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.