Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Monday Meal Makeover!

Okay, so by now you know I like to cook and try new recipes...and you know I like to eat (though I promise you that's not all I do, even though this blog may make it appear that way!)...and you know I'm trying to stay in our little budget, particularly by being better at meal planning and using what I have and not being wasteful.

Mondays are a good night for me to cook because for one, it's sometimes the only night of the week we usually don't have commitments and two, if I make a big meal we have leftovers to use for other lunches and dinners throughout the week.  Works out well!

Yesterday this was the situation.  In my kitchen I had the following odds and ends that needed to be used either ASAP or fairly soon: two chicken breasts already thawed from making fajitas Saturday evening, two on the vine tomatoes, most of a pack of bacon, half of a small watermelon, a lime, part of a big bag of frozen spinach that was getting a little frosty, homemade salsa, half a bag of tortilla chips, a few tortillas, and sour cream.  

Also in my refrigerator/pantry/freezer were frozen cauliflower, roasted cream of chicken soup with herbs, mozzerella, a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing (had used it for a pasta salad last week and it was buy one, get one at Publix), and various essentials.

I decided to make a big old tasty meal that we could eat off for a few days.  Now, I would love to say I made it out of everything I had on hand.  Truth be told, even with all those odds and ends needing to be used and some decent ingredients stocked, I still had to run to Publix for a few things!  However, I used up so much that was getting close to "use or lose" point which made me feel great...and, this meal was delicious!  I already had some leftovers for lunch today, and we will have more tonight.

I marinated the chicken breasts with the Italian dressing and baked them. I also served the watermelon and homemade salsa. Then I used the tomatoes and lime (along with some new purchases) to make a yummy, healthy corn and black bean salad. Oh, this was fresh and tasty, and tasted good in the leftover tortillas!

After I made the salad and put it in the frig to chill, I took two cans of green beans, put them in bundles of about 5, and then broke the bacon in 3rds and wrapped each bundle with a third of a piece of bacon. I lined a 9x13 pan with foil and put them in there, then put the pan in the frig to chill until I was ready to bake them.  I saw this recipe in the Cooking With Grace cookbook (no surprise) and figured it would be a great way to use up the bacon I was going to have to throw out soon.  5 minutes before I was ready to put them in the oven, I took the pan out of the frig and heated  about 1/2 stick butter, maybe 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp garlic salt on the stove and poured it over the green been bundles. They baked for 45 minutes at 350 and were UNBELIEVABLY GOOD!! The next time I am supposed to bring an appetizer to a party, this is what I'm making.  Amazing. My husband LOVED them.

Then I sort of did my own adaptation of the Swiss Vegetable Medley recipe I posted a few weeks ago...I cooked half of the bag of (getting frosty) frozen spinach the bag and the bag of cauliflower.  I used a little more than half of my 8 oz sour cream, my can of roasted cream of chicken soup, and my pack of mozzerella to mix in with the veggies.  I then let it chill until I was ready...since I pre-cooked my veggies, this only needed about 25 minutes to heat up before I added French fried onions (the big can) to the top and let it cook 5 or 6 minutes more.  This was also delish, and a great way to eat spinach.

And just for good measure, instead of serving water I made a pitcher of Crystal Light pink lemonade since I had still had two little packets left in a container in my pantry!  

So there you have it - my latest Monday Meal Makeover!  Though the casserole and green bean bundles were not "low-fat,"we got more than our share of fresh, frozen, and canned veggies in the three side dishes and the salsa.  The watermelon was our fruit, the chicken was our lean protein.  The beans and corn and tortillas provided some healthy carbohydrates.  I was able to use so much of what I had and prevented having to throw away good food before it went bad and was wasted.  The meal had something for everybody's taste in our family, and provided us with plenty of leftovers.  And just seeing my husband's face as he tried the green bean bundles was worth all the prep time they took!!  Yum....can't wait to have the leftovers in a few hours!  Happy meal prepping to all my fellow cooks out there! :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Nathan's" Baked Oatmeal

We were blessed to have some friends from Maryland stay with us last weekend.  Nathan and Julie are a wonderful Christian couple who are engaged to be married in August!  The four of us share loves of music, worship, teaching, and food.  Nathan comes from a Polish family who take pride in their heritage and also in food prep.  Any event at their house comes with fantastic, and often unique, cuisine.

On Saturday morning I was making a late breakfast (I guess it was more like brunch, but we had stayed up until 2:30 the night before catching up!) when Nathan came into the kitchen, looked over my shoulder, and asked me what I was making.  I told him Baked Oatmeal.

His response was a bit skeptical I must say!  He said he liked oatmeal, but he ate it pretty plain and wasn't sure if he wanted anyone messing with it or, for heaven's sake, baking it.  I told him to relax, this recipe looked pretty good to me, and I couldn't wait to try it.  He said we would see.

When the oatmeal and cinnamon rolls (from a can, my kids' favorite:) came out of the oven and the eggs were scrambled, we sat down together for the official taste-testing.  Granted, I had never tried this recipe before, but I just had a feeling... and I was right!

It only took Nathan one bite to say it was good, two bites to say it was really good, and three helpings to say it was blog-worthy.  So in his honor, I titled this post "Nathan's" Baked Oatmeal, and will think of him and Julie every time I prepare this from now on!

If you enjoy grainy foods and breakfast fare, you will enjoy this...the recipe is as follows.

Combine/mix 1 stick of melted butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 beaten eggs, and 2 T milk.  Add 3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (make sure it's the old fashioned kind, that is an important detail), 2 1/2 t. baking powder, 1 t. salt, and 1 cup milk and mix (I also sprinkled in some cinnamon).  Put in greased 9x9 pan (I used a pie plate my friend Jessica gave me at Christmastime).  Bake for 40-60 minutes at 350 (we were hungry so I did 35 at 375).  Then enjoy this hearty, delicious breakfast treat!  It could almost be cut into bars and is similar to a homemade granola...yum.

P.S. Not to beat a dead horse, but this also came from "Cooking with Grace" so go to your Christian bookstore and buy this cookbook because you will love it!!  :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sticker Collections and Other Blasts From My Past

In a search for a document the other night, I came across a plastic bin in my attic that held some unbelievable blasts from my pasts.  I used to save everything, but over the years have gotten rid of so much simply to eliminate clutter from my life since I am a bit of a clutterbug already!

However, I am so glad I kept a few treasures from my past in a little plastic bin because the items brought back memories I hadn't recalled in years...my husband and I cracked up as I read ancient diary entries to him (some of which were for his ears only, and others that I may have to post sometime because they were so funny!); I also browsed old high school newspapers (any Bowie grads remember The Pacesetter) and Stargrams from past shows (my high school theater buds remember these).  So fun.

One treasure I found was a Sticker Collection in an old school photo album - the kind with sticky pages that they now know ruin pictures.  It was perfectly 80's with its mauve flowered cover, and filled with stickers that brought back reminders of that era in my life.  It was sort of cool to "collect stickers" back then (did anyone else do this?) and trade them with friends.  I can remember sitting under a big pine tree across the street from my house and trading stickers with my neighbor Erin for hours at a time...such simple times when the biggest thing I had to worry about was would I get the scratch and sniff sticker I had been dying for!

I thought I'd share some glimpses from this now slightly yellowed and gooey album with the mauve cover that is a definite piece of my childhood...

I remember thinking these shoe stickers were the coolest.things.ever.  The "Erin" sticker must have been a trade from my neighbor!

What was it with the 80's and unicorns?  They were everywhere!  Even on my generic brand Trapper Keeper I finally got from the drugstore.

I have no idea why scratch and sniff stickers aren't around much these days.  Those things rocked.

Here's  proof that even as a child, I already made good beverage choices. :)

I used to love school and thought these were "radical" - lol!  Nerdy, I know, I'm okay with it!

"When your room looks kind of weird, and you wish that you weren't there, just close your eyes and make believe, and you can be anywhere."  Anyone else remember these guys?

I have loved Jesus since I was a young girl...

And I've always loved music too...

Ha, definitely some 80's representation here with the Bush/Quayle election of 1988 and Alf!!

And what 80's sticker book would have been complete without the smiley face stickers from Highlights magazine??

I knew my little girl would be interested in looking through my old sticker collection, and sure enough she was.  She decided to make her own sticker book, which made a great, quiet activity on a day when she was running a fever.  I smiled as I saw some of her pages, thinking of how one day she will show this book to her daughter and each sticker will represent something about her childhood and the era in which she grew up and the interests she held.

So while I enjoy de-cluttering my life, I sure am glad I've saved a few things that provide such a great walk down memory lane and ideas to pass on to my children.  Then I get to smile and remember, and sit back and watch history repeat itself.  :)