Saturday, July 31, 2010

August Grocery Shopping

I've been gone for a couple of days -- who's made something yummy while I've been away? At my house, we've been preparing for school, which starts this coming week. One of my kids is in uniforms this year, and the other isn't, meaning I had double shopping to do. Folks claim that uniforms help cut clothing cost, but I strongly disagree. I don't know about you, but I never see uniforms on clearance racks! I was able to get shirts for $2.99 and shorts for $4.99 at Justice for my little one, but my oldest, who's in uniforms, cost me $13 each piece. No savings there. And don't get me started on finding the right items! Try finding forest green polo shirts. It's harder than it seems. And plain belts with no decoration! Almost impossible! But we did it -- we're all done. Everyone has everything they need for back to school.

I also did some grocery shopping for August. As usual, here's my list and what I spent.

Store 1:
  • Soft drinks for sleepovers
  • Hello Kitty snacks for lunches
  • Rice Candy just because it looked interesting
  • chocolate chips
  • 3 # black beans
  • French dressing
  • potato chips for sleepover
  • salsa
  • mini chocolate chips
  • tiny ring-shaped pasta
  • penne pasta
  • 3 boxes of organic cereal on clearance
  • grape juice
  • 4 jars of tomato sauce
  • egg noodles
  • orzo
  • tomato paste
  • pink beans
  • pinto beans
  • cashews
  • 2 cans of tuna
  • granola bars
  • energy drinks
  • brown rice
  • pistachios
  • crackers
  • spaghetti
  • orange juice
  • eggs
  • soy milk
  • tortillas
  • cheddar (3#)
  • mozzarella (1#)
  • Parmesan
  • Gouda laughing cow
  • original laughing cow
  • 3# butter
  • sour cream
  • slider buns
  • wheat bread
  • ground beef
  • sirloin (3#)
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • butter lettuce
  • iceburg lettuce
Total spent = $147.74 (including tax)

Store 2:
  • whipping cream
  • 1/2 & 1/2
  • chocolate soy milk
  • dish soap
  • safflower oil
  • pure maple syrup
  • agave nectar
  • honey
  • dishwasher detergent
  • yeast
  • eggs
  • Swiffer liquid
  • 2 cucumbers
  • cauliflower
  • almond milk
  • parchment paper
  • almond bark
  • American cheese
  • bacon
  • Canadian bacon
  • stewed tomatoes
  • confectioner's sugar
  • brown sugar
  • broccoli
  • trash bags
  • cornmeal
  • toothpicks
  • sugar
  • rolled oats
  • 4# Vidalia onions
  • 10# all purpose flour
  • instant pudding (chocolate and vanilla, for recipes)
  • evaporated milk
  • cooking wine
  • balsamic vinegar
  • beef stock
  • vegetable broth
  • Nutella
  • 3# apples
  • 5# waxy potatoes
  • portobello mushrooms
  • white mushrooms
  • carrots
  • celery
  • bananas
  • hamburger buns
  • English muffins
  • car air freshener
  • pint of blueberries
  • mini sweet peppers
  • cabbage
  • lemons
  • toilet paper
Total spent = $166.22 including tax

total for August so far = $313.96

I won't need much mid-month. I'll need a few fruits and veggies, and some eggs, and some non-dairy milk. That's it. Not too bad. It makes me feel better about all those school supplies I spent too much money on. I'm a sucker for high-quality school supplies. It has to be Crayola for crayons, and Mead Five Star for folders and notebooks, and Pink Pearl erasers, and Dixon or Ticonderoga for pencils. I lean toward the more expensive supplies, because it makes my kids' lives easier and the supplies last longer. But it sure isn't cheap.

Look for some school lunch menus this week, along with some tasty treats. :) See you tomorrow for breakfast!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

***SodaStream WINNER***

And the winner is...

Comment #69....

Congratulations, Amy! You win the Fountain Jet Soda Lover’s Start-up Kit (approx. $100 retail value.) It includes the Fountain Jet, CO2 makes over 100 liters of soda, 2 reusable carbonating bottles, a sample pack of flavors, and 3 full-sized flavors of your choice! I'll be contacting you by the email address you provided to get you your prize!

Didn't win? Buy yourself a SodaStream today. I'm sure you'll love it!

LAST CHANCE! Win a SodaStream of Your Own!

This is it! Today's the day I'm drawing for a winner of the SodaStream prize package. Get your name in the hat--go sign up today! Tell all your friends about it, too! Remember, blogging about this giveaway gets you an extra entry!

I'm off to do some school shopping and will return after dinner tonight to choose a winner.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No-Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Snacks

It's the middle of summer. Temperatures are in the upper 90s and lower 100s. There's no breeze. You could pour yourself a nice warm cup of air and drink it.

But the kids want a snack.

Here's one that will give them some protein to keep them going in the pool, sprinkler, or slip n slide.

No-Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly Balls
Makes about 20 snacks

What You Need:
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or other cookie crumbs)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used freshly ground, just peanuts, so it's very thick)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup jam/jelly/preserves
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
How it's Done:
  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor (or mix by hand for chunkier snacks) and process until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Shape into 1" balls. Roll in confectioner's sugar, coconut, or unsweetened cocoa powder.
  3. Chill for at least an hour before serving. Unless your kids are like mine. Incidentally, I find that these freeze well and make good lunchbox snacks.
Tuesday Tag-Along



Monday, July 26, 2010

Homemade Flour Tortillas: My Take on It

It's not that expensive to buy a 10-pack of premade whole wheat flour tortillas. Generally, I can get good quality tortillas for about $3.00 a bag. But when every dollar counts, and you really want to be sure you know what you're feeding your family, it's best to make your own. Making flour tortillas is easy, believe it or not. It requires only a few ingredients and less than 30 minutes of your time. You can make your tortillas while your filling is cooking and by the time it's ready, your tortillas will be done as well.

Lots of home cooks make flour tortillas, and they all have slightly different methods. Here's the method that works best for me. It uses ingredients I'm okay using and it's never failed me.

Flour Tortillas (Half White / Half Wheat)
Makes 14 to 16 fajita-size tortillas

What You Need:
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 Tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
  • about 1 1/2 cups cool water (maybe slightly more, maybe slightly less)
How it's Done:
  1. Combine flours, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips. Once the butter pieces are smaller than peas, add the water. Stir to combine.
  3. Knead the dough a few times, until it is a smooth ball. Let it rest a few minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 14 to 16 even portions. Roll each out on a lightly floured surface.
  5. Heat a dry skillet over medium to medium high heat (medium if using stainless steel skillet). Drop a tortilla in, cooking it 30 seconds or so on each side.
  6. Move tortillas to a plate and cover them with a clean towel while you finish cooking them. Store them tightly covered to keep them soft.

Menu Plan Monday 7/26 - 8/1

Happy Monday to you! Monday is my favorite day of the week. It's a new start...a fresh slate...a chance to begin again. It's also a day to reflect on last week: Did I reach my goals? Did I have  a good week? Here are some of the things we enjoyed last week:

It's Use it Up Week here at my house, which means creativity at its finest! I've decided try weekday vegetarian, eating meat only on Saturdays, sometimes Sundays. My girls are free to eat the same thing I'm eating (which they usually choose) or some of what dad's having, instead. I just feel better eating less meat, and I know it -- but I do love me a juicy burger or Porterhouse steak. I'm just reserving my indulgence for the weekends! I'm also trying to do away with dairy almost completely, because it doesn't agree with any of us. The Hubs loves cheese, so we'll always have it around. However, there are delicious alternatives (none of those fake cheese slices do it for me, but I'm going to show you some that meet my approval throughout the next few months). Those alternatives don't make me feel congested, sleepy, and icky. And I've never been a huge cow's milk fan anyway, so I'll be using non-dairy milks exclusively now.

Don't worry -- the change won't impact the deliciousness around here. And anywhere I use almond milk, you can easily use cow's milk instead, if that's your preference.

By the way, I'm also trying to lose 20 pounds. Saturdays are my cheat days, otherwise, look for moderately healthy meals all-around.


Breakfast: Kids - cereal with milk / me - Whole Grain English Muffin with Flax & Cream Cheese

Lunch: Kids - homemade corndogs / me - Almond Grain Burger on Roll with mustard & fries / husband - turkey & cheese wrap with lettuce & onion & peppers; peanuts; dill pickles

Dinner: Lentil-Rice Tacos with Nutritional Yeast Sauce ("cheese" sauce), onions, peppers, and lettuce (husband's on Atkins: Shrimp & broccoli in garlic-butter sauce


Breakfast: Kids - cereal with milk / me - oatmeal & juice

Lunch: baked beans & sweet potato coins / husband - turkey & cheese salad; hickory smoked almonds; dill pickles

Dinner: Pizza loaded with fresh veggies and olives (husband: steak & cauliflower)


Breakfast: Tortilla with Peanut Butter & Raisins (Kids will also have a smoothie)

Lunch: leftover pizza / husband - chicken salad on lettuce; peanuts; dill pickles

Dinner: soybean & rice tostadas with nutritional yeast sauce (husband - chicken & broccoli bake)


Breakfast: Kids: oatmeal pancakes with cherry topping / me - oatmeal with raisins

Lunch: Peanut Butter Pasta (husband - chicken salad; beef jerky; dill pickles)

Dinner: Butternut Squash Ravioli with garden veggies, olives, garlic, and olive oil and flat bread (husband: shrimp of some sort)


Breakfast: Creamy Breakfast Rice

Lunch: Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins and Fruit Smoothies (husband - banana peppers stuffed with ham salad; dill pickles; low-carb almond butter cookie

Dinner: Bean Burritos & homemade tortilla chips (husband - taco salad without shell)

Saturday: (Saturday is our big shopping day. Not only are we food shopping, but we're also school shopping. We're starting early and won't be back until dinnertime.)

Breakfast: Out to Eat -a sit-down, down-home breakfast as a family

Lunch: Out to Eat - a mall food court or drive through, most likely

Dinner: nibbles at home


Breakfast: Bacon, Eggs, Berries, and Toast

Lunch: ?? depends on sales

Dinner: ?? depends on sales

Things I'd like to bake this week include:
  • magic wands
  • cupcakes just like Hostess
Don't forget: Enter to win a Soda Stream prize package! Make your own sodas at home in minutes!

For more menu plans, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie each Monday morning. Have a good week. I'll see you back here throughout the week for some yummy recipes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bites Around the Blogosphere

Every Sunday, I like to take the time to introduce a few blogs that are new to me, some great-looking recipes and articles, and other fun stuff I stumble upon. Here are some from this week:

A new meme I'd like to encourage you to join: Vegetarian Foodie Fridays!

A new blog I found: Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Almost Back to School Time

..which means it's almost back to packing lunches. What will you send to school? If you're like me, you'll be packing lunch. And, if you're like me, you'll be wanting some variety in your daily packing. One of my favorite ways to ensure variety in my children's lunches is by cooking ahead and freezing individual portions. Little sweets freeze well, and allow you to dole them out every now and then...a sort of unexpected happy ending to a wholesome homemade lunch.

I'd like to invite you to follow my lunchbox journey this school year, which I'll chronicle at my new blog, 360 Lunch Boxes (pardon the layout changes while I find a look that suits me). Between now and the start of school, I'll be posting some how-to guidelines using some of my favorite new tools to make lunches more exciting. Once school begins, I'll be posting my kids' (and husband's, sometimes) lunchboxes with instructions when appropriate. I hope to expand my repertoire and inspire others to move beyond the square-shaped PBJ.

For us, school begins in less than two weeks. Because it's creeping up on me, I'm starting my preparations now. Today, I'm baking tiny maple cupcakes. These freeze very well. Popping a frozen cupcake into a lunchbox keeps it fresh and stable until lunchtime. Using a mini variety and all-natural ingredients makes me feel good about sending this bite-sized treat to school with my girls. I hope you enjoy it.

Mini Maple Cupcakes with Honey Butter Frosting
(cupcakes gently adapted from this recipe at Baking Bites)

What You Need:

for the Mini Maple Cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup sweet cream butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar (try maple sugar in these!)
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup (grade B is best)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (you can make your own like me!)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
for the Honey Butter Frosting:
  • 1 cup sweet cream butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tsp 5 cups confectioner's sugar
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 36 mini muffin cups with papers. Stir together in a small bowl the milk and vinegar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set it to the side.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed until light, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat again. When the sugar's all incorporated, slowly pour in the maple syrup with the beaters going at medium speed.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, add the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the now curdled milk into the mixing bowl and beat again to combine.
  5. Slowly add your flour mixture with beaters on medium-low speed until all the flour has been added. Turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat for two minutes.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake cups. Fill them almost completely.
  7. Bake ten to twelve minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
  8. To make the frosting, beat the butter and honey on medium-high until creamy and smooth.
  9. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, scraping sides as needed. Beat until the desired consistency is met.

Baker's tip: Have everything ready to go before the beaters hit the batter. Now, I don't have any of those cute prep dish sets (but boy, do I want them!), so I use what's on hand. But having everything ready to go -- pans greased, ingredients measured, oven preheated -- helps keep me on task. A side benefit is never realizing halfway through a recipe that you're missing a key ingredient. Take a moment and do your prep work. It's worth the effort.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Winner of Georgia Prize Pack!

...and the winner, chosen by, is Follower #80 out of 235...Tractor Mom!

I've sent Tractor Mom an email. She has 48 hours to respond.

Tractor Mom will be receiving a box filled with Georgia and Fort Benning goodies, including, but not limited to:

Georgia Honey
Local Pecans
Pecan Goodies
Soldier's Spouse-made items
...and more!

Thanks, loyal followers! Stay tuned for more great giveaways, recipes, and reviews.

Coconut Black Beans & Rice and Summer Corn Salad

Happy Friday to all of you! Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? A band called Seven Oh Sixx is performing here at Fort Benning, free of charge, so we're going to go enjoy the show tomorrow night. We're also hosting a sleepover -- a sort of last hurrah before school begins.

My blogger friend Heather at Out of the Box Into the Kitchen made some coconut black beans and rice, but advised that it was bland. So, I decided I'd try it differently and see if I'd like it. The idea of adding coconut both intrigued me and made me nervous at the same time.

WOW! Everyone gobbled it up, even Picky Eater! It was so delicious I'll never make black beans & rice differently again. I know it sounds odd, but give it a try. We had summer Corn Salad on the side. It was fresh and delightful. A good accompaniment to the main dish.

Coconut Black Beans & Rice

What You Need:

for the beans:
  • 1 lb black beans, cooked, and drained (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 green onions (greens and whites), sliced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper
for the rice:
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice (sticky rice is great here)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk (full-fat, also called coconut cream)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper and a few more shakes of sea salt
How it's Done:
  1. Bring the coconut milk, water, and 1 tsp sea salt to a boil. Add the rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes (for white rice). When finished, remove from heat and stir in green onions and pepper & additional salt (as needed). Rice will be creamy and will absorb the remaining liquid as it sits a few minutes.
  2. While the rice is simmering, prepare the beans: In a skillet, heat oil or butter. Saute onion and pepper several minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, beans, and coconut, Cook and stir until heated. Stir in green onions.
  3. Serve beans over rice.
Simple Summer Corn Salad

What You Need:
  • 15 oz can white corn kernels (drained of liquid)
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 banana pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • the juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
How it's Done:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl.
  2. Cover and chill several hours before serving.
Welcome, friends new & old! Don't forget to enter to win a SodaStream Home Soda Kit! Also, I'll be drawing later this evening for a random follower winner of my Georgia Pay it Forward prize pack! (To win the Georgia Prize, all you need to do is become a public follower via Google Friend Connect!)

This post is linked to...

New Friend Fridays

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review & GIVEAWAY!: SodaStream Soda Maker

image courtesy SodaStream

Let me take a few minutes to tell you about my favorite new kitchen toy: The SodaStream. I was given the opportunity to try this baby out for myself in my own kitchen and I fell in love. I was like a kid at Christmas as I took it out of its careful packaging, oohing and ahhing over every bit I unpacked. Here's what I got:

9 SodaMix Flavors, including:

  • Diet Cola

  • Diet Pink Grapefruit

  • Diet Lemon-Lime

  • Diet Cranberry-Raspberry

  • Lemonade

  • Root Beer

  • Orange Mango

  • Energy

  • Cola

It's so much fun to make your own soda at home! Even my husband, who doesn't get excited about much, got excited about the SodaStream. It's so simple to use that even the kids like making their own soda. And for sleepovers and playing with friends -- how cool is it to be able to make your friends fresh soda with the push of a button? Very cool.

So it's fun, you're thinking, but it's still soda, and soda's junk.

Sure, I'll give you that. Soda's not a drink for every day, and not something I'd serve my children at meal times. But if you're going to have some soda now and then, I bet you want it to be a bit better for you and your family, right?

SodaStream's SodaMix Flavors have no high fructose corn syrup, no aspartame (they're sweetened with Splenda), and are lower in calories than store-bought sodas (averaging 35 calories per serving). There are fewer carbs, less sodium, and less sugar than store brands. Plus, you control the water you use as well as the amount of flavoring and carbonation. Like a lot of bubbles and just a bit of flavor? You can do that. Like the traditional store-bought soda flavors? Easy as can be. Like just a few bubbles and lots of syrup-y goodness? You can do that, too. Maybe you prefer sparkling water with no flavorings. Easiest of all.  SodaStream allows you to control and customize what you drink. It's soda on your terms.

SodaStream is better for the environment than store-bought soda, too! When you're making soda at home, in a reusable plastic bottle (SodaStream comes with two of them), there's no buying bottles or cans at the store, and no worrying about throwing them away or recycling them (my community doesn't even have a recycling program!). There's less waste in landfills. There's less energy going toward the manufacturing and shipping of those bottles. Plus, you don't have to cart them from store to home!

SodaStream is fresher than store-bought soda. You make what you need, in a neat 1 liter reusable bottle. Because it's a smaller size than traditional 2-liter store bought bottles, it's likely to stay bubbly until you're through with it. I don't know about you, but I hate it when I open a half-full bottle from the store only to find it's gone flat. SodaStream is still bubbly the next day, and I love that.

SodaStream is a great value! Twenty-five cents gets you a liter of sparkling water. According to my math, SodaStream soda costs about half of the store-bought price, and I get to make my own soda. You all know how much I love making my own.

We tried all the flavors. They're all delicious. There were a few favorites, though, and I'd like to talk about them briefly:

The kids enjoy the Root Beer best. It's delicious, and it's first ingredient is simply sugar.

I enjoyed the Diet Cola best. I thought it would taste like Diet Coke, but it didn't. It tastes like a mix of Diet Pepsi and RC Cola. Best of all (and this is not a scientific finding, and not a product claim, merely something I noticed), I don't feel dehydrated and puffy when I drink it. When I consume Diet Coke and other store-bought colas, I feel unwell. I feel puffy and dehydrated and out of sorts. With the Diet Cola from SodaStream, I feel very hydrated and I love that. I enjoy diet cola, and I like that I can feel good and have my little pleasure at the same time.

My husband's in an intense Army school right now. It involves classroom time all day, plus hours of studying at home. He is ever so thankful for SodaStream's Energy flavor. It's an exact match of Red Bull energy drink, only better ingredients and only 35 calories per serving. He loves it and brings it with him to class each day.

Look at how easy it is to make a liter of soda at home:

I highly recommend giving SodaStream a try. You can buy it online or in many retail locations. It's a great value for your wallet, the environment, and your taste buds.

Or Win It!

That's right! Win yourself the Fountain Jet Soda Lover’s Start-up Kit (approx. $100 retail value.) It includes the Fountain Jet, CO2 makes over 100 liters of soda, 2 reusable carbonating bottles, a sample pack of flavors, and 3 full-sized flavors of the winner’s choice. Sorry, continental U.S. Addresses Only.

Here's how to enter:

Mandatory Entry: Visit SodaStream and leave me a comment telling me which three full-sized flavors you'd most like to try.

Optional Additional Entries:
  1. Be a public follower of this blog via Google Friend Connect. Leave me a separate comment telling me you're a public follower.
  2. Like All Home Cooking. All Year Long. on Facebook. Leave me a comment about this giveaway on Facebook AND tell me you've Liked me on Facebook in the comments section below.
  3. Explore the SodaStream site and tell me something you've learned. (Leave another separate comment)
  4. Post about this giveaway on your own blog. Leave me a comment with a link to your post.
I'll draw for a winner on Thursday, July 29, after 6 p.m. eastern time. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with the SodaStream At Home Soda Maker, 9 SodaMix Flavors, My Water Essence Flavors, and a Carbonator free of charge from SodaStream for the purposes of my review. My opinions are solely my own and are in no way influences by this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Sunshine Award

Another award! My little list of awards is getting mighty long. I might have to do something about that. I'm honored and flattered that Amy from A Foodie Fairytale saw fit to award me not one, but two awards: The Sweet Blog Award (which I've already won and posted, so I will accept it but refrain from passing it along) and the Sunshine Award. Thank you, Amy. You're too kind. Friends, stop by Amy's blog. She's raising money for March of Dimes by creating a cookbook with recipes from food bloggers. All proceeds benefit the March of Dimes. You can read about her beautiful babies and her inspiration for all of this here. Incidentally, there's a giveaway as well.

The Sunshine Award

“The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world.”


1. Post the award on your blog.

2. Pass the award on to 12 fellow bloggers.

3. Link the nominees.

4. Let nominees know they have won this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to the person you received this award from.
Without further ado, here are my Sunshine Award nominees:
  1. Angie at Angie's Healthy Living Blog (Angie has already won this award, but I want to honor her, too)
  2. Kim at Chubby Cheeks Thinks (Kim has already won this award, but I want to honor her, too)
  3. Amanda at Fake Ginger
  4. Amy at Just Another Manic Momday
  5. Julia at Live, Laugh, Love
  6. April at Making Ends Meet
  7. Penny at Penniless Parenting
  8. Amy at The Cheap and Choosy
Okay, so it wasn't twelve. Take a look at those eight lovely bloggers. See you soon!

Honest Smoothies

In my house, I'm trying extra hard to get rid of all pseudo-foods and serve my family only proper, nutritious foods. No, I'm never 100% successful, for two reasons:

  1. Life happens. I'm not going to freak out if we're at a skating party and fruit punch, chips, and a Carvel ice cream cake are served. We'll survive. Junk is okay once in a while, because the rest of our diet makes up for it.
  2. Life is meant to be enjoyed! Sometimes, I just want a handful of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, or a junky Mountain Dew, or a combo meal from Taco Bell. And that's okay! I'm not one to become so rigid that I can't enjoy my life.
However, for the most part, I really do serve all natural foods. When I can manage it, I choose organics and local foods. It's really no more expensive than the other stuff. Some organic brands are very expensive, but I watch my budget, pay attention to sales, and I do okay.

My girls wanted a snack yesterday, and here's what I made them. It's simple, pure, and honest. While they enjoyed this snack, they were receiving many health benefits and liking it. Just look at these ingredients! What's not to like?

Honest Smoothies
Serves 2

What You Need:
  • 16 oz plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 cup mixed frozen berries
  • 2 Tbsp honey
How it's Done:
  1. Simply add all ingredients to your blender and set to frappe. Let it whirl a full minute or two, then serve.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Delicious Salad, a Crispy Crunch, and a Refreshing Dressing

Summer is all about cool and crisp and fresh, and salads epitomize those better than anything. I won't spend much time here on this blog talking about salads, because they're generally so simple to throw together that having a recipe for them is redundant. This one is worth sharing, because it makes my mouth happy. It has many flavors involved, including a light and healthy, refreshing dressing. Here's how I made it:

For the salad, I used butter lettuce, diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, pecan pieces, and dressing. I had baby carrots on the side because they taste so good dipped in the fruity dressing.

The Dressing:

Combine in a container with lid:
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cidar vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Seal tightly and shake to emulsify. Drizzle over salad. Store extra dressing tightly sealed in the refrigerator. It's light, fruity, and full of good-for-you stuff.

Now, for a mid-day meal, I need more than just salad, even if it includes fruit and nuts. That's where these cheese straws come in. Cheese straws are commonly served in the south. If you've never had them before, I encourage you to try them. They taste a lot like CheezIts, only less salty and more wholesome.

Cheese Straws

What You Need:
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (sharp or extra sharp is best)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 tsp milk
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get out a couple baking sheets.
  2. Combine cheese, flour, butter, mustard, and pepper in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until it resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Turn the food processor on and drizzle in the milk, processing until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/8" thickness.
  5. Using your pizza cutter, cut into 1" wide strips. Place strips on baking sheets (nearly touching is fine, as they won't exand outward much at all) and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Let your cheese straws cool completely on their baking sheets before moving them. They'll crisp up nicely sitting there.
  7. Store tightly covered at room temperature. Cheese straws are even better on days two and three.
This post linked to Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays and

Tuesday Tag-Along

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chili...When it's Less Than Chilly Outside

I know, I know; Chili in July?

But July is prime chili time, because July is prime fresh produce time! When else can I go into my back yard, pick peppers and onions and tomatoes, come inside and cook them into a delicious chili straight away?

So I say, "Go ahead and enjoy this winter treat now, while the produce is at its prime." And don't leave out the special ingredients, either. They make the recipe.

Chunky Veggie Chili

What You Need:
  • 1 lb ground chuck
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers in any color, seeded and diced into 1" pieces
  • 1 large onion, Vidalia if possible, diced into 1" chunks
  • 6 sweet banana peppers, seeded and sliced into 3/4" rounds (you can use another bell pepper if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 28 oz can drained diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of beans, rinsed and drained (I used black soybeans)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder (this lends a smokey flavor, and it's wonderful)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt (omit if your tomatoes are already salted)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (yes, really)
How it's Done:

  1. Brown the beef while chopping your vegetables. Heat the oil in a stockpot and add the vegetables to it. Stir and saute until the beef is browned. Drain the fat off the beef and add the beef to the vegetables in the stockpot.
  2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings. Stir in beans.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat at least an hour. Longer is better. What I like to do is simmer it on the stove for 30 minutes or so, then transfer it to the slow cooker and cook it on low for a couple hours. This lets the flavors mingle and keeps me from babysitting the pot. If you choose to cook it the entire time on the stove, be sure to stir often to keep things from sticking.
  4. Serve with hunks of cornbread and top the chili with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Menu Plan Monday...Ahhhh, Routine!

I've missed my weekly menu planning! Meal planning keeps me on track -- not only financially, but also mentally. It gives me a plan of action for the week. Not everyone likes to plan as detailed a menu as I do, and I don't always plan every meal, but this week, planning down to the last detail is really going to help me get back into the routine of being home after a long vacation.

Here's what we're eating this week:


Breakfast: wheat cereal with strawberries and coconut milk

Lunch: Salad with pecans and cranberries & cheddar twists

Dinner: Chili (packed with veggies!) and polenta


Breakfast: wheat cereal with strawberries and coconut milk

Lunch: chili and pretzels

Dinner: soybean & rice burritos with fresh peppers and tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream


Breakfast: bagels with cream cheese, grapes, and orange juice

Lunch: Summer Corn Salad & cheddar twists

Dinner: Cheeseburgers and onion rings


Breakfast: eggs, sausage, and biscuits

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: black Beans & Rice with lettuce, tomato, onions, and peppers


Breakfast: Oatmeal and Orange Juice

Lunch: Veggie Burgers with Sweet Potato Coins and grapes

Dinner: Steaks on the Grill, Grilled Onions, and Roasted Broccoli

Dessert: Coconut Custard


Breakfast: Waffles with Berries and Syrup

Lunch: Lentil & Rice Tostadas with fresh veggies

Dinner: Chicken & Broccoli Bake

Dessert: Mini Maple Cupcakes


Breakfast: Eggs & Bacon on English Muffins

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Meatloaf, Rice, and Sweet baby carrots

Dessert: Banana Rice Pudding

For more menu plans, visit Next week, I'll get back to my weekly highlights, garden updates, and everything else that I usually do. For now, a simple menu plan is good. :) I'll share the recipes that are new here on my blog as the week progresses, so stop by each day for a new delight. Oh, and don't forget: if you're not already a google friend connect public follower, go ahead and follow. Friday, I'm drawing for a random winner of a Georgia prize pack, including honey, pecans, and more!

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