Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Menu

It’s that time again!  Time for the monthly menu.   Here is the list of meals I plan on making for my family this month.  If you would like a monthly calendar for April to write your own menus on you can find it here: 

1st – beef & bean burritos, salad
2nd – beef pot pie (no crust) w/cheesy biscuit topping, salad
3rd – beef chili, cornbread, salad
4th – chicken chow mien, egg rolls, salad
5th homemade pizza, salad
6th tuna patties, garlic roasted potatoes, salad
7th spaghetti, French bread, salad
8thgarlic parmesan chicken legs, buttered noodles, salads
9th – leftovers
10thItalian pinto beans, dinner rolls, salad
11th – leftovers
12theasy crockpot beef stew, dinner rolls, salad
13thpotato sausage chowder, dinner rolls, salad
14th – leftovers
15thcream cheese chicken enchiladas, tortilla chips & salsa, salad
16thyummy pinto beans, biscuits, salad
17th split pea soup, pepperoni bread, salad
18thchicken noodle soup, biscuits, salad
19th – tacos w/ all the trimmings
20th – bbq chicken, garlic roasted potatoes, salad
21st – leftovers
22nd crockpot chili, cornbread, salad
23rd clam chowder, crackers, salad
24th – kielbasa, cabbage & buttered noodles, salad
25th – sub sandwiches, tomato soup, salad
26th – baked white fish, twice baked potatoes, salad
27thwhite bean chicken chili, tortilla chips, salad
28th – leftovers
29th crockpot hamburger veggie soup, dinner rolls, salad

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Updates from the Homestead..

Well there are many other things going on around our homestead lately. Funny how quickly life can change.. Last November my daughter Emily left to go to Denmark to be an au pair for a year. She has been there now for almost 5 months. She enjoys her work as an au pair and has a super nice host family and she is happy.. a bit homesick, but happy and not ready to come home yet. Since being in Denmark she has met a few other au pairs and she has enjoyed that quite a bit. She has also been able to do some traveling. She has been to Budapest, Paris, and this last weekend she went to Hamburg.. she stayed with another au pair that she had hosted a few weekends ago. There is quite a community among au pairs! :) But she is dying for some connection with home. So this weekend Leanne made reservations to go and see Emily next month. My daughters Emily and Leanne are SUPER close they are best friends for life.. they relate and connect with each other and honestly I think Emily probably misses her more than us! LOL.. So Leanne will have a 3 week adventure in Denmark with her sister and she is so excited!

Other changes in our life.. my son Jacob.. he got a job working in the city. He is cleaning office buildings and preparing to start community college. The commute between our home and work and college coming up was just too much so my son Richard said he could stay with him and his wife. So he is living with them part time now. He comes home on his weekends and so far this arrangement seems to be working well. He wants to get Microsoft Certified for starters. He has always been into computers.. a lot.. he has been my “resident IT man” for quite some time now.. LOL.. he can fix and do most anything you need to a computer.. so he thought this would be a good thing to do. After that he will see what his next step in life will be. He is a good boy and we are excited for his future.

So in 5 months I have gone from having 5 kids at home to having 3! I am slowly learning how to cook again for a smaller family and enjoying less mess! LOL.. Aww.. the changes of life..

And finally for the newest news .. I am going to be a grandma again! Grandbaby #4!! My daughter Hannah is due April 22nd. We are super excited! The next question nowadays is .. what is it? Boy or girl? Well we don’t know! They did not want to know ahead of time. I NEVER knew how hard it was now to find neutral colored newborn clothes! But I managed to find some stuff! But really.. now that everyone knows ahead of time what they are having.. everything is blue or pink.. and if it is a neutral color it will have yellow with flowers or green with trucks.. We are super excited about a new grandbaby!

This week I will celebrate my 47th birthday.. wow.. where did all the years go! I sure don’t feel like I am 47! But such is the way life is. This year my birthday will be celebrated quietly.. Tobin has to work and has a mandatory class that night so no taking time off.. and that is fine. I will quietly move on into my 47th year and continue to enjoy being here to watch my family grow up and enjoy the blessings that come as I slowly move into a different season of life (one that does not have all the demands and needs of so many little ones in my home). I am looking forward to the years ahead!

Now I think that is all the updates from my homestead! Hope you are having a great start to your week on your homestead!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Updates from the Homestead

Life has been busy the last week or so. Hard for me to believe but my baby boy turned 13! Now it is official, all my children are in their teens and 20’s.. strange feeling! Isaac had a sleep over with a few of his friends; they played games, xbox, and ate junk food. Everyone seemed to have a good time. The next day we had a party for him with pizza and cupcakes for dessert.

I am so ready for some spring like weather. I am happy to see that spring will be here this weekend.. now for the spring like weather to match!  The weather man said normally for March the city gets 3.71 inches of rain for the entire month. As of yesterday 4.75 inches had fallen! Where we live we get even more rain than the city (city gets 30 to 35 inches a year.. we get 75 to 100 inches), so I am sure we have had even more rain fall.. and it feels like it .. wet and gray and muddy.. On the bright side.. my garden seeds arrived in the mail today. I can’t wait to get my tomato seeds started! I guess that is one way I will make it feel like spring. :)

This weekend I plan on attacking a couple of my kitchen cupboards. They are so in need of organization. I hope to post about this in a couple of days.  I'm working on my spring cleaning.. but actually I have been doing this since January.. a little here and a little there..  I will keep on posting about it as I move through the house. 

Hope you all have a great weekend on your homesteads!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Super Easy Italian Tortellini Soup

I have made this recipe a few times now and each time my family just loves it.  It is so easy I almost feel guilty.. LOL.. well not really ;) 

I buy cheese filled tortellini noodles from Costco.  I am sure they are sold in other grocery stores too.  But they are a little over $4 a bag at Costco and that is enough to make this recipe at least 3 to 4 times.  Other than the noodles you will need 1 pound of hamburger, 4 cups of beef broth (veggie broth will work too and if you don’t have a stash of broth in the freezer this recipe is a good reason to start!  But you can also buy it in a can, although not as healthy or you can sub 4 cups of water and a couple bouillon cubes), a tablespoon of Italian seasonings, and a jar of spaghetti sauce (I used one of my home canned quarts of spaghetti sauce, but you can also buy a jar at the store or make your own )… 

Start by cooking up your hamburger in a soup pot….

While this is cooking you need to get some water boiling to cook up the tortellini noodles.  You will need about 4 to 4 ½ cups of dry noodles.  When they are done cooking drain them and add them to the hamburger.  Add the beef broth, spaghetti sauce and about 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings and you are done!

The last time I made this I served it with these totally awesome dinner rolls. ..

Scrumptious Dinner Rolls
I have shared for awhile now how much my family loves my oatmeal dinner rolls. But sometimes I enjoy a change of pace and like try something different. I wanted a simple basic dinner roll recipe that tasted delicious. I think I have a new favorite!

1 cup milk
¼ c. Sucanat or brown sugar
3T butter
1t. salt
2t. yeast
1/3 c. warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ - 2 cups white flour
2 eggs

In a saucepan combine milk, Sucanat (or brown sugar), butter and salt. Heat this up until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Take off burner and cool. I was in a hurry the day I made these and I put the pan into my sink which had cold water in it. It cools down pretty fast this so don’t leave it in there too long. You want the milk mixture to be a little hotter than baby’s bath water.

While the milk mixture is cooling down, put the warm water and yeast into your mixer bowl. Let the yeast dissolve and get a bit foamy. The temperature of this water also needs to be a little hotter than baby’s bath water.

When the milk mixture has cooled to the proper temperature add it to the yeast mixture in the mixer bowl and mix them up for a few seconds. Add the 3 cups of wheat flour and the eggs. Mix this well. Now add white flour until the mixture does not stick to the sides of the mixing bowl. You want your dough to be a little sticky, but you don’t want it so sticky it is still on the sides of mixer bowl.

Knead the dough for 7 to 8 minutes in a Kitchen Aid type mixer and about 4 minutes in a Bosch. Cover with a towel or the lid (for the Bosch) and let it rise for 1 hour.

Turn the mixer on to punch down the dough and let it mix for a bit. Take the dough out of the mixer and divide it into 12 pieces. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and put it in the pan. Let the rolls rise until they have doubled in size; about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When they are done rising, bake them at 375 for 15 to 18 minutes. When they come out of the oven rub some butter over the tops of the hot rolls. Enjoy these rolls with some homemade soup or stew!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Making it S-T-R-E-T-C-H …. (Part 3 :)

Day #3

Potato Beef Hash is on the menu today!! 

Another flexible meal for the number of people you are serving.   I was serving 5 today and I used 3lbs of potatoes.  You can use more or less depending on what you need.  I typically figure about ½ lb of potatoes for each person.

The ingredients for this recipe are simple…  Potatoes, 2 cups leftover beef roast, 1 onion, salt and pepper.   Begin by scrubbing and cleaning and cutting up your potatoes and your onion (so they fit in your food processor)..

then using a food processor grate your potatoes.  While you are grating your potatoes also grate up your onion with them..

Put this into a large bowl and add your meat and salt and pepper and stir it up…

Heat a large frying pan or griddle to medium high.  When it is hot coat it with s olive oil.. 

Spread out a layer of the potato/meat mixture and let it cook until it is nicely browned..

I put a lid on it and cook it for about 5 minutes…

Then I turn it over and continue cooking it for about another 5 minutes, only this time without the lid..

If you have more potato mixture to cook up put the finished mix into the oven that is set on warm.. Cook up the rest of the mixture adding it to the finished hash in the oven…

When you are done it is time to eat!!  Serve with some catsup (at least for the kids) or salsa (for me and dad ;) and big green salad or green beans.. and enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Making it S-T-R-E-T-C-H …. (Part 2 :)

Day #2 

Today will make Chinese Beef and Broccoli w/ Noodles from our roast beef..

Chinese Beef and Broccoli w/Noodles
2T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (I bought mini peppers in a pkg that had various colors of peppers)
1 cup sliced celery
16oz of fresh broccoli (or a 16 oz pkg of frozen), cooked
and drained
3  cups diced cooked roast beef
2T rice vinegar
2T soy sauce
1T fish sauce (found in Asian grocery stores or Asian section of your grocery store, if you can’t locate it or don’t have it you can skip it.. it adds a nice flavor but is not mandatory)
1 cup  water
1t red pepper flakes (use less or omit depending on how spicy you like your food)
8 to 10oz spaghetti noodles (I use whole wheat noodles), cooked and drained. 

In a large frying pan heat olive oil.  Add onion, peppers and celery and cook until the veggies are soft.  When the veggies are cooked add the broccoli and roast beef, stir to combine and heat up.  Add the remaining ingredients except noodles.  Stir to combine well.   Now add cooked and drained noodles and heat it up till everything is nice and hot and ready to serve.  Taste and add more seasonings if needed.  Usually if you find it lacking you can simply add a bit more soy sauce.   Serve this meal with a large tossed green salad and enjoy!

Begin by cooking the broccoli.  I used 16 oz of fresh broccoli, but frozen will work too.. put it in a pot and cook it until it is tender and drain it…

While the broccoli is cooking chop up the veggies…

Heat up the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the veggies until tender.  When they are done add the beef…

And the drained broccoli…

Now cook up the noodles.  I used 10 oz. of whole wheat spaghetti noodles.  While they were cooking I added the seasonings to my beef and broccoli mixture….

When the noodles are done cooking, drain them and add to the beef and broccoli mixture….

Stir to combine it all...

Taste and add more soy sauce if it needs it.  This is a spicy dish because of the red pepper.  If you are not a fan of hot and spicy you can omit the red pepper or add less than 1 teaspoon.  We like hot and spicy!  

When it is done..  serve with a large salad and enjoy!!

To be continued...  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making it S-T-R-E-T-C-H …. (Part 1 .. again :)

Another pot roast!  Here is another installment of stretching a pot roast.   This time I baked the pot roast and made 3 different meals with the meat.  We did not have a pot roast dinner with it (as in pot roast, potatoes, gravy, etc..).  I started with a 3 1/3 pound boneless pot roast.   I baked it in the oven.  You can also do it in the crockpot.  I actually think that would have been easier.  Put the pot roast in the crockpot on low in the evening before you need it.  Let it cook all night and then in the morning cut it up and see how much meat you have to work with.  I ended up with 7 cups of beef (which is about what you will need for the following recipes).   If you get a roast that is not boneless, you will need a bigger size than what I had.  

These are the 3 meals I made with my 7 cups of beef…

Italian Beef and Bean Soup
Chinese Beef and Broccoli
Beef and Potato Hash

Day #1
For my first meal, Italian Beef and Bean Soup you will need to cook up some beans.  Or take them out of the freezer if you have some already cooked.  The beauty of this meal is that it is easily adaptable for the number of people you are serving.  If you are cooking for 2 to 4 people.. 2 cups of cooked beans will do.  If it is 4 to 6 servings use 4 cups of cooked beans..  8 to 10 servings, 6 cups of cooked beans will work.  If you need information on cooking beans you can find it here:   The type of beans is not that important.  I used a mix of red, black and white because this is what I had in the freezer (freezer meal starter :)..  So.. start early in the day and cook up your beans.  Save the bean broth from cooking because you will need it for this soup.

Here is the recipe:

Italian Beef and Beans
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ of a green pepper chopped (I bought mini peppers in a pkg that had various colors of peppers)
1 cup sliced celery
2 cups leftover diced roast beef
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 to 2 T Italian seasonings
2 cups cooked beans, any type, drained (but save the broth)
Bean Broth (saved from cooking the beans)

In a frying pan heat up olive oil.  Add onions, peppers, and celery.  Cook until veggies are soft.  Add leftover roast beef, diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings and beans.  Add reserved bean broth to get the soup consistency you desire.
Start this recipe by cutting up your veggies and frying them in olive oil…

Add the beans, tomatoes, Italian seasonings …

Add enough bean broth to make it a soup consistency.  If you are using more than the 2 cups of beans for the recipe you will want to double (or triple the Italian seasonings).   Taste and add salt if necessary. 

Serve with homemade dinner rolls or crackers and a salad..

To Be Continued...  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making Salad

After posting my monthly menu for the last few months I have gotten several emails asking me about my salads. I serve a green salad with my meals almost every night. I think fresh veggies are the best. I like to serve my family salad nearly every night because it is a great way to get a variety of fresh vegetables in their diet and it is easy! I do a lot of cooking and have learned ways to stream line some things and salad is one of those things.

I make a large salad every few days. I have found that if you don’t add vegetables to the salad that perish quickly your salad will last 2 or 3 days in fridge with no problem. So I have salad “system” if you will.. I use romaine lettuce (hearts of romaine), spinach and carrots to make the basis of all my salads.

I begin by chopping up romaine hearts and putting them in the salad bowl…

Then I add baby spinach…

Then I grate up carrots in my food processor and add them…

I mix this up and then cut up any other veggies I want and put them in separate bowls. For this salad I had tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers. If you add these directly to the salad it will not last as long. So I usually do it on the side, salad bar style..

My hubby also likes my
3 bean salad smothered on top of his salads. I serve them with homemade dressing. Our favorite is Ranch Dressing:  other ones I make for a change of pace is Italian Dressing: or Catalina Dressing:

And that is it.. I like salads because I can focus on the main meal and any other extras (breads, side dishes, etc) and the salad is an easy addition to round everything out and a great boost to the nutritional value of the meal!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday on the Homestead

Monday’s can be a rough day generally.. but for the most part I LOVE Monday’s!  I love getting back into the groove of life again.  Gearing up for a new week has always been exciting.. maybe it is me and my weird sense of things or maybe it is just my attitude..  I will admit that Monday is my hubby’s first day of his weekend so it is something to look forward to, but mostly for me Monday means the start of a new school week with my kids, a new week to tackle the house keeping and keep the wheels at home turning as smoothly as possible and the ability to plot and plan what type of things to accomplish above and beyond keeping the kids educated and the house clean.  

Today my plan is to get my children up in a bit and with their help we will tackle Monday’s Cleaning List (I print out my daily chore lists each Monday so that as we do the chores we can cross them off the list).  When we all work together we get it done pretty quickly.   I already know what is for dinner and it is an easy meal to make.  My daughter Sierra is working on a sewing project for a friend so I plan on helping her get that finished up.   Then it will be dinner and a relaxing evening with my hubby and children.  

 A few weeks ago I decided my bedroom needed a change.  The first thing I did was give the room a thorough cleaning.  I washed walls, dusted, cleaned out closets, vacuumed the dust in corners and edges and so on.  Then it was time to move onto the bedding..  thirteen years ago my hubby repainted the room, put in wall to wall carpet and I purchased a comforter and new curtains for the windows.  Well all these years later the paint job, honestly, looks fine still.  I will admit I am tired of white walls and want to repaint.  But life is just too busy right now to start that project.  I am hoping maybe early fall I can repaint.  One nice thing about white walls is that I can change other things in the room and it still coordinates!   So I purchased a new comforter and bed skirt with pillows and shams.  I searched and searched and searched the world wide web and a few department stores in town for everything I wanted to come together.. the colors I wanted, the price, the quality, etc..  I wanted something that was not too feminine (hubs would have a hard time with that one!  LOL).. and something not to masculine but something that was just right.  It had to be a reasonable priced too..  LOL..   Well, I finally found what I was looking for.  It is somewhat of a plaid/stripe design in the colors tan, cream, burgundy, and green.  Last week the UPS man delivered it and I am totally in love with it.  :)  The website I purchased it from is King Linen:  They had a great selection and I got free shipping in the deal and they were FAST.  After placing my order I had my comforter set in a week.  If I ever need comforters or bedding sets again I will check with them first.  I did not buy sheets there as I guess I am a bit of sheet snob..  the higher the thread count the better and they did not have it in that department.  But then again, I don’t need sheets right now and when I do I usually purchase them from Costco. Yesterday I completed the fresh new look in my room by purchasing new curtains from Walmart.  They really have a nice selection and very reasonable prices. I ended up with a dark tan color that nicely compliments my new bedding.   I am hoping that the new paint job will come along later this year, but I don’t mind waiting as it will give plenty of time to figure out what color I want the walls.  

Time for me to get rolling on my Monday..  hope you all have a great Monday on your homesteads! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dealing with Toys

My two youngest children are 15 and almost 13, so really we are way out of the toy scene nowadays. But I was reminded about this a few weeks ago when I had my grandson here for a few days. I got out just one big Rubbermaid tote of blocks, wooden train tracks and Duplo Lego’s. And my living room was a disaster in no time at all.. LOL.. My thoughts, “Aw yes, I remember these days well”.

I was also reminded of this when I went to a friend’s house. She has twin boys, with lots of loving and adoring aunts who lavishly spend on the boys. This equals a house FULL of toys and stuffed animals and a constant issue in how to keep it all organized and some sense of order in the home.

I have this philosophy that I have developed after having 8 children and that is, “less is best”. Nothing like too many toys to make a child very confused. If the mess of toys seems overwhelming or confusing to me, you can bet it is even more so for the child.

Here are some of the ways I have dealt with this… get rid of toys that are no longer played with. Simplify your toys to just a few tried and true tested toys. Then keep those in totes and rotate them as your child has an interest in them. Things that I hung onto over the years were: Lego’s, wooden blocks, wooden train set, dolls and baby clothes and a couple misc. doll accessories, cars & trucks, various stuffed animals, a doll house w/wood furniture and a few little dolls and a farm animal set. Now of course my kids have outgrown these items and I keep only two totes with toys for visiting children and my grandchildren. But basically that was it. Other things certainly made their way into my home, but they never last too long before my kids lost interest. Then I gave them away. Keep the toys simple and this will make clean up time easy and the confusion down to a minimum.

As to how many toys to allow them to have out at once? Well, I had this rule. When I said it was time to clean up the toys I gave them 10 minutes to do the job. Any toys left out were put away in the other storage totes. I made sure that they could pick them up quickly and they had plenty of motivation to do so!

We live in a society that has says more and more is the goal. Children truly do not need a huge confusing mess of toys to play with all the time. One of my favorite book series to read to my children was the Little House on the Prairie Series (I read it countless time to them over the years). One thing I took note of was the small amount of toys Laura and Mary and Carrie grew up with. And they were happy, and found ways to occupy their time and used a lot of imagination, which is wonderful for a child. When life is simple children learn to use their minds and have fun with what they have. Plus it helps mom keep some type of order in the house as well.