Saturday, October 29, 2011

Favorite Busy Day Make Ahead Meal

I'm a mom, a teacher of sorts, and a full-time student ... It makes for a bit of chaos. Add in homework for kids and mom, play practice for the girls, etc. and there are nights when there is neither time nor willpower to come up with a fantastic healthy dinner. Fortunately, my kids love simple meals  and are okay with freeze-ahead foods. One of our family favorites is burritoes. (Does that word actually have an "e"? Yup, it's that point in the semester when my brain officially turns to mush and this English major forgets how to spell.)

I realized a while back that it's really just as simple to make my own batch of burritos (I'm thinking that I'm going with no "e" ... ) and freeze them. We like 'em simple. Refried beans (the black ones are our favorite) and sometimes a can of drained black beans, cheese, a can of green chiles, garlic powder or minced garlic, dried, minced onion, chili powder, and some cumin all make something that looks a lot like the picture above. I realize it doesn't look appetizing, but have you ever really looked at the guts of a burrito? Not pretty, my friends!

While homemade tortillas work really well, lots of times we just use the store-bought variety. Roll the filling up in a tortilla shell, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or two (more space between the burritos will allow them to crisp up a bit on the sides too), and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and a bit crisp.

After they've cooled, place the leftovers in a freezer bag, label, and freeze. They reheat well in the microwave. Having these burritos on hand has saved us more than once. It's pretty simple to come up with a side dish, or even just add a salad and some fruit, to make a well-rounded meal. I like having them on hand for when the girls are gone.

Linking up with:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Costume Parade ...

When we landed here, we happened to land in one of the few schools that I've seen that still does a Costume Parade. I LOVE it! The kids wear their costumes and make-up (no masks, weapons -- real or pretend, and no gore) to school, parade about, and then change into clothing they've brought from home. I realize that it doesn't help productivity, but as a kid, it was one of my favorite activities, and I'm thrilled that my girls get to experience it.

The girls were excited to have lots of opportunities to wear the costumes that their dad bought last year. They were just as excited to be able to have makeup.

L was rather upset when she first saw her makeup. "Mah-mmmm! It looks like a lion!!" I have to be honest and say that I was less than my most sympathetic self. "Would you like me to wash it off and just give you a kitty nose and whiskers?" That slowed the rising tide of upset. Thankfully, M knew just how to solve the problem ... "Your makeup will run off if you cry about it. I think it looks nice!" Magical drying of the fountain of tears ...

Luckily, M was thrilled with her makeup. She was unhappy that I didn't use as much Halloween makeup, but used real makeup instead on her eyes and lips until she saw the end result. Then she thought it was deathlike enough.

L's kitty face ... She's got huge eyes and the kitty makeup plays them up.

M's Bride of Darkness ...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Blog Award ...

Erin over at Table for Seven has given me the Liebster Award. I'm so excited! She has a great blog with lots of yummy ideas. Definitely worth a visit! (Yes -- that was a wink, wink; nudge, nudge kind of hint. Head on over and show her some love ... )

The Liebster Award is one given to highlight up and coming blogs. These blogs usually have less than 200 followers. It does come with a few rules:

1. Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to the blog that gave you the award.
3. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving them a comment.
4. Hope that your followers spread the love to other bloggers.

My picks for this award? (Another broad hint -- you really should stop by. They're well worth the visit .. and they're good at what they do.)

* Film Critic's Daughter

* Daisy Patch

* It's just called spicy ...

* Our Pumpkin and Sweet Pea

* The Creative B

Thanks again, Erin!!

Random Bits of Happiness from my Pinterest Board ...

I don't drink alcohol, but I'd be in a little bit of heaven to find this beautiful setting with a bottle of sparkling cider or grape juice ...

This is pretty much me in a nutshell ...

I ADORE hydrangeas. The blue and green ones are my favorite.
Source: None via Jaymie on Pinterest

If I closed my eyes, this is where I'd live ...
Source: None via Jaymie on Pinterest

Love ...
Source: None via Jaymie on Pinterest

Add a couple free hours, and I'd have everything I needed. 
Source: None via Jaymie on Pinterest

Could you imagine sitting here, swathed in blankets, with a steaming cup of hot cocoa and a good book? HEAVEN!
Source: via Jaymie on Pinterest

I adore both this image and its color scheme.

I don't know what it is about this picture, but it makes my heart feel all warm ...
Source: None via Jaymie on Pinterest

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Save the Pumpkins!!

This year, my garden surprised us with several pumpkins ...

Since I was fairly certain that they weren't going to last until Halloween to be carved, etc. I decided to freeze them as puree to use in pumpkin recipes.

It's a pretty simple process. Wash the pumpkins. (Cumbersome, but worth not having to do it later when your knife has dragged dirt through the middle of your squash.) Cut them in half, and scoop out all the guts. It's handy if you have a big bowl nearby. We like to cook the pumpkin seeds, but if you don't, it's fairly simple to just toss them ...

Grab a glass baking dish (or two) and lay your pumpkin pieces in it skin-side up. It's okay if they're not lying completely flat. You may have to prop one side against the other. No worries ...

Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom of your baking dish. I usually add three or four ...

Cover with foil-- doesn't matter if it's tented a bit around the pumpkins, just make sure that you've tightened it fairly securely around the pan. (Trust me, the process is much quicker if the water stays in the pan so that the pumpkin flesh steams.)

Pop your covered pans in the oven; I bake mine at 350 degrees, but I don't think it matters too much. I just like 350. It's a nice, easy number to remember. Bake them until you can pierce the pumpkin skin easily with a fork. (Should be somewhere near an hour, depending on the size of your pumpkins.) I tend to ignore them until they smell done. (Notice the word "done", not "burnt" ... I promise you won't like the difference ... )

I usually pull the skin off with a knife or a fork while the squash is still hot. It comes off fairly easy; just watch your fingers. It would be just as easy to scoop the flesh out with a spoon though. You're just going to mash it up anyway-- it's allright if it's in pieces.

If you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, now is a great time to pull it out. A regular blender works wonders as well. Just toss the pumpkin, in chunks, into the blender, and puree it in batches. It's a bit time-consuming, but it works.

I don't have a handy, dandy, immersion blender, and quite frankly, I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of pulling out my blender and pureeing several batches of pumpkin, when I can toss most of my pumpkin in a large bowl and use my potato masher. It's kind of like kneading bread-- there's something totally therapeutic about mashing a bunch of pumpkin by hand. :)

At this point, there are a couple of things that you can do. If you are really ambitious, you can strain your puree with cheese cloth or a dish towel to get the excess moisture out. You can tip any visible liquid out of the bowl using a plate or a spoon to keep your mashed pumpkin from splatting firmly into the bottom of your sink. (Such a waste -- pity ... )

While I do pour off any excess liquid, I don't usually put my towels or myself through the torture of squeezing out any excess drop. I do however drain my pumpkin again after it thawes. (Once again, not as thoroughly as some, but it hasn't been a problem thus far.)

It's hard to tell from that picture (Sorry, all I've got is a little point and shoot camera ... You get what you get.) but I measure my pumpkin out in two cup portions. A can of puree is about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups. When the pumpkin is frozen, and consequently thawed, there will be extra moisture to drain off. Measuring out two cups allows me to have enough pumpkin after I've drained the thawed puree.

Place your pumpkin in freezer containers. I prefer bags since they can lay flat, and they thaw more quickly. Label them with a sharpie. (Ball point pen gets bored and sneaks off ... ) Freeze them flat and stack them. You can stack a bunch unfrozen, but depending on the weight of your stack, the bottom containers may ooze ... Nobody likes a leaky pumpkin.

After thawing, use them in your favorite recipes. If your puree is really moist, you can wring it in a towel, or compensate by adjusting the liquid in the recipe. The type of pumpkin that you use may impact the flavor of your dish. If it's not a sweet variety, you can adjust the sweetener in your recipe. I've never needed to do this; usually, if you have a really flavorful pie recipe, you won't have a problem.

Linking up with:


Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 4

Monday -- Chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and canned apples

Leftover chicken will be chicken salad for lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday-- Dinner on the fly ... Tuesdays are always a bit of a mystery. Kids are probably dining at Grandma's Cafe again. :)

Wednesday-- Tacos-- yup, the totally generic, ground beef filled, tomato, cheese, and lettuce toting kind. Not sure yet what sides ...

Leftover ground beef can go in the freezer for taco soup.

Thursday --  Kahlua Pork (Crock pots are my friends.) Rice and beans, Pears, Corn

Leftover pork will make empanadas, burritos, and pulled pork for the freezer.

Friday --  Pasta (easy to adjust since I'm never sure if the kids will be home this night or not.)

Saturday -- Tomato Soup, garlic bread

Leftover soup in the freezer.

Sunday -- Grandma's and Papa's Choice\

Linking up with:
Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Briana over at Babblings and More has given me the Versatile Blogger Award. I'm really excited about it. The ladies over at Babblings and More have a great blog. They've got some terrific ideas. I can't imagine anything more fun than running a joint blog with my sister. (Hear that, Laur?) It would be great if y'all head over and check out their site!

The rules for this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Send it along to 15 other bloggers and let them know that you've awarded it to them.

Seven Fantabulous Things About Me:

1. I'm a mom, a full-time student, and a part-time employee.

2. I'm an English Ed major, with a Psychology minor.

3. I grew up surrounded by brothers, but now I live in a home full of all girls.

4. I'm a little obsessive about writing. It's how I process things out. I have a couple of blogs, I write poetry here and there, and I keep a journal. I keep track of different things in each place. I'm not a great scrapbooker, but my kids should still have a pretty good record of our lives.

5. I love to cook, but it wasn't always that way. I once messed up Hamburger Helper. (That's how bad I was ... ) Fall baking is my favorite!

6. October is my favorite time of year usually. (This year it hasn't been so hot, but I'm hoping next year will be better ... ) I love the cooler air, the baking, the soups, and, of course, sweaters and cowboy boots.

7. I teach little kids to read. It's a pretty cool job. Better still, I'm usually home when my kids are.

Choosing who to give these awards to is always difficult. I truly enjoy all the blogs that I read-- or else I wouldn't bother. However, the fifteen bloggers that I've chosen are:

thoughts and random ramblings

Our Family Feil

Bobbie's World -- y tres mas

Blue Chateau Interiors

Chef in Training

Six Sisters Stuff

The Crafty Nest

Don't Blame Me I'm Just the Mom

Babblin Brooke

Be It Ever So Humble

Diaries of a Grumpy Grateful Mom

Lee Family Adventures


Project Queen

The Frosted Gardner

Thursday, October 13, 2011

High Adventure in the Land of the Highly Allergic ...

It's been an afternoon of fourth grade angst and attitude, so when my oldest child started freaking out at me (again) I did not immediately react. Seconds later, when I heard true fear in her voice as she said, "GET IT OFF, MOM! PLEASE get it off me." I decided that it was time to go kill the spider. Unfortunately, it was about this time that she told me, "Please, Mom! It's a wasp!"

Up to this point, I was repressing my own fear of eight-legged crawly things and walking toward her. Hearing that it was a flying nasty with six legs darn near paralyzed me. Only the thought that my child was in danger kept me walking toward it.

It may seem strange that I was more bothered by a wasp than a spider, but when I clarify the details by telling you that I'm fairly allergic to anything resembling a wasp or a bee, it may make more sense. (Obviously not to my daughter who thinks it is ridiculous that I didn't know it was not a spider by the fact that she was screaming-- according to her, "I would be crying WAY harder if it was a spider. I HATE spiders! They scare me so bad." I think she thinks I'm a ninny ... )

As I watched the wasp trying to crawl inside the neck of her shirt, I was beginning to fear that I would have no choice but to use my hand to fish it out. All I could see was the image of my completely useless for the next two weeks, sausage-like fingers if I had to go that route. It's a miracle I didn't throw up from fear right then and there. Luckily, I saw my daughter's library book and was able to lift her shirt so that I could fit the book in and under the wasp. (I'm fairly certain that the poor nasty was dying or things would have turned ugly ... er ... really soon.) I flipped the wasp off and saw it flop to the floor. I had saved the day ... sort of.

Try as I might, I could not find the buzzing source of toxin. I ordered the kids to keep their shoes on (neither of them has ever been stung, and I could be perfectly content not having today be the day that we find out if they are or aren't allergic like their mum.) and sighed with regret as I realized that this likely meant my feet would have to remain encased firmly in my sturdy shoes until I crawled into bed later tonight. (I realize that this may seem extreme, but one of these days I'll tell you about the last time I got stung. You'll totally get my trauma ... )

After scouring the floor and calming the kidlets, I sat down to monitor homework time. About ten minutes later, I felt something bump the back of my leg-- inside my pant leg. I hoped against hope that I had just bumped the fabric against the couch. As I VERY cautiously lifted the bottom part of my pant leg, while trying not to let the fabric touch my skin -- just in case -- my worst fears were confirmed. The wasp had managed to find it's way into my pants.

Have you ever tried to remove your boots (that zip) with one hand while holding your pant leg and trying to corral a crawling wasp with the other? Not such a fabulous experience. If you've had that kind of fun, then perhaps you know how much fun it is to stand on one leg, still bending over and trying to limit the wasp's crawling -- desparately hoping that you don't tick the dang thing off more than he probably is-- while trying to slip your leg out? All without allowing the fabric to touch skin? Yes, my children were laughing hysterically. Why do you ask?

Finally, clad in pajama pants, I was left to stand and stare at my jeans wondering, "How on earth am I going to get the sticky thing out of my pants?" My youngest child finally brought the vacuum over, and after trying to shake it out for several minutes (I told you, I'm pretty sure it was on it's last six legs ... ) I gave up and decided to try and suck it out with the vacuum hose. After multiple failed attempts, and while trying to keep my fingers as far away as possible, I began using the vacuum hose to flip my pant leg inside out. Let's just say, not a method I would recommend.

Eventually, the wasp came out to play, and I was able to introduce it to my vacuum.

Linking with:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Reason ...

The reason my nine year old can't get out of bed?

"But I'm still listing my not-fairs from that dream I just had ... "

Yup ... important business ...

Monday, October 10, 2011

This is what happens ...

When you have a leftover wrapper from a fruit by the foot  and a sharpie marker that didn't get put away ...

Menu Plan Monday 3

Monday - Cheese Enchiladas

Tuesday - Kids are hanging out with Grandma, I'm eating whatever I can find. :)

Wednesday - Chicken Puppies

Thursday - Breakfast for Dinner: Whole Wheat Pancakes, Turkey Bacon, and Fruit

Friday - Soup: Probably the batch of Asparagus Soup that I've got in the freezer

Saturday - Egg Salad Sandwiches

Sunday - Quesadillas

Linking with:

Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Preserving Zucchini

Two monster zucchini from my garden needed to be preserved before going bad.

These zucchini were HUGE, which means that the seeds were too. I just found it easiest to hollow out the seed area before moving on to the next step.

Since the zucchini were so big, I just cut them in chunks so they'd be easier to grate.

After grating the zucchini, I placed it in 2 cup portions in freezer bags. (Why two cups, you ask? Because. Yup, no good reason ... just because.)

Squash, shake, or slam them flat ...

Label them and freeze. (Just be aware that you'll want to drain off excess liquid after they thaw or compensate by adjusting the liquid in your recipe ... )

Linking with: