Archive | January, 2012

Recipes and Resolutions: Easy Chicken and Wine

31 Jan
Easy Chicken and Wine

The "Easy Chicken and Wine" recipe really IS easy!

Since today is the last day of January, this is technically the last recipe in my January theme, Recipes and Resolutions. The message behind that theme for January was that you don’t need to give up on quality, even gourmet, meals just because you shop on a budget. However, I wanted to just state for the record that just because January is over and just because I won’t be calling the recipes “Recipes and Resolutions” recipes anymore, doesn’t mean we’re going off the deep end here with our budgets. Really anything I post is budget-friendly, or we wouldn’t be eating it. That’s a promise.

On to today’s recipe…Easy Chicken and Wine.

This is another one of my favorite meals from growing up. According to my mom, she’s been making this before it was published in their “Newcomers Cookbook” in 1979. The recipe was from her life-long friend Nancy Roy, whose mother, Helen Thurston, passed it along to her. You don’t need a ton of ingredients and you mix them up in one 2c. measuring cup and then pour them over the chicken before baking, so it’s super easy. All of my kids like it, so it’s a winner all around.  It does take a little while to bake, but while it does, I can do something useful; like helping kids with homework.

INGREDIENTS

4-6 breast quarters (I use split breasts which I got at Aldi’s. Each pkg. had 2 breasts in it for about $2.00. I cooked four breasts total and we had an entire one left over, which I will eat for lunch this week.) Also, as a note, I know that skin on chicken is not as healthy as skinless, and so often we do use skinless chicken. But, this recipe is just soooo good with the skin on, so it’s a treat for us. However, you can do as you please with yours. It’s yummy though, just saying.

1 cup burgandy wine (I use whatever red wine we have on hand or the Holland House red cooking wine)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 tsp. crushed oregano

2 tablespoons water

1 garlic clove sliced in quarters (tonight I used minced garlic)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

This recipe makes a neat "teachable moment" for science, seeing the oil go to the top, the wine settling to the bottom.

DIRECTIONS

Wash and drain chicken quarters.

Place in shallow baking dish.

Combine all other ingredients and pour over chicken.

Cover with foil.

Refrigerate if there is time to do ahead. If so, spoon sauce over chicken several times before baking.

If not, bake chicken covered for one hour at 375 degrees.

Uncover and cook 10-15 minutes longer and cook 10-15 minutes longer and baste with wine sauce for further browning. This is really yummy with baked potatoes (which I put in the oven for the same baking time as the chicken) or over rice. We put the sauce into a gravy separator and use it over the chicken at the table as well.

Easy Chicken and Wine, asparagus, baked potato

Another meal brought to you by an Aldi's grocery trip! We *love* their asparagus too.

To Coupon or Not To Coupon? That was the question.

30 Jan
Coupon holder

I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be an Extreme Couponer, I will not be....

I admit, I am a little obsessive. Definitely a Type A personality. When I want to do something I do it and I give it 110%, no matter what it is, which is good…and bad….because how many things can one person give 110% to without losing their minds?

Sometimes Don says, “Can’t you ever just do something 75%? Just once?”

Um…No.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t going to blog EVERY day, I mean, that’s a lot. Just on occasion, when the mood strikes me.

You see my problem.

Therefore, when all of this Extreme Couponing started popping up on TV, Twitter, Facebook, etc., I was so tempted.

“I could do that,” I’d think to myself.

“I would be so GOOD at that!” I’d think.

But then, I’d remind myself: I shop at two stores for all my groceries that don’t take coupons because their pricing is already so low, namely Aldi’s and Price Rite. And, I don’t want to change that and I don’t want to go all over town buying one thing here or there just because it’s free.

Yet, I also shop at Walmart and CVS (I’m addicted to Extra Bucks) where I *could* use coupons and where I was probably missing such great deals because I don’t coupon.

I was so torn.

It kept me up at night.

Finally though… it happened. I got an email from my friend Karen. “You should really coupon…” Since she’s the one who introduced me to Don, I trust her entirely, I mean, she was so right about the husband thing…

So I decided to venture into it just a little bit. I promised myself I would NOT be an Extreme Couponer, that I would NOT spend entire days couponing or hours and hours in a store, but that I would just try to be better about having coupons for the things I do buy at Walmart, CVS and omg…I forgot about Target, love it there, and try to save even more money than I already do by shopping where I do.

The first time I went to CVS with coupons AND Extra Bucks, I was so nervous! I wanted to make sure I had the best deals to spend my Extra Bucks on so that I’d make the most of them. I was mad when I got home because I realized that they didn’t count one of my dollar off coupons, so I promised myself that next time I’d do a better job like those ladies on the TV show, of watching what goes in and what comes off the bottom line BEFORE I get home. My mom was always so good at that, still is. My attention to mathematical details…not so good.

Despite the fact that I missed getting one of my dollars off, I think I did pretty well! I came home feeling pretty proud of myself!

So, there it is. I’m officialy couponing. A little. And I have to tell you, literally EVERY time I get a tissue from one of my free boxes of Kleenex brand tissues (which would normally be a splurge in our house,) I think to myself, “This tissue was free.”

Every. Single. Time.

I’m still trying to keep to my promise of not being extreme, and I can definitely tell why people who are extreme need dedicated storage spaces for their haul, because as silly as it seems, my first thought when I got home was, “okay so where do I store four deoderants,” since I usually only buy one as I need it. But, I found a place. However, those are small items, and those extreme couponers…they buy lots of stuff and lots of bigger items.

I won’t be that way.

Right?

I won’t….

Here's what I paid for....

coupon haul at CVS!

And here's what I got for free!! Yes, that's SIX boxes of Kleenex brand tissues!!

The Best Things in Life

29 Jan

Today we took our kids out to breakfast. We had a coupon AND a gift card, so we were good to go. We were so careful with our selections that we will be able to go out again with what’s left on the gift card on a night when they have “kids eat free.”

While we were there, we sat and planned out our meals for the next two weeks, since it’s a pay week,  making our grocery list, and then headed for the store. At Price Rite we spent exactly $200 on the two weeks’ of groceries and we got 85 items; ingredients to make two lasagnas, a roasted chicken, BBQ ribs and more, more, more.

But, despite all that we did and all that we got, the best thing of all was free….the cardboard box from Price Rite. It wasn’t even from today’s trip, it was from a different trip, but they spent the whole morning playing with it.

Here’s a sneak peek at this week’s menu:

SUNDAY: BBQ ribs and chicken with homemade corn bread

MONDAY: Poached salmon over rice with steamed broccoli hollandaise

 

TUESDAY: Sausage and Peppers

WEDNESDAY: Cranberry Chicken

THURSDAY: Spaghetti with Tuna sauce

FRIDAY: Daddy Does Dinner…surprise!

SATURDAY: Make two, freeze one Lasagna

Superbowl Week: Easy Apps

26 Jan

Apps as in appetizers, not as in for your iPhone or iPad. I thought today I’d share two easy appetizers that you can serve on Superbowl Sunday or any time you need an appetizer idea. One of them we make often when we are asked to bring an appetizer with us and the other one, Don makes all the time for dinner on Friday nights, which is usually his night to cook while I take the girls to dance and Girl Scouts. It’s a late night and they look forward to that night’s dinner as it’s more laid back than our other nights’ meals.

The first is Kielbasa Roll-Ups, something we’ve been making for years and years. Don has pretty much taken over making these as the years have gone by and he’s really, really good at them!

Kielbasa and Crescent Rolls

These only need two ingredients: the kielbasa and the crescent rolls.

You need just two ingredients: two tubes of crescent rolls and one package of kielbasa.

First, open up your package of kielbasa and cut the pieces into bite-sized pieces, about the size of your thumb. Cook them in a frying pan in a little bit of oil. Try not to eat lots of the little pieces while you cook them.

A few easy steps and this appetizer is done.

Next, open up your crescent roll dough and cut each triangle in half. Roll the cooked kielbasa right up in the crescent roll dough and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven at the temperature on the crescent roll container until they are golden brown, about 10 minutes or so, according to the container. The kielbasa is cooked all the way through so you’re just cooking the crescents around it. Serve warm or cold and with a side of mustard if desired. You may have more pieces of kielbasa then you do crescents to wrap them in, so those you can eat while you wait for the appetizers to cook!

Next up: Loaded Nachos…this is the one the kids crave on Friday nights. When we come home and they see that Don’s made them for dinner, they literally cheer. He often makes them along with another dish like a pizza or calzones, but I could eat a whole plate of just nachos alone.

Loaded nachos

The good thing about this appetizer is you can use whatever ingredients you'd like!

The only definite ingredient you need to make a Loaded Nacho appetizer is the chips. After that you can decide what else you want to add to them on top of the chips: meat (chicken or beef), veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, olives, chili peppers), cheese, guacamole, sour cream etc. You decide.

Layer your chips first, and then the cooked meat of your choice on top. Bake for a few minutes until chips are crispy and then sprinkle your cheese on top. Cook until melted. You can even broil them a little bit to crisp them up, as long as you watch them carefully so that they don’t burn.

Add cold ingredients to the top once your baking is finished.

Enjoy!

Seeing the forest through the trees

23 Jan

Sometimes clarity is hard to find when you're in the middle of a situation.

Two weeks ago I had an absolute meltdown while on Facebook. It was a weekday morning and I had one kid home sick (I know, shocker)  and I’d spent the entire morning rushing the others through their morning routines. No one seemed to have themselves together that morning and there were missing hats, gloves, water bottles, and despite all of the hunting and gathering, still a homework folder was left on the table as the bus pulled away, again. My normally low blood pressure was probably through the roof as I sat down on the couch and updated my status as to the fact that I was about to lose my mind. Again.

After I ranted and raved a bit, I felt much better. My heart stopped racing. I sipped my coffee.

And then…the responses started to come in. Other mothers, friends of mine, commenting that it’s the same for them, that they knew how I felt, they could feel my pain. I instantly felt even better.

Through all of those responses though, several stood out. One friend stated that she now avoided those types of morning problems by doing all of the hunting and gathering the night before and laying it all out, ready to go. Another friend stated that she’d had a laminated check list for her oldest daughter a few years back, and that had worked well. My sister in law in Virginia agreed, stating that she’d used a similar one in the past, hooked to her daughter’s back pack where she could see it.

I was stunned. Why hadn’t I thought of these things?? I am a former teacher! I am an organized person! I have a check list for setting the table, one for cleaning up the basement, in the past we’ve even had one for the steps to take for calming oneself down (I could’ve used that one.) You would think doing these things the night before and setting up a check list would have hit me on my own, that I wouldn’t have needed to be told to try these things. I was incredibly thankful for the suggestions and yet feeling somewhat sheepish that I was so behind the eight ball, so down on my game.

But then it hit me. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a situation, something that should be clear to you, just isn’t. And sometimes you need to be told something so basic, just because you can’t see it on your own. And sometimes it’s okay to ask for help. I didn’t even realize I was asking for help, I was just ranting, raving, venting. And I didn’t even realize I needed a solution, a different plan. But as soon as I heard it, it was as if a light went off over my head. Well of course….a check list….doing it all the night before. Of course.

So that afternoon I made up two check lists on two pretty pieces of card stock and put out star stickers so they could mark them off as they went along each NIGHT, packing up their things. When they got home I explained to them how things would hopefully work out the next morning. They were excited (and maybe even relieved that I wouldn’t be yelling so much in the morning).

When I signed onto Facebook again that night, I was so touched. There were words of encouragement from my friends, wishing me a better morning the next day. That morning (which went off pretty much without a hitch) I had yet more words of encouragement from my friends, telling me to update them and let them know how it went. Again, I was so touched. Any disappointment that I’d had in myself was now gone, replaced by a huge sense of thankfulness and relief to have such an amazing network of friends and family around me.

We all support each other. With the internet the way it is today, as far apart as we are, we’re all right there for each other when we need support. I can’t thank each and every one of you enough, if not for that day’s support, then for another day’s words of support, encouragement or celebration. It really does make a difference. Here’s to a good week for us all.

"Night before" check lists

After two weeks I replaced my hand-written check lists with a typed one that I can just print out every two weeks.

Resolutions and Recipes: Basic Pancakes

22 Jan
Basic Pancakes

It's good to have a variety of different syrups on hand for pancakes. We often have maple, blueberry, strawberry or boysenberry.

Last weekend I posted my recipe for Hot Blueberry Compote, and I showed it over homemade waffles. However, it’s also delicious over pancakes. We always make our pancakes from scratch and the recipe is super easy. You can put anything in them or on top of them and we vary them with toppings and fillings such as: blueberries, strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips (of course) and craisins. My absolute favorite combination is a “pancake sandwich” of two banana pancakes stacked with a chocolate chip pancake in between them. Butter, syrup…mmmmm…..

Here is our recipe for Basic Pancakes, which uses very basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand. As usual it’s the recipe I grew up with. We keep it taped into the front cover of our recipe tin so that all we have to do is lift the cover, and there it is (Don’s idea.)

BASIC PANCAKES

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs

2 cups Buttermilk (2 TBL white vinegar and enough milk to make 2 c.)

1/4 c. canola oil (or vegetable oil)

2 cups flour

2 TBL sugar or honey

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Pour onto hot frying pan or griddle.  Add desired fillings and/or toppings.

Fun for Family “Movie” Night: Whirley-Pop Three Minute Popcorn Maker

20 Jan

Tonight was the first night of American Idol, a show our family enjoys watching. We especially enjoy the audition nights, because of the umm…array of talent…that’s out there. We record the show so that the kids watch the first hour and then, since it’s a school night, they have to go to bed and we watch the second hour at another time. Since it was a somewhat special night, being the first night of the show, we decided to christen another one of our Christmas gifts, this one was from my aunt and uncle:

Whirly Pop Three minute popcorn maker

This was one of our popcorn themed-gifts this Christmas and we tried it out tonight.

My aunt and uncle also gave us some popcorn accessories to go with it:

Popcorn accessories

These are the other accessories that were given to us to go with the popcorn maker.

Since we’ve never had a popcorn popper before, we were very curious as to how it would work and we thought tonight would be a fun night to try it out.

Here’s what it looks like out of the box:

Whirly Pop Popcorn maker

It's a pretty cool piece of equipment.

Once out of the box, the popcorn maker has to be seasoned with oil. After that, we followed the directions, putting oil in the bottom of the pot and a half cup of popcorn. As it heats up, you turn the handle until the popcorn is done. It cooked up very quickly and the entire pot was full. We decided to try the Kettle Corn flavoring. Well, more honestly, I decided that we were trying the Kettle Corn flavoring. They wanted Nacho Chip flavor, but somehow I won them over and we tried Kettle Corn. It was a combination of sweet and salty.

Popcorn into the big popcorn bowl

Last year we got the coolest popcorn bowl at our dollar store...for one dollar, perfect for tonight's treat.

Finally, to top it all off, the gift came with one-time use individual popcorn cups as well, so everyone got their own. It was an especially fun way to start off the season of American Idol this year. We found the Whirley-Pop popcorn maker very easy to use and we can’t wait to try out the other flavors of popcorn.

Here's to another season of American Idol!

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