Friday, October 16, 2009

Family Night: Halloween

Our family has a weekly "Family Home Evening" in which we set aside time to do something as a family, usually on the same night each week but subject to change depending on the calendar. Sometimes we play games, sometimes we watch a movie. We try to do something different each time, and definitely try to do something that's going to involve the entire family.

This week, I was determined to get up the Halloween decorations. My kids had been eye-balling a gel cling I bought a few weeks ago, begging me to let them put it up on one of our windows. So I decided to do a little "multi-tasking" by incorporating the Halloween decorations into our family night.

So I grabbed the Halloween tote from the attic and the kids just went nuts once they saw me with it. For the first time ever, I let them handle the decorations! Gasp!! The rules regarding my holiday decorations have always been "hands off," something the kids are very familiar with.

But I made an exception this time.

I figured it was a chance worth taking.


Well, let's just say that nothing got broken, and the kids didn't lose any limbs. :) lol They thoroughly enjoyed pulling the decorations out of the tote and helping me place them around the room. And hubs and I enjoyed their enthusiasm and eagerness to help. It was a great family night and opportunity to strengthen our bond.

My son tried so hard to keep his eyes open!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wok's For Dinner: Skinny Nachos

Tonight's meal was inspired by this recipe, BOCA "Skinny" Nachos. I had purchased a couple packages of meatless crumble a few months ago that's been sitting in my freezer, and when I found this recipe, it just seemed to be the right fit for one of my bags of meatless crumble. Plus, it sounded like a really healthy recipe, especially one that was quick & easy! But since I worked a nearly 12-hour day today, I made several modifications to the recipe. I was simply not in the mood for anything complicated. That's what nearly 12 hours on your feet will do to you. :)

Skinny Nachos

1 pkg meatless crumble meal starter
1/2 cup water
1/2 pkg taco seasoning mix (I used Old El Paso 40% less sodium)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 can Rotel-style tomatoes & chiles

Place frozen meatless crumble into a large skillet. Stir to help thaw & heat up. Add water and all seasonings. Let simmer several minutes. Add tomatoes & chiles, stir until mixture is heated throughout. Serve on tortilla chips with shredded cheese and sour cream.

So this was the perfect "go to" meal. Quick. Easy. Uncomplicated. Right up my alley for tonight! And it tasted great, too!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I found this recipe in the May/June 2009 Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious magazine that I got for free earlier this year. The original recipe says to use ground beef; I used ground sausage instead to give it more of an Italian sausage flavor (this is supposed to be like pizza, after all :). Here's my version:

Pizza Pasta Toss

2 cups uncooked pasta, your choice (I used straight macaroni)
1 lb ground sausage, beef, or turkey
1 can sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
4-1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the meat, mushrooms, bell pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the diced tomato, pepperoni, sugar and seasonings; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Drain pasta; stir into meat mixture and heat through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese when serving.

If freezing: Prepare as directed, omitting the Parmesan. Place pasta mixture into a gallon-size freezer bag, seal and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Heat in microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Serve with grated Parmesan.

We all loved this meal, especially my daughter, who literally inhaled hers then proceeded to ask for seconds. What a surprise result! Even my husband commented that this was a really good meal. It isn't every day that such compliments from my kids & husband get sent my way!! I will definitely need to write this recipe down in the family cookbook. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Melissa's Public Service Announcement

My friend Melissa was mugged this past weekend--in broad daylight at 9am in the morning--in a busy grocery store parking lot, no less. Quite scary, considering what could have happened.

Please click here to read up on Melissa's experience. She posted a few articles about staying safe in parking lots. Something to consider the next time you are out running errands.

Stay safe & be super careful, everybody!

Freezer Meals Tools Of The Trade: Food Processors

When it comes to making my monthly freezer meals, I don't know where I'd be without my food processor. It's not a very big one, but it definitely comes in handy. Hubs bought it for me several years ago as a Christmas present. I had developed quite a sensitivity to onions and would cry as soon as I started peeling them.

Chopping and dicing onions was extremely difficult; my eyes would burn like the dickens. So the little food processor my hubbie bought me was an absolute life saver.

Although the intent of the little food processor was for chopping onions, I use it for many more things. Here's a little list:

Nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, etc.)
Whole green chiles (I've found the cans of whole green chiles are cheaper than the cans of diced green chiles)

I use the food processor for onions about 90% of the time, but it's nice knowing that I have other uses for it. It's a definite time-saver for my freezer meal cooking days, and I'm all about finding ways to shave some time on those days!

Wok's For Dinner: Chicken With Mexican Mole Sauce

The first, and I think only, time I had Chicken Mole was in my Junior year of college. I was a Student Worker in the Custodial Services office, and one employee brought Chicken Mole to an office party. I loved how it tasted, and I was really surprised that it was made with chocolate. So when I was planning my September freezer menu, I did some searches to find a good-tasting Chicken Mole recipe, since it had been on my mind for some time. And this is the recipe that I found and worked with to create tonight's meal.

Chicken With Mexican Mole Sauce

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (10.75oz) condensed tomato soup
1 can (4oz) diced green chile peppers

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook the onion and garlic in the oil until tender. Mix in cocoa powder and cumin. Stir in the tomato soup, green chile peppers and cooked chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, over and simmer 10 minutes. Serve.

If freezing: After simmering, place all ingredients into a gallon-size freezer bag, squeeze out air, and seal. Flatten bag out and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Place chicken mixture into a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a paper towel, and heat in microwave 4-5 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

This was fairly good. It smelled just like enchiladas when I heated it up, but it didn't taste like enchiladas. It wasn't quite like what I remember, but then again, the last time I had Chicken Mole was about 13 years ago. I liked it, but I think it would be one of those meals that gets made like once or twice a year at the most, at least this particular recipe. It could have used some seasoning, so I would add 1/2 to 1 tsp salt and some ground pepper next time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday--10/12-10/18/09

I have had one CRAZY weekend! We finally had the yard sale yesterday. It started out Friday night with setting up everything on 12-8ft tables we borrowed from church. My husband and father-in-law erected a clothes-hanging system out of rope, PVC pipe and metal pipe so we could hang clothes. But my sister-in-law had a whopper of a load of stuff to get rid of, and she showed up late and hadn't priced anything out. My mother-in-law and I helped her as much as we could, and at 3am my MIL called it quits and went to bed. My sister-in-law and I, on the other hand, didn't make it and stayed up the remainder of the night. We finally had all her things unpacked and out on the table (some of it priced, but not all) by 5:30am. The yard sale was supposed to start at 7am, but our first customer showed up at 6:30am. Once the sun came up, though, it was a nonstop adventure with customers galore. Our yard sale was absolutely huge, not just with everything we were selling, but also with the number of customers. We had customers telling us they heard about our yard sale from other customers who had visited. As we were trying to end the yard sale and put things away, we still had people showing up to buy things, and this was at about 2pm! Finally, it started raining, and that put a halt on any more yard-selling, thankfully! We made a whopper of a profit, especially my sister-in-law, she really raked it in. But because of the rain, we had to wait until this afternoon to finish putting things away and taking it to Good Will. We took a truck and trailer full of bags and boxes of stuff that didn't sell. Literally, we could have had another yard sale. It was a profitable weekend, but my head is really fuzzy from the lack of sleep. I'm so glad that's over!

Anyhow, on to the menu plan for this week! I'll post the recipes throughout the week. Here's what's on the menu:

Monday--Chicken with Mexican Mole Sauce, Sweet Corn Bread, Carrot & Celery Sticks

Tuesday--Pizza Pasta Toss, Salad

Wedesday--Boca Skinny Nachos, Squash

Thursday--German Pork Roast With Roasted Vegetables

Friday--Scrapbooking night, so hubs is on his own!

Saturday--Moroccan Chicken Thighs, Couscous, Carrots

Sunday--Turkey Burgers, Cream Corn, Garlic Green Beans

For all the best menu plans, visit!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Free Earrings At Darcus Tori!

If you're looking for an inexpensive Christmas idea, or something nice for yourself, click here to visit Darcus Tori jewelers and claim your free pair of round Black Onyx stud earrings, 6mm, on sterling silver posts. After adding the earrings to your cart, and use promotion code 0801. Just pay $5.95 for shipping. Still a great deal! Darcus Tori offers a different free pair each month. I've ordered several pairs of earrings that I told myself would be a Christmas gift, but ended up gifting to myself!

Earn Points & Prizes at SheKnows

One of my favorite places to get free goodies is at She Knows Points & Prizes. It's kind of like MyPoints in that you can can earn points that you then redeem for prizes. Sign up for as many or as little She Knows newsletters that will be sent to your email inbox. In each newsletter is a keyword that's worth points. The key words change week to week. You can also find keywords on some of the She Knows partner websites. When you find a keyword, enter it into your account on the Points & Prizes website to earn points. As your points rack up, you can redeem them for prizes such as baby gear, kitchen aids, books, DVDs, exercise helps and more.

Another perk about Points & Prizes is they have contests and a blog to let you know about "Freebies, Coupons & Contests" available out there. Saves you from having to do the work yourself!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Add Flavor, Not Calories: Garlic/Parsley

Who needs gravy when there are herbs and vegetables that will add flavor to your favorite dish? Dousing your meats with a rich sauce or melted cheese can make your meal more appealing, but it certainly isn't the healthy route. Here's a great way to add flavor to your next meal.

You can make your chicken FABULOUS just by adding these two ingredients. Smash 1 clove garlic on a cutting board with the flat side of a large knife. Sprinkle the garlic with a little salt and a few drops of olive oil (about 1/4 tsp but no more). Chop the garlic repeatedly until it forms a paste. Combine the garlic paste with 1 Tbsp parsley flakes. Rub the mixture onto a boneless, skinless chicken breast (or fish fillet, shrimp, your choice!). Broil or roast the chicken or your cut of meat at 450 degrees or grill until done. Voila! A healthy, flavorful and guilt-free meal for you and your family. Enjoy! ;)

Wok's For Dinner: Lemon Grilled Chicken

I'm realizing more and more that I am my mother's daughter. She could never stick with a recipe and was always experimenting or trying something different. It used to drive me crazy! Growing up, I loved my grandma's Goulash, but whenever I asked my mom to make it, she'd prepare it a completely different way so that it was no longer Grandma's Goulash, but something completely different. I used to be a stickler for sticking to a recipe, but since I started once a month cooking and trying new recipes, I find myself experimenting and creating my own versions of someone else's recipes, instead of staying true to the recipe. Like the Turkey and Bean Tostatdas the other night that became Turkey and Bean Tacos instead. The same is true for tonight's meal. It was supposed to be grilled, but since I had SO many meals to make on my September once a month cooking day, I simply did not want to bother with the grill and baked this meal instead of cooking it. Now baking instead of grilling isn't that much of a recipe change, but I have actually irked myself by following in my mother's footsteps and changing up the recipe! Is that such a bad thing? I hope it isn't, so please forgive me if the steps I choose to take in preparing a good and nutritious meal come across as misleading. One of the purposes of this blog is trying to find balance in my crazy, busy life, and sometimes that means prioritizing how I go about making dinner. :)

Lemon Grilled Chicken

1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cloe garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley plus extra sprigs for garnish (I don't have fresh parsley, so I used 1 Tbsp dried parsley and no garnish)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Grate half of the lemon peel to make about 1 Tbsp zest. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl. In a large bowl, comine the lemon zest and juice, oil, garlic, parsley, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl and spoon the marinade over the chicken until well coated. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes, or overnight if you have time. Preheat grill to medium heat. Put the chicken pieces on the grill racks, reserving marinade. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes on each side. Brush with reserved marinade 2-3 times during cooking. Or, instead of grilling, you can do like I did and bake the chicken for 30 minutes or until cooked through in a 350-degree oven.

If freezing: Cook chicken as indicated above. Place into a food saver bag and seal. Freeze; thaw 24 hours in refrigerator; heat in microwave on a microwave-safe plate & serve with your favorite sides. :)

My son, who is not what you'd call a "meat eater", actually loved his chicken and surprised me by not only eating all that was on his plate, but also requesting seconds and eating all of that as well! I will certainly have to remember this recipe for future menu planning.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Goody Bag

I always love getting free stuff--be it freebies in my mailbox, or coupons to help me save money. I like checking the forums at and Points and Prizes to find some of the best deals out there.

  • Free sample of Nautica Oceans (men's cologne) over here
  • Treat your feet to Kerasal Exfoliating Foot Ointment with a FREE sample here. You'll also receive a coupon with your sample.
  • FREE Military Appreciation dinner Monday, 11/16/09, at Golden Corral. Click here for details.
  • Creation Festival The Tour has 10 free iTunes downloads available here.
  • Free Precious Places: The Princesses Save The Ball DVD from Fisher Price over here.
  • Click here to download Free Precious Moments and Cherished Teddies cross stitch charts.
  • Toys R Us has free Toy Story printable coloring sheets here.
  • Click here for a free sample of soy peanut butter.
  • Summit Plastic Co. has Free planting supplies available here.


  • Get a 20% off coupon for Big Lots! over here. Valid 10/5/09-10/10/09.

Wok's For Dinner: Turkey and Bean Tacos

This was originally supposed to be Turkey and Bean Tostadas, but I'm still not 100% over this sinus infection, and so I just didn't want to bother with baking the tortillas to make tostadas. So I changed it up a bit and we had tacos instead, which worked out fine since they are easier for the kids to eat than the tostadas would have been.

Turkey and Bean Tacos

6 flour tortillas
1 lb ground turkey
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2/3 cup water
1 can chili beans in sauce, undrained
Toppings of your choice: we had shredded leettuce, shredded four cheese blend, diced tomato (fresh from our garden!), diced avocado, and sour cream

Cook ground turkey in skillet, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning, water an chili beans; heat until hot. Divide turkey mixture evenly among tortillas. Top with your favorite taco toppings.

If freezing: Prepare ground turkey as directed above. Once turkey is cooked, add taco seasoning, water and chili beans. After mixture is heated through, allow to cool then place in quart-size freezer bag and place in freezer after sealing. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Heat in skillet or saucepan and serve on tortillas.

I have to say, I really liked this meal. I don't usually put beans on my tacos, but I liked them with this meal. My daughter helped make the tacos and "built" them herself--adding all the toppings. I just put on the taco meat since it was hot. It made a great freezer meal for me, and the whole family gobbled their tacos up. This is one recipe that will go in our list of favorites.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday:10/5-10/11

Who knew a sinus infection would put me out of commission as much as it has this past week?? Seriously, I had a headache for nearly a week straight. Thank goodness for a strong antibiotic and a nice relaxing weekend. :) Here's what's on our menu for this coming week:

Monday--Turkey and Bean Tostadas & Toppings

Tuesday--Greek Lemon Chicken, Broccoli, Bountiful Butternut Squash

Wednesday--Mac & Beef, Pears, Green Beans

Thursday--Impossibly Easy Chicken Pot Pie, Cottage Cheese

Friday--Shriner's Fish Fry
I had this on last week's menu, but I completely looked at the flyer wrong and thought the fish fry was a week earlier than it actally is.

Saturday--Barbecue Ribs, Corn on the Cob, Green Beans

Sunday--Sausage Pancakes, Eggs, Fresh Fruit

For hundreds of menu plan options, visit!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Out of Commission...Sort Of

I apologize that I haven't been very active on the blog for a couple of days. My allergies have really been bothering me for over a week, and I ended up developing a sinus infection. I played it smart and went to a doctor today, who loaded me up with all types of medicines, including a strong antibiotic. So hopefully, I'll nip this illness in the bud quickly. For now, Hubs has ordered me to take it easy and rest on the couch. I think I'll take his advice. :)

It's been "go go go" trying to get ready for a yard sale this weekend, only to find out that the weatherman is predicting the weather will turn sour the day of our planned yard sale. So we're postponing it one week. Good thing, too, since I'm dealing with this sinus infection and not feeling so hot.

So I will be back very soon with more recipes & family helps. Stay tuned!

Wok's For Dinner: Garden Ranch Pasta Salad With Chicken

This was a really "fresh" meal, not too heavy at all. I got my inspiration from this recipe at Betty Crocker. I turned it into a meal by adding some cooked chicken.

Garden Ranch Pasta Salad With Chicken

1 box ranch & bacon style pasta salad mix
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1 bag frozen broccoli (I used the microwave steamable kind)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper, cut into strips (I used a red bell pepper from our garden that I had sliced and popped into the freezer)
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

Empty pasta mix into large saucepan full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well. In a medium bowl, mix ranch & bacon pasta salad seasoning mix with Ranch dressing and dill weed. Stir in pasta and chicken. Steam broccoli in microwave for about 3 minutes (the instructions said 4-5 minutes, but I didn't want them piping hot for the pasta salad). To cook the red bell pepper strips, I used a Ziploc steamer bag that I got as a free sample. I steamed the bell pepper for 3 minutes in the microwave, which was just long enough to soften the bell pepper up really good. After broccoli & bell pepper are cooked up, mix them into the pasta salad. Serve with your favorite side dish.

If freezing: Prepare the chicken ahead of time. Cook in boiling water, or saute' in a skillet with a little olive oil. After cooked through, shred or chop chicken, place in freezer bag or food saver and freeze. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator. Prepare as indicated above.

I went ahead & prepared this meal in the morning before going to work. My daughter helped me by mixing the seasonings together with the salad dressing. I figured refrigerating it would help all the flavors blend together during the day and it'd be good & chilled by the time we ate it later in the evening. I really liked this pasta dish. It would make a great dinner in the Summer time when the weather is warmer. We had a front come through, cooling off the temperature quite a bit, and because of it, Hubs complained a bit that it was too cold outside to have a cold supper (I think he was more interested in a hearty chili or stew). Other than that, we all enjoyed it!