Monday, March 30, 2009

Thirteen Pounds of Canned Pumpkin

I've often bought cans of pumpkin at the grocery store. You know the ones - they are 15-16 oz. and contain about 2 cups of the yummy stuff. I've even bought several at a time to stock up - like five pounds' worth for going into fall. Well, last night my DH brought home 2 commercial size cans of pumpkin for me to use. Yes, two HUGE cans, each 6 lbs. and 10 oz. I now have over thirteen POUNDS of pumpkin to work into our menu plan! Wow!! And that's on top of about 14 cups of fresh pumpkin that I have in my freezer. I gave got to start cookin' some pumpkin!!!

So, how about some ideas from out there? I already plan to make a pumpkin pie (or two) for Easter dinner. Once I've opened the can, I really need to try and use it all before it goes bad. I can make some pumpkin scones or rolls for Easter, and some pumpkin muffins for breakfast the next morning. Help me get creative here! Does anyone have a main dish recipe that calls for canned pumpkin? Or a particularly good dessert or tasty bread?

I don't want to see this pumpkin go to waste! Help me out, fellow bloggers!!! :-)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 3/30/09

We're going into April and we have snow and ice everywhere. Pretty, but just not good! It is melting off as I type, but it came down so hard yesterday that you could have convinced me it was still January!!! Where did my beautiful spring go??

If you read my prior post, you know that last week's menu was almost entirely different from what I planned, so several of this week's meals will look like repeats. I still need to use up some of the groceries I planned to use last week, so I'll have to appear a little redundant. :-)

Monday - Pork stuffed bread, potato cheese soup.

Tuesday - Lasagna, salad, homemade rolls.

Wednesday - Thanks to a great tip from Annie over at Real Life Living, I am going to try a couple of Chinese-style recipes from blogchef. I'm going to try Orange Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein. Yum! And this achieves my goal of at least one new recipe a week, too!

Thursday - The rest of the lasagna (when I make a 13 x 9 pan, it feeds all of us twice, with leftovers!), corn, soft buttery breadsticks. Today needs to be simple because I'll be working for the first time since surgery, substitute teaching for the entire schoolday. The class I have is a bit difficult, but I have a student teacher to help!

Friday - Gotta have the traditional pizza! This week it's half-pepperoni and half-ham on a sourdough crust.

Saturday - Ham and scalloped potatoes, green beans, yogurt cornbread.

Sunday - Homemade macaroni and cheese, "fried" apples, White Lily biscuits.

As always, for more great menu plans, be sure to visit OrgJunkie! Have a great week! Hopefully next week spring will have returned!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Menu Plan Changes Last Week

Last week's menu plan was a complete BUST!!! Good thing, though, is that it was, mostly, for VERY good reason! First, I forgot that I had agreed to do a mystery shop on Tuesday and we had to go out for pizza (hehe - had to???). Then, my youngest got sick on Wednesday and we had to go to Urgent Care that evening, leaving daddy to do the dinner thing instead. She had strep, but we caught it so early that you didn't even know she was sick the next day! She had a ball staying home with me, feeling fine.

Thursday, we ended up going out to dinner, as evidenced by my prior post about how HORRIBLE our experience was at On the Border. I was worn out, the meal plan had already gone to pot, and we decided to go out (using some gift cards). It happens! That awful experience, and the following wonderful dinner at China Moon (which is located just off I-29 and Barry Road, on the access road called Prairie View, south of Barry and west of the highway - if you can, you MUST go there!!!) weren't the only occurrences that evening. My DH got a phone call from someone he knew, who offered us a deal we couldn't refuse. He GAVE us a 15 lb. whole ribeye!!!! Cool, eh?? I had no idea what to do with this massive meat, but found a video online showing exactly how to cut it into ribeye steaks. So, on Friday, DH did the cutting and we ended up with several acceptable-looking steaks.

We decided to share the good fortune by inviting my family over to celebrate my son's birthday Friday night with a free steak dinner. Amazingly, they accepted without hesitation! :-) We grilled ribeyes, baked potatoes, tossed a salad, and my sil brought 5-cup salad and wine. We had cake and ice cream and it was a very nice dinner! I have to say, though, that I NEVER expected to have actual ribeye in my home!! Heck, I can RARELY afford that at a restaurant - it's been years! When we cut the ribeye, we had enough steaks for the 10 of us last night, and we also put 4 meals' worth in the freezer (wrapped very well in butcher paper and sealed in zip-top bags!) for our family, as well as a bag of "tips" to cook one night. Not bad at all for FREE!!!

So, I'm not terribly disappointed that things didn't work out as far as the menu plan goes. It also makes it much easier for me this week, as a few of the meals will be repeats. I'm cooking the Crock Pot cranberry pork tonight and we'll go from there.

On other topics, the weather here is AWFUL!!! It rained all morning and then got icy. You can sit and listen to the pellets of sleet hitting the windows. These are mixed with tiny snowflakes. I don't know how slick it is out there, as I've not gone out yet. I'm hoping it isn't too bad. I guess I'll find out when I go to get the mail across the street. What happened to spring??? *sigh* Hope it's warm where you are!!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On the Border?? NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

So tonight was the very last time I will set foot in an On the Border for dinner, ESPECIALLY the location on Barry Road in Kansas City, MO.

My husband and I had previously visited this location for dinner back in November. During our visit, there was an appalling sight - an employee was on the floor wearing a t-shirt that declared in huge letters, "I LOVE BOOBS." That was repulsive and degrading and I was very upset about this. I complained to the company and was contacted by the District Manager who asked me to try them again. HA!

We had gone ahead and visited them for lunch awhile back. It was okay; not great, but not bad, so we assumed they had worked on things. Tonight, we decided to give them another try at dinner, and took the kids. When we arrived at about 6:25, there were several children in their screened patio type area, screaming and running around. The kids had removed one of the screens and were hanging out the window yelling at customers. Lovely. Such a shining example of lousy parenting. We walked inside. As we were entering, an employee shoved open one of the doors, almost hitting one of my children, and slammed it behind him, rather than passing the door to one of us as we walked in. Can you say RUDE??? But it doesn't get better!!!

We got to the hostess stand, where two females were standing. "Five?" one said. Nice greeting, eh? We told her yes. Then, the two proceeded to discuss something amongst themselves for at least 3 minutes while we stood there, waiting, observing a lot of open tables! That restaurant may have been 25% full, and yet here we stood. FINALLY, one of them said something to the other about taking too long. I almost agreed out loud. The girl took us to a table and then brought us a 5th service. Note: She saw us for quite a bit of time as you can tell....remember that in a bit!!!!

So, we had a table, and menus, and we knew what we wanted. We waited. A server walked by, looked over at our table, and continued walking. Um...ok, must not have been our server. More time...then a blonde female server walks by, looks over at us, goes and gets a broom, then proceeds to sweep up chips RIGHT BESIDE our table. She doesn't say a word to us. Meanwhile, there are 4 servers along the edge of the restaurant chatting it up. They finally break up and two more servers walk by, saying absolutely nothing to us. Okay, so it's been ten minutes and we have menus and no chips, no salsa, no drinks, NOTHING! Another female server goes to the table directly beside us and refills drinks, totally ignoring us. A table two over? Their server brought them something in a bowl, saying nary a word to us.

Are you wondering about the management?? It's the same woman manager who was there the LAST time we had a bad experience. My husband saw her for about 10 seconds when she walked out of the kitchen, adjusted something on a cart, glanced right and left, and went back to the kitchen. Now there's a proper floor check - NOT!!!!

My husband stands up. It's now been a full FIFTEEN minutes and not a word has been said and we have nothing on the table and are very frustrated. Servers are on the floor, and nobody says a thing. The rest of us get up as well and we walk back across the restaurant. Do you think anyone stopped us or offered to help? HA!

Now GET THIS!!!! The EXACT SAME HOSTESS who had just seated us is standing at the station. She looks directly at us, half smiles, and says, "Thank you! Have a great night!" I looked at her and said, rather loudly, "Yeah, we'll go someplace where we won't be IGNORED!" She didn't say a word, so we headed out the door.

Remember those kids who were playing so wildly when we got there? NOW they were literally HANGING out the windows!! I am not kidding. They were holding onto the window ledges and dangling above the ground! HELLO?? Does nobody SEE this???? I bet they notice when the ambulance shows up and they GET SUED!!!!!!! Sheesh!!!

Is this not the most ridiculous experience you can imagine? To be totally ignored by several employees and have the manager oblivious not only to our empty table, but to children who could be seriously hurt on premises??? WTH??? Disgraceful and unacceptable!

Oh, and here's a further funny. We went to another restaurant, and imagine this - they APPRECIATE our business!!!! (By the way, if you're in Kansas City, it's called China Moon and they absolutely ROCK!!!! I'll blog about how great they are another time.....) Anyway, we told the owner that we had walked out of On the Border due to total lack of service. He had his own story to tell. He had been in that same restaurant for lunch not too long ago. He was ignored, too, and flagged down a male server, who took his order. As the server helped him, a female server walked over and started ARGUING with the first server about his stealing her table. He said they got into a big fight and the manager (THE SAME WOMAN - the description matched perfectly!) came over and gave his ticket to the female server. She didn't apologize, or offer anything at all! She ignored the guest and didn't say a word to the servers about arguing on the floor, right beside a paying customer!!!! HELLO?

So, in summary, I STRONGLY advise that if you want a decent dinner and/or actual service, AVOID On the Border like the plague!!!!! I can promise you that we won't be giving them our money anymore!!! And I really hope someone from On the Border reads this blog and has some serious TRAINING done!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 3/23/09

Last week had a great plan, but it didn't quite work out as intended. We ended up with way more leftovers than I planned from a couple of nights, and then had such a big lunch one day that nobody wanted dinner. As a result, I still have some cooked chicken that I popped into the freezer for future dinners. I did make the chicken broccoli cobbler, but made that tonight. It was a keeper! Very different and everyone liked it - that's great for a new recipe attempt!

This week, I'm making a family favorite but trying something unique with it. I came across a box of rice lasagna noodles marked down at a salvage store, and I'm going to make a lasagna, trying out those noodles. I have no idea what to expect, but the price was right! Here is my plan for the week. It includes a few new recipes that I hope are as well-received as the cobbler!

Monday - Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan (old favorite, new way to cook it), wheat spaghetti noodles, broccoli, parmesan quick bread.

Tuesday - Lasagna, corn, breadsticks.

Wednesday - Pancakes and scrambled eggs (maybe bacon if I get it thawed....).

Thursday - Rest of the lasagna, green beans, homemade rolls.

Friday - Cranberry pork tenderloin (another new recipe), steamed rice, glazed carrots, rest of the homemade rolls.

Saturday - Pork stuffed bread, potato cheese soup (with the rest of those carrots hidden in it).

Sunday - My son's 13th birthday!! He asked for homemade pizza and cheesecake. No problem! :-)

It's a plan! We'll see if I stick to it this time around. I still have to figure out when to have the family over for the birthday party. Sunday doesn't work well for some of us, so I have to improvise. Oh well- it's the little surprises that keep us interested and interesting! :-)

For more great menu plans, be sure and visit OrgJunkie.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Easy-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

I just hard-boiled a dozen eggs to use to make egg salad for a picnic tomorrow. Other than the fact that I forgot about them and they boiled entirely too long, they seem fine. I really thought they would be a mess when I remembered them, but they look and taste just fine. Whew!

Happily, I have discovered a trick for hard-boiled eggs that peel easily. I tried it once before, and it worked, so I tried it again this time and they peeled sooooooo quickly!! What is the great mystery?? It's plain ol' vegetable oil! When you put the water in to cover the eggs, put in a tablespoon or two of oil. Apparently the shells are slightly porous and the oil gets in between the cooked egg and the shell, helping the shell slide right off. Try it - I'll bet it will cut your peeling time significantly! I know it works for me!!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, pop over here.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Growing up, this was my favorite cookie. Sadly, I only got them from the school cafeteria, but even those were fabulous!! After years of trying various recipes to recapture that childhood treat, I have finally recreated the wonderful cookies that made some of my schooldays a little brighter. Here is the recipe that I now use for my own kids (who devour them!!):

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1 c. baking cocoa
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Combine cocoa, white sugar, and oil in large mixing bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture.

If you like your dough a little less sticky, chill in bowl for 2-4 hours. I never have the patience for this! :)

Roll dough into one inch balls and then roll each in powdered sugar before placing onto lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on the cookie sheet for a minute before moving to wire racks to cool.

These are soooooo good, especially fresh out of the oven. ENJOY!! And for more wonderful recipes, please be sure to visit The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 3/16/09

It's officially Spring Break here, and we have a week of absolutely gorgeous weather for the occasion. I think the "coldest" day is going to be in the 50s - not too bad! This week I've planned a menu around another 10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters, because I have to free up some freezer space! So you will be seeing a lot of chicken this week. Fortunately, there's enough variety and favorite recipes included that nobody will complain. :-)

Monday - Ham and scalloped potatoes, fried apples, cornbread.

Tuesday - Crock Pot swiss steak, rice, corn, dinner rolls (Pillsbury). We will have been across town all day and I don't think I will have much energy for cooking by the time we get home! I'm also going to cook off the chicken leg q's in the crock pot overnight tonight so I can start using them tomorrow.

Wednesday - Chicken tetrazzini, green beans, homemade rolls.

Thursday - Chicken noodle soup, rest of the rolls (this is the "cold" day). I'm also going to be baking some sourdough bread so it can age for Saturday's dinner.

Friday - Ham and mushroom pizza on wheat crust.

Saturday - New recipe night! I'm trying Chicken and Broccoli Cobbler - this is the recipe that requires the day-old sourdough bread. If you'd like the recipe, just let me know and I will type it into my blog. With the Cobbler, we'll have salad and glazed carrots.

Sunday - Chicken enchiladas, corn.

Should be a good week! For more menu plans, be sure and pop over to OrgJunkie!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, week of 3/9/09

My, how the weeks fly by! At least spring is getting closer. We had some lovely weather this past week, with one day up to 80°! It was on that day that my basic menu plan was created, with the input of my 12-year-old son, as we sat out on the front porch, chatting after he got home from school. He seemed to enjoy having some say in what we are going to eat this next week, and it was fun discussing his ideas.

Monday - Crock pot Chinese Style Country Ribs, made with carrots in the crock pot, steamed rice, and sourdough bread. I'm not thrilled about having pork two days in a row, but I realized that on Monday, I have 2 kids with eye appointments at 4:00, and a PTA meeting at 5:30, so I have to have a crock pot dinner, and this was the only one in the plan. I'll be doing great just to get dinner served with this busy evening!!

Tuesday - Taco salad. It's another PTA night, so going quick and easy. On top of that, I got a great deal on bagged salad last week, and we need to use it up!

Wednesday - Scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes. This was one of my son's suggestions. The kids love breakfast for dinner, and since DH manages a breakfast place, he can handle dinner tonight!

Thursday - Spaghetti dinner at the elementary school, in conjunction with Family Reading Night and a performance by Mr. Stinky Feet. Fun, huh??? :-)

Friday - Pizza. I haven't decided yet what kind, but I still have a little leftover alfredo sauce in the fridge, so most likely it will be a white pizza on wheat crust. I'll just see what my mood is that day.

Saturday - (This is an interesting combination, but it's what my son wanted...) Ham steaks (cooked in cola and brown sugar - yum!), cheese paninis, and potato soup. This should be a very filling dinner!!

Sunday - Jack's Ranch Chicken, steamed rice, corn, sourdough bread. This will use up the rest of the bacon from Wednesday and finally fit an actual vegetable into our meals!!

Now that's a pretty simplistic week! I'll take it. I don't even need to do much grocery shopping at all, unless next week's sales are great. I think the only things I need are milk and tortilla chips!

For more great menu plans, be sure to visit OrgJunkie!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Today is a Day to Celebrate!!!

Happy National Grammar Day, everyone!!! I was so excited to discover this morning that there is actually a website for the holiday, as well as an option to join the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar! I am officially a member!!

Those who know me, know that I am a complete grammarian. I detest sentences that end in prepositions, though I will use them at times, just because it's more socially acceptable. I prefer perfect punctuation and advocate attractive alliteration and assonance. I know that farther refers to distance and further refers to time. I love great grammar and hope to instill a love for proper English in my children. At this point, though, they call me a grammar nut and sometimes use inappropriate infinitives just to irritate me! (okay, maybe that was taking assonance a bit

I have been told several times in the past that I missed my calling as an English teacher. I did seriously consider it back in my school days, but then decided that I would be better suited as a journalist. I took an internship at a local paper in high school and had a bad experience (the man who ran the paper was extremely unpleasant); then I learned the average salary for a newspaper writer. There went that idea! So, somehow I ended up in insurance. Strange chain of events, I know. After all that, I ended up being a mom, and that makes me happier than any other occupation out there!

So, back to National Grammar Day. Are you doing anything to celebrate? I told my kids that I might bake a cake. Yes, that's the same reaction they gave me! ;-) So, I decided that my celebration would be to blog about this fabulous holiday and wish everyone a wonderful Grammar Day! In honor of the day, and just to make me smile, will you modify just one sentence today so that it doesn't end in a preposition? (Examples: About what are you talking? With what does this go? etc.) Yes, it sounds a tad stilted, but it sure does make grammarians like me very happy. It's also fun to look at the face of the person to whom you are speaking as they try to deciper what you just said. Have fun with it!

Happy National Grammar Day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Keurig House Party!

I am so excited!!! I got picked to host a Keurig House Party! That means I get their Elite Brewing System and 2 24-packs of the K-cups FREE!!! I did have to pay $11.95 for a 3rd box of the K-cups, but what a deal for twelve bucks!!

Now I get to invite some friends over to try it out. This is the first time I've gotten picked to do a House Party, and only the second one to which I've applied. Most of the House Party programs don't require you to pay for anything, so it's a great way to try out products and share them with your friends.

If you haven't checked it out, be sure and visit and apply to be a host. If you like to entertain, this is a great program! I've known people who have been selected, but this is the first for me! If you are a finalist and get to host a House Party, please come back and let me know!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, week of 3/2/09

I'm finally able to do some cooking (though still no lifting and I have to stick with simple recipes), so I decided to get back into my menu planning. It's been awhile, and I'm excited about having a plan again! So, here's what I'm cooking this week:

Monday - Chicken alphabet soup, homemade rolls. (I'm cooking off a chicken today, rotisserie-style, and I have this box of alphabet pasta that I've been needing to use forever, so I thought the kids might get a kick out of this. I'll also be tossing in any leftover potatoes {cubed} and carrots {chopped} from tonight's dinner.)

Tuesday - Lasagna (already in the freezer, ready to bake), salad, breadsticks.

Wednesday - Chicken stir-fry (I omit the cashews and the snow peas unless I find the snow peas cheap!), rice.

Thursday - Homemade mac and cheese, applesauce, green beans, biscuits. (Tonight is my youngest's big musical at school. She's very excited, and she even has her own solo part, so I'm making her favorite dinner in her honor.)

Friday - Chicken alfredo pizza on whole wheat crust.

Saturday - Pastitsio, corn, cornbread.

Sunday - Pork chops in mushroom soup, mashed potatoes, corn, sourdough bread.

It feels wonderful to have a plan again!!! And for lots more menu plans and recipes, be sure and visit OrgJunkie.