Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To add a little excitement to our long car rides on our upcoming vacation, I put together these travel notebooks for each of the kiddos. They picked out fabric from my scrap pile.

I also made pencil pouches with zippers to hold all the writing/coloring things and small toys (cars for the car-obsessed-boy)

I found some printable coloring pages to fill them.

I also put several pencil/paper games in for the older ones including some bingo, license plate game, tic-tac-toe sheets, and several games of the dot game.

They are all eager to get this show on the road so they can use these!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Iced Coffee Treat

Since moving to a more tropical climate, I have found iced coffee to be a nice treat as hot coffee just doesn't sound appropriate. Running out isn't such a great option time wise, nor financially. So, after a few tries I finally figured out how to make it to my taste.

First start with a pot of coffee. I make it a little stronger since it will be mixed with ice. My pot is small, and since I will drink only 1-2 cups of coffee a day, and occasionally give my 2nd daughter coffee to help with focus it works well. I make a full to the rim pot and it will last me a day or two.

When the pot is done I take it out and let it cool, then I have a quart mason jar that I pour it into and keep it in the frig. I do this as I'm enjoying my last cup of Iced Joe so I have some chilling all the time.
Before I pull the chilled jar out, I take my favorite mug and fill it with ice, all the way.

Pull the cold coffee out of the frig.

I like my coffee creamy so I fill the iced fill mug half full, and add sweetener. Sometimes I might add a little vanilla if I'm in a fancy mood.

Finally, I add milk to fill. Regular milk. Creamers are nice, but I like what I get with plain milk (I use skim) so that is what I use.

I don't normally like ice in my drinks but I get around this by using a straw to stir, sip and enjoy! My mornings are much happier.

Chick Chick Chicken

Yeah, chicken week.

This week I thought I would tackle chicken. Since I'm using the crock pot I may to a second batch to night. I pulled out both of my slow cookers. The first one I inherited from my Grandma. I have no idea how old it is, but it still works great and it is nice to have something from Grandma in my kitchen.
I filled it with frozen chicken breast, added about a cup of water and sprinkled salt, pepper and just a bit of garlic. Turned in on low and moved on. (Oh, how I love the ease of slow cookers!)

Next for the whole chicken. Honestly I would be filling my second pot with more chicken breast if my kiddos hadn't requested a whole chicken yesterday. They think of a meal with a whole chicken as a science lesson-dissecting the bird and asking about what each bone is and it's purpose in the body. Daddy started this so who am I to end it. They love it, so I'm humoring them...gotta foster that love of learning

This pot isn't so special, but it is bigger and easier to clean...and it has a timed setting...newer.

Ok, take the chicken out and place foil balls in the bottom to hold the chicken out of the drippings.

Rinse chicken and pull out the bag of insides. I have bought chicken (same brand) that didn't have that package, so if they aren't in there don't flip (someone had to tell me that). I don't cook these, but there are those who do...

Place on top of the foil balls. I spread a little butter on and sprinkle salt, pepper, and a tad of paprika (I would use more but kiddlets had a phobia of spice so I keep it mellow - for now.

Set it to low for 8 hours and sit back. Ok, sit back doesn't last long in this house. I'm planning for school and over seeing chores getting done.

The chicken is done when it is falling apart cooked.

I had volunteers this time for shredding the breasts, and I did the whole chicken.

The chicken breasts were a little dryer and not as easy to shred, but the whole chicken, while juicier and easier to shred it yielded less than 2 lbs of meat.

The shredded meat was divided into freezer bags at about 1 lb per bag (less for the meat from the whole chicken).

Now I have 5 bags of shredded chicken in the freezer for future meals. I think our first one shall be chicken enchiladas.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beef Week

Since the grocery bill for feeding 6 has been rising quickly I have been back into "make the money stretch" mode. In the past I have done Once-a-month cooking which did help the budget, but many of the meals were not a huge hit with the kids, and it meant 2 miserable days of cooking. To help eliminate the picky groaning, I had the kids help plan and cook meals. For that purpose it worked beautifully, but it wasn't so kind on the budget and took more time. So I have been looking for a compromise that will be kind to the budget and the kids still get to help with some of the planning and prep.

Not long ago I ran across a blog (sorry i don't recall where) that mentioned she froze some browned hamburger meat. I thought, "Hey, if I had the meat ready and a list of meals to choose from that would save time." The blog also mentioned how she used carrots to make the meat stretch further...I need that. I also wasn't sure how much help I would be getting (sweet hubby-man was having to work) so I didn't want to do a whole months worth of meals, so I decided to break it down by meat and only do one meat a week and stock up over several weeks.

This week - BEEF WEEK.

The day started with grating carrots. Well, grating carrots, chasing kids in and out of showers, making sure chores were done, and general keeping the peace that goes along with having 4 kids 8 years old and under. By lunch time I was ready to move on. While the 3 youngest went to quiet time after lunch, my oldest offered to help with the grating while I got to work on the meat balls.

I had a recipe for the meat balls...then I fudged it a lot. I started with 4 eggs and about a cup of diced onions.

Then 2 sleeves of crushed crackers - I had my 4yo crush them earlier durring one of those "peace keeping" disruptions earlier.

Next came 2 cups of grated carrots, and seasoning (salt, italian seasoning, garlic...just about that much, looks good - I used to measure everything, but my husband has rubbed off on me)

Topped by the ground beef, just shy of 5 lbs.

Mixed by hand until it is evenly smooth and mushed.

I don't like huge meatballs so I made some medium sized (made with a table spoon) and some small size (with melon baller). I actually like the small size better so I made more pans of those.

Pan of medium size balls

Pan of small size balls

Then drain and cool while the next pan goes in. I packaged each pan's worth of meat balls into one freezer bag (thus one meals worth for us).

Next came the browning of meat. Diced onion (about half and onion), shredded carrots (1 cup), minced garlic (1 T), taco seasoning, and ground beef (about 2.5 lbs) - I repeated this 4 times for a total of nearly 10 lbs of beef

I bagged the the browned meat into freezer bags, about 1 lb of cooked mixture each bag, enough for most meals. Then into the freezer. -9 bags of browned hamburger.

-6 bags of meatballs

We actually pulled one bag right back out to make meat sauce over pasta for dinner, and it was a hit!

Next I think I'll try chicken.