Monday, November 12, 2012

Changing my thinking One Bite at a Time

I have just finished a great little Bible Study written by a good friend of mine who used to work at my home church before the Lord moved her to a new place in life.  And He moved me and my family across the ocean too.  Thankfully we can still keep in touch through email and facebook and her blog.  This is an affiliate link to her little study on Titus 2:3-5.  I especially like her plan of going through the alphabet listing various attributes and characteristics of God as a concrete way to praise Him.  I have appreciated something tangible to help me retrain my frail brain that likes to tend towards worry and negativity.  This simple little task is helping me move the focus off me and onto my perfect God.  I highly recommend this study called The ABC's of T23.  If you use my link I will get a small % of the purchase but go order it, even if you don't use my link!

Click here to view more details

Brenda is also posting this month of November as a month of gratitude and I am loving her short devotionals and the plan to allow me to focus on being thankful for someone in my life each day of November.  This daily action of gratitude is also doing wonders to change my outlook from gray and dreary to a more positive approach to my life as God has it right now.

Needing a pick me up in your thoughts and attitudes today?  Head on over to Petals From The Basket and get a little gratitude in your attitude.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meal Plan October 22 - 28 Pantry Manna

Last week was one of those weeks.  You know, the kind that stretch your faith and test your sanctification.  The kind that come around every once in a while to see if what you say to everyone else about trusting the Lord is something you really believe after all.  We were caught by surprise by an exorbitant utility bill that came in last week and received some other news from back home that was unpleasant and unexpected and promises to bring us some challenges after the new year. Some new challenge or disappointment seemed to pop up each day threatening to pull me into a pit of worry and doubt.  It is easy to get discouraged when we put our focus on ourselves.  Then today I read an update from a dear friend who is literally fighting the battle for his life and my own little hiccup in life pales completely in comparison.  And yesterday we had the privilege of sharing the Good News of the gospel with a new friend using this incredible tool which is the reason why we are here in Spain in the first place.  And God has done other things just today and even last week sprinkled in between the tough days to remind us that He really does care for us.  He showed us His love through our church family, supporters back in the States, our Pastor, and even through our neighbor, who showed up Sunday night with some fresh picked egg plant and a couple pomegranates.  This is the same neighbor who just a few years ago seemed to be in a perpetual state of anger at us for all the excessive noise we apparently generated on a daily basis.  The only time we ever saw or heard from him was when he would come upstairs and yell at us.  Saturday he even asked my husband if they could meet regularly to give him English conversation practice.  
  Today I was trying to come up with a plan for meals that would work with our schedule this week and be possible to carry out without a trip to the store, at least for a few more days.  I pulled together this dish grabbing ingredients that were in the freezer, pantry and fridge.  There wasn´t really enough chicken for a whole meal by itself but diced up and added to steamed broccoli and some cooked ¨ble¨ (cracked wheat that is cooked kind of like rice but is more filling and more nutritious than white rice -- at least I think so.  please don´t burst my bubble if I am wrong) and covered with a gravy made from chicken broth it became a hearty filling meal.  I decided to coin a phrase for this kind of thrown together improvised meal.  I am calling it ¨Pantry Manna¨ from Exodus 16:15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.  
I read that verse to the family as I explained the way I named our ¨casserole¨ and it was a reminder that The Lord has given us our food to eat not just today but every day.  We can either look at it and say "What is that?" or we can be thankful to Him for once again giving us just what we need (and most of the time SO MUCH MORE).  One great thing about this "manna" verses the kind in Exodus is that the 3 servings that were left in the pan can be stored in the fridge in tupperware and brought to school for the kids´ lunches tomorrow.  No waste.  :-)

"Pantry Manna" Version 1.0

Monday 10/22
Pantry Manna version 1.0

Snacking meal --  peanut butter on integral Maria cookies (kind of like graham crackers)
fruit: apples, bananas or pomegranate that the neighbor brought to us last night.

Tuesday 10/23 (parent meeting after school)
lentil soup with Spanish chorizo

Wednesday 10/24
Ikea meatballs in crockpot
Baked sweet potatoes

Thursday 10/25
broccoli, ham and cheese quiche (modified from this recipe)
tossed salad

Friday 10/26 (youth group party at the house)
ham and cheese sandwiches
pepperoni pizza puffs
chips and onion dip
veggies and ranch dip

Saturday 10/27  (Major fund-raising event for ds#1's senior class fund)
midday meal  clean out the fridge of leftovers
evening: hotdogs and "fair food" at the school Fall Festival

Sunday 10/28
Swiss Steak (in the crockpot)
Mashed potatoes
whatever veggie is a good price at Wednesday´s market (broccoli, cauliflower or maybe brussel sprouts)

Needing some menu inspiration?  Head on over to Laura´s for Menu Plan Monday and see tons of great Menu plans for the week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WFMW Sandwiches for a crowd

I was so excited Saturday to think I had come up with an original idea that solved my dinner dilemna when my family got home from choir practice after 9pm ravenously hungry.  My menu plan had grilled cheese sandwiches on the plan and I had all the ingredients.  The problem was that Friday night a piece fell off the hood of my range and landed on my new (less than 6 month´s old) glass top stove and broke it.  I was unsure about using the burners until I talked with our landlord.  Plus the nice big griddle that I used to use on my old gas stove will not work on the new stove due to it not being flat on the bottom.  I was looking at a long process of cooking up 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time on the back burner of the stove to feed all 6 hungry mouths.  Then I thought, what if I just put all the sandwiches together on a big cookie sheet and put them in the oven under the broiler?  I did just that with enough room for 9 sandwiches on my cookie sheet.  I watched them carefully and when the tops were nice and golden brown I flipped them over to do the other side.  We all LOVED how they turned out.  The cheese inside was melted perfectly and there was a nice balance on the bread between being soft from the melted butter and having a little crunch from the toasted edges.  The best part was that all the sandwiches were done at the same time and we were able to sit down together and eat without Mom in the kitchen as the short order cook.  Totally works for me and I think it may be the way I always do grilled cheese, at least whenever I need to make them for more than just one or two of us.

Check out what works for others on this week´s Works For Me Wednesday link up.

Oh, and what a surprise to head over to Laura´s blog Monday and see her weekly plan including Oven Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Great minds think alike I guess.  (but I do like my idea of using the broiler setting so I can easily see exactly how toasted my bread is getting and when to flip them over).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Menu Plan October 15-21

Kept to the menu plan as well as I could but had to do some menu changes when the only store that I have found here that sells cottage cheese was all out.  The saddest thing was that I couldn't even find a shelf tag or an empty spot where it should have been so now I am fearing that they may have discontinued selling it.  That means my poor broccoli egg casserole will have to go off the menu rotation for a while.  I hope I am wrong and that the next time I go to the Lidl they will have the cottage cheese back in stock.  This also means I won't be putting lasagna on the menu either (since I usually use cottage cheese to substitute for ricotta) until I can afford to go to the wholesale club store and buy a large tub of ricotta.  Maybe next payday I will schedule that trip for ricotta and replenish my supply of pepperoni so pizza can go back on the Friday night rotation too.  Once I get the ricotta I will plan a marathon cooking day and fill the pasta that I bought when in Germany and France this summer and found the right kind of pasta to make stuffed shells.  They are so much work in the initial prepping but they will be a great quick and easy meal to pull out of the freezer during the holidays.  I know it is only October, but it's time to start thinking ahead to those weeks when things are REALLY crazy busy and money is even tighter because of all the extra expenses that happen around the holidays.

I almost ditched the idea of sausage gravy and biscuits for Friday morning's brunch but I am so glad I went ahead and bought the pork the night before.  Everyone loved it, even my son's friend who had slept over the night before.  Big breakfasts are definitely NOT the norm here in Spain.  Check out my photo I snapped on instagram right before digging in.  I will be putting this sausage seasoning spice on my wish list for anyone visiting us or sending us a package to include in their box or suitcase.  It turned plain old ground pork from the butcher shop into the tasty breakfast sausage we have been craving for the last 10 years of living overseas.  

This week is starting out with one child sick with what is probably a throat infection (we'll find out at the doctor's office tonight) and one with a birthday party to attend.  Visitors, dentist appointments, church services and choir rehearsals will keep us running to and fro all week but at least the week will end with a dinner invitation after church to the home of one of our teens so I don't have to plan a meal for Sunday.  That will be a nice break for me.

Here's the plan that is linked up at Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Monday 10/15 (sick ds#3 has Dr. appt and dd has an afternoon birthday party invite)
cucumber and carrot sticks
chocolate cupcakes for dessert (for the kids -- hubby & I are supposed to be on a diet.  We did cheat and eat a cupcake yesterday when my daughter made them but today I. must. resist.)

Tuesday 10/16  (supposed to have visitors for lunch)
Chicken fettucini alfredo (carried over from last week)
fresh steamed broccoli
tossed salad
fresh hot spanish bread from the local store.  YUM

Wednesday 10/17 (prayer meeting night and morning market day)
Lentil soup with Spanish chorizo

Thursday 10/18 (dd has dental appt and dh has class at night)
Taco salad

Friday 10/19 (I am hosting a coffee/craft/cooking "class" in the morning so will need to have my midday meal prepped early or cooking in the crockpot) 
Italian sausages and peppers in the crockpot (saving some to use next week in Lasagna Soup)
Buttered noodles
Oatmeal blueberry bars for dessert (since that is the recipe I am teaching the ladies in the morning.  I double it and use blueberry jam instead of raspberry)

Saturday 10/21 (another long afternoon-evening at the church for youth group and christmas cantata rehearsal)
Midday meal:  Clean out the fridge of leftovers
Late supper after church activities:  Toasted cheese sandwiches and raw veggies.  Check back here in a couple days for my Works for me Wednesday post explaining how I discovered I could streamline the process of making grilled cheese for a crowd.  Necessity was the mother of invention but I am thrilled with my "discovery".

Check over at Menu Plan Monday for tons of other great menu plans this week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Details, details, details

I came across this piece that I wrote to share at my grandmother's funeral several years ago.  Then a few hours later, while sorting through some pictures I flipped through the pack of photos to find this wonderful shot that my brother took of her.  The date on the picture is not when he took it, but rather when I took a picture of the enlarged print that was hanging at my parents' house when I was visiting one day.

Details, Details, Details

When I think of my paternal grandmother, it's not always the big things that stand out in my mind.  I am reminded of her unique quality to make even the simplest of daily tasks special because of her attention to detail.  Her dress made it evident to all that this was a lady who "had it all together" and if you ever went shopping with her you found out that that doesn't just "happen".  She knew what she was looking for and she let the salesclerk know.  She was willing to pay handsomely for quality goods but was not afraid to request an appropriate discount for something less than perfect.

Orange juice or ginger ale were more special in her flowered glasses, ice cream tasted better in the turqouise colored bowls, and the cookies for dessert and the  bread for toast and sandwiches were always from Pepperidge Farm.  Even a hamburger from Friendlies was special if you used a knife and fork and ate it with her by your side.  

Gram's little details were what made  holiday celebrations with her so memorable.  It was agony as a child to wait until Grammy came over before we could open our Christmas presents but I learned that waiting is good and anticipation makes the reward even sweeter.  I don't remember many of the actual gifts that I received from her, but I will always remember how they were wrapped.  Her boxes were so beautifully wrapped and everything was done "just so", down to the number of loops on her handmade bows.  We grandchildren always marvelled and thought it was magical that she could wrap a present with barely a speck of tape.  The making of the gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas was her job because no lump was tolerated in Gram's gravy.  It was always she who gathered us women together to wash and dry the dishes immediately after the meal because that's how things were supposed to be done.

She made each of us grandchildren feel special by starting the "birthday dinner out" tradition.  She would take us out to eat at the restaurant of our choice and then out to the mall to pick out a present.  I was so nervous the first time, not knowing what on earth I would say to her all night.  She was a wonderful conversationalist, and those once a year excursions with her became the highlights of my growing up years.  Birthday memories always include the details:  a Shirley Temple with dinner, watching her count out crisp dollar bills from her impeccably organized wallet, the way she would reapply her lipstick after dinner, and stopping at the Putnam Pantry for a box of mints on the way home.

She taught me that attention to details distinguishes you in the workforce.  I was so priviledged to know Grammy B. not only as her granddaughter, but also as her co-worker at the Rose Medallion gift shop.  She had high expectations as she trained me as a sales clerk, and I worked hard to imitate her.  I loved our Sunday afternoons together in the store.

Grammy gave me so many things: an appreciation for beautiful things, lessons on the importance of managing your money well, a sense of adventure and a love for travel, but most of all she taught me that it's the little details that make life special and that create memories that last for generations.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Menu Plan For October 8-14

      "The Haul" from last week's market trip. Over 50 lbs of produce for only a little more than $20.

As usual, we didn't follow last week's plan 100% but we did fairly well.  Thursday at the last minute I found out one of my son's friends was coming over for the afternoon/evening and I didn't really want to be experimenting on a new meal creation with a guest so I ran out to buy flour tortillas and Doritos to have soft tacos and chips with guacamole.  What a surprise to hear David say that he had never had a taco before and didn't know how to put it together!  We showed him how to do it but he wasn't very adventurous and only ended up putting meat and rice in his tortilla shell.  Oh well, more fixings left for the rest of us.  :-)  Just more proof that Mexican food and Spanish food are not the same thing!

I thought I had a plan for this week but then I remembered to check the calendar for after school parent meetings and the like so I had to do a little rearranging to the plan.  I will still have to go to the store for a few ingredients but hopefully can keep the cost as low as possible without the crew feeling deprived.  I have one zucchini left from my market trip the other week that I didn't use for last week's soup that I hope to make into zucchini bread for breakfast and morning snacks for the kids to take to school.  If it's not too hot to use the oven I will make that tonight or tomorrow morning.

Here goes this week's plan:

Monday 10/8
chicken parmesan (or chicken sandwiches for those who prefer their chicken patty plain)
carrot sticks

Tuesday  10/9
Broccoli/egg/cottage cheese casserole with ham chunks added
tossed salad

Wednesday 10/10
Skyline chili (using leftover chili from yesterday's Sunday dinner over spaghetti and topped with cheese)

Thursday 10/11
Porkchops and scalloped potatoes
winter squash

Friday 10/12
A holiday in Spain and the kids have no school.  I think I will try to make a big breakfast to eat while we watch the rebroadcast of the VP debates.  Going to try out my friend's sausage seasoning that she gave me to see if I can make sausage gravy over biscuits and see if it will taste anything like what we miss from the States.  Will serve with scrambled eggs as well.

Unsure if we will go somewhere for the day so we may end up doing picnic food or just falling into the pizza Friday that the family now expects.

Saturday 10/13
Chicken fettucini alfredo  before leaving for our long afternoon at the church
Sandwiches once we get home from choir rehearsal around 9

Sunday 10/14
Ikea meatballs and gravy
mashed potatoes from the crockpot
vegetable (whatever is a good price at Wednesday's market.  See the photo above for what I found last Wednesday)

Want to see more great menu plans?  Hop on over to Laura's blog for Menu Plan Monday and see hundreds of others blogging their menu plans for this week.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Menu Plan Monday Week of October 1

I missed posting last week as my menu "plans" were not very exciting.  We were in those last few days of the month when the challenge is to see what I could feed my family of six with just the spare change I could round up in the house.  I managed to do fairly well since there were still a few packages of meat in our freezer.  Monday I cooked up some boneless chicken breasts the kids' favorite way (dipped in egg and bread crumbs then fried in olive oil) and then went to the local fruit and veggie store where I could buy potatoes buy the pound self serve style.  I bought a kilo and a half of potatoes and felt bad when I had to pay the cashier the 62 cents in almost all 1 and 2 cent pieces.  Haven't felt quite that broke in a while.  I used the fun french fry cutter that we bought at a flea market in Germany this summer to make homemade french fries from those spuds and then made a nice salad.  The kids were thrilled and none the wiser that we were eating a "crisis mode" meal.  The rest of the week's meals were soup (once homemade, once from a can), spaghetti, sloppy Joes, etc.  Not exactly inspiring, but it is what life is like when waiting for payday.
Payday has come but we still need to be very careful and I am doing my best to plan in such a way as to buy the least possible at the grocery store.  The other challenge is to figure out how to provide non/carb or low carb choices for my husband and I who are trying to lose some pounds.  Any ideas of low cost, low calorie or low carb meals would be appreciated.

Here is the tentative plan for this week.  I am still waiting for "inspiration" for Sunday's meal which must be something that can either be made ahead and then just heated on the stovetop or in the microwave when we get home from church (ravenous as we leave around 8:30am and don't normally get home until after 2pm) or something that can be cooking in the crockpot the whole time we are away (Usually the way to go).

Monday 10/1
Lentil soup and fresh spanish bread

Tuesday 10/2
Pork chops
apple sauce  (Can't you just hear Peter Brady saying "pork chops and apple sauce"? )
fresh green beans

Wednesday  10/3
Cream of Zucchini soup
carrot and celery sticks

Thursday 10/4
Taco Rice (Gonna kind of make this up as I go .... thinking to try and prepare the meat like for tacos but serve it all over rice so I don't have to go buy tortillas)

At some point in the day, either for breakfast if I can get up early enough to make them in the morning or for dessert after the evening meal, I plan to make my homemade cinnamon rolls in celebration of National Cinnamon Roll Day.  Not sure where I heard about Sweden's fantastic holiday, but I am feeling the need to have a little Swedish celebration in our Spanish home with my Christmas morning family tradition.  The kids will be pleasantly surprised! (I don't think any of them will be reading this blog post before Thursday so I'm sure it will be a surprise).  The recipe I use is here. (but I love the frosting recipe here.  Or I could think "outside the bun" and try Cinnamon bun pancakes from this recipe. (Has anyone ever tried this recipe?  Let me know how they turned out, please)

Friday 10/5
Some variation of pizza or pepperoni rolls.
I'm thinking these Pepperoni Pizza Puffs look interesting.

Saturday 10/6  The schedule will have us out from about 2:30 till well past 8:30 pm so I am hoping to have a hot meal for mid day meal to fill us up and hold us till we get home at night.

lunch:  Broccoli casserole, tossed salad, muffins
dinner:  hotdogs and beans from the crockpot.

Sunday:  awaiting inspiration and your suggestions.

Needing more inspiration?  Head on over to Laura's blog for all the rest of the Menu Planning Monday links.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Menu Plan Sept 17 -23

This whole menu planning is truly a work in progress.  Little by little we are working out the bugs in the plan and figuring out how to flex with unexpected changes in the schedule.  This past week we did have most of the planned meals (except the sweet and sour pork) but not always on the day I had written down in the menu plan.  A couple of doctor´s appointments, a parent-teacher night, some last minute overnight guests and a school committee meeting managed to sneak their way onto my calendar and some flexing had to happen.  I didn´t have my menu plan posted anywhere so one day I came home after being out all morning at the doctors and my dh had thrown a meal into the crockpot using stew meat (pork), potatoes, and carrots that he found in the vegetable drawer.  It was a great blessing, and just meant that the sweet and sour pork recipe would just go back in the bin to be recycled onto a menu plan in the future when there is another good price on pork.

Here is the plan for this coming week:

Monday: Hotdogs and chips (I was going to have the corn chowder but it was put into the crock pot too late so we will have it tomorrow)

Tuesday:  Corn Chowder (using this crockpot recipe, or this stove top recipe  -- can´t decide which)  Obviously I went with the crockpot recipe, but I think I will be trying out the other one too since it is creamy and cheesy so I think it will be a whole different taste experience).

Wednesday:  My eldest son turns 17 so he will plan the menu for his birthday meal.  Unfortunately it is a day where he stays late after school getting home around 5:30 and then we leave around 6:30 to drive downtown for prayer meeting at church so we will probably have to do the meal before church and then have the cake and presents when we get home around 9:30pm.   
UPDATE:  He gave me his requested menu ... cheese ravioli, Spanish chorizo, cauliflower.  And I think I heard rumors of a Hobbit themed cake.  Not sure how I am going to pull that off.

Thursday:  Taco salad

Friday:  baguette pizza

Saturday:  Leftovers

Sunday:  Pot roast, mashed potatoes, whatever veggie is on sale for a good price at the outdoor market this week.

Don't forget to head on over to Laura's blog for Menu Plan Monday to see what others are feeding their families this week.  It's a great place to go when you need a little inspiration in your meal plans this week.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Landlubber´s Paella Recipe

Although this recipe is already on the blog, it was posted quite a while ago and was hidden away at the end of a Menu Plan Monday blog post.  I think I prefer the idea of posting my recipes as separate individual posts so here is one that our family loves.  I don´t like seafood so I don´t normally like the typical paella that is made here in Spain with all kinds of seafood, so when my friend shared with me her recipe for paella that only calls for chicken I knew I had found my recipe.  The family loves it and it looks very pretty to serve even for company.

Landlubber's Paella (no seafood)

1 red bell pepper
5 ¾ cups chicken broth (1 lg. can)
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
cut into bite-sized pieces
salt to taste
shake or two of powdered garlic
1 tomato, cut into cubes (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
Colorante (or use lots of yellow liquid food coloring)
2 cups rice (not long grain)
1 small can of peas or 1-1.5 cups frozen peas
olive oil

Cut up chicken and bell pepper (cut pepper into strips). Put enough olive oil in a paella pan to cover the bottom. As oil begins to heat, put in the pieces of bell pepper and lightly brown in the oil. Then remove the pepper from pan and set aside on a plate. Add chicken to oil and lightly brown; then add the tomato and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth, peas, colorante and garlic. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes at a light boil. Add rice and salt; cook 10 minutes at a good boil. Add the bell peppers, arranging them nicely on the top and cook on low 10 minutes more. Cover and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

I got this recipe off the internet a LONG time ago.  Unfortunately the original web site has long been shut down so I can't give you a link to the recipe.  I sure wish I had known that Steph was closing her site because she had some great recipes but I did not print out many of them --- which I would have done had I known they would disappear on me one day.  This is definitely one of my family's favorite meals.

Steph's Chicken and Dumplings

1 large fryer chicken, cut up (you can use boneless, but add extra bouillon)
2 celery stalks, sliced (optional.  I almost never have this in the house)
4 carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1. Combine everything down to the water in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 hours or until chicken is done.

2. Remove chicken and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove skin and bones. Tear meat into pieces and return to pot. Add more salt and pepper if you want. (If I'm going to be serving a large crowd, I add more broth at this point.) Return soup to a simmer.  (Usually I diverge from the original recipe at this point.  I make a roux of butter and flour, add salt and pepper and then add the broth to make a medium thick sauce.  Then I add the chicken pieces and veggies back in the pot)

3. In a mixing bowl, combine dumplings ingredients and mix well to form a stiff dough. Drop by Tbsps into simmering soup. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Dumpling recipe A (my family's favorite)
2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 milk
4 Tbsp. oil

Dumpling recipe B (southern style)  I have never tried this but I put it in since Steph had it in her original recipe and some may prefer a more dense dumping.  I am so pleased with version A that I've never tried anything else.  We usually make 1 and a half times the recipe A which just covers the entire top of my pot and allows plenty of dumplings for my family of 6 healthy eaters.

2 c flour
1 c chicken broth
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten

Monday, September 10, 2012

Menu planning Week 2

Last week's return to menu planning worked out fairly well for me.  I didn't end up doing everything I had planned for the week and even switched a couple days around but all in all I am pleased with how the week went.  This week is a bit of a challenge because of events in the evenings that make it difficult to prepare or eat together but I have a plan and now I just need to figure out how to make it happen.  I was able to head to the grocery store today with a list and a coupon for 3 euros off when my total was at least 60 euros.  I kept track as I went through the store and was able to stay pretty close to 60 euros.  If I had strictly kept to the list I might have been even closer but I came back from vacation in August to a completely empty fridge and almost empty pantry so little by little (one bite at a time) I am trying to restock the pantry so I can have the ingredients for a few meals on hand in case I am a day or two delayed in hitting the grocery store.

I got the idea as I made my Master Meal List last week to gradually work on making a grocery list of ingredients needed for each of the meals.  I know I don't have the time to sit down and do it all in one sitting so today I thought "How about if I just do the meals for this week and then do the others as I put them on the menu plan for a week?"  Sounded like a plan to me so I grabbed some index cards and wrote out the ingredients list for each of the week's meals.  I have a cute recipe box that my hubby gave me that I haven't been using yet so I can store the cards in it as I write them up and then as I plan those meals in the future all I need to do is grab those cards and quickly write out my shopping list.  It worked well this week ... we'll see if it helps out in the weeks and months to come.  I am committed to spending some time and effort at the beginning of each week to try and make our school days go a little smoother, especially now that we have kids in 3 different schools.

Here is this week's plan for the main meal of the day.  Head on over to Laura's to see what others are planning on their menus for the week.

Monday:  Baked Burritos with toppings (lettuce, tomato, sour cream)

Tuesday:  Chicken and Dumplings  -- one of our family's all time favorites (check back tomorrow for this recipe)

Wednesday:  Sweet and Sour Pork over rice

Thursday:  Crock pot corn chowder, Baked potatoes, salad  (This one is a new recipe for us.)

Friday:  Homemade pizza or pepperoni rolls

Saturday:  Leftovers or sandwiches

Sunday:  ??

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Master Meal List

Here is a quick list of the family favorite meals I came up with yesterday.  I will try to update it with links as I can in the next few days.  I grouped them in the first categories I could think of but may tweak the categories as I look at our schedule and see what kind of plan will work best for us in coming up with a weekly plan.  Crock Pot meals have an asterix by them.

Now that I have a place to start (the main dish), I plan to gradually (one bite at a time) work up full menus adding side dishes to each main dish and then maybe even make up the grocery list of ingredients needed for each full meal.  I think this will give me a huge head start on my weekly menu planning and make it easier in the long run to keep at it for more than just a week or two.

*Baked Potato Soup
*Lasagna Soup
*Beef Stew
White Beans and Ham Soup
Cream of Broccoli
Cream of Zucchini
*Chicken Tortilla Soup (Ok, this one will be new but I think the family will love it)

Chicken Dishes:
Landlubber's Paella
Chicken and Dumplings
Escalope de Pollo
Salsa Chicken
Chicken Parmesan
Foil Pack Taco Chicken Dinner
*Sunshine BBQ Chicken
Chicken Fettucini Alfredo

Beef Dishes:
*Swiss Steak
Beef and Broccoli
Beef and Peppers Stir Fry
Ikea Meatballs and brown gravy
Sloppy Joes
Baked Burritos
Taco Salad
Baked Bean Casserole for Baked Bean Haters
*Pot Roast
*BBQ Meatballs

Pasta Dishes:
Spaghetti and meat sauce
Homemade Macaroni and cheese
Stuffed Shells

Sweet and Sour Pork
Fried Rice
Jewish Hotdogs
Pigs in a Blanket
*Hotdogs and beans
Baked Ham
Pork Chops
Hotdog Crown Casserole

Breakfast/ Egg Dishes:
Pancakes (regular recipe, banana cinnamon recipe, pumpkin recipe)
Toni's Apple Puff Pancakes
Spanish Tortilla
Broccoli/Cottage Cheese/Egg Casserole

So, what do you make regularly for your family that would go on your Master Meal List?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Master Plan

I've been sick for the past few days and haven't done much but watch shows on the Food Network and read blogs that I haven't been keeping up with in a long time. This made me realize that I did enjoy the time I used to spend blogging and the act of blogging my goals and household plans did help keep me accountable and, I believe, helped me be more productive. This week my elementary school child starts back to school and by next Tuesday all 4 of the kids will be back to class in their respective schools. 

With 4 kids in 3 different schools, I feel more than ever the need to be more proactive in the keeping of my home. Today I am starting with meal planning. With my hubby working from home now I have been lazy too often and he has too often stepped in to make a meal come together. Today I am making the first step of taking that responsibility back as my own so he can be more productive in reaching his own goals in work and ministry.

 I was scratching my head hitting a major mental block when faced with making a weekly menu plan. It was like I had never done it before. So, I decided to look back at some of my old plans (when I was blogging regularly) and also headed on over to check out Laura's Menu Plan Monday, a meme I used to participate in very regularly. A few clicks later I was being challenged to come up with a Master Menu List of meals that I already know that the family loves. I started making a list, asked #3 son to quickly list the first 4 meals he could think of that he loves to eat, and then flipped through my recipe binder to be reminded of another 2 or 3 meals that I had forgotten. What I came up with was over 40 meal ideas! I could plan for an entire month and not repeat any of these. And, although that idea was tempting, I know that I need to tackle the menu plan One Bite At A Time, so I will just start with this week. Check back in tomorrow for a peek at my Master Meal List.

 Menu Plan September 3-9, 2012

 Monday: Lasagna & tossed salad

 Tuesday: Cream of Zucchini soup salad corn bread

 Wednesday: Landlubber's Paella

 Thursday: Sloppy Joes

 Friday: Homemade Pizza

 Saturday: Lentil soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

 Sunday: Something in the crockpot -- maybe beef stew or a whole chicken? Depends on the prices on meat when I go grocery shopping tonight.

 Head on over to Laura's blog for great tips on organizing and a TON of menu ideas from bloggers all over.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork Recipe

I finally found a pork recipe my whole family liked. Pork is one of the cheapest meats here in Spain and I have tried many recipes but often hear complaints about it being dry or about grissle. I found this recipe that I had copied from one of my friends' cookbooks when I was visiting her last year. Pork was on sale at the store this morning so it was the perfect day to try this recipe out.

Sweet and Sour Pork

2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 lb. boneless pork cut into 1" cubes (I increased this to 3/4 Kilo of pork cut into cubes for stewing to have enough to feed my family of 6)
1 can (15.25 oz) pineapple chunks
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I reduced this to 1/4 cup but next time will try another substitute like honey since I can't buy corn syrup in Spain and I 'd like a healthier alternative anyway)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbps cornstarch
1/2 cup red and green pepper slices (I probably doubled this -- just used half a pepper of each )
I also added 1 onion, chopped
Brown pork in hot oil with the chopped onions. Add the next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes or until meat is fully cooked. Mix cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water. Add to pork along with the peppers. Boil 2 minutes stirring constantly. Serve over rice. Serves 4 (without the additions in parenthesis)

Everyone rated it a 4 or 4.5 and said they would like me to make it again sometime. That's good because I bought 1.5 kilos of meat and the rest is in the freezer for a repeat of this meal sometime in the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bran Muffin recipe

A friend just asked for this recipe so since I had to type it up for her, I thought I might as well post it, in case anyone still reads this blog. :-)

Bran Muffins

1 box (15 oz.) bran flakes or raisin bran cereal (approx 7 1/2 cups if you buy from a bulk food store)
1 quart buttermilk (or sour regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar)
1 cup vegetable oil (corn oil or sunflower oil)
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, preferably a Tupperware one for which you have a matching lid. Combine the flour, salt and soda and add to the mix. Stir until there are no more lumps of dry flour. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours (or overnight). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill muffin tins aprox 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. Bake up just what you want to eat that day and store the rest of the batter in the fridge for fresh baked muffins another day, or bake up the whole batch and freeze the extra muffins. I prefer the bake as you go plan. In my household of 6 I never have to worry about the batter being in the fridge too long to be safe. The original recipe for this says you can keep the batter in the fridge for up to 6 weeks but I would not leave it there longer than 5-7 days.

I am not sure of the yield. I will try to write it down the next time I make this recipe. I think I normally make aprox 4 dozen large muffins and a few pans (maybe 2 to 2.5 dozen) mini muffins from a batch of batter.