Saturday, April 24, 2010

Out of the Box Meal Plan for the week of April 25-30

Do any of you remember, about a year ago, when Jerry Seinfeld's wife, Jessica Seinfeld, published and promoted her cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious", giving recipes that would allow you to sneak good stuff (like veggies) into foods that your kids will actually eat? There was some controversy at the time, because people were saying that she stole her recipe ideas from Missy Chase Lapine, who made a cookbook much like hers, called "The Sneaky Chef", which was published around the same time as hers. Both got lots of publicity around that time. No question about it, both books are a fantastic resource for a mom who is okay with the idea of "sneaking" cauliflower into mac n cheese, or blueberries into cupcakes, in an effort to get some extra added nutrients into her picky children. I have The Sneaky Chef cookbook and am planning to give you a couple of recipes from the cookbook this week. The spaghetti and meatballs recipe has 8 hidden vegetables! Okay, now on with the meal plan of the week.

Sunday: Green Puree (to be made ahead of time and used in other recipes this week)
Monday: "Maxed out Meatloaf" using the green puree
Tuesday: Grilled Cheesy Ham and Pineapple Panini
Wednesday: Friendly Cheeseburgers (I know, I know, the picture looks scary, rather than friendly. Stay tuned to learn where I went wrong)
Thursday: Bagel Pizza
Friday: "Magic Meatballs" and Spaghetti, using the green puree (picture of meatballs below)
Saturday: Bonus: Toddler Snack idea- Fruit kabobs

Friday, April 23, 2010

Make your own Dishwashing Detergent!

My friend, Claire, over at Mummy Deals, made a vlog showing how to make your own dishwashing detergent. I wanted to share this, because part of the complaint in meal planning, as opposed to eating out, is that you have to do the dishes afterward. :0) Here is a super cheap way to make dishwashing detergent. Check out Mummy Deals' post if you are interested in viewing her vlog, where you can watch her make the detergent.

1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup Kosher salt (Alisha here: I have also heard of using sugar-free lemon flavored kool-aid)
Vinegar for the rinse cycle

Cost Breakdown

Borax: $2.50 for 76 oz. Cost per batch: $.26 for 8oz
Baking Soda: $.50 for 16oz. Cost per batch: $.25 for 8 oz
Kosher salt: $1.20 for 16oz. Cost per batch $.30 for 4oz
Vinegar: $.99 for gallon. Need tablespoon. Cost approx $.05
Final Cost to make: $.86
Yield: 20oz
Cost per oz. = $.04

(Thank you Mummy Deals!)

Friday: Tortilla Soup

My son requested this. Actually, he has asked for this every single day since we arrived back from Texas. I am trying to recreate the Tortilla soup that we ate in the longhorn state and this was my first attempt.

If you have never tried tortilla soup before I urge you to do so. For whatever reason it did not sound good to me and I steered clear of it. But, I was wrong...oh so wrong....Tortilla soup, forgive me.

Here is what you may need:

1. Chicken breasts, 2 decent sized ones, give or take.
2. 1 bag of black beans (14 oz) washed, soaked, and drained (or a can already cooked will do too!)

3. 10 oz of diced tomatoes (anybody have leftovers tomatoes from canning season? I have one jar left!)

4-6 cups of chicken broth

Frozen Corn (to taste, I used 2 cups)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Cheese, Shredded
1 package Tortilla Chips

Avocado (to place on top!)

First you want to thank your lucky stars for black beans and avocados, the world's best food. I love you black beans. I love you avocado. Shoot, cumin..I love you too.

Then, make yer here soup cowpoke.

In a big ole pot, add the chopped up (or shredded) chicken with the beans, tomatoes and broth. Stirring every to often cook for a good 30 minutes. Add your spices and taste. If it needs more of a kick (this should be a pretty flavorful soup) then add more spices! Don't be afraid of your cumin! Cook for another 10 minutes and then add your cilantro.

When you are ready to serve the soup cut up some avocado place it on top of the tortilla soup with a good heap of cheese. The cheese will melt into perfection over the hot soup. Serve with some tortilla chips and enjoy!

If you have good recipe for tortilla soup please share it. I want to perfect this recipe for my tortilla soup loving son!

Great coupons on great pasta!

Thought that this one was worthy of noting. I will be showing a meatball recipe next week, that will go great with the Ronzoni Smart Taste Spaghetti. There are many $.75 coupons available right now that I wanted to bring to your attention. According to Money Saving Mom, this pasta is available right now and this pasta is on sale for close to $1 at many stores:

$0.75/1 Ronzoni SmartTaste Pasta printable coupon link #1

$0.75/1 Ronzoni SmartTaste Pasta printable coupon link #2

$0.75/1 Ronzoni SmartTaste Pasta printable coupon link #3

$0.75/1 Ronzoni SmartTaste Pasta printable coupon link #4

You should be able to use your browser’s “back” button on each of these links to print the coupon twice per link.

In addition, there are $1/1 coupons in the March issue of Rachel Ray magazine, the April issue of Better Homes & Gardens, the April issue of Parents magazine, the April 17 issue of Family Circle (page 51) and the May issue of Parents magazine (page 39).

(Thanks Money Saving Mom!)

Dining Out Deals

SO MANY GREAT RESTAURANT DEALS RIGHT NOW!!! I am excited to share some of these with you. We have decided to post some restaurant deals on Fridays, for those nights when you just don't want to cook what you planned. Also, my husband and I have been trying to be more intentional about taking some one-on-one time with each of our kids, even if it is just to take one of them to the store when we go. Yesterday my husband took our 4 year old to McDonald's before dropping him off for preschool, and he LOVED it!! If the budget is tight, you might find one of these coupons, or deals, that would allow you to take just one kid out each week? And, as always, you will want to call and double check that your particular restaurant is a "participating" restaurant. Here they are for this week:

Jack in the Box : Head on over here to print a buy 1 Deli Trio Grilled Sandwich and get any Grilled Sandwich FREE coupon. This is valid thru 5/2 and NOT valid in Austin, TX.
(Thank you Krazy Coupon Lady)
Carrabas: Head on over to the Carrabbas Facebook page and become a fan to print a coupon valid for a FREE mini-dessert with the purchase of an entree! Yummy!
(Thank you Saving's Addiction)

Burger King: Here’s a new fast food freebie! Just sign up for the Heartland Food Corp VIP club here (lower right hand corner) to score a coupon for a FREE Whopper at Burger King! I received the coupon immediately via email. It expires on 5/4/2010. This coupon is only valid to use at specific Heartland Food Corp locations. You can check participating locations here.
(Thank you Savvy Spending)

Baskin-Robbins: Wednesday only! Got this information from mummydeals. Apparently, Baskin Robbins doing their 31 cent scoop night again to benefit firefighters and their families. Here's the "scoop!"

Who: Everyone
What: Baskin-Robbins 31 Cent Scoop Night. 31 cents per 2.5oz scoop – any flavor!
Where: All Baskin-Robbins locations nationwide
When: Wednesday, April 28 from 5pm – 10pm
Why: To serve those who serve others: Baskin-Robbins has partnered with the NFFF who support families and co-workers of fallen firefighters

(Thank you Mummy Deals)

A & W: Here’s a yummy new freebie for ya! Sign up for the A&W Mug Club to score a printable coupon for a FREE Root Beer Float or Freeze!

**Check A&W locations here.

(Thanks, Mojo Savings!)

T.G.I.F: Thru April 27th, when you sign up for the TGI Friday’s Give Me More Stripes card, you’ll score 50 stripes… that gets you half way to FREE food! Plus, just for signing up, you’ll also score a coupon for a FREE appetizer or dessert and a jump to the front of the crowd pass! (Thanks, Give Me Neither!)

Long horn Steakhouse: Go here to print a coupon valid for $5 Off two entrees. You can also join the Long Horn Western Hospitality Club to receive a coupon good for a Free Appetizer! (Thanks, Jessica’s Coupons!)

Fuddruckers: Here’s a yummy new text message coupon! Just Text FUDDS to 30364 and you will receive a text message back for a FREE 1/3lb Burger from Fuddruckers! Please keep in mind that the first text message you receive will be a thank you email and then the second one will contain your FREE burger coupon! The coupon expires three days from when the text is received.

**Note: the text coupon does state at participating locations, so make sure to call ahead and verify that your local Fuddruckers is participating.

(Thanks, Bargain Blessings!)

Einstein Bros Bagels: is once again offering up some sweet deals on their Facebook page! Just go here and become a fan (if you haven’t already), then click on the “Offers” tab to access two great coupons. One is for a FREE Bagel (No purchase required) every Friday before 11 am through May 22nd! …And the other coupon is for a bagel & coffee for just $2 every Tuesday before 11 am through May 19th!

(Thanks, Saving With Cindy!)
When you become a fan of Einstein Bros Bagels on Facebook (if you haven’t already), then you can click on the “Offers” tab to score yourself a coupon for 50% off ANY Bagel Bucket!

(Thanks, Miami Mommy Savings!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Split Pea Soup

"Stop!", I hollared at my mother in law. We were standing in her kitchen and she was about to toss out the ham bone. She froze in her tracks. "What in the world girl?", she reponsed. I told her I needed the ham bone, that I did not know for what purpose, but that I just knew they were not to be thrown out! She rolled her eyes, put it in the freezer, and went on with her business.

And, boy am I glad she did not toss that hambone. Cause they sure can add some flavor to soup!

Have a ham bone? Try making some split pea soup. Here we go~

What you need:
2 cups Green Split Peas
10 cups Water
6 carrots, cut
2 onions, diced
Celery, chopped very fine
1 teaspoon Dried Marjoram
1 teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Chopped
2 teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper

What to do:

I cooked mine in the crock pot. You can use a crock pot or a good sized pot.

1. Take you ham bone and plop it into the pot.
2. Wash your split peas and then toss them into the pot.

3. Dice up your carrots, onions, and celery. And, you guessed it...toss them into the pot.

4. Add TEN cups of water into the pot.

5. Add your spices. Really, you do need these. Try not to skimp on them.

Now, if you are cooking this in a pot on the stove let it come to a boil. Once it is boiling you can turn the stove down and simmer it on low heat for at least an hour. If it is too thick just add a bit more water and stir until it reaches the consitency that you like. If you are crock potting this meal, then let it cook on low for most of the day.

Before you serve this meal remove the ham bone and take any leftover ham off of it. It should just melt right off. This can be added back into the soup for an extra kick.


(Thanks to Tasty Kitchen for this recipe! I modified it by adding the ham bone. If you have not been out to Tasty Kitchen you are missing something good!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day Manifesto

My family has created an Earth Day Manifesto. It is not so much in celebration of Earth day itself , it just happens that we are taking these steps towards ecological responsibility and stewardship at the same time that Earth day is rolling around. And, I figure that the timing is perfect! I am going to share our Manifesto with you so that perhaps it will encourage you to consider some baby steps of your own and because several of them are food related~ and afterall Meal Planning Mommies is about food.

The Brabson Family Earth Day Manifesto

~ Our recycle bins will be larger than our trash can.
~With the exception of toilet paper we will no longer be using paper products. This includes paper towels, paper plates (including birthday parties!), wrapping paper, and napkins.
~At home I will use cloth diapers. (Note: My first darling was a 100% cloth bottomed baby even when we traveled. I am giving myself a break and using disposable when we travel.)
~We will only purchase coffee and chocolate that is ethically grown and fairly traded.
~When we fly we will purchase carbon credits or find other creative ways of off setting the environmental impact of our flight. (For our Texas trip we made four flights, to off set this we donated to have four trees planted).
~We will intentionally make purchases that have minimal packaging and when at all possible are used goods.
~All of our home cleaning products will be biodegradable and toxin free.
~We will support local organic farmers through purchasing their produce and meat.
(We joined a Community Supported Agriculture program in order to make this commitment happen. More on this later as it will really change the manner in which I meal plan!)
~ We will eat vegetarian meals three nights a week and significantly decrease the amount of processed food we eat.
~We will shop second hand for clothing and when we can not do this we will purchase fair trade items.
~ We will ask specifically for restaurants to NOT give us those plastic kids cups. Instead our kids can use a regular glass with assistance if needed.
~ We will not use the air conditioning until July. (We did it last year, we can do it again! I say this to encourage myself!!)
~ We will plant only native plants that need less water to survive in our landscaping.
~ Our home garden will be organic.
~We will treat the mosquito's in our back yard (grrrrr...) without the use of chemicals.
~We will compost our food waste and use the compost to help our garden grow.
~We will use our laundry line during the summertime and pretend we do not have a dryer, unless we absolutely must.
~ We no longer pre-heat our oven and we turn it off before our food is finished baking to take advantage of the already hot oven and save energy.
~We will buy skin and hair care products that are safe for our skin and the environment.
~We will remember to pack the reusable grocery bags.
~We will strive to teach our children a love for nature so that they will desire to protect it. We will strive to teach our children a respect for mankind so that they will desire to care for others. We will be good role models for our children so that stewardship becomes second nature for them as they grow.

There will be more here and there. These are our baby steps. This is what we can do now, this moment, even from our little plot of land in the suburbs. (Some day I will say, "even from our little farm with the chickens, goat and cows...")

But, until that day from the suburbs I shall do everything in my power to be a responsible consumer and a good steward. Now~ for some motivation.....

I am doing a surprise give-away for you!!! Leave me a comment letting me know your families Earth Day Manifesto. It can be one simple commitment, something new or something renewed. Let us know what you are doing so that we may be encouraged and we can learn from one another!

The give-away will be great, I promise!

Especially for you Mama's who are interested in this check out Tracy Bianchi's website. I met her at a conference a few weeks ago and she was selling copies of her new book, Green Mama for $10. I did not have the cash on me and she went ahead and handed me a copy of the book anyway. Her book is excellent. You will read it and think that you are just sitting down with a good pal over a cup of Java. Then, you will feel foolish for thinking of her as a dear friend when you finish the book and remember that she does not know who you are! Still~ the read is excellent and the message a must. (This is a big hint by the way....)

Wednesday: Mother-in-law Day

My mother-in-law was just in the mood for extravagence. She had a gigantic ham on the table along with creamed corn, mashed potatoes, salad, fresh fruit and home made rolls. I have to apologize for not having pictures, dur, I left my camera at home. And, no they do not have a camera or a computer or even a cell phone!

I packed up the ham bone in ice and brought it home with me. This serves as the base for tomorrows split pea soup. Fingers crossed that it turns out. I have never made it before.

Thanks to my mother-in-law we had this great dinner. I have actually never made a ham and should give it a try (they tend to be pretty pricey though!).
Here is a resource for preparing a ham dinner that I thought might be helpful.

How to Cook a Ham

For those of you that are just now following the Meal Planning Mommies I (Katie) go to my mother-in-law's every Wednesday so that she can doat on her grandbabies and her grown up son....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuesday: Delicious Dip Day

This is a Spring favorite. We should eat with the seasons, afterall. Spring is light. This meal is light. This is the kind of meal you can whip together in a moments notice and you have so much flexibility here. Have fun with this!

What you need:
Cut up Vegetables
Cut up Fruits
Yogurt (to use as a dip with fruit)
Hummus (to use as a dip with veggies)

What to do:

Start by cutting up your fruit and veggies into great dipping size. Fill some bowls with them. We used organic peppers (red, yellow, and green), tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, avacado, and celery.

Then, in a bowl place your yogurt.
Serve the hummus (or make your own~ coming soon to our How To Series!)

We also enjoyed cottage cheese and some delicous stuffed cresent rolls.

A great idea for kids~ serve thier veggies and dip in a muffin tin! It makes this fun and super easy clean up. My three year old scarfed his veggies and loved how colorful his plate was!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Monday: Grilling Out

This weekend felt like a weekend should. I am not sure if it was the open windows in the house, the fact that we finally did much needed yard work, or if my hormones hopped of the roller coaster (Amen), but whatever it was this weekend was perfection. Every morning began with laughs and snuggles in bed, a tight squeeze with the whole crew and my cup of java, but the perfect way to start the day. We worked in our yard and reaped the benefit of good old fashioned manual labor. The garden is planted, deck stained, and grass mowed. My husband and three year old sat front and center in our old rusty van during a drive in movie show (How To Train Your Dragon) while I held my sleeping little one comfortably in the backseat. And, there is more...garage sale mania, star gazing, and plenty of down time just hanging out together.

So,there was nothing more fitting that grilling out and enjoying the yard we worked so hard to restore from winter.

It was simple.

Grilled Peppers.
Good Buns.

What else do you need?
(Yes, if you are my husband.)

ps..I urge you to buy grass-fed beef, local is best! Check online for a farm near you!

Bonus: Yogurt Muffins

It was an hour before we were heading to the airport and I realized that I had a container of yogurt left in the fridge. After force feeding my family spoon fulls of it I decided to find a quick and easy way to use it so that it would not be wasted. And, boy and I glad I did.

Seriously, you have to try these muffins. I created the recipe, so please feel free to modify it any way you like, as you can probably make it even better.

What you need:

1 3/4 cups flour (We use whole wheat around here).
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened or melted.
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of Salt
1 1/3 cup of yogurt (I use organic plain yogurt).
Two Bananas and a 1/2 cup of raisins (you could do any fruit mixture, go with what you have! I am trying this with cranberries and walnuts next.)

What to do:
Put it all together in a mixer and make your batter.
In muffin tins (mine are Pampered Chef Stoneware and I'm loving them thanks to Alisha!) place your batter.
Bake at 350 degrees until they are ready, about 12 minutes.

You would think that these would be soupy but the yogurt made them incredibly moist. We devoured a couple warm right out of the oven and then froze the rest. I thawed them today and served them at breakfast. They were still great muffins!

Meal Plan April 18-24

My family has just returned from a vacation in Texas. Out of curiosity I checked the Meal Planning Mommy stats and we have a great reader base from Texas. I have one thing to say to you all ~ YOU LUCKY DOGS, YOU! We did not buy one, but did you know that you can buy a three pound cinnamon roll in San Antonio?

Ok, enough about the cinnamon roll. Here is the meal plan for the week!

Monday~ Grilling Out
Tuesday~ Delicious Dip Night
Mother-in-Law Wednesday~Ham Dinner
Thursday~ Split Pea Soup
Friday~ Pork and Mango Samosas
Saturday~ Tortilla Soup

This week we will be celebrating Earth Day here at Meal Planning Mommies by sharing my family's Earth Day Manifesto and doing a surprise here and there for you!