we don't eat fast food or gas station fare on a trip or outing, we pack a yummy cooler. It has taken a few determined years for me to come up with some Daddy-tested items that enlist his support, instead of just his tolerance of packing food. Mostly I have found that with the right "main course" item he is happy no matter what the "side items" are. These are some of our biggest hits; all can be made a day ahead and therefore are easy to pack when it's time to go. Breakfast burritos (the egg, potato, and sausage variety), pigs in a blanket (little sausages inside a roll or biscuit), or any type of meat pie variation. (An eastern European idea where meat or fish pieces or patties are wrapped up in a roll or pastry crust to cook.) These are a more recent addition to my menus but so far, are a huge hit. Inspired by my sister's trip to Russia (and how many savory pies she found there), I have been experimenting. So far, every attempt has met with success.

Breakfast burritos: makes 15 (they freeze well, too)
18 scrambled eggs
1C cooked sausage (optional for vegetarians)
1C shredded cheese
1C green chili (you can skip it but they are really dry then)
2 /2 LB of cooked potatoes (cubed or sliced, baked or fried. I haven't tried hash brown or Tatar tots but it might work well too and save a step.)
Mix all this together in a big bowl and measure out a scoop with a 1 C measuring cup onto a standard burrito size tortilla. (Not the big wrap ones or the little fajita size). Wrap it up in tin foil and refrigerate or freeze. To warm them up, just toss them all in the oven at 200-350 for 10-20 min until hot. Packed tight in a little cooler they will stay warm and fresh for hours. They actually taste better made ahead, as the flavors meld together.

Pigs in a Blanket: count on 3-5 per person
Any little cocktail sized sausage or hot-dogs cut to this general size will work.
biscuit or roll batter. You can make roll dough or use refrigerator biscuits. I tend to use the flaky type of refrigerator biscuits and divide them in half to cover more sausages.
Just roll them around the sausage and pinch closed. They usually take a few minutes longer than the recommended baking time.

Meat Pies: These are very filling. One is probably plenty for most people.
Either bread dough or pie crust will work and can be homemade or store bought. (The pastry crust version is more crumbly, so pack extra napkins.)
Any savory type filling works.
Either hamburger, salmon or tuna patties are easy to wrap around and can be made for dinner and the extras wrapped up later. (These are cooked first and then wrapped up when cool.)
A salmon/tuna salad mix can be made into a ball and wrapped up with pastry crust for a tasty combination, though they are messy to make. The filling should be about the size of a large lime and just enough pastry to cover and pinch around it.
Any mix of savory diced meat and sauce with say mushrooms, or a shredded BBQ beef type filling in a roll is another winning combination.
All of these should be cooked as you would the outside covering (around 350 usually) since the filling is already cooked or ready to eat before stuffing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


As has been mentioned on this blog before, watching Super Size Me last summer really motivated some change in our family. We all knew fast food was bad before watching that, but somehow we didn't really get how bad it is until then.

Anyway, once we saw that, our fast food consumption dramatically fell off (but our healthier eating-out choices picked up, so...). One thing we never could quite shake, though, were pizza nights. With $5-6 large pizzas around here, it was so often a temptation too strong to resist.

When the boys found out we'd be doing this challenge they were mostly dismayed at the thought of doing without pizza. In our more frugal days, we made plenty of homemade pizza, so we all knew it could be done. It was just a matter of doing it. Which we did tonight. (Actually, I had some issues and they ended up being calzones, get the point, lol.)

And, a la Tightwad Gazette, I quadrupled the dough recipe and froze three balls of dough, so we can do it again weekly all month if we so choose.

More on Planning:::Monique

I've been intrigued by a few mothers that use once-a-month shopping.  While right now I only plan by the week, I would love to be organized enough and have the money to go to Colorado and do my shopping once a month at Vitamin Cottage.  I love this place.  I know I can save us money by doing this also.  For instance, I can buy plain old, pesticide-filled apples here at a grocery store for at least $1.50lb.  Sometimes it's almost $3.00lb.  At Vitamin Cottage I can buy ORGANIC apples for .99lb!  I can also save big on the almond milk we buy.  We buy it by the case because we go through it so quickly.  I can save $8-10$ a case when I purchase it at Vitamin Cottage rather than our co-op here in town.  

I'm still pondering this thought though.  I've learned some about once a month shopping from one of my favorite blogs.  I also have heard about seasonal planning, which also intrigues me.  The ideas here is again the long term planning so you don't have to sweat it every week, but also so that you have a rotation of meals that is specific to the season.  For instance, lots of people don't want to eat heavy, hot foods in the summer when it is 100 degrees out.  So things like chili would be in the winter rotation.  Lighter foods would be in the summer rotation, and then you might have special foods for other times of the year such as Christmas and Easter.  I would love to be able to plan out a whole month or season and then just rotate throughout the year.  I would have a master list(s) of meals and then a master shopping list for each of those rotations as well.  I can't seem to make it jump from my head to paper though. :(  Here is an example from another of my favorite blogs.  

Anyway, maybe by writing about this it will help me make that jump!

We Did It:::Monique

When I signed up for this and decided to make it a New Year's goal of mine to not eat out, I knew that our trips to Casper were going to be an issue.  We go there sometimes once a week for doctor appointments, meetings, shopping, etc.  We have tried to cut down the trips to only once or twice a month because the price of gas was so high last year.  We are doing better, but sometimes we just like to get out of town.  We also do bulk shopping at Sam's Club (no Costco here!).  Well, our first trip to Casper this year came Saturday.  When DH got home Friday night and we talked about going to Casper, I asked him if we could take a lunch. He said yes.  Saturday when we got up I packed a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, chips, snack bars, pretzels, water, knife, spoon, and cloth napkins.  We ate in the parking lot at Sam's Club.  I made everyone a sandwich and we had small picnic in the car.  No one but DH complained.  

If I'm going to keep everyone on board with this, I think I'm going to have to come up with some other ideas.  So what is everyone doing when they have to make a trip to a different town or are out and about for the day?  

It is usually a minimum of $30 when we eat out at a fast food restaurant.  So, I'm so glad I saved us that on Saturday.  If we make two trips to Casper a month, that is $60 or more we'll save!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner:::Jenn

How many times in my childhood I remember Dad fixing egg sandwiches and the like for dinner. I now realize that it's an easy, fast, hot, filling, crowd-pleasing, simple, and fairly cheap dinner option. When I got home with only 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, no leftovers, well...left, and no plan in mind, I turned to dear old Dad's tried and true. An egg, a slice of bacon, a piece of toast (because every thing is better as a sandwich) and some spinach (okay, I had to try and redeem the grease a little bit) and dinner was finished in 16 minutes. Total outlay for this all- organic meal for four, $3.75. How about that.

On The Go:::Jenn

While I had planned some lovely picture of these plump and tasty little life-savors, my Bug had other ideas. I try to keep something in my "Mama Bag" so that when we are out running and time gets away from us I don't give into the temptation to pick something up. This started last summer when we kicked the fast-food machine habit for good and is still serving us well. Yesterday we were running what was supposed to be one errand, but turned into three errands and a favor. The clock took us past the lunch hour and only the small bags of nuts and apricots saved us from giving into the blood sugar crashing monster that is the eternal foe of unprepared souls from not-eating-out land. Dry fruit, nuts and, a few LaraBars are the standard answer to kiddie hunger pains when we are not at home. They keep well forever in my bag, are high in actual food value, and the girls will eat them--especially when hungry. So, when I got home and decided to do a picture for this posting, my little one decided that they had made her tummy very happy and that I "just had to do the picture with a smiley face."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Week One is Done:::Tammy

Well we survived our first week. Remember? The only way I could get hubby on board was to go at it a week at a time? Well HE did just great. I on the other hand could be found at Studio 127 begging my in-laws for gift cards to McDonald' My birthday is coming, we shall see how it goes. :D My teenager also did not do well. She was being technical and pleading for a Late Night run on New Year's Eve. In fact, just today she had hoped we could "call the whole thing off."LOL

First of all...I need to say that we eat meat when we can, but most meals are meatless. We also enjoy white flour for it's frugalness and don't have any food restrictions except one peanut butter/milk allergy. We DO have picky eaters but they just. need. to. get. over. it.

Next, I wouldn't call these confessions...just sanctioned eating out.

We went to DQ on Saturday night for ice cream and used the gift card. So it doesn't count.
We went to the movies and had popcorn and soda. But the entire movie-going experience was a gift from a friend at church. So it doesn't count.

I add a caveat to my exceptions...I forgot I was married and would be having an anniversary coming in November.

Our meals have been pretty okay. We did a pantry challenge the week before Christmas so our meals have been a mishmash of various items from our stash of food.

A pantry challenge consists of making an inventory of everything in the pantry, fridge, freezer,  etc. and making a menu out of it. We have used this particular inventory for four weeks and have had to buy very little. I guess it helps that we bought half a pig and are able to purchase from Care and Share.

The most interesting meal by far was the:

Leftover Thanksgiving Carcass Turkey with Elbow Macaroni and Broccoli Scampi 

When made with "normal" ingredients, this dish is a staple to our menu. Dad cooks up some chicken with garlic and olive oil. ( I mean...I guess...I don't cook it). He boils up some penne or bow tie pasta. Mix it together, add the chicken and steamed broccoli, a bit of butter, and, I think, some parmasean cheese. Viola...a one pot meal (the easiest to clean up).

I made the concoction listed above. We had frozen our turkey carcasses from Thanksgiving for later use. I boiled the whole shebang in my canning pot (*gasp* on the new flattop...I know...scary) with some herbs and veggies. When it had cooked down pretty good I drained all the liquid to put into tupperware for freezing. We will make turkeyless turkey and dumplings sometime with it. Or turkeyless turkey and noodles. With the warmed carcass, I deboned it all and stored it in the fridge until use. I got two good bowls full of meat....SWEET! So I attempted the above scampi recipe and the kids liked it. Leftovers went to work with my hubby. He makes much better scampi than I do. 

The best meal this past week has been:

Spicy Meat and Cous Cous

This is an old recipe we have had since the early days of our marriage, though I cannot remember where we got it. Originally it was Spicy Lamb and Cous Cous, but I'm not a shepherd (in the literal sense, though I DO have a herd ;)) and lamb is expensive. So we call it Spicy Meat and put in whatever meat is on hand.

First, make a marinade of honey, soy sauce, garlic or garlic powder, and cinnamon (which is why I LOVE this recipe). Cut up the meat and let it sit as long as you want. :) Warm up some olive oil and cook it. Originally it called for broiling, BUT we tend to burn when we broil and it's not always convenient for our monthly fire drill, so electric skillet it is. Cook up some cous cous and add the meat to it. It's YUMMY. We had it with salad that was days away from being chicken feed and some of the FREE salad dressing I got by couponing. :D

I don't have pictures because, you know, that would require PLANNING.

Tomorrow night we are having biscuits and gravy with some more PIG in it! B&G as we call it at our house...especially the meatless the most frugal meal we can make next to spaghetti. The most expensive ingredient is the baking soda of the biscuits. This meal is dinner AND dessert. The kids like to put honey and jelly on leftover biscuits.

As an end note: Our savings so far would amount to $60. I's bad. But I figure my hubby was home for four nights this past first week and we would have eaten out two of them. It costs $25 to $30 for the three of us to eat Late Night. I can buy a LOT of groceries for $60...or a real cute chicken purse for my birthday...hint hint hint.

Oh and btw...I have lost three pounds this week. If that ain't a sign I don't know what is!

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Dinner:::Jenn

"What is it Mama?" "It's dinner."

Sometimes that is all that can be said. Since my reasons for dining in are most motivated by frugality, I simply can not condone letting food go bad in the refrigerator from lack of consumption. Consequently, tonight when my daughter asked what we should call it, my only answer was dinner. I crumbled up the stale bread sticks and two remaining corn tortillas and added the soon to expire package of lunch meat. I think it was turkey, but honestly I just didn't look that close at the package. In went some grated cheese, frozen peas and corn, and half a bottle of Goddess dressing. I mixed it up and baked it in my dutch oven at 400 for about 25 minutes. Upon tasting, it was lacking. Therefore I added a can of diced and drained tomatoes and some butter, mixed it up and cooked for another 15 minutes. At that point we sat down to "dinner" and found it quite tasty actually. Some wrapped it up in a tortilla and some just used a spoon but all seemed quite happy. Add some fresh fruit and (while not my best creation ever) it was very filling and somewhat balanced. I had to admit to my daughter that no, we would probably not be able to make it again, but that we could try something similar another day. 

I basically follow the basic casserole formula for a lot of these sort of meals and they almost always meet with success. It says something like this:
2 C of starch, 2C of protein, 1C of veggies and 1C of moisture. Something for a topping is a nice addition as well.

I can't say that I always follow this formula, but the results are much more consistent when I do. I also find that as long as I oil/grease my dutch oven a bit, the flavor from using it over another pan is noticeable. All the past 1,000 or so meals cooked in it have added a nice taste to the pan that is noticeable in many dishes.

Involving the Kids:::Gina

Last night, Quinn took this book to bed with him.
Quinn's light and fluffy pancakes
He woke up determined to make pancakes for breakfast (even though he is, without fail, the last person up).
Quinn's light and fluffy pancakes
I'm not a big fan of big-production breakfasts, but he learned a lot doing this. Hopefully it won't be long before I have to have zero involvement (I already made him do all the dishes, lol). Though I preach involving the kids in household tasks, in reality I would much rather just do it quickly and efficiently. But, ultimately, if I can have three or four meal-preparers in the house, it's far more likely we'll eat in instead of going out because I'm too tired or busy to cook.
Quinn's light and fluffy pancakes
They were a big hit--enjoyed by all (except mom, who is determined to go no-carb until she gets the holiday weight off).
Quinn's light and fluffy pancakes

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Buffalo and Barley:::Monique

Today, I made one of my family's favorite meals.  It's easy, cheap, and often what we eat on Tuesdays since I'm not home that night to cook for my family.  I lead Weight Watcher meetings every Tuesday night, so if it isn't cooked before 4:30 when I leave, the solution used to be going out to eat.  My DH would usually call for take-out pizza.  When the pizzas started costing $40 we decided we really needed to do something different, especially since it was once a week.  We decided that Tuesdays would be crock pot night.  So for probably a year now, I've been putting something in the crock pot or planned something that DH can cook. I've been in a dilemma, though, since around Thanksgiving because I found out that my made-in-China crock pot may be leaching lead into our food.  The big crock pot was thrown away (it was broken anyway) and I've just been cooking things on low in the oven or on the stove.  For Christmas, my DH bought me the cooking item I've been drooling over since Thanksgiving. It's made in the USA so I'm very proud of it!  

Are you ready for the recipe now?  It's simple and I usually don't measure anything.  Choose some vegetables.  I use celery, carrots, and onions.  Instead of using beef stew meat, I use buffalo.  Tonight I cut up a 5 or 6 carrots and one whole stalk of celery.  Then I tossed in a cup or two of barley.

I usually just add all the raw ingredients and some beef broth or bouillon in the crock pot but since I was using my new "baby," I put some canola oil in the dutch oven and then browned the meat, added the vegetables and then added around 8-10 cups of water, the barley and then my bouillon and spices.  This is what it looked like at that point.

Here are the spices and bouillon I used.  You could use whatever appeals to your family.  Yes, I did use the fresh rosemary tonight.  I haven't used it since we planted it earlier last spring.

Then, because my family really likes their carbs, I made a loaf of bread that my family hasn't had in a long time but really likes.
And finally, the finished product!  Everyone ate and the four year old even thanked me several times for making a delicious meal.
One final note, my DH and I had a lunch date today that included going out to eat.  However, it was just us and the baby and we used Christmas money from my mom.  Does that count?  

My Own Confession:::Gina

Okay, I can't let Lisa be the only one to confess today. So, I'd arranged last month for a friend and fellow childbirth educator to observe one of my December classes, but wouldn't you know we'd had a horrible snowstorm that day and she wasn't able to make it. I'd promised a Starbucks treat if she'd bring herself into town to do this for me, and so when we rescheduled for today, I couldn't very well withhold her treat, now, could I?

So, I took my friend to Starbucks. I'd pretty much decided plain coffee would be an allowable thing for me to get since I am often up late and long, and sometimes the families whose births we attend are :::gasp::: non-coffee drinkers! But, I kind of HAD to get a baked good today so that my friend wouldn't be self-conscious ordering. So, there ya go. I got plain coffee and a piece of gingerbread.

Mea culpa.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gluten Free Tortillas:::Lisa

First I have a confession...we went out to eat yesterday. Now, wait don't whip me with a wet noodle just yet. My excuse is a good one; I promise. Yesterday was a Holy Day of obligation for us. I woke up late and didn't have time to whip up a fast breakfast. We literally got out of bed, dressed, got the kids dressed, made sure the diaper bag was ready to go, and off we went. So, by the time Mass was over I was shaking, sweating, and feeling like I was going to pass out. Brandon, being the wonderful husband that he is, decided that I needed some nourishment. Perhaps I looked scary and he thought that he should just feed the sweaty woman that just so happens to be breastfeeding his newest little girl. Perhaps he was worried that I was going to go breastfeeding crazy mama on him...who knows what his real reason was, but bless him for breaking my newly established rule that we wouldn't be eating out. You will be happy to know that I did survive the drive from church to the "CB" also known as The Country Buffet. I didn't pass out, yell, or try to eat anyone on the way. I am also happy to report that from now on I will have a bag of goodies in the van with us in case anything like this should ever happen again.
Now, on to the rest of the story. Our youngest son, Wesley Thomas, has had eczema since he was about 5 months old. Long story short we are pretty sure that he is celiac, and 100 percent positive that he has gluten intolerance. Our oldest son, Taylor, has food allergies, is gluten intolerant, and has 2 genes that put him into the higher risk of developing celiac disease. Now you know why we went from a wheat-eating family to a non-gluten eating family. Let me tell you that it was intimidating at first. I had no clue on what we could eat and what we couldn't eat. Some food products can be contaminated with gluten even though it is not made with anything containing gluten. An example is Pace Picante Sauce. They can no longer say that they are gluten free anymore. I don't know the ins and outs but they could be changing up their recipe, or perhaps they will be making something that contains gluten and can not guarantee that the gluten from that product will not find its way into the Pace Picante Sauce. So, now we can not buy that particular brand of picante sauce even though it is not made from anything that contains gluten. Talk about a pain. So, there we were staring into the ugly face of becoming a non-gluten house. What was safe to eat? Could we use the same shampoos, toothpaste, face cleaning products, and the list just went on and on. I felt like I had to learn how to cook all over again. I panicked...I started to buy the expensive gluten free products. I didn't know what to make for dinner and it wasn't because I was being lazy. I just didn't know what to do! How in the world was I going to cook for my family? Just so you know, it really isn't that bad. We just had to adjust, and I had to decide that I was going to experiment. That was the hard part for me. So hard in fact that I didn't do it until a couple of days ago. We made gluten free tortillas, and they were so delicious, and what I did was so easy that now I feel that I can take on the gluten free world! It was a baby step, but look out here I come!
I used the sorghum flour recipe from the book written by Carol Genster, Ph.D called Gluten-Free 101.

Carol's Sorghum Flour Mixture

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch or cornstarch(we use the potato starch)
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup corn flour, or almond flour, or bean flour or chestnut flour(we use the garfava flour from Bob's Red Mill)

this mixture makes 4.5 cups of flour

Now here is what I did to make the tortillas.

Gluten Free Tortillas(makes about 10-15 small tortillas)

3 cups of sorghum flour mixture
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. guar gum
1/4 to 1 tsp. sea salt(it is really up to your taste buds)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of shortening or oil(we used 1/4 cup olive oil)
1 cup of warm milk or water(we used water)

Mix all of the dry ingredients well then add the liquid. I made my dough using my new Kitchen Aid! Now, keep in mind that the gluten free dough will not be anything like regular dough. It is sort of like playdoh. It lacks the elasticity that regular dough has. You can add more water or flour if needed. I then sprinkled some of the flour mixture onto the counter top and made a ball. I then proceeded to roll it out. I have to say that it was easy to roll out because it was lacking gluten. So, it didn't take too long to roll it out. The first one I did I am sad to say that I mutilated it because I rolled it like I would a regular flour tortilla. I had to roll out gently. Then I threw it onto the cast iron skillet and waited for the little air bubbles to emerge, then I flipped it over. I guess it is a few minutes on each side. All of the kids were anxiously awaiting and talking about how it was years and years since they had a homemade flour tortilla. They smelled delicious, but we made Brandon try the first one! I am not the only gluten free chicken in this house. Brandon said that they were good and that we needed to eat. Oh, it was like eating a piece of chocolate, or was almost heaven.  

So, tonight we had homemade gluten free tortillas to make our bean burritos spanish rice. It was a huge hit. I am sorry to report that it was gone before I could take a picture. I will try to get one the next time I make up a batch.

Spanish Rice

2 cups of rice
1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
onion powder(to taste)
garlic powder(to taste)
1 chicken bullion cube or chicken broth for part of the water for the rice
salt(to taste may not have to use if you use a bullion cube)
cumin(to taste)
pepper(to taste)
a few slices of green bell pepper
olive oil
water use the amount for the type of rice that you are using.

I like to also add some minced onion and garlic.

Put enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan. If you are going to use fresh garlic and onion go ahead an add it now as well as the bell pepper slices. Add in the rice and stir it around with the oil, garlic, onion, and bell pepper for about a minute or two. Add in your spices and stir for another minute. Next add in your water/broth and tomato sauce. Taste to see if you need to add more spices and then cook as you normally would cook your rice. I am sorry that I can not give you exact amounts of the spices...I don't remember what they originally were. This was the recipe that my mom gave me when Brandon and I got married almost 17 years ago. If you want you can use a can of the Mexican Rotel instead of tomato sauce and the other spices. My mom has been doing that for several years now and it is really delicious. It is a bit spicy, but it is yummy. If I remember correctly she doesn't add the bell pepper, and she does not drain out the liquid. She adds in the whole can.  

Gluten free can be good!

A Dollop:::Jenn

It's amazing to me how just a bit of a special ingredient can take a food and make it truly special, or in the kids' case, edible. My family does not love lentil soup. I do not understand this failing in their character. Having tried everything, including repeatedly exposing them to large quantities (after all, I love it) I am continually disappointed that none of them looks at this wonder soup with anything but grim resolution to get through the meal. Due to extreme frugality, convenience, ease of preparation, and nutritional value, this soup makes it on our table at least twice a month. Today I served leftover cornbread on the side (always a hit) and a dollop of sour cream for the top, and it went over really well. I won't claim they hungered for more, but all three ate well and that's always a good lentil day. The point of all this being, of course, that even simple fare that is not a favorite can be transformed (almost) by a touch of luxury.

Planned Leftovers:::Gina

Planned leftovers seem like a pretty basic concept in meal planning, but I think it can be more complicated than it sounds for a variety of reasons. Quickly, the concept is to cook extra so that you have leftovers. Here are some roadblocks to this idea, though:
  • Someone in the house (while I would never presume to point fingers, this person often goes by a title that starts with a "D" and rhymes with bad) refuses to eat leftovers. The best way to counter that is to "morph" the original dish into other incarnations. Think roast turkey into turkey soup, turkey salad, turkey casserole, etc. Another tactic is to never utter the "L word." They probably can't tell, anyway.
  • People snack on foods that are awaiting another fate and/or take them for lunch. Obviously, this is simply a matter of letting people know what your plans are. Intentionally using leftovers for lunches is another way to implement planned leftovers.
  • Food goes bad before you get around to using it. This is clearly just another matter of planning, and if you use a meal planning technique, it's easily avoided.
Here are some other ideas for how to implement this:
Roast Chicken Ideas (can just as easily be implemented for your own at-home roasted chicken)
Chaos in the Kitchen (she has several posts that start off with "Planned Leftovers")