Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's for Dinner Wednesday

I've already shared my very technical approach to meal planning. Last week, eggplant was on sale. I'm trying to introduce different foods to the kids so that maybe we can eat something besides spaghetti. It's a work in progress.

Both kids like fried zucchini, so I thought maybe I could get away with breaded eggplant. Then I had the brilliant (and modest) idea to try Eggplant Parmesan--after all, it's spaghetti. The Mister is a carnivore, so I knew I needed to make some chicken too.

First, I made homemade breadcrumbs. If you haven't done this, it's easy as can be. I just took six slices of wheat bread and tore them in half. Then I put three pieces in my blender and pulsed until my fluffy little breadcrumbs were born. I also added in about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and two teaspoons each of dried basil and garlic powder. The breadcrumbs were split into two batches to prevent cross-contamination.

Then I took two chicken breasts and cut them in half so they were thinner, then each half in half so they were shorter. So basically, I butterflied them, but all the way through, then cut those pieces in half.

I mixed two eggs with a pinch of dried basil and garlic powder.

Then I dipped the chicken pieces into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs. I popped them on a cookie sheet that I covered with cooking spray. Then I sprayed the tops of the pieces and put them in the oven at 400 degrees.

Next, I cut my eggplant into slices. This was where I went wrong with the kids and the Mister both. I cut my pieces too thick. Next time I'll cut them much thinner.

I mixed up another egg with basil and garlic. The process is the same for the eggplant as the chicken.

I put a pot of water on to boil, and added a box of angel hair pasta when the water was at a rolling boil.

After draining the pasta, I dumped in a jar of marinara sauce.

Dinner was served!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's for Dinner Wednesday

I get so tired of deciding what to make for dinner each night. I do a meal plan for the week, based on what's in the freezer and what's on sale and what sounds good. It's a very technical process that involves me looking at my 231 pins on my Recipes Board, the weekly ads, asking the kids what sounds good, and thinking of the foods I used to eat back when it was ok to have tomatoes in stuff. 

One of those 231 pins that I recently tried was Chubby Chicken and Cream Cheese Taquitos. I made some modifications based on the above criteria. The Mister pronounced them delicious---the kids were kind of icked out. You win some, you lose some. 

My major modifications were to use shredded pork loin from my freezer and omitting the spinach. I also skipped the sour cream because I didn't have any. Honestly, I didn't miss it. The next time I make these, and I definitely am making them again, I might add half the spinach. 

The recipe directions say to use spoons to put two tablespoons of filling in each tortilla and spread it out with the spoons. (She writes it much more elegantly.) I just rolled it like a log in my hands, but made sure to not make it go all the way out to the edges of the roll. I didn't want the filling to ooze out while frying. 

I would love to tell you I served this with a salad and some fruit...but I try really hard not to be a liar. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Family Fun Saturday--Planting the Peas

This Saturday we didn't do anything crazy or extravagant. My parents, who have always had a garden, very generously let us use their plot this year. I am beyond excited! I love to garden, but I haven't been able to have much of one since we moved into our apartment.

We started the day off by shoveling out the plot. We do this to make it easier for the tiller to go through the earth. Mom and Dad have had a garden for the last fifteen years, so the the area is pretty used to tilling. But grass and other plants (weeds) grow in during the late fall and early spring. While this is a great way to introduce organic matter back into the soil, the tiller isn't overly fond of the extra work!

The Mister worked for a few hours to to adjust the tension and a belt (very manly) on the tiller so we could use it. Unfortunately, the tiller seems to be beyond our abilities to repair. So this next weekend we will likely rent a tiller so we can get the rest of the garden ready to go.

The kids and I planted our peas Saturday since they have to go in so early. Only Mom and I like peas, so I'm looking forward to having all I can handle. We have a chest freezer, so I'll make sure none of them go to waste!

Dad made ribs for us and Mom made baked beans and corn on the cob. It was so good. 

Can you believe I didn't take a single picture all day?

We have a nice, rainy day today for our garden. So far, the rain hasn't been so driving that I worry the seeds will be washed away. It's kind of perfect weather, actually.

The kids turned off the TV and are playing Monopoly. I didn't even tell them they had to, so I'm pretty excited. The Mister is unclogging our kitchen drain. Turns out that drain is connected to EVERYTHING in our house. I'm very impressed that he's been able to fix it. It's taken several hours, but he's persevered and so far, the water is all finally draining.

I think we'll call this a family fun Weekend, instead of just Family Fun Saturday.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


My seeds have arrived!

Plus, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sent me a gift of Sunflower-Lemon Queen seeds. We can't wait to plant these in our back patio.

We also found three pumpkin plants that have come up on our patio. Guess we're growing pumpkins again.

Gardening season has begun!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spaghetti Sauce--Fill My Freezer Friday

Last summer, I canned a ton of tomatoes.

Ok, not a ton. But a lot. It took roughly ten years. Or maybe five or six hours. It was hard to tell.

And I found myself hoarding them. Does anyone else do that? Canning tomatoes is a lot of work, and I'm not wasting that work on some mundane meal, ok?

Summer is heading this way again, which means I'll have another couple dozen quarts of tomatoes to can. Canning leads to hoarding. It's a sickness.

I decided to be proactive this year (for a change) and use up my old tomatoes before I can new ones. My family loves spaghetti. We eat it at least twice a month. So it's logical for me to use my precious, precious tomatoes on spaghetti sauce.

I just dumped 6 quarts of whole tomatoes into the crockpot and smushed them up. "Smush" is a technical cooking term that involves a slotted spoon or potato masher and random up and down motions. I learned it on Food Network.

I added about four tablespoons of minced garlic, and three tablespoons each of dried oregano and basil. I also added two diced onions. I set the crockpot to low and walked away for 6 hours or so. (This is a very fussy recipe.)

Then, I got tired and went to bed. So I asked the Mister to please cool the tomatoes and stick them in the fridge. He's awesome that way.

The next day, I tasted the tomatoes. They were a bit acidic for me, so I added some sugar. This amount is to taste. I processed them in the blender until most of the chunks were gone.

Then I put the sauce into zipper bags. Conveniently, the amount that fits in my blender is the amount that fits in my zipper bags. I labeled them, and then stacked them on a tray and stuck them in the freezer. You'll do a better job and label the bags before you put sauce in them. It's much easier that way, but I always forget. All together, I got three zipper bags of sauce.

The color is definitely different than sauce from a jar. I think part of the difference is that I didn't add any tomato paste. But spaghetti sauce from the store almost always has red food color added, and I think that's part of the reason too.

Now we have spaghetti sauce ready and waiting. I can add the sauce while it's still frozen to hot, fully cooked ground beef or turkey. By the time the sauce is ready, the pasta will be too. I love when that happens.

Freezer Spaghetti Sauce

6 quarts canned tomatoes
2 medium onions, diced
4 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried basil
Sugar, to taste, after tomatoes have been cooked

Place all ingredients, except sugar, into crockpot. Stir together, and press down on tomatoes to begin breaking them up.

Cook on low at least 6 hours.

Cool overnight, if desired.

Taste mixture and add sugar as desired. Process tomatoes in blender or food processor until desired texture.

Cool to at least room temperature, then add to labeled freezer bags.

Lay bags flat on a tray and place into freezer. Freeze, then store.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring at Clifty Falls-- Family Fun Saturday

Family Fun Saturdays are a thing now, at least at our house. Now that the Mister is working a Monday through Friday job, Saturday has become our designated Family Fun Day.

Sometimes, Family Fun Saturday simply involves slaying the Dirty Laundry Monster. Sometimes, though, we go all out like we did last Saturday when we went to Clifty Falls.

Clifty Falls is a state park located near Madison, Indiana. If you've never been, it's a great day trip. The Falls are at their best in spring and fall.

Gorgeous, right? The kids and I had a lot of fun looking for fossils in the rocks. There is even some old stonework from a railroad company. They attempted to put in a trestle but had to give up due to the terrain. I didn't get pictures, unfortunately. I think I was hyperventilating. 

The spring flowers were beautiful too. I love spring flowers. They're so hopeful. 

If you go to Clifty Falls, be prepared to hike. Not a peaceful, meandering,  gentle hike. No, hiking at Clifty Falls is serious work. Uphill, downhill, mudslides, name it, Clifty's got it. There is an ADA friendly trail, but for the most part, these trails are rugged. Don't let this picture fool you. We took the road back to our car as a shortcut. 

Admission is $5 a car, unless you're out-of-state, and then it's only $7. There is a Nature Center, an observation tower (I was too chicken to climb it), and picnic facilities. There is also a pool onsite, but it wasn't open, and it was way too cold anyway. A campground is available, but if you aren't too keen on sleeping outside, the Clifty Inn is an option. 

Our next Family Fun Saturday will be spent at my mom and dad's house. Dad is generously letting us have his entire garden plot. We'll be prepping for that and planting peas. Oh, and slaying the Dirty Laundry Monster.