Day 16 beings thankfulness for my love for cooking and baking. And along with that, Joe allowing me to explore, create, and being my guinea pig along the way Before we got married, I knew how to cook 2-3 things…maybe. Now, given the opportunity and someone willing to donate the money, I’d love to go to culinary school just for fun.
A few days ago I posted some of the recipes I’ve tried from Pinterest recently. One of them was a two (or three) ingredient recipe for Dr. Pepper cookies. I had scored a Dr. Pepper for $0.20 and had a Devils food cake mix in my pantry, so why not give it a whirl. Instead of cookie success, it turned out to be spongy piles of cookie that more resembled piles of poo (which we didn’t think about until AFTER we tasted them). They quickly ended up in the trash.
I refused to let a two ingredient cookie defeat me. I picked up another cake mix, this time regular chocolate, while I was at Target. Determined to make it work, I set about baking while Joe entertained Jonathan/got him to sleep.
This time the victory was mine!
The cookies turned out great. However, the icing recipe doesn’t work with the ratios she has listed. I decided to only start out with one cup of confectioners sugar instead of two. I ended up using almost three tablespoons of Dr. Pepper to achieve an icing like consistency. But in all honesty, skip the icing. Its not that great and I think the cookies stand better alone.
I would have snapped a picture, but we put icing on almost all of the cookies and decided we didn’t like it, so they ended up in the trash…again.
I’ve not posted much recently because of timing. Jonathan has been sleeping better at night, praise the Lord. However, we’re still dealing with nap time issues. I’m beginning to work on getting Jonathan to nap in his crib, which I’m guessing will end up being a nightmare since he hates napping to begin with. But I will persevere. I have his 3 month post sitting in my queue, waiting for me to publish. It’s all about getting the pictures off my camera. No worries, I’m only 17 days late
Pinterest has consumed my soul. During what few breaks I get, I’ve tried to accomplish a few projects. I’ll post more later of the DIY projects I’ve completed. The recipes, which I failed to take pictures of, have had some successes while others have flopped.
Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak was a huge hit and we ended up eating it two nights in a row. The only downfall was that it has a little bit of milk in it (1/16 of a cup, per serving). Jonathan paid for it for two days and then I ended kicking myself because I didn’t think about it.
Baked Italian Chicken- this was a good, easy recipe to throw together. Joe thought it needed more seasoning, so next time I may use two seasoning packets instead of one.
Strawberry Cookies- Super simple, and they were tasty. Only thing I would change would be to cook them about 12 minutes instead of 10
Dr. Pepper cookies- I made these because I scored a 2 liter Dr. Pepper for $0.20 last week and wanted to make these. I used Devils food cake mix (the recipe says any chocolate cake mix, and thats what I had on hand). Not to be gross, but these turned out like little piles of poo. I am going to attempt again with another, regular chocolate cake mix.
Here are a few cool finds from Pinterest this week…
Today is a big day! Really big! We’re finally having the rest of our house painted. Well, the rest of the house that I started to paint and never finished. One wall in our living room, our foyer, and our stairwell. There are still plenty of rooms that need to be painted. But its such a relief to have this completed. And even better yet, there have been holes in our guest bathroom wall for over three years that have been nagging at me. The builder covered them up behind the light fixture and when we switched fixtures out, we found them. Now, they’re being fixed!!!
And while the painter is here, I’m “stuck” in the kitchen. More like, I could be in one of three or four places, and the kitchen seems to be the place I can be the most productive. Cue freezer cooking day…Round One.
Last week I made a rustic apple tart to freeze and yesterday I made the most amazing smelling cheesecake ever. A cappuccino fudge cheesecake. Seriously, its a good thing I’m pregnant and can’t do caffeine and that I’ve got gestational diabetes and can’t have sugar. If neither of those were the case, I’d be inhaling the cheesecake today. Thanks Pinterest for the recipes!
Today I’m working on a few different things. Shepherd’s Pie, though I doubt I’ll be able to finish it up today. I like to add a roasted carrot puree on top, but forgot the carrots. I’m also going to be doing burritos (today or Friday), marinara sauce and meatballs, throwing together a pan or two of meatloaf and maybe one of baked spaghetti. On Friday I hope to accomplish a little more with another baked pasta dish and twice baked potatoes, as well as a few bags of shredded chicken to have on hand for a few simple meals such as enchilladas and chicken casserole.
(If you need a painter in the WF area, let me know!!!)
With a 10 weeks left, I’ve got A LOT I want to accomplish. One of these things is decorating the nursesry, another is cleaning/reorganizing the house, and the other is freezer cooking. Our freezer isn’t huge, but I want to utilize some of our space to at least store away a few dinners. I’ve been doing some research to figure out what it easiest to pop in and out of the freezer, and will cook up well. And along with freezer meals, I want to store away a few snacks as well. Money Saving Mom, Life as Mom, Pinterest, and a few other sites have been super helpful.
Hopefully during early April I will be able to tackle a number of these meals & snacks and get them stored away before the baby arrives! Here’s a rough outline of my plan so far:
Lunch and dinner meals:
-Spaghetti sauce with meatballs and sausages
-Spaghetti sauce for additional meals
Desserts & Snacks:
I’ve also got a ton of fruit currently in the freezer. Since I can’t consume a lot right now due to the gestational diabetes diagnosis, I think I’ll make packets for smoothies.
It’s not quite February and I’ve got my meals planned for the entire month! It’s a huge stress reliever for us when I get this accomplished ahead of time. There is nothing that can drive us quickly insane as the back and forth conversation that goes something like this:
Emily: “What do you want to eat for dinner?”
Joe: “I don’t know/care, what do you want?”
Emily: “Doesn’t matter to me. I don’t really care either. There is nothing I really want.”
Joe: “Me either.”
5 minutes later…
Emily: “So what do you want for dinner?”
Joe: “I don’t know/care, what do you want?”
And this can continue on for an hour!
Meal planning isn’t really that hard. Seriously! Grab a notebook and pen and have a seat. Plan on at least an hour or so, but if you’re time constrained, you can easily break this up into smaller segments. Take a few factors into consideration when you’re planning. Here are a few things I have to consider:
- Sunday dinners have to be simple. We spend a lot of time at church, so there isn’t a ton of prep or cooking time.
- We go to the gym two nights during the week. We need meals to accommodate our time constrains (crockpot dinners work well for these days)
- Meetings, on call nights, dinner engagements, etc- Joe has at least one meeting each month where he isn’t home for dinner, so I don’t have to worry about cooking.
- Relief from cooking- I give myself a few nights a month (avg 1 night a week) where I don’t have a plan. Lets be real, even as much as I enjoy cooking, I also like the break!
- I need something new! I try to plan at least one or two new recipes each month. Sometimes they are complete failures, sometimes we get keepers! If they are failures, I don’t beat myself up over it. Live, learn, and try again!
For the month of February, I have planned 25 nights worth of dinner even though there are 29 days. Depending on how your brain functions, you can divide your notebook page into different categories. I have a Sunday night section, a Saturday section, a section if I’m going to have to prepare food for others (church dinner, etc), and then a general section.
I start jotting down meals that I cook on a regular/semi-regular basis. Meals like spaghetti and meatballs, which take much more prep work are planned for days/nights I have the time- usually on a Saturday. If I can squeeze two meals out of one, it’s a huge bonus! With spaghetti & meatballs, we can do meatball subs the next night. Perfect! That is super simple to throw together on a Sunday evening.
In my general section, I make sure to have a number of simple meals for those nights we don’t have a ton of extra time. Dinners like tacos, chili, or crockpot meals work beautifully. Crockpot meals can be simple to elaborate in prep. A few things we enjoy are chicken and rice, beef stew, bbq, and chicken & dumplings.
I have my list of 25 different meals. Once February starts up, I’ll actually write what meals are on what day in my planner. Things are always coming up and until a specific week is upon us, I cannot commit to certain meals on certain nights.
A few benefits of meal planning-
- Sanity! Save the daily stress of having to figure out what you want for dinner.
- Fewer trips to the grocery store = more time. If I haven’t planned my weekly meals well, I end up at the store more times than I want.
- Quicker shopping trips. When you have your meals planned out, you can create a shopping list, so you don’t have to go up and down aisles, wandering around trying to figure things out.
- Opportunity to save more money. If you’re only buying whats on your list, you won’t be spending excess money on extra items. If you’re not running to the grocery store every other day, you’re saving gas money. If you take your master list and try to pick meals for the week based on sale items, items you have coupons for, and items you have already, you’ll end up saving money!
Start small if you want. Lets say by Friday night of this week, have next weeks menu ready to go along with your grocery list (don’t forget to add the other necessities such as breakfast, lunch and household items). On Saturday or Sunday, head to the store with your list in hand. Commit to only purchasing what you have on the paper. Over the course of the next week, stick to your menu plan as much as possible, even if it requires swapping two nights. I promise, not having to figure things out at the last-minute is totally worth this time and effort you put forth early on.
Oh, a few last tips-
- If you have a random ingredient that you won’t use very often, try to plan at least two meals that week that will use that ingredient. For example, with my jerk chicken tacos, I need cilantro. I love fresh cilantro, but don’t need as much as comes in a bundle. We have another recipe for healthy nachos that uses cilantro. I’ll plan those two items within the same week so that my cilantro doesn’t get wasted…or less of it gets wasted.
- If you’re preparing two items during a week that call for ground beef, check the prices on the 1lb and the 2lb packages of ground beef. Sometimes I’ve found it much cheaper to buy the two pound and split it. And you can always freeze the second pound if you won’t need it until the following week.
- If you find ground beef, chicken breasts, etc on sale for really cheap, stock up! When Harris Teeter puts chicken breasts on sale Buy One, Get Two free, I always buy lots! Then I’ll divide them up into smaller portion bags and throw them in the freezer. Most meals, Joe and I can get away with 1 1/2 chicken breasts. One package of three will serve us two meals. This is a time saver and a money saver!
Do you need some new recipes to add into your rotation? I cooked two new things this past week, both of which are keepers! I originally found both on Pinterest, and have made slight modifications to one of them.
The modifications I made are as follows:
-I only used 4 chicken breasts, and that seemed more than enough! In fact, I think 3 would be fine!
-For the cream of chicken soup, I used Campbell’s Cream of Chicken with Herbs to give more flavor
- I had an extra can of chicken broth on hand and used some to thin my mixture out since it was pretty thick towards the end of the initial cooking time.
-I used 5 biscuits, not 4. The ratio of chicken to dumplings was a little off. If you stick with the original amount of chicken breasts, I would go so far as to add a few extra biscuits/dumplings.
-I stirred in a small amount of fresh cracked black pepper in after I put the dumpling in to cook, just for a little added flavor.
-Along with the author of the blog, I cooked my dumplings for an hour, not the original 30 minutes.
The modifications I made are as follows:
-I used Italian chicken sausage because that’s what I prefer, and I know exactly where it is in the grocery store
-I only used 1/2 an onion
I passed this recipe along to my friend Melissa, who mentioned that they wouldn’t be able to use the cheese tortellini because of a lactose allergy. She mentioned try a spinach tortellini or meat. I bet the spinach tortellini would be excellent with it!
I tried the whole “New Years Resolution” thing numerous times. I succeeded once and failed miserably more times than I can count. Instead, I like setting tangible goals for myself. A checklist of sorts. Why? Because I love lists. I love being able to cross something off and that sense of accomplishment that comes with it. So, without further adieu, here are my (Emily) goals for 2012.
~Have a baby, bring him home, and love him like crazy!
I could seriously stop there, but of course there are other things I’d like to accomplish in the new year (and of course these are in no particular order)
~Never fail to let Joe know how much I love and appreciate him
~Be as prepared as possible for birth-especially when it comes to relaxation techniques
~Study God’s word more
~Put together a nursery
~Turn the tv off more…especially when its on simply for background noise
~Cook, on average, one new thing a month (obviously post natal will be a little more challenging)
~Get more serious about couponing. This past year I’ve slacked off, and once I will be a SAHM, I really need to have my act together
~Go to the gym twice a week
~Declutter, which shouldn’t be hard considering I’ve entered into the nesting phase (more to come in another post)
~Stock our freezer with meals for after the baby is born
~Make at least 8 new things this year from my list:
- Sourdough bread (I’m going to ask my friend Rebekah for her recipe because hers is SO good!)
Shower cleanerFinished, January 2012
- Curtains for our bonus room
- It Is Well sign (I need to get contact paper that I can peel off)
- Decorative fan for nursery
- Menu board
- New bag
- More grocery bags
- Burp cloths for boys, since all I have left in my stash is girly!
- Casserole carrier
- Prayer board
- Ironing board cover
- Hanging gift wrap organizer
- Curtains for the nursery
~Read at least 15 books in 2012 from my list of books I want to read:
The Bradley Method of Natural ChildbirthFinished, January 2012
- Natural Hospital Birth- The Best of Both Worlds
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Bringing Up BoysFinished, January 2012
- Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus
- The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children
- Blogger Behave: Make You Blog Benefit Your Life, So You Can Love Both
QuitterFinished, January 2012
- The Happiness Project
Crazy LoveFinished January 2012
- The Joy of Pregnancy
- Still Growing: An Autobiography
- unSweetined: A Memoir
Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and The Things We’ve Made UpFinished, January 2012 Thats My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of CharacterFinished, January 2012
- Born to Run
The Christian Mama’s Guide to Havinga Baby: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Your PregnancyFinished, January 2012 My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 WifeFinished, January 2012
- The Resolution for Women
- A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others
- The Air I Breathe
Organized SimplicityFinished, January 2012
- Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
(I’m quite thankful for my new Kindle Fire. I get a short time of free access to the Amazon Lending Library, in which I’ll be able to borrow at least two of the books above for free!)
*I am going to frequent this post to check off things as I accomplish them! I will post monthly or quarterly updates!*
What goals are you setting for yourself in 2012?
Its that time again! The time that my apron, stand mixer, and stove/oven get a workout! Problem is, this year my time is very limited! In fact, I doubt I’ll get to everything I want to accomplish. I’d love to be able to make lots of goodies for those I work with, the people Joe works with, neighbors, and friends. However, I’m having to be selective.
This Saturday I’m making a turkey, and probably some stuffing to go along with it, for our Sunday school Christmas party. Normally I would shy away from the savory dishes, and especially the main course type dishes. However, I’m diving in and doing my first solo turkey. Last year my mom and I worked together on the turkey and it turned out beautifully. Hopefully I can achieve the same results on my own! If not, we’ll be making a run to Bojangles for some fried chicken!
As for the rest of my culinary creations, I just finished working on a batch of bacon chocolate chip cookies. They are soooo good! The ooey, gooey sweet chocolate combined with the saltiness of the bacon…so mouth watering! Joe is excited to get home and have one!
I’m also planning on doing at least one batch of chocolate covered peanut butter balls, maybe a batch of salted caramels, and some mint chocolate brownies with the mint chocolate I bought on our layover in Germany. Hopefully it will all get accomplished. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up!