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Saturday, July 10, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
I was so wrong! This meal is not only good for you, it combines the tangy, sweetness of an apple and the cheesy, sharp taste of cheddar to create... a Masterpiece! If you have ever been to a fondue restaurant, you know that they serve cheese fondue with apples (among other things!). Why? Simple- it is AMAZING! I think I could eat one of these everyday for lunch and not get bored with it... it is that good!
Okay, now that I am done ranting and raving, trying to get you to give this combination a chance... Here is the "recipe" (there really isn't much to it!)
Here is what you need for 4 sandwiches:
- 1 medium sized apple (We used McIntosh, but I think Granny smith would be great too! Really use whatever you have on hand.)
- 8 slices of bread
- 24 thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese about 1/2 lb. (We use 6 slices or cheese per sandwich for adults, but kids could get away with a lot less cheese.)
- Veggie of your choice! Cold veggies and dip are a great choice!
Cut the cheddar and apple (I peel mine!) into small slices. The thinner the slices of cheddar are, the faster they will melt! I use about 6 slices of Cheddar and 5 apple slices for each sandwich.
Butter both sides of your bread. Then put 3 slices of cheddar on the non buttered side, 5-6 slices of apple, then 3 more slices of cheddar. Then place the last piece of buttered bread on top (buttered side facing out). You will want to cook them in a skillet on med-low heat. The cheddar takes awhile to melt and you don't want your bread burning before your cheese is all melty!
Flip your sandwiches to cook evenly on both sides. When they are a medium brown shade, flip them! Keep an eye on them closely. If they are browning too fast, your skillet is too hot!
Slice it up, pair it with a veggie of your choice! We chose non-cooked sugar snap peas with dip! Yumm!!!
I would love to hear your cheese toastie (or grilled cheese... in other parts of the world!) concoctions!
Leave a comment and let us know the craziest/best thing you have added to your sandwiches... and if it was a flop or a fantastic choice!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
The Plan to Eat Give-Away will end on Saturday. You have two days left to enter for a free year subscription! Remember you can enter every day and it counts double if you mention the give-away on your Facebook page!
And, we are not finished with the give-away's this week either. After the Plan to Eat give-away winner has been announced we just might have one more treat up our sleeves for you....here is a hint....
Freedom from chaos in your budget!
Meal Planning Mommies readers say hello to~
We’d like to welcome Chef Tracy, resident chef at Food on the Table .
Food on the Table is a website that provides meal plans and organized grocery lists based on your family’s preferences and the sales at your local grocery store. The service makes planning, cooking, shopping, and saving more efficient.
Today, Chef Tracy will talk about a pantry staple, vinegar. You can find Tracy’s other posts on No Whine Wednesdays at the Food on the Table Blog.
One staple I always have on hand in my pantry is vinegar and not just one kind. I have several kinds and use them for everything. It seems there is always a new vinegar in the store and I have to try it. Vinegars are great for a number of things and seem to make everything better. They add a certain acidity that brightens up the flavor of almost anything. I use them to make salad dressings, marinades, and as a condiment. Red wine vinegars are great for dressings and red meat marinades. Balsamic vinegars are great drizzled over vegetables and then roasted. I love drizzling rice wine vinegar over cooked rice and then mixing in green onions. It really livens up plain white rice. Usually when a dish is missing something, people tend to add salt. I reach for the vinegar! It is so versatile and really adds depth of flavor to anything, so next time instead of raising the salt content, try using vinegar. I guarantee you will be surprised!
Here is a great recipe for summertime that makes great use of balsamic vinegar.
Arugula Salad with Grilled Fruit
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 apricots, halved, stones removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced
8 cups (7 ounces) baby arugula
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, skinned and toasted hazelnuts
For the Vinaigrette: Combine the balsamic vinegar and shallot in a small bowl. Slowly pour the olive into the bowl, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
For the Arugula Salad: Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the apricots with the olive oil and grill for 2 minutes on each side. On the other side of the grill cook the pancetta slices on each side, until crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve: Place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Slice the grilled apricots and add to the bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat the arugula. Crumble the pancetta over the top and sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Serve immediately.
What else do you need?
(Yes, if you are my husband.)
ps..I urge you to buy grass-fed beef, local ethically raised beef has many benefits! Check online for a farm near you!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
1. Purchase your meat and dairy locally.
The best tasting meat and dairy comes from animals who are pastured, treated humanely, and given real food to eat. This meat and dairy not only taste's better but it is truly better for your body. After all, you eat what your meat eats. If you are going to eat meat and you are going to consume dairy then consume the real deal. A highlight of our family's year is visiting the local farms where we purchase our beef, turkey, and chicken for the year. Buying our meat at the farms has given us something else, in addition to the healthier meat. It has given us a respect and gratitude for the animals that we eat. The hamburger on our plate is not just a blob of stuff on a Styrofoam plastic wrapped tray that we are to eagerly consume, it was a cow and we are grateful for the meal which nourishes us. You can visit EAT WILD to find meat and dairy (eggs, cheese, milk, etc) farm near you.
2. Purchase your vegetables from local farms or join a CSA.
A CSA, Community Supported Agriculture Program, is a fantastic way to get out of the grocery store and shake things up in your kitchen. You buy a "share" of a farm at the start of the growing season along with a handful of other consumers. The pay off is a bushel of fresh vegetables,herbs, and fruits each week during the entire growing season, for us May-November. Although CSA's work in many different ways, in most you actually pick up your produce on a scheduled day out at the farm, shaking hands with the farmer and all. Many CSA's encourage participants to help in the garden and do not mind one bit if the kids come along for learning opportunities. The CSA costs upfront and pays off with the freshest produce you can get aside from growing your own. It is local. It is seasonal. It will no doubt introduce new vegetables into your world, which kids are often excited about experimenting with. There is a shared risk in this investment as you only receive what the farm can produce, weather pending. This shared risk, however, manages to bring a group of people together and there can be a sense of camaraderie in the CSA experience. Our CSA hosts a harvest supper, bringing the entire CSA together during the fall harvest to feast together~ my grocery store never did that.
3. Join a Natural Food Co-Op
A natural food buying club or co-op can be a great way to save money on your budget and bring fantastic food into your home. Although each buying club may function slightly differently the general idea is a group of organized people pooling together to purchase food from a distributor. Food can be purchased through online catalogs and ordered monthly. A truck delivers the food on a specific monthly date and the group participates together in unloading the truck. In our co-op each family unloads the truck twice a year. Our family has found that purchasing our legumes and grains in bulk through our natural food co-op is the absolute best bang for our buck. I enjoy looking through the catalog, taking my time, and making informed purchases regarding our food. This helps me tremendously with our grocery budget and meal planning. Click here to find a natural food co-op near you, or to learn how to start one.
4. Get to know your local Health Food Store
If your community has a natural health food store you can pick up sundry items that you may have previously purchased from a grocery store. They are almost always the healthier choice and a simple visit to your natural food store turn into a great learning experience. Ask questions of the staff and check out the bulletin board for news on farms, sales, and markets. If you are a frugalista then take your coupons as many of these stores accept coupons for their products!
Tip~ I mark down the price of our favorite items form the natural food store and then try to find them cheaper either through our co-op or online.
5. Visit the Farmer's Market
In our community there is a farmer's market every Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday! We even have a special holiday farmer's market to encourage local meat and produce on your Thanksgiving table. Besides a great outing a trip to the farmer's market can fill your basket with fresh, fun, delicious food such as vegetables, fruit, herbs, pies, pastries, jams, cheese, meats, eggs, breads, and more! Go with a budget and a plan, but leave a little wiggle room for that one item that you did not expect to buy~ like purple carrots or rhubarb pie.
6. Order Online
I made a list of our families favorite foods, those must-haves that my husband and children really enjoy. These are things that I can not buy at the farm/farmer's market but still choose to provide to my family. Here is an example~ Panda Puff's cereal. Hey, it makes my family happy! I have found through a little work that I can purchase this cereal online through Amazon cheaper than I can through my health food store. I purchase it in bulk to reduce constant shipping (free through Amazon's subscribe program) and doing so helps me stay in budget each month. I also purchase items such as organic unrefined coconut oil, Shea butter, and bulk tea online through fantastic online natural resources for such items.
We are going to talk about this again in the future and really show you how to getting out of the grocery store can help your budget be more consistent, put healthier food on your table, and help heal the environment for the coming generations.
It can be daunting to think about all of this, I know!
Try and think simple. Find where food comes from in your community and start there~ even if it is just for a couple of things. As Mommas you know baby steps may look small, but they are phenomenal to behold and they turn into strides in the blink of an eye. It is the same with each step you take to get out of the grocery aisle and onto the land.
By the way~ we have a give away going!! Have you entered for a chance to win a free year subscription to Plan to Eat??
You can sign up once a day and double your chances by posting this give-away on your facebook! Just let us know if you did and we will count you twice!
This recipe comes from my latest All You magazine. (the May issue)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped (didn't add this, although I am sure it would have been great!)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 8-inch flour tortillas
6 ounces grated low-fat Monterey Jack (we used some cheddar and some mozzarella since we already had some on hand)
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped (2 Tbsp.) (we used regular onion, since it's what we had)
1 tablespoon lime juice
Directions:1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Combine beans, olive oil, scallions, chili powder and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl.
2. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place tortillas on sheet and spoon bean mixture on top (I added some chicken to ours and it was tasty tasty, but not completely necessary). Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.
3. While tostadas are baking, combine mango, onion, lime juice and 1/4 tsp. salt in a bowl. Remove tostadas from oven, spoon mango mixture on top and serve immediately.
I made this when my mom and dad were visiting, and it was sooooo amazingly delicious!
Kitchen Notes (According to "All You" magazine):Spice it up. If you like more heat, use pepper Jack cheese instead of plain Monterey Jack.
Swap salsas. Don't care for mango or can't find one? Sub in tomato salsa instead.
Go green. To add another layer of flavor, sprinkle on some chopped avocado and fresh cilantro after assembling.
Put in more fruit. Mango gives the dish a touch of sweetness. Substitute or add chopped papaya, pineapple or kiwi for even more of a tropical taste.
Try another base. We used small flour tortillas for these tostadas, but you can use corn tortillas if you prefer.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
As we continue with our Independence from Kitchen Chaos week I am happy to
share with you a featured post from my friends, Susie. She is the mother
of two grown children, a devoted grandmother, and a whole foods cook
extraordinaire! Thankfully, I can call her my mentor! Take a moment
to read Susie's meal preparation ideas.......
and then go enter our current Plan to Eat give away!
It’s 5:00 p.m. and Dad will be home in an hour. Mom, eyes glazed over with weariness, is staring into the refrigerator, one child glued to her leg and the little one balanced on her hip as she tries to pull out the ingredients for the supper meal she had planned. Some time back, she learned that she had to have a plan, a menu for the week so that she wasn’t waiting until the last minute to figure out what they would have for supper. But even with the planning, she still finds that mealtime preparation is difficult, especially when she is already exhausted from the day. . . Does this sound familiar? It’s important to have a plan in place but if the plan cannot be executed well, chaos still reigns. For me, it basically boiled down to the fact that late afternoon and early evening are not my best times for preparing the evening meal. I was tired, my little ones were hungry and sometimes cranky, and often there were interruptions at that time of day that prevented me from beginning dinner. With most meals prepared from scratch, interruptions at meal preparation time can seriously hinder the meal-preparing process and push back the mealtime itself to an unreasonably late hour. Since I function better in general in the mornings, I found that making the evening in the morning worked best for me. I could give my full attention to the children later in the afternoon when they were more needy than they were in the morning when they had just eaten breakfast and were ready to play. I continued this practice after they got older. I would get them started on some home schooling project while I made evening meal preparations, and late afternoon became our time to take a walk together or play games. Even now, with just the two of us, I find that preparing the evening meal in the morning works best for me. I might put together a casserole, throw ingredients into the crock pot, or just do some of the preparation depending on the planned meal, but whatever early preparation I make, it helps me immensely to get the meal on the table in a timely manner. This plan of making supper earlier in the day worked very well, but after awhile I realized that weekends were still chaotic. We had obligations on Saturdays as well as Sundays at church, and it was hard for me to come home on those days and prepare proper meals. Eating out was not an option very often, and making our evening meal in the mornings was also not possible on those days. So, I began preparing three main dish meals on Friday mornings. After several years, Thursdays became my preferred morning to cook, freeing up Friday mornings as well, so I would prepare four meals instead of three. This saved even more time for me during the week. It also saved time clean up time after the meals themselves! My “weekend meals” preparation begins with the menu and shopping list. Our payday comes every two weeks, so my menus would typically cover a two-week period at a time. My written menu only consists of the evening meal because breakfasts are usually oatmeal, homemade granola, muffins and smoothies, or eggs and toast, and lunches are usually leftovers. I have compiled a master menu list on the computer, which consists of a list of meals we like, categorized by headings based on types such as “chicken,” “vegetarian,” “fish,” and so on. This has made it easier to put together the two-week menu. I choose menus based on what is in the pantry, and I keep the pantry well-stocked, purchasing items, especially staples, in bulk and when they are on sale. This has been one of the keys for me in saving money on the grocery bill overall. If there are any leftovers in the refrigerator from the previous menu, I consider whether these can be used as part of a new meal, or whether they will be a lunch item. And in planning the menu, I always plan to make extra quantities of some dishes because I like “planned over” meals, which shortens preparation time on other days of the week. I might make Baked Chicken Cacciatore and later turn it into Minestrone Soup by adding a few other ingredients. Another favorite is turning Chicken Rice Pilaf from the first meal into Fried Rice for the next meal, simply by adding a few veggies and some scrambled eggs and seasoning. My master menu includes the name of each dish, a code for where the recipe is located, and a list of ingredients needed for the dish. This way, I can easily look at the master list, choose which meals I want for the two-week menu based on what I know I already have on hand, and see what I need to add to the grocery list. The master menu also includes the key for the recipe location code at the top of the page. The code I use usually consists of the first letters of the name of the cookbook plus the page number on which the recipe is found. Wednesdays are my chosen shopping and errand day, so after I have chosen the menu, made the list and shopped for the needed ingredients, I would prepare anything that needed to be done in advance, such as thawing meat. If beans or rice are needed for any recipe, I would generally soak and cook these before Wednesday so they would be ready by Thursday morning. Since I have little counter space in my kitchen, the first order of business after breakfast on Thursday morning is to do the breakfast dishes. No dishwasher here, except me. :-) Next order of business is to prioritize the tasks. I find it helps simplify things to do all the chopping, peeling and slicing all at one time, so I chop all the onions at the same time for all the meals I’m making that morning. Same with other vegetables. Anything that is duplicated in the other meals is done at the same time. If I need to slice or cut up raw meat, that is the next thing. Once the ingredients are prepared, I would begin assembling each dish before moving on to the next, starting with the one that requires the most preparation and cooking time. Some meals are cooked entirely at that time, but keeping in mind that their will be reheating, some dishes might not be quite fully cooked so that the reheating doesn’t overcook them. I do not have a microwave by choice, so reheating is done in the toaster oven, on the stove pot, or in the oven, depending on the dish. There are also some recipes that I would only do only partially, to finish preparing just prior to mealtime. Some of these would include meats and fish that would be marinating or breaded for cooking, vegetables for stir-fry that would be sliced and kept in water in the refrigerator until needed. (And the water can be used for part of the stock for soup later.) Dishes that require pasta are made to the point of cooking the pasta and then finished refrigerated, with the cooking and adding of the pasta occurring just prior meal time so that the pasta does not become mushy. This is particularly important when using whole grain pasta. (The exception to this would be lasagna, but I layer my lasagna with uncooked noodles.) My main objective is just that something needs to be done earlier to make the meal preparation smoother later. After all preparation and whatever cooking ahead is finished, all meals are refrigerated. (I don’t usually freeze weekend meals, unless I have made a double amount for a later time.) If someone else in the family would be the one to do the actual reheating or cooking of the meal on the day it would be served, the instructions for reheating or finishing would be placed in a handy spot for their information. Now all that is left is cleaning up the kitchen. To save clean up, as well as space while preparing the meals, I use a minimal amount of bowls and pans. Whether an entire meal is prepared ahead or only part of a meal, this method of morning preparation and preparing weekend meals ahead has really saved me time and enabled me to concentrate on activities and needs as they arise, eliminating the feeling of being a “slave” to the kitchen, particularly since cooking from scratch can take more time and planning than prepared foods. One of the best parts was that while the boys were still at home, we were often enjoying one another’s company while taking a walk or playing at the park with our meal warming in the oven, while other moms were home preparing their meals. . . or still trying to figure out what they were going to have for their supper!
To read more great ideas from Susie visit her blog Everyday Glimpses!
Monday, July 5, 2010
This a great summer meal! Paired with some sweet 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!)
Place the pork (frozen or unfrozen) in your crock-pot and add about 1 cup of water.
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!
Cook on Low for 8 hours. Check often to make sure the pork is not drying out.
When your pork is done cooking, pull it apart by using two forks.
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
And now... announcing the WINNER of the "GRILLING FOR DUMMIES COOKBOOK"...
Our winner of this fantastic cookbook is Jenny B.!
Here is what Jenny has to say about the grill master in her family:
"I tend to be the grill master in my home. If you want it coming out tasty and not charred I do it, if you don't mind it well flambee'd go to my husband."
Jenny, please send us your full name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org We will get your cookbook out to you right away!
If you didn't win this giveaway, stay tuned.... we are having a mega giveaway week at Meal Planning Mommies!
Check back everyday for tips on "Independence for Kitchen Chaos!"
He is hungry and he wants YOU to enter this give-away!
People begin meal planning for different reasons. Perhaps, for some, meal planning begins in hopes of eating out less. For others, meal planning is a way to organize and avoid that late afternoon (What in the world is for dinner?) crunch. I think most of us are familiar with that question, which is why when asked many Mom's and Dad's will nod their heads in agreement. They too have packed the kids up at 5:30pm , tired and hungry to the local dinner dive, to avoid another meal of thrown together Mac and Cheese.
- First, go and visit Plan to Eat. Sign up for a completely Free 30 Day Trial and check it all out for yourself!
- Then, enter for a chance to win the Meal Planning Mommies/Plan to Eat Give-Away! The winner will receive a free year subscription to Plan to Eat!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
1 Can of Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained. (Modification: I used Chickpeas)
1-2 Cups of Corn (canned or frozen).
1 Sweet red pepper, chopped.
6 green onions, chopped. (Modification: I omitted the onions and it was great still.)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
3/4 cup of Barley, (It is best to soak your grains for 24 hours before serving them, see note at end of post for more information!)
For the dressing: olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, crushed red pepper
What to do:
1. Boil your barley until cooked. I buy mine in bulk with no package directions so I can not tell you exactly how long to cook it. Boiling 3/4 cup of barley in a pot of water took about 20 minutes for me. I imagine it would be about the same for you.
2. As your barley is boiling, go ahead and make your dressing.
In a dish combine 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, and two cloves of garlic with your spices. Add almost two teaspoons of chili powder, 3/4 tsp of cumin, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. You can salt if you need too. I did not. Stir this and set aside.
3. Dice up your cilantro. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup, but I just used a bunch. Anybody else ready to stop buying cilantro in the store?! I planted mine last week and am eagerly hoping my seeds take. I had the hardest time getting a good cilantro crop last year. Suggestions welcome! Also, chop up your sweet red pepper. Looking foward to picking these fresh again too. Ah, ..if only I could keep my dumb dog out of my garden...
4. In a bowl, combine your can of black beans, kidney beans (or chickpeas!) and corn. Seriously, could this be easier??
5. Add the cilantro and red pepper. My dog ate my garden last year. Root up. Grrr.
6. This is your dressing. Mmmm...tasty! Pour it onto the salad and stir it up. Don't forget to add your barley to the salad.
8. Enjoy this chilled with pita chips. We used Stacy's Pita Chips as I got them for FREE (whoop!) a few weeks ago. I think this would also go very well with tortilla chips too.
9. Go make this salad and have a great fourth of July week!
SOAKING YOUR GRAINS:
Soaking your grains neutralizes the phytic acid allowing your body to absorb the wonderful nutrient of the grain much easier. To soak your grains, for example with this dish, put the barley into a bowl. Add enough water to cover the barley. Then, add one tablespoon of an acid medium (lemon juice, whey, kefir, apple cider vinegar, kumbacha) to the water. Cover with a plate or towel and let sit for 7-24 hours. Then, boil as usual and continue with your recipe.
Happy Fourth of July Week! We wish you long beautiful summer days, fire work filled nights, and tasty meals free from stress and worry.
Our meal plan this week is based on past favorites from the Meal Planning Mommies kitchen's that we thought would be terrific for your holiday week.
Monday~ Bean and Barley Salad
Tuesday~ Crock Pot Pulled Pork BBQ sandwhiches
Wednesday~ Black Bean and Mango Tostada
Thursday~ Pastured Beef Hamburgers with Peppers
Friday~ Grilled Cheese and Apple Sandwiches
Having guests? We will republish Alisha's amazing deviled eggs recipe for you too!
And, do not forget the give-aways! Today we have a ONE DAY ONLY GIVE-AWAY for you. There will be give-away all week long! Happy Fourth of July!
Introducing: Grilling for Dummies
Here is a great description I found to give you a taste of what you have in store!
"Are you gearing up to grill? This hands-on guide explains how to purchase, use, and maintain everything from charcoal and gas grills to smokers and rotisseries for your grill. You get the latest on the different types of grills and food prep and grilling techniques, as well as dozens of new and improved recipes that will stretch your skills and tantalize your taste buds!
- Get ready to grill — understand grilling lingo, choose the right grill for you, and start and safely maintain a grill-ready fire
Add spice to your life — stock your griller's pantry with the latest herbs, rubs, flavored oils and marinades, including Asian and Mediterranean seasonings
Grilling the oldies but goodies — from burgers and sausages to kebabs and ribs, make everyone's favorites taste fabulous
Go beyond the BBQ basics — expand your grilling skills with tasty tips for grilling pork, beef, poultry, lamb, fish and shellfish, vegetables, pizza, and more
Open the book and find:
- The difference between regular grilling and barbecuing
Full-color photos of mouthwatering recipes
Highlights of the latest and best grilling equipment
Extended coverage on grill set-up and maintenance
Expert advice on direct and indirect grilling
Figures and charts featuring meat cuts and food prep techniques
Must-know tips and tricks to master control over the grill
Advice on using smokers and rotisseries
To enter to win the "Grilling for Dummies" book please leave a comment and tell us who the grill master in your house!
The giveaway will be over at midnight on Sunday July 4th!
If you are not our lucky winner, yet still want to get out of the kitchen with some new recipes, click on our easy link below to order!