Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Perfect Brownie Pan, Part Deux



In the name of science *snicker* I decided I must attempt one more batch of brownies using the Perfect Brownie Pan. If you read my last post on the subject you will recall that I had hoped removing the divide before the brownies cooled completely would solve the problem of it getting stuck. I used the same mix I had in my previous two attempts (what, like you’ve never used a box brownie mix? It’s good stuff!) to keep things consistent.

I waited a good 35 minutes before removing the perfect brownies from the oven. Here’s where the tricky part came in, I could not decide just how long to let the brownies cool before removing the divider. If you have any experience with cutting or eating brownies before they have completely cooled, then you know it tends to get messy. I decided that it was like ripping off a band-aid, best to do it quickly. I waited a few minutes and proceeded to remove the divider, and voila, success!! This is not to say it was perfect, that would be a lie. It was messy and I still had to use a bit of finger force, but it was much better than carving each individual brownie away from the divider.

Overall, the Perfect Brownie Pan is less than perfect, it’s just ok, but for me that is good enough; I’ve already purchased it after all. The absolute best part of the pan and all of its parts is that it is incredibly easy to clean. Before the Perfect Brownie Pan invaded my home, I would use a glass dish and let me tell you how much of a pain that is to clean! But you probably know, as I’m sure you are a brownie lover too.

So, that’s my update, the price is probably not worth it for most since it’s not exactly as wonderful as the makers would have you believe. But, clean up is simple and it makes brownies. That in itself might be enough for some.


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Looking To The Bright Side



I haven't updated or written or thought much about blogging in the last week, and for that I apologize. I'm sure you all missed my wit and sarcasm, at least I hope you did. I've been in a bit of a funk mentally, and I didn't want to spread that here in the land of sunshine and rainbows. I can't exactly point to just one thing, I haven't been overly busy or excessively tired, life has carried on in the same manner it always does. There have been a few negatives that have been out of my control, and I let them grab hold of me mentally.

However, today is a new day and I'm remembering that yes, I am in fact a pretty positive person. I tend not to dwell too much on yesterday's hurts and slights, and I will stop doing that now and instead move on to more positive things that are within my power to control.

We've had big fun and big changes and more brownie making the past week and I hope to write more about those later after I've gotten my act together...Well, maybe I won't wait that long it could be weeks; instead I'll just let the photos finish uploading and then write about it.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Feel Good Friday






Well, that might not be the best title, but it's the best I could do...I'll keep thinking on it, maybe I'll come up with something else. Anyway, moving on to the point of this post. It seems as though everything I read in the news is negative, and I am kind of tired of it. I'm hoping to do a weekly post on a story that makes me smile and forget, even for just a few minutes, that the world is not a very nice place.

I imagine there are a lot of positive stories out there, but most of them get very little publicity. Hopefully with this weekly feature we can all be exposed to the kindness and generosity most of the population has to offer.

The inaugural installment covers two topics that are near and dear to my heart: libraries and young people. For those who don't know, I work for one of the greatest libraries in the country, with some fantastic people. Libraries provide a great deal to the community and ask for very little in return. As for young people, I was actually young once many moons ago. As a teenager I often heard that my generation was lacking morals, lazy and would be the downfall of society. I was outraged by these comments, and when I hear them applied to today's teenagers I am again irritated. I know quite a few teenagers and most of them are kind, caring, good kids.

I hope this story from the Olympian about students from the small town of Roy, Washington, who refussed to accept that their library was closing brings you the same amount of happiness it brought me.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: The Perfect Brownie Pan



I love brownies, so gooey and rich and chocolately. When I first saw an infomercial for the perfect brownie pan, I was intrigued. Not that cutting brownies is such a chore, but if it gets those scrumptious morsels in my mouth a bit faster, where is the downside?

We had a hard time finding said brownie pan, apparently they are quite popular among brownie lovers like myself.  We finally found them at the As Seen on TV store.  I know, who would have thought to look there?  Justin did, he's pretty smart.

I unpacked the box as soon as we got home and cracked open a box of brownie mix and got to baking. That's right just call me Susie home-maker with my home made brownies. Hey, I made them at home!

Forty minutes later the kitchen smelled like heaven and the brownies were ready to come out of the oven. According to the instructions, you should fully cool the brownies before attempting to remove the divider from the pan. So I waited like a good girl until they were nice and cool before attempting extraction. This is where things got a little tricky...The pan didn't want to let go of my brownies. You can just imagine how well that went over, I wasn't going to give up without a fight!

I tried pounding them out, tapping them out and finally called in reinforcements. Justin fist tried to intimidate them, he's a big guy, but they didn't budge. Next came sheer brute force, he banged them really hard on the counter with no success. Finally he brought out the sharp implements. After carving each individual brownie out of it's divided area, we had 15 yummy brownies. I knew it shouldn't be this hard, I had watched the commercial several times and they always made it look so effortless. I decided a rematch was in order!

The next day, I thought back through my previous encounter with the "perfect" brownie pan; where had I gone wrong? And then it came to me...I hadn't sprayed the pan with non-stick spray! It might claim that it was a non-stick pan, but I think that was proven wrong on my first attempt.

I set out to make another batch of brownies; it was for science after all. This time I used a liberal amount of non-stick spray, hoping to avoid the troubles of the previous attempt. When that timer went off it appeared as though I was on my way to having 15 perfect brownies. I wiggled the divider and it seemed pretty loose, that was a good sign. I decided to let them cool a bit before removing the divider. I think this may have been where I went wrong; fifteen minutes later it was pretty well stuck to the brownies. The brownies were a lot looser but still required removing individually with a little nudge from my fingers.

I'm not giving up on the perfect brownie pan, I've got plenty more mixes in the cupboard. I fully intend to remove that pesky divider before the brownies have cooled, I think this might be the winning technique. Stay tuned for more from the brownie chronicles.

I was not compensated for this review, I had to buy the pan and the brownie mix. Though, if someone wanted to compensate me, I certainly wouldn't turn them down.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thank you Christine



I've been remiss in posting this and for that I apologize. The wonderful Christine gave me a great award a few days ago. Please go check her out her blog and leave some love, we can all use more love.

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What are you reading?

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I have a secret for you. I love to read; love, love, love it! Wait…I guess that is not much of a secret since most people know that about me. Before Tysen came along, it was not unusual for me to start and finish one book a day. That was back when I had time to lounge around with a book in one hand and something wonderful to drink in the other. These days, I have much less time but just as much passion for books. I mostly fit in my reading after Tysen has gone to bed, and I listen to books on CD in the car, but I manage to fit it in because I think it is something I truly enjoy.

Reading did not always come easily to me. Most people are surprised to learn that I could not read until 4th grade, in fact some of my elementary school teachers probably would be as well. I had a knack for memorization and tended to do this as opposed to actually learning the words. I was very fortunate that in 4th grade a teacher realized I needed to be taught differently than most children. I suppose that is why learning and reading are so sacred to me, I remember what it’s like not to be able to enjoy diving into a land of imagination. To that end, I will read the same 5 page book to Tysen fifteen times in a row, because he wants to hear the story. My son loves books as much as his mom does, and I hope to nurture that and help him grow into being a fabulous reader.

On a related tangent, most boys actually develop a love of reading from their fathers, or other strong male role model in their lives. Justin would explain this better, but the gist of it is that when young boys only see their moms reading, it becomes stereotyped as a female activity and therefore not something that a boy should be doing and enjoying. Hopefully Justin and I will both be able to instill in Tysen a joy all things book related.

So, what are you reading? A friend recommended the Sookie Stackhouse series, which the HBO series True Blood is based on and I will be starting that in a few days. I’ve got quite an eclectic taste in what I read, though I tend to gravitate toward mostly fiction. I’ve got My Life In France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme on hold at the library and I can’t wait to start reading that; I love all things Julia Child.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A note for from the other side of the fence

A Hearty Hello to all in blogosphere,
This is Steph's worser half(grammatical error noted), Justin
Don't worry Steph will be back probably tomorrow or later today even.

I just wanted to take a minute and thank her wonderful e-freinds and mssg board peeps. Steph has written a few posts dealing with the frenetic pace of life a Football Coach family must deal with and when you slice the pie between school/athletics/Tysen/Family/and Husband-Wife, that last slice can be awfully small. Too small, in my opinion, but the reality we create is the one we have to live in. So as commitments pull me farther away, Steph is left tethered to our son and the vestiges of a normal life.

Which is where you come in, since Steph first started posting on the Ivillage December Sugar Plum board she was hooked. She would sit and recant the tales of other expectant mothers, then tell me about your little bundles of joy, and their first words/steps/ and so many other cherished memories. She has since migrated to facebook and now this blog to stay connected; share and gain that all important appreciation every mother deserves, yet seldom receives.

I find it comical we set aside one day a year for Mother's Day, what a croc, we should set aside a day a week to fully encompass the enormity of your sacrifice, at least make it a seasonal Holiday (Spring Mother's, Summer Mother's, etc).

But Hallmark Holidays aside, I wanted to let Steph know I love her and appreciate her and let all you know that you mean a great deal to her. For all the support you have given and shared over these past years, I am eternally grateful and wish upon you the same.

Thank You,
Justin

Monday, October 19, 2009

Couch 2 5K

I-Gave-Up-Jogging-Magnet-C11749968.jpg image by Aaora80

Most people who know me know that I'm not really an athletic person, at least not anymore, and I avoid exercise at any cost. I enjoy a nice walk in the park, but you won't find me running with the jogging stroller. I was once able to get away with all of that; but after having my son, my body turned against me and no longer was willing to allow the laissez faire attitude toward my physical fitness.

I have decided I am no longer content to just be; I want to be fit again and I want to be healthier. To that end I have started the couch 2 5K running program. The C25K program is designed to gently ease the body from the couch to the running a full 5 kilometers over the course of 9 weeks by alternating jogging and walking. Each week gets progressively more difficult, but each week the body is stronger and more capable than the week before.

I am on my second week and can honestly say I love it: the feel of accomplishment after finishing the day's workout and the anticipation of how much harder I can push myself. A few friends of mine are also making their way through the program, and a close friend started at the same time. Knowing that we are all doing it together is a big motivator, if she can do it so can I.

There are a lot of great resources if you're interested in starting your own couch 2 5K program. The first place to check is the Cool Runnings website, these are the guys who started it all. There's a detailed schedule on what workout to do on what day for all nine weeks.

I doubt I could keep track of when to run and when to walk and for how long so I found a podcast that was designed by Robert Ullrey. He put together some great music that keeps me moving, plus he tells me when to run and when to walk. The podcast is available for mp3 and mp4 formats.

A site with a lot of great links and a community forum is Couch 2 5K. There is more information there than one person could possibly need. I suggest wandering over there if you're even a little interested in the program.

I do plan to run a 5K in nine (or so) weeks. I have a goal, and I know that I can accomplish it. After all, if I don't complete the program, I'll have to explain to the blogging world why I failed.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Football: my view from this side of the stadium



Oh, how I dearly love football. When the air is crisp, the sun is shining and my team is winning, it’s a beautiful experience. Now, I understand there are a lot of women, moms, wives and girlfriends who are either indifferent or flat out don’t like the sport. Maybe they don’t understand it, maybe they do and don’t like the violence, maybe they don’t like the cold weather it usually entails. I, on the other hand, love it all. I love all levels of football, from peewee to professional; each one has something that draws me in.

These days I am most often experiencing football at the high school level because Justin is a football coach. High school football is an experience not to be missed, there are so many positives. At the high school where Justin coaches, it is an event that involves the entire community, from the pregame meal provided by parents, to the capacity stadium full of people from all sectors, not just parents and students. I love it all.

But let me tell you what I don’t love; I don’t love obnoxious parents who think they know what it is like to be a coach. Let me preface this by saying that most parents are wonderfully supportive, it's just the bad seeds that tend to stand out. Now, maybe my view is skewed by lack of experience on my part as Tysen has never played organized sports. Hey, the kid is not quite two, he doesn’t do anything organized! However, I have been on both sides of the game, first as the girlfriend/fiancĂ© of a football player and now as the wife of a coach.

Last night, I witnessed a parent exclaim that his kid should be allowed back into the game, even though the trainer suspected he had a concussion. I listened to disparaging remarks aimed at all the coaches on the sidelines for one call or another. I sat next to a parent who obviously thought he knew how to call a game, and attempted to do so from where he was sitting, while continuously bad mouthing the fathers of the kids Tysen was currently playing with. And it angered me.

Now, I won’t say that I’ve never questioned a play call in my more rambunctious fan days. I have wondered at the disparity of playing time between athletes, I have possibly wondered what was going on down on that sideline, what the coach could possibly be thinking. However, now I know.

I know that last night was game night, and my husband did not get home until after midnight, even though the game had been over since 9:45. I know that most nights, the head coach puts in at least a 12-14 hour day. I know that during football season we don’t spend a traditional weekend as a family due to football meetings and game planning and film breakdown. I know that our family is making sacrifices so that school can have a winning program. I know that I am ok with all the time and effort Justin puts in, because he loves the kids and he loves the game.

So, parents of athletes, next time before you start berating the coach about last week’s game, think to yourself that maybe, just maybe, when the coach was watching film at one o’clock in the morning he saw something you didn’t. Please remember that he has given up his time with family to make your son or daughter a better athlete, but more importantly a better person.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day



Today is National Infant Loss and Miscarriage Day. While I have never had to enter this personal hell, I know many families who have. There’s never a right thing to do or say, there will never be an answer to why one family must suffer while another does not. I am not sure how one survives the loss of a child, not sure how I would handle it. I probably wouldn’t. I know so many amazingly strong, brave women who have. The stories are endless and heart breaking, and how I wish better days for them.

It’s a small thing, to recognize such a painful subject. But it’s an important one. As a parent of a beautiful boy, I am aware of the pain others have had to endure. I want them to know that today, and every day, I think about them and hope their broken hearts are mending.

Today I am grateful. Today I am spending time being happy about the small things, and not worry about all the extra bits and pieces. Today I am blessed.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Very First Award



Two posts in one day, oh my! Well, a 24 hour period at least. You can thank Moochie’s Mom and Mom2anutball over at Lady Bugs and Tonka Trucks for this mid-afternoon addition. Because I have received my very first award, yippee for me and a big thank you to the ladies at Lady Bugs and Tonka Trucks! Go on over and check them out and make sure to leave some love, because we all need it even if we claim otherwise.

Edited to Add: I was also given this award by another wonderful blogger who can be found at Life in the Bat Cave (whom I had also awarded). Head on over there and pay her a visit!

The Blog Award Rules are as follows:

In order to accept the award, please post it on your blog with the name of the person(s) who gave awarded it, including the link to the blog.

Pass the award onto 15 other blogs that you have newly discovered and think are great.

Remember to contact the bloggers and let them know they have been chosen for this award.

In an absolutely random (though if you find any particular significance to the order you’ve got too much time on your hands) list here are my 15:

Life in the Bat Cave

Mommas Got a Timeout

Jenna In The Ditch

McMamma

Spelhouse Love

Amalah

Woman And Mom

Hip Moms Who Work

Guessing All the Way

Southern Institute for Domestic Arts and Crafts

Sutton Grace

Life of a Work at Home Mother

Confessions of a Couponaholic

Sales Addict

Larsen Loves



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If My Mom Were Here She Would...

There are times that I forget my mom has passed away.  I find myself thinking at least once a day, "oh I should tell mom." It's that instant where habit and routine from the past overcome the current reality.  I often  say to myself, "If mom were here she would..."  So, as I've got this list rumbling around in my mind and it is keeping me awake, I thought I would type it out and hopefully find some peace, for a little while.



If my mom were here she would read this post, and all the others before it.  She would comment on every little thing, and pass it along to all her coworkers and friends.  While I was growing up the one thing I could always count on was that my mom would be proud of me.  She took every little and big success I had and made it special, made it worth celebrating.


If my mom were here she would laugh at my jokes.  We shared the same acerbic sense of humor, though I like to think it was more witty and sarcastic than mean spirited or negative.  I think I'm funny and witty, and sometimes other people do too.  But I could make my mom laugh with just one look.


If my mom were here she would be able to read my mind, and know I needed a hug.  Shortly after Justin and I got married, my mom moved in with us.  Surprisingly, it worked very well.  During the years that we all cohabitated, my mom and I grew much closer and could always tell when the other was feeling down and needed a little pick me up.  If I were sick, she'd make sure I had chicken noodle soup and a cool washcloth without even having to ask.



If my mom were here she would be so in love with her grandson, Tysen. This is the one that I spend the most time thinking about.  I know she would have loved him and cherished him with all her might. I know she would have doted on him, spoiled him and delighted in all his childhood joy.  But she missed out on that, Tysen is going to miss out on that, I am missing out on that.   There are so many parts of Tysen's childhood I wish I could share with my mom, so many things I wish we could have compared.  One night when Tysen was still small, maybe 6 months old, I sat watching him sleep and realized that there wasn't anything else I would rather do, no where else I wanted to be.  I bet my mom had moments like that all the time watching me grow up.  I wish we could have talked about it.  I'm grateful for her being my mom, but I'm sad she'll never know the amazing person Justin and I have been blessed with..



Growing up, I had a fantastic relationship with my mom, and as I became an adult we became good friends.  I don't think I ever fully appreciated the sacrifices she made and all the love she gave to me.  I don't know that anyone can truly understand how much their parents love them until becoming parents.  My mom was a single mom, and things were hard financially and I have always understood how much it hurt her not to be able to give me the world.  I wish I could tell her now that I'm sorry for not showing my appreciation for how hard she worked to give my sister and me the things she did.  I wish I could tell her that the love she gave us was enough, it was always enough, even if I didn't say that as often as I should have.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Wonders of Baking Soda

Tysen has been rather sick the last few days, so this post is a bit later in coming than I had intended.  It is also much shorter, due to the constant demands of a sick toddler.

I was reading through a book the other day, Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun & Frugal Uses You've Probably Never Thought of, and there were just so many of them that I had to share a few.  There are over 15 different categories, and I'm not going to go into all of them.

My favorite uses relate to the garden.  I love to garden, and all of these will be put to use in the future
Organic Pesticide: mix 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/3 cup cooking oil.    After mixing, take 2 teaspoons and combine with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.  Mixture will kill aphids, spider mites and white flies.  It is benign to helpful insects.
Sprinkle around alkaline loving flowers: plants such as geraniums and hydrangeas will thrive with an occasional watering with a weak baking soda solution.
Sweeten Tomatoes: sprinkle baking soda around plants and will lower acidity, thus sweeting the fruit.  Also discourages pests.

There are quite a few home remedies that surprised me.
Sore Throat: mix equal parts baking soda, brown sugar and salt in a glass of water.  Garggle.
Stuff Nose:  add a teaspoon of baking soda to a vaporizer to clear congestion.  It will also help clean the unit.  Don't try this one if the instructions indicate not using additives.
Sun Burns: add 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup cornstarch to a lukewarm bath and soak for as long as possible.

Baking soda as a cleaner seems like such a natural fit I can't believe I never figured it out for myself.
Surface Cleaner: combine 16 oz box of baking soda, 4 tablespoons dishwashing liquid and 1 cup warm water in a spray bottle
Marble: apply a mixture of baking and white vinegar paste to stained marble to clean it up and make it shine.
Toilet Bowl: sprinkle 1/2 a box into the toilet taken each month and let stand overnight.  After flushing the bowl and tank will both be clean.
Drain Cleaner: Got a clogged drain? Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup hot vinegar.  Wait a few minutes and the flush with about 1 quart of very hot water.

These are just a few of the hundreds of uses for baking soda.  I have always known that vinegar was a great household cleaner, now I will be adding baking soda into the routine as well.  I try to keep things as toxic and chemical free as possible, to avoid exposing Tysen to things best kept out of the home.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Things I Never Understood Until I Became A Mom




Let's face it when you're expecting your first child people dish out advice and warnings whether you want them or not.  Most times, it's well meaning and done with love, other times it's done just to scare you or freak you out. During my pregnancy I received more words of "wisdom" than I can recount, most of it was indeed encouraging, though there were some who tried to horrify me with painful birth stories wrought with complications.    I took it all with a grain of salt, and really only taking to heart the words coming from close friends and family.

My son will be turning two in November, and it's got me reflecting on all the things I thought I knew about parenthood, but never truly understood.  This is just my brief list, and I'm sure most parents have one, so if you're reading, and you'd like to share, please feel free.

"You'll never sleep again." Oh, how I scoffed at this one!  I knew, of course, that the first few months would be rocky, what with the constant waking up for feedings and diaper changes.  What I failed to realize was that even after my son started to sleep through the night, I still don't get enough sleep.  Sure, he will sleep for 12 straight hours, but the boy just won't sleep in much past 6:00!  Sadly, Tysen is a morning person and I am not.  I used to roll around in bed on the weekends until 9:00 or 10:00.  Those days are long gone.  My husband and I trade weekends on who gets to sleep in, though with Tysen jabbering just a few feet from my bedroom door it's more a test of how long I can pretend to not hear him.

"When they hurt, you hurt more." That makes sense, right?  I mean, I am the parent, the protector and provider.  Of course I'll be upset when Tysen is sick, or sad, or hurting.  I never really grasped that a part of me would fall apart the first time he was sick.  I remember a time when Tysen was almost 3 months old and had a raging fever.  We were so scared for our tiny little man on the drive to the ER.  He had his first blood draw, and I know my husband and I cried as much as he did.  It tore me apart to see his body raked with sobs, to know that I hadn't been able to keep that pain away.

"Being a parent is hard work." I can't begin to count the times people told me this.  And like a moron, I never really thought about how hard it really is.  For the unsuspecting expecting parent, I realized it was going to be hard after reading through the various books and articles on all sorts of parenting topics.  But being warned just doesn't seem to make it real.  Though it has gotten easier as Tysen has gotten older, I remember all the things I didn't know, worried over and struggled with.  Watching other parent's children did not come close to the reality of full time parenthood, it's pretty much a joke if you want to compare the two.  There is always too much to do, and not enough time.   It's easy to get lost in it all, but life is going to continue with our without you participating.

"It's all worth it." No statement could be more true.  When my son was born, he didn't much care for sleeping at night.  Tysen would wake up at least once every two hours, and I would have to pry my eyelids open.  There were times when I fell asleep sitting up during a late night (or was it early morning) feeding.  I remember being so frustrated at times that I've wanted to throw a temper tantrum right along with Tysen.  However, all is forgotten after being graced with that first smile or first laugh.  It was hard to remember why I was so tired or irritated when confronted with a beautiful gummy grin.  Even now, the sound of Tysen's laughter brings a joy like no other.


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Friday, October 9, 2009

Under Construction!





I've decided to being the transformation of my new layout.  This is probably ill-advised, due to the fact that it's not completely finished.  I am hoping this will get me motivated, but please bear with me in the meantime!


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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Once A Month Cooking Menu and Tips



I mentioned in a previous post that I was a big fan of Recipe Zaar due to the thousands and thousands of fantastic recipes it offers.  Most of my recipes for this month are from there and while there are a few new recipes, most I have prepared before and were delicious!

A few tips, before I share the recipes.  Many of the recipes call for cooked chicken.  I like to prepare this the day before in a crock pot with a little seasoning.  I end up with tender chicken and stock to add to individual recipes.  If a recipe calls for cooked ground beef, I also do that the night before.  Before starting on a recipe, I like to line the casserole dishes I'll be using with aluminum foil, taped together on the outside with masking tape.  I then spray the inner side with Pam cooking spray, so that nothing sticks after it's been cooked in the oven.  Once the recipe is assembled I fold the extra foil to seal it and use more masking tape to secure it before putting it into the freezer.  I also apply pre-made labels so that everything is clearly marked.  A lot of recipes can just be assembled into a freezer Ziploc style bag.

Now, the recipes for this month.  I know a lot of OAMC cooks prepare fewer dishes and make more servings, but that's just not how I roll.

For dinner we are having:
Honey Sesame Dump Chicken-I love this recipe; it so simple to assemble into gallon size freezer bags, and most ingredients I already have on hand. It's a great one for the crock pot!

Dijon Pork Loin Roast-Though this recipe calls for a pork loin, I've found it works great for pork chops and can be cooked either in the oven or a crock pot.

Mrs. O'Brien's Chicken-The ingredients in this one almost scared me away, but I'm glad I tried it.  It's a very strange combination, but somehow it works to make a great tasting meal.  Another one I love to put into the crock pot!

Tator Tot Casserole-This recipe is comfort food at it's finest!  This particular recipe doesn't call for it, but I like to add corn, and I know a friend who puts peas in.  Any vegetable will work, it's very versatile.

Chicken Tetrazzini-This recipe is pretty straight forward and easy to make, it reheats well and is quite delicious.

BBQ Chicken Basil Calzones-There are not enough words to describe this one, I think it's my new favorite meal of all time.  We use Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce that we get at Costco and substitute celery for the mushrooms.  I also use pre-made pizza dough that I get from my grocery stores deli.  And though the recipe calls for them to be baked before freezing, I've frozen them without baking (after not reading the instructions properly) and no harm has been done.

I will also be making breakfast sandwiches for Justin to take in the mornings:
Breakfast Sandwiches

Once a month cooking is a lot of work, however it is highly rewarding.  Knowing that every night dinner is already prepared allows me to spend more quality time with Tysen once I get home from work.  I started doing OAMC because of that very reason.  The fall is a hard time in our household, Justin has football and doesn't get home until well after 6:00.  In the past I would rush from work to pick-up Tysen at daycare, then rush home to get dinner started.  Now, while I still rush to pick-up Tysen, our afternoons are filled with playing cars, reading stories and building forts.  I hope I've inspired at least one person to give OAMC a try!



 
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Once A Month Cooking





For years I have heard about a cooking method of preparing a month’s worth of meals at one time and storing them in the freezer.  I always thought this was a great idea, who hasn’t tried and failed to answer the question “what’s for dinner?”  I know on many occasions it would be after 9:00 before we finally sat down to a meal after hours of contemplation. 

A few months ago I decided to wade into the pool of Once a Month Cooking (OAMC).  I started slowly, only doing about one weeks’ worth of meals since we were headed out of town for two weeks.  The next time, I prepared two weeks’ worth of dinners. After a few attempts at the two weeks of meals, I decided I could step up to three.  I found that there wasn’t a lot of difference between two weeks’ worth of meals and three.  Last month, I prepared 21 dinners and as well as 12 breakfast sandwiches, all for under $140.  I am hoping that I will be able to duplicate my success and prepare an entire month of dinners and breakfasts. 

When I first started OAMC, I scoured the internet for resources, and there are quite a few!  One of my favorite websites is Once a Month Mom.  Tricia not only provides fabulous menus full of new and exciting recipes, but she also creates a shopping list for the entire month and breaks down the preparation of each meal into a step by step process.  Tricia also has shares recipes for creating baby food OAMC style.  She also provides information on upcoming grocery sales, so you know when to stock up on what.

Cook of The Month is another great site.  The site has tons of great recipes, and will help you compile them into a meal planner, with a shopping list included.  The site does pull recipes from books, which you need to have an actual copy of because the recipes are not online.  However there are also a lot of great user submitted recipes.

Recipe Zaar has thousands of OAMC recipes, and a great community forum with users who can answer all kinds of questions.  Most of my recipes in my current rotation have come from this site, because I love being able to read reviews and comments on a particular recipe. 

If you are the type who needs the actual cook book in front of you, two great books are Once A Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded and Frozen Assets: Cook For a Day, Eat For a Month.

To prepare the menu, I like to go back through the previous recipes I have prepared and decide if they are worth having again.  Most of them are, but who wants to have the same thing month after month.  The easy and cheap to prepare recipes are often repeated because that’s how I like to cook.   If I try a new recipe, I will only prepare one or two meals of it.  The reason for that is, though I’m generally pretty good at selecting what my family will like, there are times when something strange slips through.  It’s hard eating something you hated once three or four more times.

Tomorrow I’ll post my menu for the month, as well as the method I use to put everything together.  I haven’t finished off this month’s menu yet, so hopefully I will have that done before tomorrow rolls around. I will also attempt to convert anyone who hasn't already jumped onto the OAMC bandwagon, so be prepared for that!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Knock, Knock. Anybody home?


I have returned from my long, unanticipated absence.  Last week was crazy busy and it quickly got away from me.   I had hoped to get my new blog design up and running, but I've had a few setbacks.  I may just launch what I have, and hope for the best!

Last week I also celebrated my birthday, it was wonderful!  I love birthdays, they are always a very special day, even when it's not mine.  I love the cake and the presents and the balloons, but most importantly celebrating the love of friends and family.  To me, that's what it is all about.  My birthday was special because I got to spend it with my beautiful family and some close friends.  What could possibly be better?

On Thursday I volunteered at the Just Between Friends sale, mostly doing set-up work and checking in consignors and their items. It was hectic and crazy, but a lot of fun. Nothing brings moms together like saving and making money on used baby items!  I shopped the sale on Friday and Saturday (I couldn't resist!) and found some fantastic bargains!  I bought probably 100 small trucks, cars and tractors (basically anything with wheels), 8 pairs of pants, 10 shirts, a rocking horse, a giant Tonka brand garbage truck, a Leap Frog shopping cart, a fun puppy shaped laundry hamper and some wooden puzzles all for about $85!  I also made money on the items I consigned, though I don't know the final amount.  I love this sale!!

For the upcoming week, I've got some great posts in mind.  I recently ran across a book on 500 uses for baking soda, and I can't wait to share some of them! It is also time for me to do my once a month menu plan, shopping and cooking!  I can't wait to pass on some recipes, resources and tips.  I love OAMC, and will try to convert the unsuspecting!

Here's to a great week!

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