Cooking

Why menu planning is worth it!

 

One of our biggest challenges is to do a Menu plan for the week. 

Menu planning is worth it! There are so many advantages:

1. Saves money. (potentially a ton of money).

2. Less food gets wasted. (we waste too much).

3. Eat healthier. (yeah, beats ordering Pizza).

4. Less stress. (no panic for “what’s for dinner?”)

5. Eat a better variety.

6. Saves time.

Well, geez with all of those perks why wouldn’t you  we plan each week?

1. It can be overwhelming.

2. It takes discipline to take the time to sit each Sunday and plan.

3. You must think about the week ahead on your day off…

4. It takes effort, and some creative thinking.

I guess I finally got “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of being unorganized and then doing something quick on the fly. So I made the commitment to take the time this weekend to tackle this area of our lives. I found this amazing menu planner page.

 

It is from bakedbree.com. I love the menu planning template for several reasons.

1. It is on one page.

2. It only has dinners on it.

3. It has a large area to “inventory” food we have on hand for planning as well as for a grocery list.

4. It is simple and straight forward.

Here is the process I went through:

1. Print out the template. Click here for link.

bree menu lise 2

2. Inventory your food on hand. Start with the refrigerator. Write down on your menu planning sheet everything you have on hand. ( as you can see from mine I did this on Bree’s sheet to the right). This is a great time to clean out the frig as wel–get rid of food that has gone bad.

3. Inventory the freezer (or both if you have multiple).

4. I didn’t take the time to  Inventory the pantry. (I worked my menu around the frigerator first because those foods have a use by date, then freezer). I then “shopped” in my pantry when I was trying to make menu.

5. I then went to the allrecipes.com  and used their search by ingredients function. It is at the very top of their web page.  It is awesome you put in a few ingredients and a list of recipes with those ingredients appear. Here is the link to their page. Click here. 

6. You base your recipes on most of the ingredients that you have on hand, then make a list of what you need to buy.

bree 4

As you can see from this week, after doing the menu planning I only needed to go get 5 things from the grocery store for the week. That is truly amazing.  I was ready to get in the car and do a full shop which for me usually is about 150.00- 200.00 dollars. What a waste of money and effort when I really can get buy with only 5 grocery items. And the funny thing is we will eat healthier, and with more variety. Another plus is the kids are home for the summer and the leftovers can be eaten for lunch.

Another tip- I printed the recipes I got from allrecipes.com  and attached them to the back of the menu planner for the week and after I got back from the store I hung this  page and recipes on the refrigerator door.

If we love a new recipe I will make a recipe card and file it away for meal planning.

Hope this helps with your menu planning and getting organized in the kitchen.  I will give you an update next week.

 

 

 

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How to cook Bacon in the oven…

Okay I love bacon. I know don’t lecture me on nitrates and et al. (I love Whole Foods and tried their healthy bacon- not so much—- it was gross). I want my bacon to taste like bacon. (Sorry guys!) I just love bacon.

Got bacon

 

When they started making cult following bacon shirts I secretly wanted to wear one. I have been on the hunt for the best way to cook bacon. Let’s face it –it is a losing propsition with grease in the kitchen. Well after many googles and visits to websites I found it on line by Culinary Arts expert Danilo AlFaro. Seems as the trick is to put it in a cold oven, on parchment paper, and turn to 400 degress and walk away.

Here is the link to Danilo, afterall I am no chef.

Best bacon Ever.

 

 

Best tasting bacon ever….bacon picture

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Successful Thanksgiving Dinner

I am excited to be hosting Thanksgiving this year. We have a group of about 11-12 people. Perfect size for a nice cozy dinner. This is not my first trip to the “Thanksgiving” Rodeo. I have learned quite a bit over the years. Thanksgiving from A to Z if you will.  I would have loved to have some of these tips my first couple of times around, so I wanted to share.

Some helpful tips:

First and foremost- it doesn’t have to be perfect to bless others…This is important to remember- so you can enjoy your guests.
1. Take the time to sit down and make out a written menu…this will save you time, money and stress. Decide what you will cook, what you will buy already made and what guests are pitching in.. (my little sis is bringing the salad- thanks Nine!) Here is a peak at mine this year…

Thanksgiving list

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Collect your recipes, and write out the ingredients with your menu- love to hunt easy recipes on line. (like this one here for crockpot mash potatoes).
3. Shop your pantry and see what you have on hand- this will save on the food bill.
4. Think about your table centerpiece ahead of time, will you be casual or more formal. We do a comfortable formal. (nice but not stuffy). The dollar store and glass containers you have on hand can make a cute centerpiece. This is a good link on Thanksgiving centerpieces. And the video embedded below.
5. Write out the errands you will need to do ahead of time, and make a plan for when you will do what. (pick up turkey, shop groceries, supplies for decorations etc)
6. Make any dishes that you can the night before. (crock pot mashed potatoes, sweet potatoe casserole, green bean casserole (without the fried onions- add them when reheating) dinner rolls .
7. The night before layout the ingredients in groups, this will save you a ton of “hunting time” and will save you from running to the store the last minute for a forgotten ingredient.
8. Plan out the timing of when you will cook what- this will be based on cook time of dishes.
9. Set your table the night before. Hunt for that gravy bowl, or serving platter you stashed away.. the carving knife..This will save the last minute panic. This will also give you extra time to be creative. (we are making gratitude journals for this Thanksgiving to set at each place setting). I looked at about 15 videos on table scapes and this is the one I am going to do this year. It was inexpensive yet Trendy looking. Theses two are great.

 

10. Do not try to do it all yourself. Enlist your family to jump in and make one of the dishes. My daughter makes the greenbean casserole, and sometimes the ambrosia salad.

What ever your beliefs take a quiet moment to pray…and put yourself in the moment and be Thankful- and you will have a Successful Thanksgiving Dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Treat–Turkey Buddies that make everyone happy!

Happy Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for this wonderful day. First and foremost, I have my health, my loved ones are happy and healthy. I thank the Lord everyday for his guidance and support in my life. I am truly blessed. Though there was some special ones we didn’t get to see this year because our family is getting so big…we know everyone was safe and warm and fed. That is truly a lot to be thankful for…

Wanna cool treat to make for your next Thanksgiving?

It is made with:

Oreo cookies

Fudge striped cookies

candy corns

chocolate frosting

and any kind of chocolate you want I used chocolate covered cherries. I think truffles would be so yummy but I was going for a low budget hostess gift to bring over.

Hope you enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving.

I have to give credit where credit is due: I got this idea from YouTube from a great site called AustinWarrenDesign. He is no longer posting;0(, and he disabled his link to imbed, but if you search on you tube for Turkey buddies and AustinWarrenDesign you will find it.   He used white frosting but it showed up too much. The chocolate just blends in. They are wrapped for travel in the car…but aren’t they cute.

 

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Honey Bun Cake – delicious cinnamon roll cake!

This sunday I made a great old fashioned dinner- Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots. Sunday is the one night we have our family dinner. (Too many commitments during the week I am kinda bummed to say).

I just put everything in the crockpot, added a little Liptons Onion Soup with Beef stock  to potatoes, carrots, and the roast on top—and viola- a yummy smell penetrated our home all day.  It was so cold outside it was a yummy treat.   I felt like baking and did a search on the internet for a recipe using the Betty Crocker yellow cake mix. Boy did I hit the jackpot with this recipe.

Honey Bun Cake —It is like a cross between a coffee cake, cinnamon roll and really moist cake. Here is the link for the site. HONEY BUN CAKE.

You basically add sour cream, 4 eggs, and oil to the cake mix. Put half of the batter in the pan, then put down a layer of brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Then put down the rest of the batter on top of it. Bake for 44 minutes. Poke holes in the top when the cake is warm, and pour the glaze over and frost.

It is amazing:  Okay not low fat either. But it is a treat and you make it once a year….the neighbor boys ate two pieces each.  I knew my DH loved it cause I heard him yelling from upstairs hey who ate my cake!!! (“His” cake–laughing out loud!).

I dropped off dinner to my DH’s parents tonight, a full 4 course meal. They are so fun to feed because they really appreciate the food. His mom loved the cake. So it is grandma tested. I am not that nice-  Okay they are only a 1/4 mile away too. So it was not a hassle and their graciousness is payment alone.

Honey Bun Cake

 

 

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Organizing the Kitchen Utility Drawer…

What is most scary about this drawer is that it really looks like this.  I started to grab a handful of utensils to empty the drawer and I realized I needed a before picture. So maybe the ones that would keep the drawer from opening are a little jumbled.  Otherwise, this is how it looks…

 

Steps to organize a kitchen drawer:

1. Empty drawer completely. Wipe out drawer with a damp cloth and remove any marks or toaster crumbs (guilty as charged).

2. Sort utensils by purpose, and look for duplicates.

3. Decide on which “duplicate” to keep.  For instance, we had two wine openers.  So I kept the one we use most often.

4. Find some type of drawer organizer.  I am on a “no spend” mode so I found these metal wire baskets in my basement stash.  I got them at a yard sale of course- I can’t remember the price? But they fit perfectly.  My inner yard-sale goddess was cheering for joy!

5. Place items by use back into drawer focusing on keeping things in a place that they can go back to without making the drawer a mess.

I stored utensils that didn’t fit but I wanted to keep that I don’t use as often, in a square tupperware like container under the cabinet under the drawer. So if I need a utensil that is not there then I know where to look next.

Here is the AFTER:

This picture turned out blurry– I am not sure why except that I was in an iPhone picture rush.  Grrrr….. But seriously,  Doesn’t it look so much better?

It was so messy and unorganized, it was so much fun realizing I had tools that I had forgot about. For instance, my God son is a chef  in Seattle and he sent me for my Birthday some really cool cooking “tools” that are chef must have. I was so excited to have them so handy.

My Adorable Godson !

 

This would be my adorable Godson.

A win- win because  I ended up filling up our local Goodwill donation box with the extras and items that I realized we don’t need or use any longer, that someone may need.

My inner organizing Goddess is singing her nerdy happy song….and dance…I can’t sing so it is fortunate this is not a video.

Is there a drawer that is driving you crazy?

 

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Happy Father’s Day Banana Pecan Cake!

I let my guy sleep in Father’s Day morning!   I was looking for something that I could surprise him with utilizing ingredients that I had in our pantry and it got me looking for recipes on line  that are made with white cake mix.

Okay before you cringe…..there are amazing recipes out there using cake mixes!!  Okay my inner dessert Goddess  was doing a happy dance at the cake made with Butterfingers. Going to have to try that one.

I found  this recipe by Paula Deen–who doesn’t love Paula Deen—can you say butter?

It is called Spicy Cinnamon Cake, utilizing white cake mix, sour cream, vanilla pudding mix, pecans, cinnamon and sugar. Click here for a link.

Okay this is a” pantry  purging” effort so I used banana pudding mix otherwise I followed the recipe exactly!  Thus I changed the name to Banana Pecan Cake….

Here it is baking.

I am excited that it gave me the opportunity to utilize my new CuisinArt grinder. (Oh Yeah my Salvation Army Find). Here you can see the topping up close…the grinder made the nuts almost into a paste. It was wayyyy cool.

Okay…this was an amazing cake. It is not on my diet but, I had to at least taste it.  It was worth every little bit of sugar and calories.

 

 

My DH woke to warm pecan crusted banana cake with hot coffee.  He seriously ate 3 pieces… smile. My DS and DTD also enjoyed it tremendously.  Such a simple pleasure for a special morning.  I would recommend this recipe for any occasion.  I am excited to make it again but, with vanilla pudding.

Don’t worry I didn’t forget my Dear dad, I drove up and had breakfast with him yesterday morning and we had an awesome time!

Try this recipe…you won’t be disappointed. I am going to make one and freeze it for company that is visiting for the fourth of July. YUM!

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Sweet 16th Birthday Surprise Party compliments of Christy—-aka “M-A-R-T-H-A”

I have threatened my DFC, dear friend Christy, to make a series based on her entertaining talents! Not only was her son’s graduation party a wonderful success. (If you missed it click here)  She had a surprise 16th Birthday party for her DD and it was so awesome I just had to share. She has such a way of taking simple things and combining them to make such a festive environment. Even with the food that she serves. So much fun.

Isn’t this a wonderful cake? The Jeep keychain, the Tom made out of fondant, and the high heels! So adorable. What a wonderful evening and awesome surprise it was.

 

Amazingly cute!

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Salads!!!! a Pinterest “-ing” look…

I have been working really hard on trying to eat healthier. I know some salads can be loaded with calories and can “turn” un healthy. But I love salads…one question? Why do salads always taste better when someone else makes them?

Here are a few of my favorites from Pinterest.

This one brings out the OCD calm in my personality.  (Hey don’t give me any ideas!–organizing my food ingredients! Just kidding…

 

The dressing on this one looks so yummy, and I love those little crouton strips…

Another “yummer”— I picture a summer evening with good company, eating this salad drinking wine and enjoying the beautiful summer night.

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Favorite Food Friday—via Pinterest !

Okay I love Pinterest! I am so addicted. It is such a fun place to browse and find new ideas.  I was cleaning up my boards and labels and I realized that I have so many food items pinned.  I love all the clever ideas. I need to get trying them. Enjoy…

 

 

What a great idea! Jolly Rancher plant is here in Colorado and I grew up eating them. Yummy….Great Birthday party idea.

 

 

 

This looks like a yummy breakfast for a brunch, guests that are staying over or for breakfast in bed for your hubby.

 

 

Source: tastebook.com via Beth on Pinterest

I

see a party in my future…on our deck in the summer enjoying family and friends. Oh yeah we don’t have a deck…someday…looking at doing a patio.  We don’t have that much saved in our “sink fund” so I am challenging myself to see what I can build for what we have saved up so far.

 

 

 

 

I am afraid to even comment on this one…my favorite ice cream is Oreo…. One of these with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

I made this cake for my DTD’s 16th Birthday Bash and it was a huge hit. She loved it.

 

 

 

 

These look so yummy. They seem easy to make too.

Well, What do you love to eat that you have found on Pinterest? Please share….

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