Tuesday, June 29

Works For Me Wednesday-Grocery Shopping Tip

Whenever we make a trip to HomeTown, I always make a big foraging run to my favorite (and cheap!) grocery store.  Their prices can't be beat (even more so here in SmallTown where everything is expensive) and they have a huge bulk section that is so nice.  I love it because when making those recipes that call for something you probably will only use for that recipe, you can get just what you need and not have to purchase a predetermined amount.

Anyhow, as I was sitting here going through my menu and making my grocery list, I thought my little method for doing these big trips might work for some else.  It's not like I've reinvented the wheel, but if this tip helps someone else out, then that's all the better.

Of course, I plan my menu first.  Then I go through what I already have on hand and determine my shopping list around that.  Now this is where my tip comes in: After I've made my grocery list of everything I need, I go back and rewrite the grocery list sorting by the departments in the grocery store in the order I usually shop.  Departments such as Produce, Bulk, Dairy/Meats, Freezer, and Aisles.  Plus, it is easier to read when I take the time to rewrite it.  And that is always a time saver.

When I am super organized like that (which isn't necessarily all that often) and when Peanut is left in the care of her grandparents (bless their hearts) my marathon grocery shopping trips aren't so marathony any longer.

And that definitely works for me.  For other helpful hints, visit We Are THAT Family.  

Monday, June 28

A Less Expensive Pesto

We planted some fresh herbs this year in small planters on our back patio.  Well, actually DH did.  But I went and bought the seeds.  Now we have tons and tons of fresh basil.   Yum, yum!  I am having to find recipes to make sure to use it all up.  Tough life, huh?

Fresh pesto can be expensive to make, if you have to purchase fresh basil and the pine nuts and the Parmesan cheese.  Things can add up very quickly.  So I have a little trick for you all.  Of course, grow your own basil if you can--that saves you $3-$4 each time you make it.

Next, pine nuts are extremely expensive!  At Costco, they are around $15 a bag, which of course, it is a large quantity, but it's a nearly half of my weekly grocery budget.  DH mentioned at his restaurant, they make their pesto with peeled almonds instead (see my tip here for peeling almonds), for that very same reason.  Really, I thought....I will have to try that.  This is what I came up with.

Fresh Basil Pesto

1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup peeled almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to desired consistency

With food processor running, drop peeled garlic cloves through feed tube to mince.  Once minced, add basil, almonds, and Parmesan to food processor and process to combine to a paste like consistency.  Add olive oil to desired thickness.  Turns out I like mine a little thicker and DH likes his a little saucier.  Go figure!

Hope you love it as much as we did!  

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Life as Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap  
We Are THAT Family Works For Me Wednesday 

Sunday, June 27

Menu Plan Monday

It will be a shorter week here, as we are heading off to HomeTown to celebrate the holiday weekend.  We are very excited to say the least.  So here's the plan for this week:

Sunday-Cheese Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad

Monday-Burritos and Black Beans

Tuesday-Sweet & Sour Pork with Pineapple, Rice, and Steamed Veggies

Wednesday-Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad


Friday & Saturday-Off to Hometown!  Yippee!

Because I am Procrastinating

I should be finishing my menu plan for next month...but this is way funner. (Yes, I know that's not a word, but it is funner to say.)  Melissa did this over on her blog and I thought I would join in. 

What color are your socks right now? no socks....probably haven't worn them in over month. TOO hot.

What are you listening to right now?  silence...Peanut is napping  :)

What was the last thing you ate?  banana bread and oatmeal

Can you drive a stick? yes...my mom made me learn....b/c she never learned and thought it was important.  Thanks, Mom...you always know what is best. 

Last person you spoke to on the phone?  DH

How old are you today? 31 

What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? mmmm....that's tough b/c I would never choose to watch sports.  Figure skating?  Although some don't consider that a sport.  I do like to watch the Olympics too. 

What is your favorite drink?  limeades

Have you ever dyed your hair? yep, whenever I can afford to.  Have too many grays. 

Favorite food? seafood

What is the last movie you watched? Fool's Gold....meh...

Favorite day of the year? any major holiday is good in my book

How do you vent anger?  yell....I know, what a charming quality

What was your favorite toy as a child? my stuffed bunny named Thumper

Favorite Season? I am starting to appreciate them all

Cherries or Blueberries? Cherries

Living situation?  In a tiny little duplex with DH and Peanut.  We miss our house.  :(

When was the last time you cried?  watching this video....only at the end though...I am such a sap

What is on the floor of your closet right now? shoes, exercise ball, laundry basket

What are you most afraid of?  That I will die before Peanut is grown up

Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? cheeseburgers, with the works

Favorite dog breed?  Bichon frise

Favorite day of the week?  whenever DH's weekend falls

How many states have you lived in?  just one...I don't get out much  :)

Diamonds or pearls?   Diamonds...although I am getting more practical in my old age...I think I am like Melissa and would rather have camera equipment

What is your favorite flower? Tulips...pink ones

Did you get an H1N1 vaccine?   Even though I am a germ-a-phobe I didn't...I just got the regular flu shot and that was more for Peanut than me

Friday, June 25

A Must See

This is TOO funny....

Dad Life from Church on the Move on Vimeo.


We celebrated Father's Day on Wednesday.  DH is in management in the restaurant industry and a holiday simply means you work later that day. And work later he did--till nearly 10 when his shift ended at 8.  *Sigh*  At least he gets off Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

I knew sort of suspected that would happen, so like the good wife that I am, I reserved the special dinner I had planned that night for his "weekend" and we had leftovers instead on Sunday night.  Nice, huh?  And even as I served him his plate of heated up leftovers on Sunday night telling him we would have a special dinner later that week, he told me not to apologize.  He told me that he was telling everyone at work that every day was Father's Day at his house--because his wife get's up and makes him breakfast every morning makes him dinner every night and he gets greeted with a huge "Hi!" from Peanut every day when he gets home. 

Gosh, after that huge compliment, I felt like it was Mother's Day.  He works a 12 hour shift providing for our family, while I sit at home taking care of Peanut and serve him leftovers for dinner and he's making me feel like it's my special day.  What a great guy, huh?   

I don't deserve him. 

Soooo, on to our special weekend.  I did make the dinner I had planned on--Rachael Ray's Club Burger Sliders with Avocado Ranch Dressing, which were amazing and we had homemade potato salad.  The bread discount store had little slider buns for $0.99, so those were my inspiration.  I had always wanted to try sliders and they were yum, yum, yum.  And DH thought so too.  I won't mention how many he sampled. 

It was HOT that day, so we had Sonic Slushes at DH's insistence (yeah, twist my arm) and came home and had an early dinner.  Once it started to cool down, we headed to the park.  It was perfect down at the park too.  It's on the river, so there was a slight breeze and it was still around 80 degrees.  Which for me is good, because I only start to thaw at 75 degrees.  Or so DH and my Dad say.  The air smelled so sweet, which was due to the blossoms on the trees, but due to my lack of botanical knowledge, I can only share a picture....

The Peanut and DH played around and he taught her to "race" to get the ball.  She had so much fun.  She insisted on many "wees" which is where she walks hand in hand with us and we lift her up. 

She would do that the entire time if we let her.  

Still working on those manual camera settings.  I took some good ones in the shade and got lots of overexposed pictures in the setting sun.  But practice makes perfect, right? 

Peanut got to run around to her heart's content and share lots of special moments (and kisses) with her Daddy. 

That makes for a pretty special Father's Day, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 22

Did You Know?

A little while back I was watching a cooking show and I found out that you could peel almonds.

Now, why would you even bother?  Because buying whole almonds (around $3-$4 per pound) is less expensive than buying the different "cuts" of almonds, whether they are slivered, sliced, or diced (anywhere from $11-$14 per pound). And let's face it, I have way more time than I do money. 

All you simply have to do is bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.  Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the almonds.  Let them steep for about five minutes and then drain them.  Once they are cool enough to handle, the skins will slip right off!

A word of caution:  They are slippery little suckers.  Name that movie. 

Once they are all peeled, lay them on a cookie sheet and put them in 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  This will insure the almonds are nice and dry to be able to store. 

I can peel them and do a rough chop in my food processor and use them for a variety of recipes, such as my Almond Roca and a new recipe that I am excited to share next week.  Check back early next week for yummy summer dinner!

This post is linked to We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.  

Oh, and yeah, that movie would be Pretty Woman.  :)

Monday, June 21

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt Pops

A few weeks ago, I made these with my new Popsicle molds (similar to these) and they were fabulous, although I think I might add more peaches the next time I make them.  I prefer a little more peachy flavor.

I had some leftover plain yogurt and decided to experiment and make some chocolate pops. And if I do say so myself, they were pretty darn good.  At least that was Peanut's reaction, because she kept asking for "Bite...bite...bite...BITE."  Then I would give her a stern look and her look of urgency would turn into an angelic smile and she would say sweetly, "Pease."  {please}

They learn quickly, don't they?  

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt Pops

1 cup milk
4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt

Heat milk, sugar, and cocoa powder in sauce pan until sugar and cocoa are fully blended with the milk.  Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool, about two hours.  Once cooled, stir in vanilla and yogurt to chocolate mixture until completely blended.  Pour into molds and freeze entirely--mine took about 5-6 hours.


This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Life as Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap  

Sunday, June 20

Menu Plan Monday

So this is a little late due to our surprise--but I already had a menu planned. This monthly planning works fab.u.lous. Love it!

So for this week,

Sunday-Turkey Sliders, Potato Salad

Monday-Orange Balsamic Grilled Chicken and Rice, Steamed Veggies (didn't get to this last week, what's new?

Tuesday-Easy Skillet Cheese Topped Macaroni, Green Salad

Wednesday-Chicken Noodle Pineapple Salad (this is yum...will share soon)

Thursday-Cheese Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad

Friday-Baked Potato Bar


For other great menus, click here.

Happy Father's Day!

Well, we had some surprise visitors yesterday morning.  Turns out my parents both had a not so great week and were in desperate need of some Peanut time--so we got a knock on the door about 9:45 yesterday morning.

Surprise!  I guess a not so great week for them is a fabulous surprise for us...no offense, Mom and Dad.  Some things just never get old.

I did feel bad though, as my Dad's gift for Father's Day was sitting in their mailbox this morning.  Oh well, I still had good intentions. 

But they got their fix of snuggles, story time, laughter and tickles and hugs and kisses....

and were off again late this morning.  We will miss you so...but only a few more weeks until our nation's birthday celebration.  Yay!

And thank you Dad, for your never ending love and support.  I love you.

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And to my sweet husband, you are simply the best...the best husband and the best Daddy to our precious little Peanut.  Even though you are at work today, allowing other dad's Father's Day to be special, know that you are on our hearts as we count the hours until you come home.  We love you.

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 19

Baby Steps

She is definitely feeling better.  She still has a cough and sounds pretty congested.  She has also taken nearly three hour naps all week (normally I am lucky if I get an hour and half tops), but she is up and playing around.   Even well enough to run to the post office with me.

I have been eying these types of headbands for Peanut for a long time.  And I finally found some on an Etsy shop that were inexpensive within my price range.  And they were there, waiting for us at the post office today.

To say I was excited was an understatement.  Can you say cute photo prop?  

Now we are working on leaving it on...the child will leave on hats of all types, but hair accessories?  Yeah, right!

I hope this isn't a sign of things to come.  I have said this before and I will say it again.  If she wants to play sports and get down and dirty playing softball or soccer or whatever, I am fine with that--even though that is a polar opposite of myself.   Just as long as she is still feminine--notice I didn't say girly.  I just want her to be comfortable in a dress when necessary and be able to act lady-like, so to speak.  I don't want her to be that tomboy that you knew in high school that could beat up the biggest line backer on the football team and that the boys were scared of.  You remember who I am talking about...


Despite all my unnecessary fears, I know she will be exactly who God wants her to be....

Thursday, June 17

Poor Thing

Our girl is starting to get back to normal...all day Tuesday and part of the day Wednesday she looked like this...

....snuggling with Daddy on the couch.  She had her first full on bear of a cold.  She's had a few coughs and a runny nose once or twice.  However, this is her first snotty nose, loss of appetite, slightly feverish, wants to sleep, knock her down a few pegs kind of cold.

But she is on her way to recovery...asking to eat like she normally does and destroying the room with toys like Hurricane Peanut.

Whew.  I was worried there for a little bit. 

Tuesday, June 15

Works For Me Wednesday-Cooking Ground Meat

Let me be up front and entirely honest....I did not think this up.  But I do use this tip I learned watching Rachael Ray.  Where else? 

Cooking ground meat can be such a chore, as you want to break it and up and have fairly, small, uniform sized pieces.  And you could buy one of these to do it.  But I am more along the Alton Brown philosophy about not having "uni-taskers" around the kitchen.  You know, those kitchen tools/gadgets that only do one thing. 

When cooking ground meat, I use just a wooden spoon to break it up in smallish size chunks and then when it's nearly finished cooking, I break up the meat with a potato masher.  Works like a charm every time--nice little uniform chunks of meat. 

Using a potato masher when cooking ground meat definitely works for me.

This post is linked to We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday

Monday, June 14

Lemon Penne with Ham and Spinach

This is another recipe inspired from Rachael Ray.  I was looking for recipes to use leftover ham and I came across this one in one of her magazines several months back.  I thought it had an interesting mix of flavors and I had everything on hand that the recipe called for--so it was a winner already.  As we were eating it the first time I made it, I was still stuck on the fact that it was mixing lemon and ham.  Lemon and chicken?  Sure, I get that.  But lemon and ham isn't something you come across too often.

And then it hit me.  It's a twist off of Egg's Benedict.  A traditional hollandaise sauce includes eggs, lemon, and butter served over Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and an English Muffin.  Duh!  Why didn't I see that before?   The lemon and ham totally made sense after that!  I am so glad I made that connection, because it was really bugging me.  

The original recipe calls for escarole, but that's expensive and I always have the boxes of frozen spinach on hand, so I used that instead.  It turned out really well--in my humble opinion.  :)

Lemon Penne with Ham and Spinach

1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 box chopped frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry (I like to do this in a tea towel--works really well)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cubed ham
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (+ more for serving if you like a little extra kick like my husband does)
3 large eggs
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and Pepper

Cook penne pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water when draining pasta. 

While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil in large sauce pan and add garlic and ham.  Heat until fragrant and mix in spinach, separating as needed.  Stir in crushed red pepper and cooked pasta.  

In a separate bowl, beat eggs together and add in lemon juice and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water.  Stir in egg mixture into pasta and cook, stirring over low heat, until the cheese is melted and mixture is creamy.  Stir in remaining pasta water and season with salt and pepper.  Serve and top with remaining cheese.

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Sunday, June 13

Menu Plan Monday

Ahhhh.....I think summer has finally arrived.  It's supposed to be 85 degrees today....I am even wearing shorts!   And that's a big deal for me.   So for this week, a few of the meals will be more "summer inspired" and we will be having:

Sunday-Lemon Penne with Ham (will post Monday)

Monday-BLT Chicken Salads (this one is so good!)

Tuesday-Beef Roast (in slow cooker), Mashed Potatoes, Horseradish Carrots

Wednesday-Orange Balsamic Glazed Chicken, Rice, Steamed Veggies

Thursday-Black Bean & Orzo Salad

Friday-Taco Salads with Homemade Ranch Dressing


For other great menu ideas, click here.

Thursday, June 10


Going to the park is nothing new in our house.  In fact, when out and about running errands, any big, green expanse of grass is a "park" to the Peanut.  Even the cloverleaf off of the bridge--yes, that's a park too.  The park we typically go to is just that--a big, green expanse of lawn she can run around on until her little heart's content.  And she loves it.

I am a germ-a-phobe.  I don't want to expose Peanut to other children's germs through playground toys.  Kids cough all over the place, put their hands in their mouth, possibly don't wash their hands after using the potty, wipe their runny noses on their sleeves--or worse, their hands--I am convinced that the playground is a a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Can anyone spell paranoid? Yes, I know. I am trying to get better about not attempting to protect her from everything.   Hubs is so good for me in that way....so much so, that we went to a different park earlier this week--one that has playground toys. 

I felt bad even, as we got to the barkdust covered area with the toys, and Peanut followed me over to the bench.  She didn't even know those toys were for her to play on.  Ouch.  Granted, she is not even two, but still....

So her Daddy showed her all the joys of the playground.  Slides and bridges and climbing--she had lots and lots of fun.

And I tried not to panic. 

No--it was fun to watch Peanut enjoy the playground and observe other kids around her age or a little older. A little while later though, my paranoia did get the better of me.  Two little girls got to the playground who were hacking up lungs coughing something fierce.  Luckily, Peanut was tiring by that point as she hadn't had a nap yet, so we hightailed it out of there it gave us an excuse to leave.  I also got out the haz-mat suit to disinfect her before we put her in the car seat.  Baby steps, right?   One of these days, I'll live on the edge and not wipe her down.   Maybe. 

Oh, and she was asleep within five minutes after we left the park.

It was also a great photo opportunity....all in all, a great day. 


For those of you who know me in real life or if you have been reading this blog for any length of time,  you know that I fear change.  I like my routine, like knowing what to expect, and don't like to change things up to terribly much.

I have had all these broken hairs around my hairline that have been just driving me absolutely nuts.  They were just gross.  So I thought to myself, it's like I practically have bangs anyway, I might as well cut some.  That was about two weeks ago.  See previous paragraph.   Then, the other day, I thought to myself (yes, I do that a lot), it is just hair.  It will grow....and I cut bangs for myself!  Such a big step for me!   

Now I just need to get my roots grow out done.  FYI--according to my sister's hairdresser, "roots" is so white trash tacky--apparently it is called "grow out."  Who knew?

Sorry for the quality of the picture, it's hard to take a picture of yourself on a tripod!  :)

So who's placing bets on how long these bangs will last? 

Wednesday, June 9

Spanish Rice

I often make this as a side to Mexican dishes like White Enchiladas, or red enchiladas with the homemade enchilada sauce.   It does take about 35-45 minutes to cook, so make sure to allow enough time!  Once again, although this does take a little extra time, ounce for ounce it has to be cheaper to make than buying a boxed mix (at least where I shop here in Expensive Grocery Town, USA) and I know what's going into it--you know that whole "minimally processed food" thing again--no unpronounceable ingredients, etc.  Plus, it just tastes better!

In the words of  Jo-Lynne in response to those who don't understand this real foods thing or think  I might have gone completely nuts about this real/whole food thing, "Yes, I am still shaving my legs."  I have not become a complete earth mother. Yet.  But if my grocery budget allows--I might in the future.  : )

Spanish Rice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 Tbsp butter
1  14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups water
1  4 oz. can diced chilies
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown rice

Melt butter in baking dish.  Add in remaining ingredients and mix well.  Bake, uncovered stirring dish once about halfway through cooking time.  Cook for about 35-45 minutes, or until rice is cooked through. 

We like to serve with sour cream and guacamole and grilled salsa on the side--but it's still very good without! 

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Two For Tuesdays Recipe Swap  



Tuesday, June 8

My Proudest Culinary Moment Yet

When life gives you extra lemons to use up....you make lemon meringue pie. 

At least that's what I did.  

I don't know if it's the fact that I made this pie or that I made this pie and entertained a 21 month old at the same time...either way, this was fabulous.  Of course, I didn't follow it exactly--when do I ever?  I made a different crust recipe, one of my own making, that used butter instead of shortening.  Let's just say it didn't work out as I had hoped.  It tastes just fine, but it kind of shrunk when baking.  I'm gonna have to break down and buy some lard.  Ewww...it's not that I am opposed to it, but it's lard.  Kinda creeps me out.  But if Julia used it and lived until she was over 90, there must be something to say of using God given fats as a opposed to man created fats.  Anyhow, I digress...

So as I making this,

...she was playing with this,

and this...

....it is hard to find things in my kitchen gadgets that are safe for her to play with.  But the measuring spoons were a hit.  Who knew? 


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