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Get your pumpkin on and Go Orange for No Kid Hungry!

1 Oct
Thanks to Paula over at My Soup For You for teaming up with me today to bring you some great pumpkin recipes, and for bringing even more awareness to No Kid Hungry!

Thanks to Paula over at My Soup For You for teaming up with me today to bring you some great pumpkin recipes, and for bringing even more awareness to No Kid Hungry!

It’s October! It’s fall. It’s the season of beautiful leaves, fun autumn events like apple picking, hay rides and pumpkin carving.

Pumpkin….mmmmm…..does it make you think of pumpkin spiced coffee, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pie?!

Me too!!

We’re a lucky bunch, most of us. We can run through the drive through at the local donut shop and get this month’s pumpkin flavored muffin or drink, without too much of a struggle. We can pop a recipe for my good friend Paula’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread or her Pumpkin Soup right into the oven and enjoy it without too much trouble. All those warm, orange flavors warm our bellies and our thoughts all throughout the fall.

We’re very lucky.

Not everyone is so lucky, however. According to the No Kid Hungry statistics for our local area, as of June 2013 (more than a year ago), 22% of kids in our little state were struggling with hunger. Fifty-five percent of them were eligible for free or reduced lunch at school, and only 51% of those students were eating school breakfast.

At a recent school event I covered for the newspaper earlier this month, when a room full of young students were asked what the most important thing was that they’d miss if they were late to school, their answer wasn’t attendance, or morning math, or reading, it was breakfast. Every student who raised their hand was worried that if they were late to school in the morning, they’d go hungry until lunchtime.

Childhood hunger across our nation is a growing problem, but we can do something to help.

Last year, you may remember that our own family started a local Go Orange Day for No Kid Hungry after seeing a television commercial about the nationwide effort to help end childhood hunger. Nationally, the official Go Orange Day for No Kid Hungry is at the end of September, but we opted to do ours just a little bit later at the start of October. It was a big success. We rallied our large school district, the superintendent’s offices and City Hall all to Go Orange for No Kid Hungry, and raised over $1000 in monetary donations as well as bringing in hundreds of pounds of non-perishable food items for our local food pantry. We were helping to put food on the tables of families all around us, and it was a great feeling.  All around us, local restaurants and other establishments went Orange as well, donating portions of their proceeds to the No Kid Hungry effort, and wearing orange to show their spirit.

This year, we’re doing it again. We’ve pushed our date out slightly further, and this year on Friday, October 31, Halloween Day we’ll be getting our pumpkin on, going Orange for No Kid Hungry again. We’ve rallied our school district, our superintendent’s office, City Hall, and even our church to help us put an end to childhood hunger again this year. So far we’ve had TEN local responses for going Orange on Halloween Day. Even more exciting, we’ve had some inquiries from local folks wanting to spread this year’s local Go Orange day to their communities and schools within our state and neighboring areas. All around our city, people will be showing their Halloween spirit, dressing in orange, donating money and/or non-perishable food items on Halloween Day and helping out their neighbors all in a day’s work.

We are thrilled. Wouldn’t it be great if we could really make a difference EVERY YEAR?

Wouldn’t it be great if just by spreading awareness and spreading the word, we could help feed other families?

We are foodies, we are blessed, we are thankful to be able to cook and bake and eat our fun pumpkin flavors in the spirit of the season, all month long.

So I ask you: will you get your pumpkin on this Halloween Day too? Will you spread the awareness of childhood hunger in your area and continue the good work of No Kid Hungry and their Go Orange efforts in your city or town, at your school or church or temple? Will you help?

Get your pumpkin on. Visit Paula’s blog over at My Soup for You and help her spread the word too. Make some Pumpkin Soup. Grab some Pilgrim Pies, eat some pumpkin spiced Chex snack mix, and be thoughtful, be thankful that you can help another family in such a simple way.

 

 

Fun Friday: Cook once, eat twice. After school snacks and breakfast

26 Sep
These were healthy and a huge hit. Definitely a keeper.

These were healthy and a huge hit. Definitely a keeper.

ORIGINALLY POSTED SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

Cook once, eat twice.

I love that old adage. You cook once, and live on the leftovers. Or, you make double, since you’re cooking anyway, and have twice as much.

Either way, I like it.

I’ve been living on that theme all week long.

I’ve been a cooking machine this week, in between my own work hours, trying to deal with our crazy school year schedules, and making sure that we maintain a healthy eating lifestyle at the same time.

Really, just making sure everyone’s got something to eat when it’s time to eat.

However, one thing I really enjoy doing is making great after school snacks for my kids whenever I can. Everyone has something that makes them happy, and I think I’ve inherited my grandparents’ genes. My dad always said that my grandmother was happiest when everyone was eating.

If everyone is eating, they’re happy, and that makes me happy.

To me, as a mom, there is nothing more special than the moment the kids walk in the door from school. They’re tired, they’re hungry, they’ve got more work to do or places to go, but the look on their faces when they smell a snack fresh out of the oven or see it on the table is priceless to me.

I feel like I have the ability to make their day, every day. Or almost every day. I do the best I can. Later on in life, I want their memories of their school years to include coming in from school, and finding me there with something tasty for them to snack on. Some days I’m not even there, my schedule is not always consistent, but I’ve left them a tasty snack and a note on my way out the door.

To me, it’s things like that which make all the difference.

Everyone loves these whether for breakfast or after school or a meal on the run.

Everyone loves these whether for breakfast or after school or a meal on the run.

Additionally, I try to think smarter these days. If I’m going to make an after school snack, I might as well make enough of it to last for more than just one afternoon. I have tried to make things that can be used either as lunchbox snacks or as breakfast the next day.

These little mini quiches, or however you’d describe them, make a great after school snack. They’re healthy and you can make all different varieties to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. This time I did tomato/egg/cheese, spinach/egg/cheese and just plain egg/cheese. Fifteen eggs made 16 good-sized cups.

They were a snack and they’ve been breakfast or lunch throughout the week as well.

The pumpkin muffins, pictured above, I doubled the recipe to make twice as many. They served as an after school snack, breakfast the next day and a lunchbox snack the day after that.

If I’m going to work hard, I might as well get the mileage out of my efforts.

On that same afternoon this week as the pumpkin muffins, I also made a big batch of homemade applesauce. If I’m going to stand there and peel three pounds of apples, I might as well peel six pounds (although I have to stop there or my hand aches from all the peeling and slicing).

I used one batch in a recipe that night, froze two batches in my freezer for future use, and had some leftover to serve on the side with dinner as well. There’s nothing like homemade applesauce, especially in the fall in New England.

Today, I’m going to share with you the recipe I found for these delicious pumpkin muffins. Note that the recipe calls for mini chocolate chips. I don’t *do* mini chocolate chips. If I’m going, I’m going all the way so mine had regular-sized chips. Otherwise, the recipe I made was the same, just doubled.

This recipe is not my own. Thanks to Skinnytaste.com for posting such a wonderful snack and breakfast! It got all thumbs up at our house and we’d definitely make these again!

If I'm going to spend the time, might as well make it worth my while.

If I’m going to spend the time, might as well make it worth my while.

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 14  • Size: 2 mini muffins  • Old Points: 3 pts • Weight Watcher Points+: 4 pt
Calories: 160 • Fat: 5 g • Carb: 27 g • Fiber: 2 g • Protein: 2 g • Sugar: 18 g
Sodium: 118 mg • Cholest: 0 mg

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
  • 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or canola)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • baking spray
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray liners with oil for easy removal.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix pumpkin puree, oil, egg whites and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin and bake on the center rack for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let them cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 28 mini muffins or 14 regular sized muffins.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Back by popular demand…two weeks of menu planning

24 Sep
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Two weeks ago, for my What’s for Dinner Wednesday post, I shared with you our two week menu plan for the following two weeks. The post was very well received. I had so many people come up to me in person, thanking me for taking the time to share some menu ideas and inspiring them to create their own menus or inspiring them to try something new. Therefore, I thought I’d share again this week since it’s a new two-week cycle here at our house.

Meal planning at our house can happen at any time that we have about a half hour or so. We adults get our calendars out, figure out what nights we’re in, out, busy and not, and we start our planning. This time we spent about 45 minutes on a Saturday morning when all of our kids were out of the house at the same time. From there, I went right to the store(s) I needed in order to get everything for our menu “in stock.” I don’t love having to do lots of trips during the week to pick things up because I always see lots of things I “need” while I’m there. However, I won’t lie, those weeks do happen here, and when they do, we just deal with it as it comes. Not every week will work out so perfectly.

For the most part, we were able to stick to our menu for the whole two weeks prior, but there were a few switcharoos, and for those, we either skipped something all together or we saved it for this two-week cycle, so you may seem some repeats. And in general, there may just be some repeats because those choices work well for our family; they’re fast or they’re something everyone likes, or something like that.

I also had the pleasure of taking part in my friend Marica’s Dinners Done meal making and freezing party on Saturday night, so I had four meals automatically prepped and frozen that I could add to this menu plan. She’s a great Pampered Chef consultant, and if you’re local and you’d like to participate or host one of her Dinners Done meal prep events, please contact me and I’ll connect you to her. There are several menu options to choose from and you can either prep ahead ten meals or four. I chose to do four, and I am excited to try them out over the next couple of weeks!

Saturday: Hamburgers and hot dogs..easy peasy and we had a late afternoon ice cream social at church, so we didn’t want a big dinner. Technically ice cream *was* dinner.

Sunday: Wonton Lasagnas I had been craving these! We hadn’t had them since the winter and early spring months and they were a new find last year. They were a hit and we have enough leftover for another whole meal. If we don’t use the meal this first week, we’ll freeze them for the future.

Monday: Homemade chicken soup and homemade bread in the bread machine (coincidentally, three out of five of us were feeling under the weather on this night, and the soup was a perfect menu choice for us.)

This meal was tasty and a good way to combine a lot of things I had on hand.

Tuesday: Kielbasa with cabbage and noodles

Wednesday: Grilled chicken

Thursday: Meatballs in lemon basil sauce (from our make ahead meal party)

Friday: Pizza (olive/cheese, meatball/cheese, ham and pineapple) Friday nights are busy for us and this is a quick and easy meal. It’s also one of the only times we let them chill out and eat pizza in front of the TV, as a treat.

Saturday: Quesadillas

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie (the meat for this is something I prepped ahead before school started.)

Monday: BBQ pork sliders (these are another meal from my make ahead meal party.)

Tuesday: open for any leftovers

Wednesday: Nicoise Salad (we didn’t eat this last time around so we moved it onto the menu this time around.)

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner: Fritatas we make many different kinds, but here’s one similar to a recent meal we had.

Friday: Crockpot lasagna (another make ahead meal from our party.)

Saturday: Company for dinner!

Sunday: Turkey tenderloin aka a mini-Thanksgiving dinner!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Quick and Easy Sesame Chicken

17 Sep
This new recipe was definitely a keeper!!

This new recipe was definitely a keeper!!

My kids and I are professional mall food court stalkers. I seriously think we could make an entire meal of circling a food court at lunchtime and tasting the samples being given out. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Sushi, Subway, Philly Cheese Steaks, you name it, I am pretty sure we’ve sampled it.

Not to mention, that I am seemingly the BEST mom ever for saying “Yes!” when they ask if we can go find samples in the food court. Seriously, if that’s all it takes, I’m golden. You’d think I’d said, “Yes, we’re going to DISNEY!” instead of allowing them to go eat a piece of chicken on a toothpick.

Anyway, I tell you all this because so often when we go food court sample stalking, we come across a Sesame Chicken at one of the Asian restaurants. I absolutely love Sesame Chicken. I’ve often fallen for the sample ploy at the food courts and caved into getting lunch there, all because of the Sesame Chicken.

My friend Paula recently sent me a recipe from E-D Does It for Quick and Easy Sesame Chicken, and it was just that: quick, and easy! Delicious too! If you’re a Sesame Chicken fan like me, then look no further than the E-D Does It recipe! I’ve linked to it just above, and copied it for you below.

Quick & Easy Sesame Chicken
Ingredients

For the chicken
4 medium chicken breasts (diced)
1 egg
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or vegetable oil) *I used canola*
Salt & Pepper (to season)

For the sauce
5 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 cloves of garlic (chopped very finely)
80g of cooked rice per person

Method
1. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the corn starch to the egg and beat until well combined. Season well with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the rapeseed oil in the pan until very hot. Add the chicken to the egg mixture, stirring until all of the chicken is well coated. Now add the chicken to the hot oil. Stir occasionally and continue to cook until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.
3. Meanwhile make the sauce by adding the soy sauce, sesame seeds, vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch, water and oil together with the garlic.
4. Once the chicken is cooked, turn down the pan slightly and add the sauce mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce thickens and then remove from the heat.
5. Serve over a bed of rice and garnish with basil leaves.

 

 

Fun Friday: Blueberry Crisp

12 Sep
We had the most perfect day for our blueberry picking trip!

We had the most perfect day for our blueberry picking trip!

At the end of the summer we had the opportunity to go blueberry picking just over the state line with my cousin Val and her husband Bob. I have been wanting to go blueberry picking for years. The last time I went, my oldest daughter was two and a half years old and I had a newborn in a front pack. All I remember about that day was that it was incredibly hot.

This summer we were able to check both strawberry picking and blueberry picking off of our list of things we’ve wanted to do.

I have used this cookbook for years and years.

I have used this cookbook for years and years.

That day when we came home I knew immediately what I wanted to make with my blueberries: Blueberry Crisp from my favorite Blueberry cookbook that my parents gave us years and years ago. I use it every summer.

Once I put aside those berries for baking, I divided the rest and bagged them up to freeze so that as the summer turned to fall I’d have extra berries for cooking. As of now, I have one bag left.

In my cookbook I have marked the inside front cover with all of my favorite recipes and their page numbers. Blueberry Crisp is on page 82. I always mark the date that I tried the recipe, on the page that the recipe appears on. I first made this recipe on 6-27-99.

1999!!!

At the time I was four months shy of having my first baby. That was a hot summer, and I bet this dessert made an incredible treat!

The recipe is simple and quick, perfect for summer, and it’s delicious with ice cream on top. I especially love chocolate frozen yogurt on top of my homemade blueberry crisp.

If you have some blueberries in your freezer, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

Delicious topped with chocolate frozen yogurt!

Delicious topped with chocolate frozen yogurt!

Blueberry Crisp

INGREDIENTS

4 cups blueberries

2-4 Tablespoons sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup butter or margarine (I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Dash salt

3/4 cup quick oats or old fashioned rolled oats


DIRECTIONS

Place blueberries in buttered 8×8 square baking dish; sprinkle with 2-4 tablespoons sugar and lemon juice. In a medium bowl mix together butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt until mixture is crumbly. Stir in rolled oats, sprinkle evenly over blueberries. Bake 375 degrees 35-40. Serve warm with whipped cream.

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: How to plan ahead

10 Sep
Throw it all in, throw it all in the microwave, throw it all on the table.

With my Pampered Chef deep covered baker, cooking a chicken is so easy. I throw it all in, throw it all in the microwave, and throw it all on the table.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about my make ahead meal posts that I’ve written the past couple of weeks for my WFDW posts. I’m glad that they’re inspiring others to make some meals ahead. I wish I could take all the credit for this freezer meal inspiration, but I’m just sharing something I’ve read along the way too. Everyone helps everyone out by sharing what they’ve learned, read or tried, and I’m glad my posts are helpful.

I had a couple of people comment to me that the whole idea of planning ahead is just so overwhelming, they can’t even wrap their heads around it. I know I’ve written before about how we try to menu-plan ahead of time, but it’s been a while, so I thought I’d do a quick recap once again, to coincide with my make ahead meal series.

My husband is paid every two weeks and I am paid at the end of every month, so we try to plan our menus and our grocery shopping trip for our “big shopping,” as we call it, two weeks at at time. We try to go as soon as we can once he’s been paid, and most of the time we try to create a menu first which spans the two weeks.

Besides thinking about what we all like to eat and don’t like to eat, when planning our menu, we also look at our calendars and map out which nights one of us may have to work, or nights that are tight because the kids need to be somewhere early or right after dinner, or whatever the case may be. We cross off any nights we’re not eating at home, which doesn’t happen often, but on occasion there are some, and we try to plan fast meals for busy nights, big meals with leftovers that can be used for another dinner or lunches, on not-so-busy nights, and we try to stick with the menu plan as much as possible.

You’ll notice that in the paragraph above, I use the word “try” a lot. It’s because you still have to be flexible. Schedules change, so menus sometimes change too. Sometimes we don’t get to do the big shopping and we’re stuck planning on the fly, by the day and picking up what we can, when we can. Sometimes we don’t get to do a menu ahead but we have time to do a quick big shopping and we grab staples we always use in our menus and plan our menu around what we’ve bought.

Either way, my point is that no matter how you do it, planning ahead is worthwhile for organizational purposes, and for staying on budget as well. The less times I enter a store, the less extra items that I just “have to have” that week!

I thought I’d leave you here with the list we came up with for our two weeks of meals, and a few tidbits about how they’ll serve us well on that particular night. I’ve also linked to the recipes on my blog from past posts if I had them.

Sunday: Chicken dinner (we had most of the day to do a big Sunday dinner, it’s one we all love, and it made enough for leftovers for lunches. Two people had chicken sandwiches the next day stuffed with cranberry sauce and stuffing, and one had chicken salad the day after that.)

Monday: Quesadillas (everyone likes at least one variety or another of these and they are great for lunches the next day.)

Tuesday: London Broil (marinated ahead and frozen for a busy day.)

Wednesday: Pasta and meatballs (very busy day, one parent working at night, kids all over at night, and makes enough for leftovers for lunches or dinner.)

Thursday: Pulled pork in the crock pot (same sort of night as Wednesday, everyone likes this, we can eat and run, and have leftovers for lunches or another dinner.)

Friday: Homemade pizza and salad (a favorite meal, three different varieties of pizza for a busy night, and usually we have enough left to freeze some for the future or to use for lunches.)

Saturday: California Chicken with cheddar cheese and avocados (this is a one time only meal. No leftovers. Anyone can make their chicken any way they’d like.)

Sunday: (Eating out with a gift card to celebrate a special event.)

Monday: Chicken Marsala (a family favorite, served with noodles on the side for the one person who doesn’t like chicken. Makes enough for leftovers.)

Tuesday: Nicoise (a favorite French dish, a quick meal to pull together, provides some leftovers for lunch.)

Wednesday: Soup and sandwiches (a crazy night, soup will be made ahead of time using the carcass from the previous week’s chicken dinner, and reheated.)

Thursday: Pasta and Meatballs again! (another crazy night.)

Friday: Payday! Chinese takeout!!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: More Make Ahead Meals

3 Sep
I'm on a roll, what's the next batch of dinners I can cook ahead?

I’m on a roll, what’s the next batch of dinners I can cook ahead?

Ever since I did all my meal prep prior to the start of school last week, I have been looking at every meal with new eyes. Every time I cook something or eat something, I think to myself, “Could I prep this ahead?”  If I determine I can’t prep it ahead, I try to think of whether or not I could even just prep a part of it ahead.

I’ve come up with some good ideas though. We recently had Tortellini, Shrimp and Tomato Soup for dinner, and I realized that I could easily make up some batches of the soup without the tortellini and shrimp in it, freeze it and reheat it, adding the cooked tortellini and cooked shrimp in at the end. Also, having the soup prepared ahead makes a great option for my own lunches, even if I don’t add in the pasta and shrimp. It’s good just as a tomato soup, and in fact that’s how one of my kids eats it; I separate out a small batch for her to eat plain.

That led me to wonder, how many other soups could I make ahead and freeze? And what else is good to make ahead?

We just marinated a London Broil for a future meal, using this marinade. It’s good on steak and on pork. Pork tenderloins and London Broils are super easy to marinate ahead and freeze.

Pasta of all kinds, as well as sauce and meatballs, also very easy to make ahead and freeze.

I’d like to hear from you! What do you think would be a great make ahead dinner to make and freeze for future meals? Do you have any super successful meals you’ve frozen in the past? Anything you would NOT recommend freezing? I once saw a movie where the main character froze absolutely everything, from milk and cheese to lettuce. That’s not me.

Not yet anyway. :)

Leave me a comment below if you have some great make ahead meals! In the meantime, check out the recipes I have linked here and enjoy!

 

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