Saturday, May 29, 2010

Meal Plan May 31- June 5

Begin dance mix music.

Its CSA time! Its CSA time! Its CSA time!

End obnoxious dance mix music. Thank you for amusing me.

CSA time means not only are we supporting local agriculture, eating organic produce, and weekly getting in touch with the source of our food~ but we have officially embarked on a culinary adventure. I bagged up greens today that I have never laid hands on before.

Here is the nitty gritty folks. A CSA is a Community Supported Agriculture program.  At the start of the growing season we invested money into a local farm. The return on our investment is a weekly pick-up of fresh, organic, locally produced fruits,vegetables, and herbs.

Many CSA's have a full time (weekly pick-up) and part time (bi-monthly pick-up) option. Most likely there is a CSA available in your area. A great source to locate one is the Eat Wild website. CSA's are out there for produce, meat, and dairy too!

Each Thursday I haul the crew out to the farm. We walk around, talk to chickens, take silly pictures, shake hands with the farmer, and fill bags with copious amounts of just picked produce.  On Saturday mornings I get the rest of what I need for my meal planning at the local farmers market.  And, usually there is a weekly pit-stop into our local natural food store for things not available at the CSA or farmer's market. Our meat all comes from local farms, purchased earlier in the year, and stocked in the deep freeze.  We are fortunate enough to be able to purchase local cheese as well.

What this boils down to is that, for me and my crew, the modern grocery store is a place we visit few and far between. At the farms we form a connection to the land, the dirt, the green lush gardens, and the hands that grew our food.  We see it, we taste it, we pick-it, we haul it home knowing exactly where it has come from.  People ask me often, "How in the world do you get your three year old to eat like that?".  They are wondering how I get my three year old to devour raw spinach, ask for a handful of radishes, and eat lettuce right out of the ground.  The answer is simple. He eats that way because, to him, that is food.  And, he is a part of the food experience from start to finish. This connection, and much more, is lost when a box is simply opened and served.

My rule~ if you can not explain to a child how it was made then it might not be food.
Around here, we are trying our darnedest to eat food. Real food. Real good food.  For us that means no imitation, little processing, no extra coloring and preservatives~ just fresh whole foods.  This also means that Momma has a lot of learning to do about vegetables, fruits, fats, sweeteners, grains, and beans.

Oh geesh, I hear the obnoxious dance mix music in my head again. My feet are starting to tap. I can't control it. I am THAT excited about this meal plan. It is entirely based on what we just brought home from two large cotton bags full of delectable greens with the dirt still on them.  I am like a kid in the backseat holding onto a big old thing of bok choy and grinning ear to ear.

Just like this.

My CSA bounty for this week~ Arugula, Radishes as big as your head, Collard greens, Kale, Salad greens, Mint, Bok Choy, and green onions.

Meal Plan (and a few extras):

Monday: Cheese Quesadillas with Arugula and Radish
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Spicy Kale and Garlic 
Wednesday: Beef and Bulgar Pilaf with Mint
Thursday: Jamaican Veggie Patties 
Friday: Lentil and Roasted Greens Soup 
Saturday: (Family Night!) Kale Chips, Cheese sticks, Asian Slaw 

I also wanted to share some breakfast treats with you this week~
Blackberry Millet Pancakes
Coconut French Toast

and my homemade bread recipe~
oh, and a delicious desert idea.....Grilled Raspberry Pear brushetta and Millet Cake with Strawberry Puree! all I can say! Please share your ideas with me too. I need all the help I can get to make the most of my CSA box!

The boys and me out at the farm. For more information on CSA's in your area check into Eat Wild!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Kitchen Table

Growing up, dinner hour around my house was a sacred time. My mom worked hard at preparing a healthy, delicious and filling meal for her family of 5 kids. Everyone helped set the table and we all waited anxiously to hear mom say.... "Dinner's Ready!"

Do you ever notice that most people congregate in the kitchen?
Is it the food? Sometimes, yes.
Is it the smells? Maybe.
Or is it just the fact that the kitchen table holds more power than we know? Absolutely.

So many of my favorite memories as a child take place around a kitchen table. Sitting at my Nana's kitchen table I can remember her wearing an apron, standing at the stove, frying cubed steak. The smells, the laughter and the promise of dessert once I joined the "Clean Plate Club" make me feel like a little girl again, wanting a seat at their table.

To this day at my mom's house, the kitchen is the place where people gather. Just ask my mom when she is trying to prepare dinner. I remember countless times, growing up, when she had to say "everyone OUT OF THE KITCHEN!"

This past month our family was blessed with a new kitchen table. Going through the motions of packing up our old table and getting the kitchen ready for our new table brought up old memories. Our now "old" 4 chair table was a totally stylish table that I had to have when we were first married. Well, my tastes have changed... my family has grown and the table is now off to live it's second life in my a college apartment.

Our old table is gone...

I say that we are blessed to have our new table because it was a well loved kitchen table. I know the table was well loved because before buying the table, the previous owner made sure to tell me that she raised all four of her girls around that table. How it holds precious memories of family dinners and she felt God had a hand in us buying their table because she knew that it was going to a good home. She was attached to her kitchen table, her family was attached to the kitchen table. It is now living it's second life, starting all over again with our young family of 3 girls.

Me working on MPM and my husband "reading"

Now our family is building memories of our own around our kitchen table. As we raise 3 young girls the table is being used for play-dough, coloring, arts/crafts, school time, meal time, game time, family talk time and so much more. I place an importance on eating at the kitchen table because of the memories I had growing up around my kitchen table. Eating dinner together provided times to talk ,times to laugh, times to cry, and times to just get to know each other better.

What is your kitchen table saying? Is it empty or full of memories for your little ones to pass on for generations to come?

Don't neglect the power of your families' kitchen table.

It feeds the heart, mind and body.

One more Deal for this weekend: Free Breakfast on Saturday-Monday!

IKEA is giving FREE breakfast!

IKEA is once again offering up FREE breakfast this weekend!I Just head on over there May 29th-May 31st to score your FREE breakfast! You will receive a free small breakfast ($0.99) and a free small cup of coffee ($0.99). Offer not valid at IKEA Hicksville, IKEA Houston or IKEA Direct. See your local store for details.

(Thanks, Thrifty And Thriving!)

Family Fun: Date Night at Home

Here is a great idea for date night after the kiddos are in bed. This is fun to do with friends or just as a couple... Dessert Fondue!

Here is what you need:
1 bag of chocolate chips, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1/4 TB butter, strawberries, pretzels, marshmallows, bananas or whatever else you like to dip in chocolate!

Step 1:

Using a fondue pot, place the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter into the pot and stir on low heat. If you turn the heat too high, it will burn the chocolate so make sure to keep it on low and stir it consistently.

If you do not have a fondue pot, you can use your stove-top or a mini crock pot.

Step 2:

When your chocolate is melted and smelling so yummy, dish some up on a plate and start dipping away! You can also use fondue forks and just dip into the fondue pot itself.

Do you have any great dessert fondue recipes or date night ideas?

Please Share!

Friday: Chicken Packets, Scalloped Corn and Chopped Salad

Chicken Packets... yum! These are called different things in different circles, but everyone talks about them the same- delish!These packets are easy to make, frugal, healthy and freeze great!

Scalloped corn is one of those side dishes that I most remember my Nana making when I was a young girl. It brings back familiar smells, tastes and unbelievably this is the first time I have ever made it! It is super easy and a great side dish to have on hand!

So, knowing the chicken packets have been posted on our site before, I did not take pictures because I was going to use the original post. Well... I should of checked before making dinner, because the original post doesn't have pictures!

I promise I will make it up to you!

Here is the recipe for Chicken Packets.

The recipe for Scalloped Corn is as follows:

Here is what you need:

1 can whole kernel corn (drained), 1 can yellow creamed corn, 1 egg (slightly beaten), 1 T sugar, 1/2 cup cracker crumbs, paprika and butter.

Step 1: Mix the 2 cans of corn, slightly beaten egg, 1 T sugar and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs

Step 2: Put in a 9x9 greased baking dish, dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika.

Step 3: Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 min.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dining out Deals: Lots of free coffee... and ice cream...(limeade, smoothies,chips...and TGIFriday's appetizers as well!)

Taco Bell Printable Coupon

For a limited time only head on over to the Taco Bell website to print your coupon for a FREE Limeade Sparkler! Choice of Cherry or Classic Limeade.Coupon is powered by SmartSource and will go straight to printing once you click the “Print Your Coupon” button.

(Thanks Printable Coupon Spot!)

You can get a FREE appetizer at TGIFridays, when you go here and sign up to receive updates through email. You will receive a temporary membership once you sign up. It is good for several perks. You will receive an email within 24 hours to print your coupon for the free Appetizer.

(Thanks Printable Coupon Spot!)

You can get a "$5 off of a $15 purchase" coupon for Baja Fresh. Coupon is valid through June 14, 2010. Offer is good at participating locations only. Get your printable! Unoftunately, this one is not an easy one to print, but thought it might still be worth it to somebody. Four-page document – part of the coupon is on page 3 and the other part on page 4.

(Thanks Printable Coupon Spot!)

Through June 6, 2010, you can take this coupon into any Holiday Stationstore location to get a free 20-oz. coffee or cappuccino.

Thanks, Mojo Savings!

Click on the “Like” button on the Pilot Travel Centers Facebook Page and then click on the “Coupons” tab and you’ll be able to print a coupon for a free 20-oz. coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate or hot tea. This coupon expires July 31, 2010.

Thanks, Mojo Savings!

You can get 50% off any Family Meal or Market Feast at Boston Market, by jumping on facebook and printing their coupon. I would definitely call your store and see if they are participating on this one. Offer is good only at participating locations on May 31, 2010 only.

Printable found here. Print as is including the wall ads.

For those of you that have a QuickChek nearby, here’s a new Facebook freebie for ya! Just go here to become a fan of QuickChek on Facebook and after doing so, you’ll be able to print out an exclusive coupon good for a Free 3.6 oz. Cup Haagen Dazs Ice Cream (click on the “Fan Exclusives” tab). This offer expires 5/31.

***Check QuickChek locations here.

(Thanks, Smart Couponing!)

Juice It Up is offering a coupon for Buy One Smoothie, Get One Free. Just click on the “Like” button on the Juice It Up Facebook Page and then click on the “Offers” tab to get your coupon.

Find Juice It Up locations here.

Thanks, Coupon Pro!

Wow! Cold Stone Creamery just released a rare coupon! In celebration of E (the entertainment channel) turning 20, they are offering up a coupon valid for 20% off ANY purchase (excluding gift cards)! This coupon is valid thru 6/30/2010.

(Thanks, Sarah’s Deals!)

Head on over to the Popchips Facebook page and “Like” them to print a coupon valid for a FREE bag of Popchips at any Jamba Juice location. Just click on the “Coupon” tab and you’ll be able to click a link to print your coupon.

(Thanks, Free Snatcher!)

How To: Clean out your Spice Rack

Confession time.

I have no clue how old some of the spices in my spice rack are. Truly, no clue.

Some spices were given to me, some were handed down, some I bought a long time ago, but used rarely.

So the question lies... How do you know when your spices have gone bad?

I went on a hunt and here is what I found.

"The Life of Spice"
(taken from

After reading this list a few things popped out to me:

1. Pure Vanilla lasts indefinitely- Wow!

2. Whole spices can last up to twice as long as ground spices

So if you are like me, you may have no clue as to when you first opened your spice.

If so, here are some tips to help:

If the color of your spice has faded, odds are the spice will not be as flavorful.

Rub or crush the spice in your hand and if the aroma or taste is weak, it is time to replace!

If the spice has begun to clump or harden, it is old and ready to be thrown out.

If you buy McCormick Seasonings, you are in luck! They have a very useful tool on their site that allows you to check the date of when the spice you have was manufactured. All you need to do is enter the code on the bottom of your spice bottle into the "Fresh Tester" on their site.

Another confession... The "Fresh Tester" says my Onion Powder is... eeks- 7 years old!

Time to replace the Onion Powder, along with many other spices in my rack!

I would love to know what your top 3 most used spices in your cabinet are (besides good ole' salt and pepper!).

Please leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toddler Snack Idea: P.B. and Jelly Roll-ups

This is a great snack or meal idea for your toddler. It makes having peanut butter and jelly much more exciting! I have also used this snack for potlucks and birthday parties!

Here is what you need:

Whole Wheat Tortillas (as many as you want to make), Peanut Butter, Jelly

Step 1:

Spread peanut butter on whole wheat tortilla

Step 2:
Mix your jelly in with the peanut butter. I learned the hard way that you must mix these two together, otherwise when you roll up the tortilla, the jelly will squeeze out and make a huge mess!

Step 3:
Roll up your tortilla being careful to not lose much of your p.b. and j!

Step 4:
Wrap your roll- up in clear plastic wrap

Step 5:
Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This will make them easier to slice!

Step 6: Take the saran wrap off the roll-up and using a sharp knife, slice them horizontally so that you end up with little roll-ups. (Once again, I used this for a potluck and forgot to take my camera to church with me to snap a final shot!)

I have seen lots of great recipe ideas out there for quick and easy roll-ups.

If you have a great one, please leave a comment and share!

Thursday: Crunchy Tuna Bites with Carrots

I am always looking for ways to get my preschooler and toddler and 12 month old to eat fish! This recipe seemed like a great way to "disguise" the fish. It is a very simple recipe, with very few ingredients. This recipe is very Whole food oriented and healthy for your family!

Here is what you need:

7-10 oz tuna-drained, 1 egg, 1 tsp fresh parsley (i used dried), 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used seasoned regular bread crumbs- couldn't find whole wheat at my store!), 1 TB whole wheat flour, olive oil, salt and pepper

Step 1:

Mash the tuna a/ the egg, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper

Step 2:

Add bread crumbs, mix well. Then add enough flour to bind mixture together.

Step 3:

Shape into 15-20 balls

Step 4:

Refrigerate for 15 min. & preheat your oven to 375

Step 5:

Drizzle olive oil on baking sheet, place tuna bites on top, drizzle more olive oil on top of tuna bites

step 6:

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Add some veggies and enjoy!

Overall, my kids and my husband really enjoyed this recipe. I thought the tuna bites were a bit dry and definitely needed some dipping sauce to help them out a bit.

Does anyone else have a creative recipe out there for Tuna?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wednesday: Pizza Night

Every Wednesday night, our family has a tradition of having pizza. Not only because we have church on Wednesday night and this helps with preparation/clean-up time, but also because it is my husband's favorite meal!

So tonight, Grab a pizza from the freezer, make your own (type in "pizza" in our search category and you will find lots of great ideas!!!) or order in (Little Ceaser's $5 hot and ready is a great frugal option!). Toss a salad and serve with breadsticks!

Happy Wednesday!

Penny in a Fountian for You.

On Tuesdays my little crew and I head to the public library. We drive around downtown until we find a parking spot open and then I (on hands and knees) go under every seat looking for meter change as I always forget to bring it. Most days we find enough loose change to give us a few hours of play time. Moose, my eldest, walks beside me and Finn, my youngest, is strapped to me by way of a mei-tai.
Before we go to the library, which opens at 10, we head over to a local breakfast joint and have a Mommy and Boys Breakfast Date-a-Palooza. On Tuesdays we add "Palooza" to everything we say. Its just how we roll around here. Anyway~ after coffee, omletes, and fending of the old men from squeezing my children's cheeks we head down the street to the library. There is a fountain on the way which we stop and make wishes into. This is such a darling way of hearing the inner thoughts of my three year old. I wish for a Buzz Lightyear on my birthday. I wish that brother will not be afraid of the thunder storm. I wish for everyone to have pennies. 

Library time is great. Books, puzzles, a breastfeeding pit-stop, puppet shows, and more books. Remember its a book-a-palooza kind of day. On Tuesdays I let Moose skip his nap and enjoy the excitement of new reads.  We find a reading knook, which today was in the bay window, and he reads for the duration of what would be his nap time. Finn sleeps and Mommy, well, I get to dive right into my new books too. Tuesdays are one of our favorite days of the week around here. 

I write all of this to prep my Family Fun idea.  To put the icing on the cake when we arrived home this afternoon a booming thunderstorm had just rolled in. I tossed lunch into a basket and plopped the crew onto the front porch. We sat together eating delicious simple whole foods...home made hummus, fresh plain snow peas, millet cake, and just brewed green tea.  We oooed and awed the storm, felt the fresh wind on our faces, and waved goodbye as the dark clouds rolled past.

This is thunderstorm season.  Find a safe spot and take advantage of some of the best "entertainment" you can ever provide your children with~ nature.

Be grateful for good food, be in awe of thunderstorms, and find a moment today to stop and read with your children.  This is my penny in downtown fountian wish for you today.

Tuesday: Crock-Put Pulled Pork B-bQ sandwiches with corn and grapes

This is also a great summer meal! Paired with some corn and a little fruit, this makes for a yummy family dinner time meal.

Here is what you need:

1-2 lb. boneless pork, spices for the pork (such as: salt, pepper, oregano, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion powder), bar-b q sauce, buns, corn and grapes (or a veggie and fruit of your choice!)

Step 1:
Place the pork (frozen or unfrozen) in your crock-pot and add about 1 cup of water.

Step 2:
Season your pork. I chose to use: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes.Don't feel like you have to use all of these seasonings, use whatever you have on hand and it will be great!

Step 3:
Cook on Low for 8 hours. Check often to make sure the pork is not drying out.

Step 4:
When your pork is done cooking, pull it apart by using two forks.

Step 5:
Place your pork on a bun, add barb-q sauce (We used Kraft- Honey Hickory Smoke and it was delish!), corn and some fruit. Serve and enjoy!

Cost of Meal for a family of 4: $6.00

Cost per person: $1.50

Monday, May 24, 2010

Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms GIVEAWAY!

The Meal Planning Mommies want to thank Jane from Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms for submitting one of her staple recipes, some mighty fine looking sloppy joe's!

Jane is the mother of two growing boys, has a charming blog loaded with recipe ideas, and has written a cook-book that we were pleased to review.

Her cook-book is loaded with her family favorite meals that she has modified to be make-ahead wonders! This is a wonderful resource for meals that can be prepared in advanced and served with ease. As you flip through her cookbook you can see that her recipes are tried and true, having been served at her dinner table many an evening! We liked that.

Here is a taste of what Jane has cooking:

Whenever I talk about make-ahead meals, I tell people about my #1 go-to recipe...Sloppy Joes. This recipe is in my cookbookand it's one of our favorites.  You can cook it and freeze it in different size portions to fit your family.  I have sent Matthew back to his dorm with frozen Sloppy Joes on many occasions, so he can have something other than cafeteria food once in a while.  It defrosts and reheats in the microwave in minutes.  With Andrew's La Crosse schedule right now, it's especially nice to have this in the freezer, so I can come home and cook a delicious, quick meal that we all like!  I hope you enjoy the recipe and find it helpful for your family!

Brown the ground beef with the celery, onion, and green pepper.

Drain the fat after the meat has browned.

Add the ketchup, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, brown sugar, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and salt & pepper.  Mix thoroughly, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. 


2 lbs. ground beef, 85% lean
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2/3 cup onion, finely diced
2/3 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup Bull's Eye Original Barbecue Sauce
15 oz. tomato sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
8 hamburger buns


1.  In a large skillet, cook the beef, celery, onion, and green pepper on medium heat, until the beef is cooked through.  Drain the fat.

2.  Add the ketchup, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Place the mixture on a hamburger bun.  This makes 7 - 8 Sloppy Joes.

Freezing Directions

*Cool the Sloppy Joes completely in the refrigerator before you freeze it.

Freeze it in labeled freezer bags and lay it flat in your freezer so you can stack your frozen meals.  You can freeze it for 3 - 6 months.  I use vacuum bags as it preserves it longer in the freezer.

You can purchase Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms below! Look how easy we make it for you. (Hehe).

 And, on top of that we are giving away a free copy of Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms this week to one lucky reader.

How to enter~ 

1). In the comment section answer the following question inspired by Jane's sloppy Joe's : What is your family's staple meal?

The give-away begins today and will end on Saturday, May 29th. 

Monday: Chicken Penne

This is one of my absolute FAVORITE summer meals. It is light, uses fresh veggies and can be served a variety of ways.

*Sorry about the lack of pictures here! I was making this meal for a church potluck and forgot to take my camera to church with me to take final pictures!

Here is what you need:

5 Basil leaves, 1 tomato, 1/2-1 lb baked chicken
Not pictured: Balsamic Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, 1 box Penne Pasta

Step 1: Bake your chicken. I baked mine in the oven at 350 for 20 min.

Step 2:

Cook your pasta and drain

Step 3: Chop your basil leaves and tomatoes

Step 4: Combine diced chicken, penne, basil leaves, tomatoes, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette, 1 cup mozzarella cheese in a 9x13 pan

Step 5: Top with more mozzarella cheese

Step 6: Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until warm and cheese is melted

Step 7: Serve!

Another variation on this dish is to mix all the ingredients (minus the Parmesan cheese) when the pasta is still warm and serve without baking.

This meal is great for lunch, dinner and potlucks.

Cost of Meal for a family of 4: $5.00

Cost per person: $1.25