Monday, April 30, 2012

Meal Planning in Podunk

Continuing what I started last week, I will again be participating in Meal Planning Monday, over at "I'm an Organizing Junkie".  You should really go visit her - TONS of menu ideas. 

I'm an Organizing Junkie

Sure made my life easier last week. I'll take every bit of easier I can get!

I started out by checking my local grocery store's weekly ads to see what was on sale. I gotta say, that for Podunk, our grocery store is pretty great.  Looks like a great deal on chicken breasts, hamburger and vegetables, so that is the foundation of this week's menu.  I also kept in mind that our hens have started laying, and I have eggs that must get used, Cinco de Mayo is on Saturday, and finally, I have lots of recipes I've found on Pinterest that need to be tried!

Two of our free range hens

I hope you enjoy!

Monday - Hamburgers, Sweet Potato fries {P}, deviled eggs (use those eggs!)

Tuesday - Spicy Chicken Rigatoni {P}, roast vegetables {P}, French Bread, Snickers brownies {P}

Wednesday - Breakfast - scrambled eggs (hens again), bacon and Cinnamon rolls{P}

Thursday - Bourbon Chicken (see recipe below) and Egg rolls

Friday - Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta, Roast vegetables {P} French bread,

CINCO DE MAYO - Chicken Tacos {CR}{P} Mexican Rice, Tres Leches Cake and Margaritas

Sunday - brunch - Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit casserole {P} (more eggs!)

Sunday - dinner - Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Tomato basil soup {CR} (see recipe below)

{CR} = Crock pot
{P} = Thank you, Pinterest


Bourbon Chicken - From

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 -2  tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  1. Heat oil in large skillet.
  2. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly brown.
  3. Remove chicken.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.
  5. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Serve over hot rice and ENJOY.
***NOTE:  I usually add some fresh vegetables (broccoli, peppers, sugar snap peas) the last 10 minutes of simmer for some additional nutritional value.

Tomato Basil Soup
2 cans (14.5oz) crushed tomatoes (I also like fire roasted diced tomatoes)
12 fresh basil leaves (may use dried basil, or Italian seasoning, about 2 tbsp)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Pour tomatoes into small crock pot on low for 2 - 3 hours. Puree, with the basil leaves, in small batches, in blender or food processor. Return to crock pot and add cream, butter, salt and pepper, cover and cook on low another hour or until ready to serve. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with your favorite bread.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The "Art" of procrastination.

Our best friend's daughter K is going to have a baby.  We've known K since she was maybe 3 or 4 years old, and have watched her grow up, to to college, move off, come back, go back to college again, move off, and move back.  Typical 20's stuff.  Around Christmas, she and TJ announced they were going to be parents, and our friends are pretty excited.  This will make grand baby #3 for them.

K's baby shower was Saturday, and while I had the best intentions, when I woke up on Saturday morning, her present wasn't done.  Well, to be perfectly truthful here, it wasn't even started!  While this might throw most people into some sort of panic, I just looked at the fabric (which I had purchased on Monday, and washed on Tuesday) and went and made come coffee.  The shower didn't start until 1:30pm.

I started in earnest, cutting out the fabric about 9am, right after DD#2 and DD#3 left for a 4-H function.  I had decided to make here some baprons and some burp cloths, matching of course, and in her jungle nursery themed fabric. 

Fabric found at Hobby Lobby
I had decided to make her 3 of both, so I cut 3 bapron pieces from each of the fabric to make one bapron from the animal print, one from the green plaid, and one reversible.  You can find this great pattern by visiting Jess at "Craftiness is not Optional".  If you haven't been over there she has tons of great patterns and tutorials and the most adorable baby ever!

Cut 3 from both fabrics

Then I cut out the burp cloths.  I found this great, super easy pattern at "Cloud 9 Fabrics".  I started out only going to make 3, but had just the right amount of fabric to make 4, so 4 it is.  I didn't take pictures of that - kind of dull actually. 

Now it's about 9:30am.

I started sewing.  I didn't take pictures of that either (hard to sew and photograph).  The burp cloths took about 30 minutes beginning to end (I do have a serger, your time may vary) including the top stitching that really makes them look nice.

Now it's about 10am. 

I started on the baprons, and got the fronts and backs sewn together and was ready to started the bias tape trim when I suddenly remembered, when I purchased the fabric, I didn't pick up the bias tape. I rummaged through my stash of bias tape and had a dark brown and a lime green, enough for two bibs, so finished up the two bibs.

Now it's about 11am. 

I've never made bias tape before, but I've read a couple of tutorials, so I pulled out my fabric stash, and found what I thought  hoped would be enough to make bias tape. 

Then I went and took a shower so my hair would have time to air dry.  I MOST CERTAINLY did not take a picture of that!

Now it's about 11:30am. 

I pulled out the iron, and the ironing board, and a ruler.  DD#1 has my rotary cutter and mat, so the bias tape will have to be done the old fashioned way.  I cut out 2" wide strips of fabric on the bias, and kept cutting until I thought hoped I had enough.  I sewed all of my strips together, and then measured the strips - whew, just enough.  Now, with my trusty iron and ironing board I ironed the double fold bias tape.  I did not take pictures of that either.  Hot iron, camera, fingers... I didn't see that turning out well.  The good news is that the bias tape turned out perfectly.  The really good news for you is that I can advise you to never make bias tape this way, instead go to the tutorial I found here and follow it.  Dana at "MADE"  explains it better than I ever could.  I will be making all of my bias tape following her instructions from now on.  Not one bit scary, now that I've done it.

Oh, and it's now noon.

I took my adorable brown gingham bias tape and finished bib #3.

It's 12:20pm.

Middle bib is reversible

Entire jungle set
I got out my gift bag and "wrapped" up the little jungle set, added the card, then straighted my hair and threw on a nice shirt (defined by me as anything not a t-shirt) and out the door. 

It's now 1pm. 

Short drive to the church where the shower is taking place.  Walk in the door - it's 1:25pm.

Now that's the art of procrastination!

Friday, April 27, 2012

FFA petting zoo

Rooster, the rooster.
Last night was the early childhood center's family fun night.  For those of you not familiar with this, we are extremely fortunate in Podunk, that our school is growing, and has a thriving industrial park providing it's tax base.  This enabled the school, 10 or so years ago to add an early childhood center, which is a daycare, pre-school and kindergarten all in one very nice building.  Each month, they have family fun night for all those students and their parents and siblings, for FREE.  Each month has a theme, and this month, the theme was "Farm Life" and our high school FFA (future farmers of America) members provided the petting zoo, and a few other activities.  DD#2 and DD#3 are officers and spent the evening along with lots of other members, talking to, teaching and coaching (ie, pet them gently) a couple hundred little kids and their families.

Banjo the horse.
Banjo the horse along with the other horse, that I neither got a picture of, or learned it's name had a constant bunch of kids wanting to pet them and feed them (and probably ride them!).  They were a petting zoo only, last night.

Sam, the goat and Foxy the mini horse
Sam and Foxy drew plenty of attention too.  Many, many kids fed both of them, and they never seemed to get tired of the attention.  Foxy is probably the prettiest mini horse I have ever seen, and quite well mannered too.  Hope she has a beautiful foal for the young lady that owns and loves her! 

Feeding Sam
I am not generally a big fan of goats, but this one may have changed my mind.  She didn't smell (I suspect the young lady that owns her gave her a bath for this occasion) and had impeccable manners.  She even led on a leash better than our dog.  The perfect petting zoo goat.

Foxy, the pregnant mini horse
We also had ducks and young chickens, which were a source of fascination and many parents used the opportunity to have their little ones count them!  The chicks were a little tough to count because they all look alike and they were always moving!  

Whitey, Blanca and Bleach, the ducks
Another big hit was the group including the lamb, the pig and the bottle calf.  The pig was not quite as thrilled as most of the other animals to go to the petting zoo.  She was extremely vocal about not wanting to go!

Chica the calf and Bacon the pig.

Bacon, the pig, just chillin'

Rooster is watching the action

Even the adults liked the animals.  The pig decided she liked being there after a really nice lady shared three of her chocolate chip cookies.  The pig was sad when that lady walked off for sure.  I'm thinking I may have to bake the pig some oatmeal cookies sometime today, I'm not really sure if pigs should have chocolate.

There were tractors, big and small, for the kids to climb on, and those were a huge hit!  Not too many kids there had seen a "big" tractor.  The other surprise hit, was the set of animal pens that had been set up, but not used (the goat could escape under them!).  It was constantly full of little kids who climbed under, over and through it all night.  The FFA kids laughed and said that next year, they should just bring pens!  I thought it should have been labeled "unicorn".

Other FFA activities included a hay rack ride.  OK, so it's not technically a hay rack, but the little kids thought it was fun anyway!  I don't know who's dad was driving, but I heard he gave "awesome" rides! And had an area for the kids to color farm pictures, and plant cucumber seeds to take home, and were promoting the upcoming FFA greenhouse auction.

The early childhood center volunteers had lots of games, like cattle roping with a cow made out of a box, and of course food, and door prizes.  

The big hit of the night was the Rooster.  A last minute addition by DD#3.  He's an outcast in our chicken yard, and he follows DD#3 around the yard like a dog.  He does chores with her, he lets her pick him up, and he likes to be petted. 

He just wandered around all night, on his leash, letting every little kid pet him and never squawked or pecked or even acted like he cared.  He fell asleep once when DD#3 was holding him, and was a complete gentleman when a little, little boy wanted to open his beak!  He watched over the calf and the pig, and of course the baby chickens.  By the end of the night, when we got home, and I carried him out to the chicken house, I think he was asleep before I got the coop door shut!  That Rooster earned himself a long, long stay here in Podunk and probably a cookie or two as well!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When a light bulb goes off!

*** UPDATE - New and Improved Menu board - see bottom of post for additional details! Sometimes I even amaze myself! LOL. 

My new menu board!
Have you ever had a moment when a light bulb just went off, and something you've been struggling with suddenly seems so simple?  I'm not talking about world peace here, my issues in Podunk are much more minor than that, but issues none the less.  Maybe I should call them annoyances rather than issues - you get the point.

I love to cook, but how to organize my recipes and recipe books and clipped recipes and pinned recipes and recipes in my head and on my computer drive me crazy.  Crazy to the point that a few months back, before Christmas, when I was cleaning (this doesn't happen often!) I got completely fed up with my current non-system and threw the whole mess away.  Well, not the whole mess, but a good portion.  Some of the cookbooks I donated to the local DAV. 

That leaves me with no system at all, which up until now, I've been OK with.  In case you hadn't guessed, I'm not an organized person by nature.  I am a want-to-be organized person, just sometime don't know where to start. 

This led me to Pinterest (is anyone else addicted to this site?  Of course you are, don't lie!) in search of ideas.  The first one I found was wonderful, fabulous, spectacular from a blog robbygurl - it just wasn't for me.  Too organized (is there such a thing?) and too time consuming for me to think I would actually get it done.  I see now where she sells them, so if you want to purchase one, I'm sure she would love to sell you one.  I don't know her, but that would be my guess!

picture from robbygurl

 Then I found another organizing idea on Pinterest, this time from a blog called The homes I have made, which I think is great.  She saw the board from robbygurl on Pinterest too!  Her recipe calendar is a little simpler (which I liked) and still colorful and easy to manage. 

picture from The Homes I Have Made
Isn't it great?  And the real beauty of this calendar is that it somewhat resembles how my recipes were organized way back when.  I thought I might be able to manage something like this, but my one concern was that I just don't have any space in my kitchen for the calendar board.  Plus, I'm kind of cheap frugal, and really didn't want to go out and buy a board if I didn't think I would use it long term.

I did, however LOVE her idea to use magnets with the recipe names on the board.  This is when the light bulb went off.  I would do a weekly calendar (more manageable for me) and instead of using a special board, I would clear a spot on my refrigerator, and use the front of the fridge! 

I happened to already have magnetic paper (did I mention I work for a paper company!) and I already had some 3 ring binders and clear page covers, so no need to run to the store for supplies, BONUS!

I started with looking for a label template that I liked, and found an Avery template that fits labels 3261, 8257, 8760 and 8987 which are 30 up, and are about 1" x 2.5".  I like the size, and very little wasted paper.  Magnetic paper is not inexpensive! 

I started by typing in all the days of the week using a fun font.  Gotta make it fun, right?  Then I pulled out my recipe clear plastic tub (don't laugh! OK, maybe just a little) and started typing in names of my most used recipes/meals.

clear plastic tub of recipes - what a mess!

Not all of your meals need a recipe, right?  For me that's stuff like fried rice (way to use up leftover meats) or spaghetti & meatballs ('cuz I buy the sauce and meatballs).  You know what those meals are for you. 

I also typed in all the days of the week.  If you want, you could add "lunch" and "dinner" too.  I'm generally the only one home for lunch, since I work from the house, but if a "lunch" menu helps you, by all means, add it.

Once I was done with a sheet, it looked something like this:


I really liked the colors that "The Homes I Have Made" used, but my printer was low on ink, and remember earlier I mentioned how cheap frugal I am?  I figure I will dig out the markers later and maybe add a colored border.  

Then I cut them apart, and headed to the fridge to see what they looked like.  I had already planned my menu for this week, so it was easy to assemble, once I had cleared a spot of pictures and coupons and the such.

Fridge with a split personality!

After I decided that I liked it, I took my recipes and began to put them into the clear sleeves and when I did that, I numbered the sleeves.  Each recipe gets a number and I wrote the recipe number on the little magnet (if it had an actual recipe).  This keeps all of my recipes in one 3 ring binder instead of needing several binders.  If I find I need another binder, I will continue with the numbers, and just label the outside of the binder number 1 - 100, 101-200, etc.

I will eventually need to organize my magnets, but for now, they are going into a Ziploc bag.  You know the kind with the label area on the outside, and I will sort them by entree, side, dessert and whatever other category makes sense to me.  This is a bit of a work in progress, but one that I think I can manage.  Yeah me!!

** UPDATE **

I was going to start adding my colored borders, you know, like I mentioned above, with markers, but then suddenly, it hit me (not literally of course) scrapbooking paper!  I have some a lot of unused, lone sheets of scrapbooking paper.  I went rummaging thru my semi-organized file of scrapbook paper, and found 5 single sheets of paper that I liked for this project.  Nothing too dark, I was afraid the type would show very well on paper that was too dark.  Then I cut the sheets that were 12 x 12 down to the same size as the magnetic paper, which is 8.5 x 11.  I used scissors, because there were only two sheets to cut, so I wasn't getting out the paper cutter for that.

Then I printed my recipe/menu titles out.  I didn't take time to sort them into categories before I printed this first sheet - I was excited to see if this would work, and look great.  I'm inpatient that way!

Once printed, I pulled out the spray adhesive and a piece of newspaper.  If you haven't used spray adhesive before, be sure to spray either outside with a piece of newspaper behind it, or inside with LOTS of newspaper behind it.  This stuff is sticky - they aren't kidding about the adhesive part here people!

Spray it really well, because you will be cutting this into little rectangles, and you want this to stick.  Once you have the back of your recipes/menu sprayed, stick it to the white side of your magnetic paper.  I rubbed the top of the scrapbooking paper down really, really well on the magnetic paper, and then let it dry for a few minutes, before I cut them apart the little rectangles.  They stuck just fine to the magnetic paper, and the true test, they stuck just fine to my fridge.  No plain, white, boring menu board!  I am pumped about the easy addition of color, and also about not having to pull out the markers.  I am also pumped about finding some scrapbook paper with Chinese writing on it (why did I think I needed that originally?) and printing all of my Chinese recipes out on it!  Yes, I'm officially a menu board nerd! :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Grandma Sarah's Cupcakes

*** If you are coming here from Simple Living by Diane Balch "Foodie Friday" welcome!  If not, be sure to visit her for tons of great recipes! ***

Grandma Sarah is my mother in law, and she's probably the best cook I know.  Not the fancy, never heard of the ingredients kind of cook, but the wow those are the best chocolate chip cookies I ever had kind of cook.  She cooks with lard and bacon grease and butter and sugar and lots and lots of love.  You will never go hungry at her house, or anywhere near her. 

She gave me this recipe when we got married, and I have made it many, many times.  I don't think they ever taste as good at her's though.  I have made them using a boxed mix for the cupcakes and then adding the filling when I'm in a hurry.  I have even frosted them with a can of frosting from the store (something I am sure she would N.E.V.E.R. do). 



8 oz cream cheese (soft)
1 egg
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix and set aside.

Combine in large mixing bowl:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chocolate drink mix
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

add to dry ingredients in mixing bowl:

1 cup water
1/2 cup oil (canola)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla.

Mix well with dry ingredients.  Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full with cupcake mixture.  Add a blop (directly from her recipe, "blop" maybe a tablespoon-ish) of filling in the middle of each cupcake. 

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Cool and frost with frosting of your choice.  I usually frost with chocolate butter cream frosting, but this time, the request was for cream cheese frosting.  I didn't argue...any reason to make cream cheese frosting is fine with me... yummmmm.

You will not use up all the filling for one batch of cupcakes.  You can refrigerate the filling up to a week (never lasted this long at my house!).  I made a double batch of cupcake this time and came out with 34 regular size cupcakes and a little extra filling.

I took them to school for DD#3 16th birthday, and both pans came back completely empty.  Not that I am surprised! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tomatoes, global bucket style

Big Boy tomato
My little tomato patch is coming along quite nicely, even if I do say so myself (and I do) :) While I did not take pictures of how I planted them about 6 weeks ago (you can find a really nice video here that is way better than what I would have done), I do have pictures of, not only the plants which are almost shoulder high to me, and I'm almost 6' tall, but an actual TOMATO!!  Dare I mention that today is April 23rd?  APRIL!

Cherry tomato

So far, these buckets are perfect.  Because we have so much shade, I can move them around to get more sun.  Something I just couldn't do with a conventional garden.  Also, see the white PVC pipe sticking out?  That's how I water them.  There is a reservoir in the bottom bucket that wicks water up to the roots.  Boy do they drink alot of water! 

See the baby cherry tomatoes??
I can't believe I already have a whole cluster of baby cherry tomatoes growing!  Don't tell the chickens, I don't think they have noticed yet. 

baby Big Boy tomato

And one baby Big Boy tomato (the fuzzy thing in the middle of that picture!) about the size of a golf ball.  I am beyond excited with my little bucket system.  My herb garden is also growing great.  I used some basil last week, and am going to use more on Wednesday when I make baked spaghetti

My little herb garden

I am so excited to start getting fresh produce from the little mobile garden.  I feel a caprese salad and some fresh salsa in my near future here in Podunk!

Menu Planning in Podunk

This week in Podunk is going to be a busy week, not that every week isn't a busy week!  I have been so lazy distracted lately that I have not been posting like I had planned, but that's got to change.  And it's not because I have been lacking for content either!  So, one of my favorite organizing blogs, "I'm an Organizing Junkie" has Menu Plan Mondays, and I have decided that this is exactly what I need to do for my upcoming week and to jump start my blog again :)  My menu is simple, but simple is good, RIGHT??

Activity: Dr appointment, grocery shopping and buy fabric for baby shower gift.
Dinner:  Jambalaya (from zatarain's mix on sale at local grocery store) with smoked sausage and left over birthday cake for DD#2 birthday last week.

Activity:  Another birthday (DD#3 will be 16!!).
Dinner:  Roast chicken (cheating and picking this up from Sam's) and mashed potatoes, and Grandma Sarah's cupcakes.

Chicks for the FFA petting zoo

Activity: Pick up hay and fence for tomorrow's FFA petting zoo.
Dinner:  Baked Spaghetti and French bread (I am hoping for leftovers for lunch the rest of the week.)

Baby ducks for the FFA petting zoo
Activity:  FFA petting zoo. 
Dinner:  Fried rice, using leftover roast chicken.

Baby calf and baby pig for FFA petting zoo.  They <3 each other!
Activity:  Finish sewing gifts for tomorrow's baby shower.
Dinner:  Tacos with homemade taco seasoning.

DD#3 getting ready for FFA petting zoo.

Activity:  Friend's baby shower. 
Dinner: Pizza with homemade pizza crust

No Activity!  Unless you count laundry and dishes.
Dinner: Crock pot southwest soup (from pinterest) and french bread.