Saturday, July 24, 2010

Man Night



Last year my husband started a great tradition. It may have been born out of a pregnant me falling on the floor exhausted and begging him to take our then three year old out to eat~ alone. If it did not begin with that exact scenario it was something close, I promise. 
Regardless of its beginning Man Night (also called Man Monday) in our house has become a weekly occurrence. 

I look forward to it each week. Man Night serves as my alone time. And, is a break from preparing a meal. 
My boys look forward to it. It is night just for them, for all things boy, and they feel special. 
My husband looks forward to it. Each day he comes home from work and hears the fun things we have done. Man night gets him involved in parenting solo, which can lead to special moments and lessons learned. 

Plus, Man Night equals Spicy Chicken. And, perhaps that is what makes them happiest of all. 
My dudes have a man night tradition, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sports, and the game Wack-a-Cave Man. Don't ask! It is a little dude and dad thing apparently!
They scarf down chicken wings, lemonaid, fries, and loads of sauces. 
Mommy is not allowed to complain about food on man night. 
And, I don't. 

Man night has become a very special family activity in our home. The conversations shared, memories made, and bonding my boys have experienced has been priceless. They are even concocting an entire man trip! A weekend with my boys all out having fun together while Momma stays back to have a linear thought...........yea baby cakes, I could do that.

If you can, send the kiddos out with dad. It is good for you to have alone time. It is good for them to spend special time with their daddy. It is good for him to know that he is capable, creative, and that you trust him with the little loves of your life.

Man Night Rocks. 


Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday: Tomato and Basil Summer Pasta



Sarah made this last summer for the first time and it has since been a hit. I was craving it, especially since the basil in my garden is over flowing and needed to be used.

This meal is tasty. When Sarah makes it she uses chicken, which is delicious! I had already used meat this week and opted for a vegetarian version. It was still a power-house of flavor without the chicken so I highly recommend this meal either way!

What you need:
Pasta
Fresh Basil
Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Italian Dressing
Fresh Romano Cheese

1. Whatever pasta you choose, bring it to a boil. Cook it al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Chop up your tomatoes and basil real nice. Add them to a bit of olive oil in and saute them to really bring out the flavor. They make such a bright dish!


3. Combine the tomato/basil mixture to the pasta. Stir in a bit of Italian dressing. Add the grated Romano.


Toss, serve, and enjoy a summer day!
We enjoyed this with just picked squash that I steamed and a nice garden salad thanks to the CSA box!



Tip~ Baby food idea~ if you are feeding a little one who is ready for this type of food a nice idea is to steam some organic squash, mash or puree it, add a little pastured butter for that healthy fat and serve to the bouncing baby...or serve to the baby wearing the wig. Either way, they just might like it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday: Snap Beans, Brown Rice and Spicy BBQ Chicken




I do not know exactly why we enjoyed this dinner tonight, except that it met the basic criteria for a good meal.

1. It was healthy.
2. It was simple.
3. It was fresh.

The fact that it was incredibly easy to prepare also helped.  

~ We started with local grass-fed pastured chicken, and baked it in a dutch oven, along with a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. When it was cooked I removed the chicken from the bone and set aside just enough for this meal. The rest went into the freezer for future meals. Alisha's talks about stretching a buck with chicken here.

~ In the morning, before I even started the chicken I set aside my brown rice and soaked it in a little bit of water and kefir. This reduces the phytic acid, makes the rice go farther, and adds a lovely creamy texture to brown rice. My favorite kefir is Redwood Hill Farms Cultured Goat Milk kefir, but there are many good varieties out there. Kefir can be made from goat milk, cow milk, coconut milk, even water! I soaked my rice for about ten hours, but you can soak it anywhere from 7-24 hours.
 ~ After the rice had soaked we put it into a pot and steamed it as usual.

~ I washed some snap peas from the garden and steamed them with some pastured butter. Snap peas are in season right now so you may be able to get them on very good deals. It might be wise to buy surplus, blanch and freeze them for later when they are higher priced!

~ When the chicken was ready we spun it in one of our favorite sauces. This sauce, even better when on clearance, is really good!



And, that was it.

Soaked Brown Rice.
Chicken spun in tasty sauce.
Steamed Snap peas.

Yum.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summertime snack.

A little snack idea, perfect for a summer day.

Ingredients:
Celery
Carrot
Ranch (or some other dipping sauce...hummus?)
banana

Idea:
1. Use a serrated peeler to make thin strips of carrot.
2. Chop off a cute little chunk of a piece of celery. I got rid of the top of the celery, and cut one stalk in half, since I was making this for my two oldest children.
3. Cut off a cute little slice of a banana. (this is going to be the sun) Eat the rest of the banana yourself. :0)
4. Assemble your cute little summer scene. Celery is the trunk of a palm tree. Banana is the sun.
5. Carrot slices make the top of the palm tree. Ranch to dip the carrots and celery in make a cute little beach for your tree to sit on.
ENJOY!

Wednesday: Pot Roast Soup, A leftover Meal



Soup is seriously one of the best way to use up leftovers. It is cheap and filled to the rim with taste.
Soup can really stretch a buck! And, around our house that is important.

This is so easy.

Similar to yesterday so if you do not like leftovers, perhaps schedule this for later in the week...we don't mind them. In fact, when something is really tasty like yesterday's roast then we want to eat it again!

All you are going to do is take the big ole pot of roast and veggies from yesterday and add the following:


Lentils
Water
Can of Crushed Tomatoes with the juice
Salt, Pepper


With our leftovers, I only needed to add one cup of lentils and two cups of water. I went ahead and added in another jar of tomatoes with the juice, gave it a bit more S and P and then boom dinner was ready. You will want to add more or less of these ingredients depending on what you had leftover from yesterday.

This was great served with warm jalapeno corn bread! We also liked to squeeze just a bit of ketchup right into our bowls....mmmm....delicious.

Restaurant deals are not as valuable as a good meal idea.

Okay, the consensus is out. Our readers are not as interested in restaurant deals as they are meal ideas! This is great news. :0) Eating at home is the healthier option. The point in sharing the deals was for those of you who plan to eat out once a week, as my family does. For this reason, I wanted to point you to the site I found easiest to navigate through when I was searching for the deals for you guys. http://www.restaurantcouponsanddeals.com/ has restaurant deals very easily laid out for those nights when you really want to find something and fast. We will be focusing our time and posts on things that keep your family at your own dinner table. If there is a deal that is just too good to pass up, though, I just might have to share that. :0)

Thank you so much to those of you who shared your input. We hope you keep coming back. Knowing that other moms are benefitting from our site is part of what drives us to keep on posting. Have a great day mommas!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just for Fun: Home Made Granola Cereal

Good Morning. Good Afternoon. Good Evening. Good Granola.

Ever since making the switch-a-roo on over to whole foods my family and I have been experimenting with making our own breakfast cereal. We have a weekly schedule mapped out that leaves two days a week for cereal and then, of course, are the late night Mommy snacks where I want cereal and nothing but cereal. It used to be a 10 pm bowl of fruit loops, now it is home made granola.

Making our own granola is a family event. I do the soaking and the baking, but the family comes together to decide what goes into this batch of granola. At the end of this post I will give you some fun suggestion and then your family can go forth and create!


Step one: The night before measure out 8 cups of Oats. Place them into a big bowl and add about 1 1/2 cups of water. You want to soak the grains, but there is no need to make them into a soup! Now, add your acid medium. I really like using kefir to soak my oats for granola, it is a powerful probiotic. Add 1 1/2 cups of kefir. Stir and cover with a towel or plate. Let this sit over night. This very important step of soaking your grains will reduce the phytic acid helping your body absorb the amazing nutrients of the grain. To read more about soaking grains visit one of my favorite websites,
Passionate Homemaking. This is also where I learned about this delicious granola recipe!

This is basically what your soaked oats will look like after 12-24 hours of soaking.















Now that your grains have soaked you are ready to make your granola. Straight into the bowl of oats add the following:

3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your cereal!)
1 tsp sea salt
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix it all together well.

Place your granola onto a baking sheet. It takes two baking sheets for me. This is a big batch of cereal! Turn your oven onto 250 degrees and bake this for 2 hours. Using a spatula after two hours, turn the granola and bake for 1-2 more hours. We give it the full four hours, producing a soft and delightful granola. Crunchy, but no crisp...if that makes any sense at all!


Once the granola has finished baking remove it from the baking sheets and back into a large bowl. This is where things get fun for the family. Your foundation is complete, now you get to flavor it up. I recommend adding some organic shredded coconut, unsweetened. I use 1-2 cups.


You can also add things like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

And raisins.


Stir it all up together. You are almost ready to devour it.

Okay, now eat it as a cereal, ice cream topper, snack, however!


This recipes makes five quarts of granola. We store ours in an air tight container in the pantry. I know that it lasts beautifully up to a week, after that I do not know as ours has never made it past a week uneaten!

Some variations to consider might be:
dried blueberries
cranberries
dried apples
figs
prunes
chocolate chips
chopped almonds
chopped walnuts
pumpkin spice
The list can go on!
Have fun!!

Coconut Oil Link

A few posts back Alisha mentioned a great sale on organic coconut oil, which is a fantastic oil to use for cooking, baking, and cosmetic purposes.  The three gals that make up the Meal Planning Mommies are all new to coconut oil, but finding that we have been missing out big time all these years!

I (Katie) am in love with coconut oil. I order it by the gallon. I have a great and simple recipe for making home made baby diaper rash cream and lotion for your family. Now that Alisha has published this great deal going on through Amazon I thought I might share it later today. Give me few hours to take some snapshots for you!

The Meal Planning Mommies are amazon affiliates. We make a small percentage off of purchases that you buy from Amazon through our site. As you may have noticed we only link to an Amazon product if we really like it.  I know that I really like coconut oil. I have not used this particular brand, but I am going to link to it for you. It is a good deal and well worth the try. Thank you for supporting Meal Planning Mommies!

Tuesday:Pot Roast



 This is my first time using roast from the pastured cow we purchased at a local farm. I have been saving them, cooking much less meat, and enjoying the new recipes. However, this week was the perfect week for a roast. We had company so I needed something delicious, easy to prepare, and a dish that would leave us with leftovers.

Roast was the answer. I think Roast could be the answer to many questions. Roast is good.

Thanks to a lovely little video produced by the Food Network I learned a new and improved way of making roast.



Here we go:

1. Thaw your beef. I used a good piece of chuck roast from a pastured cow.
2. In a large pot place enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Begin to heat it up and then add your roast. We are going to brown the roast on both sides, letting tons of flavor to come out of the meat and really getting things cooking!

3. In the mean time, chop up carrots, onion, celery, and potatoes. Add them to the pot when the meat is nice and browned.
4. Now, add a can of diced tomatoes.

5. And some garlic.
6. And some of your favorite fresh herbs. I used parsley, thyme and a nice bit of rosemary.


7.  Now, cook with a lid on for about three hours. Beware this is going to drive your taste buds bonkers.
8.  Serve and enjoy!




And, if you are feeding a little one who is ready for this type of food you can set aside the carrots, potatoes, and a tiny bit of meat~ puree it with a bit of pastured butter and it is a taste filled meal for them!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Benefits of using Coconut Oil


I just posted a hot deal on coconut oil. If you are new to the idea of using coconut oil, and are considering it for the first time along with me, here is a brief paragraph stating some of the benefits of using coconut oil.
"The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc."
If you are interested in reading in more detail how coconut oil helps in each way mentioned, you can go to Organic Facts, here.

(Thank you
Organic Facts!)

A hot deal on Coconut Oil

Alisha here. As Katie has been learning more and more about what foods are healthiest for your body, she has become a big advocate for coconut oil. For those of you who are interested, there is a nice little deal on Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil right now at Amazon.com. I just bought 4 jars so I can get the free shipping. This will be my first time trying it. Are you proud of me, Katie, for venturing out? :0) This is supposed to be the healthiest oil to cook with, but you can also use it for beauty purposes. Here's the deal everybody:

The pack of two 15-oz. jars is reduced right now by 43% to only $13.74 with free Super Saver Shipping if you place an order over $25. Plus, you can choose the Subscribe and Save option and you’ll get an additional 15% off and free shipping, but you’ll need to remember to cancel your subscription after your first order ships.

Thanks, The Thrifty Couple!and Money Saving Mom!

Chocolate Milk



My husband has struggled a bit since we have made the jump into whole foods eating. He agrees that it is the best for our family. He desires his children to eat healthy, whole, nourishing food. He can wrap his head around and give full support to every little detail, from the garden to the localavore shopping to the dream of a goat farm. All, but one little detail. Eating it.

Yes, that is a pretty big deal. My husband was raised by a loving mother who cooked and baked as a way to show affection to her family. But, when little hubby did not like a meal his Momma made him something else. Thus, you now have a man who struggles eating food that he wishes he could eat. He tries and I commend him. Over the years his tastes have expanded ten fold and for that I am grateful.

He does not complain out our whole foods eating, he is proud of me, despite not really loving the food. In his mind nothing competes with artificial cheese.

I have been asked before how we work this out. How do I cook whole food meals for the world's pickiest husband?

Mostly, it has nothing to do with me. It is him making a valiant effort. Occasionally, though I leave out things in his food that I know will stop him in his tracks~ onions for example. But, I do not leave these out of the rest of the families food. He is honest with our children and will tell them, "Daddy is still learning to like onions. I really want you to like them because they are good for your body."

We have come up with an arrangement that is working for us. Sunday through Friday afternoon are our Whole Foods days. He eats what I prepare, no complaints. Friday night through Saturnday night are his food days. He can eat whatever he wants and I do not complain, in fact sometimes I join him for that Saturday morning garage saleing day doughnut with cream frosting. This is working very well for us. We are filling our bodies with incredibly nourishing foods and relaxing on the weekends, making this transition to whole foods actually a fun endevour for our family.

But, on a night I am making something I know he is not going to love so much I often prepare a little treat for him. It is amazing how this little delight encourages him to try and eat his meal.

My husband is a chocolate milk man. Chocolate milk from the store is often laden with preservatives, chemicals, hormones, corn and soy products, and syrupy refined sugars. So, I created my own and we are LOVING it.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup of organic cocoa powder
1/4 cup of unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
Six (give or take) cups of organic whole milk

In a sauce pan place the vanilla, sugar, and cocoa. While heating on LOW, stir these together, and add a cup of milk. Stir until they blend well, melting the cocoa and sugar together nicely. Add this to the rest of the milk in a blender. Blend on high mixing it all into a frothy drink. Serve over ice.

This drink is a desert in our home, a treat. It is not particularly frugal especially since we have committed to purchasing fair trade organic chocolate and organic milk. Thus serving as a treat makes it really special and we all savor it.

There are many ways to make your own chocolate milk. If you have any others that your family uses please share with us!

~ Katie

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Monday: Garden Omlette

One of the greatest thing about this little meal is that you can skim through the ingredients list and then completely make it your own. I like meals that like, that allow creativity to bloom....creativity and well...the frugal practice of using whatever you happen to have!

Sometimes in my house, "Look! Isn't Mommy creative?" actually translates to, "We ran out of syrup for the pancakes so I made a nice little compote out of those pears we have had at the bottom of the drawer..."

But~ hey~ that's how we roll.  And, I know for a fact that many of our MPM readers are the exact same way!

So, after much delay here are my ingredients for the Garden Omlette, so named because the veggies came straight from my own back yard.

What you need:
Eggs
A smidge of milk
Veggies of your choice~ I used organic back yard grown onion and brocolli
Cheese
Bacon
Butter 

*Using dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese, and eggs that have come from pastured animals is a very healthy option. These products are full of nutrients, gentle on the environment,  good for the animal and good for you! They also taste very rich and delicious. I also highly encourage produce that is grown without pesticides.


Turn on some music. You will need about three or four of your favorite cooking songs to dance around to as you prepare this meal. Have some fun and know a nice little dinner will be served soon!

1. Wash and chop your veggies of choice. 
2. In a bowl mix your eggs with a dab of milk. Add some salt and pepper. Blend well. 
3. Cook your bacon (if using). 
4. Place some of that pastured butter into a pan, melt. 
5. Add your egg mixture and begin to cook on one side. 
6. Dump in your veggies/bacon/cheese
7.  Cook in the pan until the egg is not runny. Flip over and cook a few minutes more on each side. 



Serve with breakfast potatoes, yogurt, and some freshly squeezed juice!

Tip: If you steam your potatoes before cooking them in some olive oil they will brown and soften faster! It is a real time saver.

And, if you are feeding a baby (who is ready for this type of food!) they may enjoy some cooked egg yolk and pureed breakfast potatoes.

Katie's Meal Plan July 18-24

We have eaten well this week and truthfully I do not feel that I spent much time in the kitchen working!
After returning from a fun family vacation my little sister, Bethlehem, came over for a week long visit. Having an eight year girl old running through the house along side my own children sure made me feel like an old lady at the end of the day! My sister is a darling, she can talk you silly, and boy oh boy is she a picky eater. My husband teases that her food groups are salt, hot sauce, and butter.  Getting the thumbs up from her was really encouraging this week and the foods she was not crazy about~ we took care of that with a little Tabasco and she scarfed it down. Silly gal, I love her dearly. Here we are together after she raided my closet. 


Here is the Bethlehem approved meal plan for the week.

Monday~ Garden Omelets, Breakfast Potatoes and fresh Raspberry Yogurt
Tuesday~ Pot Roast (Prepared a new way!) 
Wednesday~ Pot Roast Soup (a leftover meal creation) 
Thursday~ Snap beans, Brown Rice, and BBQ Chipolte chicken 
Friday~ Basil and Tomato Pasta, Steamed Squash, and Salad 
Saturday~ Crock Pot Ham, Potatoes and Wax Beans 

I am also going to post a really simple treat we have stumbled across as well as some information about storing grains! 



Alisha posted last Friday that we are looking for some direction in terms of where Meal Planning Mommies may be heading. As we grow we want to make sure we are posting useful information that is helpful and encouraging , in particular, to Mom's.  Please send us an email (mealplanning@live.com) or leave a comment if you have a suggestion or though regarding our site and purpose. Thanks to our readers we have grown this much and  we would love to hear from you!