Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kitchen Hacks

As a mom who doesn't enjoy cooking, I appreciate any short cuts I can find. Thought I'd share a few of my favorites here...

First off, onions and garlic. Few recipes don't call for these! These 2 items save me so much time, tears, and frustrations over a garlic press! I hate chopping onions so much, I would make my husband do it if he was home! My garlic press is now in our play-doh box! I also never want as much onion as a recipe calls for, so I don't end up wasting anything. I just add what I want!
The garlic is available in organic, and onions are one of the foods you don't have to worry about being organic. Neither of these items is expensive. The off brand onions at my store is $.88!

Secondly, these 2 crock pot recipes will have you constantly stocked with 2 important staples. 

Crock pot Re-fried Beans

Crock pot Rotisserie Chicken

Both of these are SUPER easy. For the beans, I use half black, half pinto, and I also leave half of the beans whole for those recipes that call for "a can of black beans". I freeze them in little sandwich bags inside a big gallon freezer bag. For the re-fried, after I thaw the bag, I will cut a little hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze the beans out, just like a pastry bag. 

For the chicken, the only tricky part is turning the crock off at just the right time. Grab one of the legs and try to pull it off. If it's stuck hard, it's not done yet. If it comes off, it's good. Don't wait until it comes off super easily or your chicken will be too dry. Also, check out the link in her post about making stock from the bones (only with organic chickens!). Bone broth is super healthy! OK, so make that 3 staples!

Next, spray oil.

This may not be the healthiest or most frugal option, but I LOVE my spray cooking oils. More and more brands are appearing, and they now have organic as well. I buy coconut and olive oils. I don't use other vegetable oils. Here's why.

Finally, ice cubes! Not from water, but from things like cream, coffee (both of those make great frappes!), baby food, etc. 

What are your kitchen hacks? I am always looking for more!

Friday, January 10, 2014

2 Wk, Simple Meal Plan!

Sometimes, I think I make things too complicated! I know lots about nutrition, but I am too tired to do it. So I end up buying frozen pizzas and hot pockets when they're on sale to have something "just in case", but we've been eating lots of stuff like that lately. I'm just so tired, and cooking is the hardest household task for me. (just because I don't like it, not because I don't know how. I think if I could cook w/o distractions every 30 seconds, I may like it more, but now is just a really hard time for it.) When I'm not tired, I get too adventurous and want to try these new, super healthy, super time-consuming recipes. When they flop, I get super discouraged.
So I need to simplify, but that can't mean all pre-packaged foods. My goal was healthy-ish meals- whole grains, good proteins, fresh veggies.

I don't want to have to stare at my blank meal plan every week and imagine I am building a rocket to the moon! I want a few meals I can get really good at and in the habit of preparing, and then maybe I'll move on to become more adventurous after I have this down! I am sticking to a few, easy, tried and true recipes. 

As time goes on, my goal is to make more and more of this from scratch, and then to start modifying more and more. 

Spaghetti & salad
Pork & veggies
w/ rice
Salmon patties & sweet potato fries
Grilled cheese w/ soup*
Crockpot night*
Salad night

*Flex meal- have on playdate days

Recipe Notes:

Spaghetti- I never really liked spaghetti until I started making it this way, kind of by accident. You use 1/2 packet of spaghetti seasoning when you're browning your ground beef, AND use an already seasoned jar of spaghetti sauce. It's so good. 

Pork & veggies- Just chop some pork chops into bite sized pieces (you could sub another meat), and then throw in any veggies you have on hand, grill in a skillet with some oil. The SECRET, and this is a MUST, is to add Tony Chachere's regular seasoning to it. This meal is so simple, and tastes SO good. I serve it over rice. (credit goes to my mother for this one!)

Salmon patties- I got this recipe from Trim Healthy Mama, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to share, but basically, you add 1 egg per can of salmon, some more Tony's, and some oats. If you use 1/3 C per 2 small cans of salmon, it will stay low carb. I fry them up in some coconut oil (refined if you don't want them tasting like coconut!)

Chili- This is from Rachel Ray, and it's also low carb and pretty healthy, if you don't serve it over corn chips like we like to. :)
1 lb of ground beef, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 1 chopped onion (I use 1/2), 2 T chili powder, 1 T cumin, salt, pepper, dash of cayenne (opt), 1-2 jalapenos (seeded & chopped), 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes & 1 of crushed, & 1 can of beer (opt). Simmer 20 min, covered.

Salad- This is an amazing recipe for rotisserie chicken in the CP. I make these all the time, and then I make the bone stock after I remove all the chicken. (I cook my rice in the stock.) I will use the meat in sandwiches for lunch or on salads. I also like to have these ingredients on hand: roasted, seasoned nuts, feta cheese, or shredded cheeses, tomatoes, avocados. Just those ingredients, with some dressing, make a FABULOUS salad. :) 

Re-fried beans- This recipe is great! I use 1/2 black, 1/2 pinto. I freeze them in small batches; some I puree before I freeze, and some I leave whole. We will have these on taco nights. Sometimes, I even put it with some cheese in a tortilla for the boys' lunch.

Freezer list: This is a list of items I can make ahead of time and freeze to make it even easier. This is optional, of course.

Spaghetti sauce/tomato sauce w/ o meat

Ground beef




Roasted nuts

Pasta dish ingredients (uncooked w/o pasta)

Sweet potato wedges/fries

Any CP meals we want

Taco meat

“refried” beans


Chopped onion- ( I buy them chopped & freeze in ice trays w/ some oil to make each cube stick together. I have yet to find frozen onions already chopped! I HATE chopping onions J)

Grocery list:

Pasta- thin spaghetti & one other type



Black beans

Pinto beans (other beans?)


Bread crumbs (could also use oats)

Carb smart tortillas

Corn chips J

Organic boxed soup- we like tomato (you could also make your own)

Canned tomatoes- crushed & diced

Pasta sauce


Biscuits (or pancake ingredients)

Salad greens

2 veggies for pork meal- I like green beans & zucchini

1 veggie to roast- I like broccoli, among others



Sweet potatoes


Shredded cheddar

Sliced cheese

Canned wild caught salmon


Bacon (sometimes sub sausage)

Pork chops

Ground beef x3


Any other ingredients for “crock pot night”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The case for once a week laundry

I should probably preface by saying that laundry might be my least disliked home keeping chore (did that make sense?) But even if it's your MOST disliked, I would think that would even MORE reason to confine to it to 1-2 days! I first heard about focusing on one area of home keeping each day of the week at Large Family Logistics. I do love that style, because for some reason, it makes me feel defeated to have to do the same thing EVERY day. It's never DONE! Dishes and meals are about the only house chore I do every day. My brain doesn't handle jumping from one thing to another very well. I am probably the other extreme of ADHD: I like to FOCUS. :)

Reasons to do laundry only once a week...
  1.  J only has to remember to pick up his laundry one day per week. No nagging or reminding, and I don't care how messy his side of the room gets, as long as it's all in the hamper so I can wash by laundry day. This also works with kids!
  2. It saves lots of time. It's not very efficient to do a load or two a day. Say you want to do whites on Mondays- you have to go to each room, dig out all the whites from each hamper, remember to throw those white curtains you've been meaning to wash in, etc. Then get out the stain treater and treat the stains, remember to switch out the loads, and then after you fold it, you have to walk from where you folded to EACH room in the house to put everything away. The first and last step you'd be doing anyway with this method, and it's no more effort to carry a big stack as it is to carry a couple of white socks and an under shirt. Only you're doing this every day instead of only once a week. Inefficient. (BTW, putting each dish in the dish washer right after you use it is inefficient for the same reason. Opening, closing, & rearranging the dishwasher are done multiple times instead of just once.) 
  3. You get to be DONE with laundry, instead of it being another never ending task. I love that feeling. :)  
  4. Some people say, "That's all well and good, but just wait until your family grows to more than just 5 loads a week." Even if it took me 3 days to finish everything, it would still be more efficient to do each of the steps below once instead of several times a week. Once your kids get big enough to do their own laundry, you could either assign one task to each child (one gathers & sorts, 1 changes loads, 2 fold, etc.) or you could assign each child a day to do their own laundry.You can do other things while loads are going, so it's not like that's the ONLY thing you can that day.
  5. The only draw back I see, which my mom pointed out, was that you can't wash stains right after they happen. Most of the time, I just treat the stain right away and throw it in the hamper and it comes out fine by washing day. If it's a stain on a piece of clothing that I really like then I might go ahead and wash it then with some other stuff. That is rare.
My method...
  1. Gather ALL the laundry from all over the house. We use towels all week long, so these get gathered then. If sheets need changing, do it then. I know you all wanted to see all my dirty laundry...

     2. Sort- If we have all full loads, I usually do whites, towels, colors, darks, gentles, & zippers. (I have this theory that all those little holes in clothes are caused by zippers. Since I've been separating everything with a zipper, our holes have been a lot less.) I use the hampers to sort them. I treat stains as I sort.

     3. Run the loads through. Set a timer if you need to, so you don't lose any time. I try to hang up hanging clothes as they come out so they don't get wrinkled. All folded clothes go into the laundry baskets.

    4. Fold- Then I have a big pile of clothes to fold. I put on the TV or some music and fold away! I can't wait until the kids are old enough to help! ;) I just make a pile for each room, put them away, and done!
    Check this out for folding kids' PJ's.

    Here it is all folded. I took pics to add that visual element to the post but not sure it added anything this time! LOL!


Friday, December 28, 2012

November- Holiday Planning!

I am putting together a deep cleaning list for each month of the year, stuff that doesn't need doing that often, with different area of focus each month. I try to spend 15 minutes a day on the list (or one item per day). Hope this helps someone!

My goal this year was to be mostly done with Christmas planning by December 1 so I could enjoy the holidays instead of stressing. Guess what? I mostly did accomplish it, and it was SO nice! Everyone's holidays are different, and I know there is no way, logistically, some of you would be able to do that. I didn't host guests, don't do many Christmas cards, don't do fancy parties, or make a lot of homemade gifts, etc. Since each planning list would look SO different, I am not going to post mine for you to laugh at! haha. I am going to direct you to several great plans. Choose one, and go for it! But I would encourage you to do one thing. Start now!!

Organized Home's "Christmas Countdown".
This 6-week plan started on Oct. 21st this year and ends Dec. 1st.
 Go HERE for your daily missions.

Sheri Graham's "12 Week Holiday Planner For The Christian Family"  
It costs $12.95 but it's really cute, I don't think that's overpriced, and for just $15.95 you can get a great set of 5 ebooks including the 12w Holiday Planner and editable PDF forms for it!)

FlyLady's "Holiday Control Journal" It starts December 1st!

Here is another one that looked pretty simple.

If you are looking to add more variety to your preferred Christmas planner's prescribed printables, consider looking at the free printables from the other planners and various places on the web. I recently found some nice basic printable sheets for Christmas planners/binders HERE.
If I missed the planner YOU use, let me know the link and I'll edit it in! 

What to do in December? Catch up on anything you missed, and enjoy your family! There won't be a December "to do" list. :) 

September-October- Let's Declutter!!

I am putting together a deep cleaning list for each month of the year, stuff that doesn't need doing that often, with different area of focus each month. I try to spend 15 minutes a day on the list (or one item per day). Hope this helps someone!

This is my favorite! OK, I know I'm weird, haha. At times, this task can become tedious, but there is just a freeing feeling you get from tossing things you no longer need, creating space, and organizing!

The list below tells you what to declutter, but how do you do it? There are many books on the subject, some going into great detail, but here is a simple approach. Grab a trash bag and 2 laundry baskets. Clear out the area. Then go through everything and sort...

trash- into trash bag
give away or sell- one laundry basket
goes in another room- the other laundry basket
then organize everything else as you put it back in! Purchase some organizational tools if you need to. Keep it simple. :) Don't worry; you have 2 months to do it.

  • underneath master bed
  • purge accessories in closet, including shoes
  • medicine cabinet
  • clothes
  • make list of clothes needed
  • kid #1's clothes- put away small ones
  • kid #2's clothes
  • any other kids?
  • make list of kids' clothes needed
  • garage
  • kids' toys
  • makeup- clean brushes too
  • toiletries
  • craft supplies & educational supplies (mostly kids' stuff)
  • magazines & books
  • linen closet
  • kids' bathroom
  • jewelry
  • clean off nightstand
  • CD's, DVD's, & board games
  • cleaning supplies
  • gift wrapping supplies
  • office drawers
  • office desk
  • rest of office
  • sort through one "mystery box"- don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about...
  • sort through another "mystery box"
  • living room closet
  • scrapbook supplies (or other crafts/hobbies you do)
  • baby items
 Next month, believe it or not, it's time to plan for the Holidays!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August- Planning Month!

I am putting together a deep cleaning list for each month of the year, stuff that doesn't need doing that often, with different area of focus each month. I try to spend 15 minutes a day on the list (or one item per day). Hope this helps someone!

With the coming of the new school year, I have made August "planning month". I am planning, at this point, on home schooling, so that will take a large chunk of the time, but you can use most of these even if you don't.

  • School planning- 1 week
  • Go over personal goals, revise, write down new ones
  • Buy a new planner
  • Fill in new planner
  • Update "to buy" or wish lists
  • Revamp schedule according to goals & new needs- 2 days
  • Clear out home management binder
  • Add new needed items to home management binder
  • Make list of books to read
  • Make list of projects to do
What other planning items would you add?

Next up... let the decluttering begin!

July- safety & Misc.

I am putting together a deep cleaning list for each month of the year, stuff that doesn't need doing that often, with different area of focus each month. I try to spend 15 minutes a day on the list (or one item per day). Hope this helps someone!

July is for random & miscellaneous tasks that don't fit a certain category. I'm sure you could come up with more of those of your own! Here are some of mine....

  •  Change batteries in smoke detectors
  • Change light bulbs
  • Check first aid kit
  • Review family emergency plan
  • Restock/update 72 hour kits (Google this if you don't have one!)
  • House decor: review each room, make a list of stuff needed/wanted. Purge old things or things you don't like anymore. Why have ugly stuff up? As Charlotte Siems says, "Life's too short for ugly."
  • Buy new decor (or add to wish list).
  • Implement decor.
  •  Print off/order new pictures to update frames.
  • Replace pics in frames.
  • Look through each room & make list of organizational supplies needed.
  • Buy organization supplies (or add to wish list).
  • Implement organizational supplies.
Coming up in August... Planning!