Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

There really is a pork chop in there, I promise. ;)

I decided to take a spin on a classic favorite of ours, Stuffed Pork Chops, adding in some chopped apples and saute'd onion and celery. It was fantastic, and the whole family enjoyed this meal. Even our son, who will eat any vegetable, but put one bite of meat in front of him and he gags. He wasn't too fond of the pork chops (no surprise) but he told me several times that he loved the stuffing. I'm happy to receive any compliment about supper from him, even if it's reserved for just the stuffing.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

1 box stuffing mix (I used low sodium chicken flavor)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 boneless pork loin chops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place chops in baking dish. Meanwhile, prepare stuffing according to package directions, and cook celery and onion in a skillet with olive oil. Stir chopped apple, cooked celery and onion, and chicken broth into stuffing. Scoop stuffing onto tops of pork chops. Cover with foil; bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil; return baking dish to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until stuffing is lightly browned.

Turn this into a slow cooker meal: Do not cook the stuffing or vegetables. Instead, mix together the stuffing mix, chopped celery, onion, apple with 1/4 cup butter or margarine and 1 cup chicken broth. Place half the stuffing mixture into bottom of a 3-qt slow cooker. Place chops on top, then cover with remainng stuffing mixture. Cover and cook on low setting for 6-8 hours or until pork chops are done.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Garden Update: New Life


broccolli, cauliflower

spring mix lettuce



March Freezer Cooking Day Recap

I had a great time cooking this past Saturday. I kind of cheated, though. I had cooked the chicken up as I bought it, so the chicken meat was already in the freezer. I didn't actually cook the chicken meals, just the meat. But it saved me a heap of time on my big freezer meal cooking day, and I finished in record time!

I still had plenty of main dishes to work with, though. The meat, of course, has been in the freezer, so to thaw it, I put it on a cardboard box or garbage bag on the kitchen floor. It's not the prettiest site, but it works for me, and catches any condensation. I put a couple bags of pork chops in the fridge to thaw in there, though. I was in need of a couple ingredients and figured I'd pick them up after the kids went to bed and finish these chops on Sunday evening.
By the end of my freezer cooking day, my freezer was pretty packed with meals for the next month, plus. I think that I can fit a few things in there still, what do you think? :)

Wok's For Dinner: Broccoli Baked Potatoes

This meal wasn't on the menu plan, but we had company come over for dinner Sunday evening, and one of the guests was a vegetarian. I couldn't in good conscience serve Mu Shu Pork, although I know our other guest would have loved it. So I pulled out one of our favorite vegetarian meal recipes. Of course, you can make this completely vegetarian, or not, whatever suits your tastes. We planned this meal potato bar style and let everyone "build" their poatoes with their favorite toppings.

Another great plus about this meal is that it is cheap! Doesn't cost much at all.

Broccoli Baked Potatoes

6-7 medium potatoes
1 bag frozen broccoli
1/2 cup water (or 1/4 cup milk if you like your protein)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, butter or margarine, chives or chopped green onion, etc.

Scrub potatoes clean. Make shallow slits around middle of potatoes as though you were cutting them in half lengthwise. Place in microwave and cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Pull potatoes out and set aside. Cook broccoli according to package directions (I used the steamable kind so I just stuck the bag in the microwave). Meanwhile, slice potatoes in half, and scoop the insides out, taking care to not break through the skin. Place potato insides into a large bowl. Add cooked broccoli, water or milk, salt and pepper. With an electric mixer, mash/beat potatoes and broccoli together until entire mixture is pale green with dark green flecks. Heap mixture into potato skins. Place in preheated 350-degree oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite toppings.

The verdict? Both of our guests LOVED these potatoes!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 3/29-4/4/10

Our life has just gotten busier than ever. Our son started baseball this past week, and hubs, bless his heart, signed up to be a head coach. So on top of everything else that goes on, now there will be baseball practices, games, and a whole lot of running around. Yikes! And this week alone, there is something going on every. single. day! Thankfully, I made a whole bunch of freezer meals this past weekend (more on that coming soon), so we should be able to avoid the fast food trap, at least for the next month until my next freezer meal cooking day.

Definitely gonna' be playing the "balancing act" game this week. Here's to maintaining our sanity!

Now, on to the menu plan for this week. :)

Monday--Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops, Squash
Mondays are our weekly "Family Home Evening" or FHE night, and we have a fun lesson and activity. On this night, we'll decorate Easter eggs. I also plan on making brownies for a Young Women's activity Tuesday night. Also, my daughter has an Easter party on Wednesday at her preschool, so she and I will prepare some muffins or cupcakes for her to take to her party. I'd prefer to make these Tuesday night, but I'll be out at a meeting and won't have a chance to do any baking when I get home afterwards.

Tuesday--Chicken Divan, Ants on a Log
I have a meeting at church for Young Women's (youth program for the girls). I actually get to teach the lesson. Hubs will prepare supper and have it ready for when I get home after work. That way, I can spend time with the family before going to my meeting, and I won't have to starve, which is probably what would happen if I made dinner because I probably wouldn't have it ready in time before needing to leave.

Wednesday--Grilled Pork Chops, Apple Salad, Creamed Corn
Hubs has a meeting at church on this night. Our son will have his Easter party tomorrow, so I'll have him help me make cupcakes (which he signed up for) while hubs is at his meeting.

Thursday--Sour Cream Noodle Bake, Green Beans
No one will actually have to go anywhere this evening, but we'll be busy working on chores and catching up since there's so much going on this week.

Friday--Glazed Chicken and Rice Pilaf, Mixed Vegetables
My son and hubs have baseball practice this evening. Practice is fairly early, so my daughter and I will watch for a little while, then come home and get dinner ready for when the menfolk come home.

Breakfast: Caramel Rolls
Dinner: Baby Back Bash Ribs, Sweet Corn Bread, Okra
With this day being part of Easter weekend, my daughter will not have dance class, so I get to make a homemade breakfast. We'll also spend part of the day at friends' helping them with their garden, returning a recent favor.

Breakfast: Chocolate Pancakes, Sausage Links, Hash Browns, Eggs
Dinner: Chicken and Squash
Our church will have a special broadcast this day, and one of our traditions is to make a big breakfast with all the fixin's. The kids and I normally just have the pancakes and eggs, but hubs likes to have his sausage and hash browns, too.

Stay tuned for recipes as they'll be posted throughout the week. :)

In need of some menu planning help? Visit OrgJunkie.com!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I finished up my freezer meal cooking day way early this evening, so soon after dinner, I decided to head into town for a quick trip. I went to Walgreens, where reusable bags were on sale for $0.33/ea (reg. price $0.99/ea), a deal too good to pass up.

I bought 6 bags. After paying, the cashier handed the reusable bags to me, and I immediately knew something wasn't quite right...

...I had a good laugh, so I didn't complain. ;-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Time Out For Women: A Haircut

Hello, my name is DeAna, and I'm picky about my hair.

I'm not the kind of picky that's "high maintenance" picky. I don't get my haircut every 6 weeks. I don't get a perm, or highlights, or colored.

The fact is, I don't get my hair cut. at. all.

I am so picky about my hair when I get it cut, that I have only had 1 haircut in my entire 33 years that I actually liked.

Just 1.

And that was about 12 years ago.

I went to a salon, explained what I wanted, and walked out of there with a cut that was completely different than what I asked for. So a few days later, I went to a second salon, explained what I wanted, and the beautician really tried, but she didn't exactly know how to give me the style I wanted with the type of hair I had. And sadly, she failed as well.

So a couple days afterwards, I had my 3rd haircut that week. And I cut my hair myself. And I actually loved it! That was the absolute one and only haircut that I actually liked. But I never would have achieved "the look" had I not received the previous two failures.

Another time, just two weeks before my wedding, I went to a salon to get my haircut. I explained that I was getting married and in the process of growing out my hair. I just wanted a trim and a bit of a style. I left with the shortest haircut I had ever had. I think she knocked off a good 6 inches instead of just 1. I was devastated. I had to go with "the wet look" just to get my hair to lay down. It was a rough couple of months for me.

One time, my husband decided to send me to get highlights in my hair as a birthday present. $80 later, I had 3 different highlights in my hair, and my hair color had not changed a bit. It didn't take! Tell that to the haircut lady who said, "It looks great." And I was gullible enough to believe her and let her take my money.

I'm not one to hop up and get a haircut. I prefer to just wash 'n go in the mornings. I just don't have time to blow dry, curl, straighten, whatever. My hair just doesn't cooperate very well, so to do anything with it is time-consuming. I've got extremely thick hair, a cowlick above my forehead, and a natural wave that refuses to lay down in any direction that makes sense. I'm not good with the "terminology" so it's hard to describe what I want, and even when I take in a picture, the beautician (is that still an appropriate job title?) can never get it right because my hair doesn't cooperate no matter which way it goes.

So I just don't like getting my hair cut at all. I dread it. I put it off. I think of other things that the money could go to. Pajamas for the kids. Groceries. Gas for the car. Money that could be saved for a rainy day. I could go on and on.

I realize that this logic is not very logical. I know that, really, it's a matter of finding a stylist who really cares and sticking with her so she gets used to my hair and what works best for me.

And certainly, not getting my haircut like I should definitely doesn't set a good example for my little girl. She is what you might call a "girlie girl" loving all things pink, purple (her favorite color), sparkly, flowery--girlie.

I've cut her hair every few months ever since she had her first cut. But I've never taken her to the salon. A couple months ago, I decided that it was high time I took her for her first beauty shop experience. But I didn't want to take just her. I wanted to take both of us and we'd have a mommy/daughter day at the salon.

It took me awhile to get up the courage time to actually go. I even invited my mother-in-law to go with us. I made an appointment at Fantastic Sam's, but hubs, who knew I'd just end up disappointed yet again, said something to his mom, who made an appointment for me with her beautician at another salon--a real "beauty shop."

I was really, really nervous. What if I'm disappointed again? What if it's expensive? What if...?

Well, I went, I calmed down. And I like it. Mostly.

I don't "like it, like it" but I definitely don't dislike it.

My daughter grabbed my face and said, "You look beautiful, Mommy." She insisted on taking my picture. Quite the close-up. I realize now that I should have put on some make-up other than lipstick before leaving the house that day.

Now I need to buy a hair-straightener if I'm to keep this look.
I think I'll go back. Maybe in 3-6 months, instead of 1 year.

How about you? Do you take care of your hair and get it cut frequently? Got any tried & true mommy tips for how to keep this mop on top my head tame without it costing me an arm, a leg, and my sanity?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Oven Barbecued Chicken

I took the above picture on my February freezer meal cooking day. These looked soooo good, I just had to capture the baked-in goodness. I took the chicken meat off the bones, and froze the meat. It tasted super good when we had it for supper Wednesday night, but the picture of de-boned chicken breast meat wasn't nearly as appealing. Good thing I still had this picture!

Oven Barbecued Chicken

2-3 large split chicken breasts
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken, skin sides up, in ungreased rectangular pan. Mix remaining ingredients together; pour over chicken. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes longer or until juices of chicken run clear.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spectacular Sides: Orange Salad

This salad is a fresh alternative to a traditional tossed salad, with the added benefit of making your own dressing. :)
Orange Salad

1 head lettuce, trimmed and torn in pieces
1 small/medium onion, minced
2 naval oranges
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Place torn lettuce leaves into large bowl.

Add chopped onion.
Squeeze juice of one orange into bowl. Stir in olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Peel 2nd orange, cut into wedges, and serve on top of salad. Tastes great with or without your favorite dressing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bargain Buys & Bulk Meat Purchase

I swung by Food Lion this evening to take advantage of a couple last minute deals before the sale ends and the new sale week begins. I was shocked & very pleased to see an unadvertised sale for green onions--only $0.50 a bunch!

I also bought THE LARGEST beef roast I've ever bought in my life, over 5lbs! It was on sale for $1.87/lb, but this particular roast had been marked down to $1.68/lb. I think there's enough meat on this roast to last us a week! lol Seriously, though, I'll definitely get several meals out of this roast. My March freezer menu is already set, so I'll use this roast meat in my April freezer menu. I'll cut the meat into meal-size portions Wednesday night, then freeze it in some food saver bags. I'm estimating that I'll get about 6 meals out of this roast.

Naval oranges were also on sale, 8lbs for just $3.99! The oranges were huge and will make a great snack, or even a side dish, for the family. :)

I got both of these packages of sausage links at IGA this past weekend. The deal was too good not to mention--both packages were marked down to $0.89 each! I'll use one of these packages in the Sausage Crescents I plan on making for breakfast in the next month. And I'll save the 2nd package for a later date.

Have you snagged any bargains this week? Please feel free to share your bargain buys by posting a comment or link to your blog! :)

To-Do Tuesday: Week 11

Last week, I was feeling really motivated. I didn't put much on the To-Do List, but I ended up accomplishing WAY more than I had thought I would. We even managed to get a jump-start on expanding our garden size, something I thought we had given up even trying to do.

But I'm kind of in a slump this week. I really don't want to do much of anything. *sigh* I guess we all have our highs and lows. Still, things gotta' get done around the house or else this place will look like a dump!
  • √Crop 'til I drop at the monthly scrapbooking night. Last month, I did a total of 18 12x12 pages! A definite record for me, considering I usually average 8-10 pages on a typical crop night.
  • √Sit down with son and get him to commit to exactly what type of birthday he wants. He first wanted to have a party at the skating rink, and that's been on his wish list for about 6 months now. But last week, he went on a father-son camp out with his dad, so now he wants to go camping for his birthday. It just so happens that our church has a second father-son camp out on our son's birthday, so it is quite feasible that hubs and Little Man will go. But we need to decide if he still wants a party with friends at the skating rink or maybe have a party at the park the day after the camp-out. Decisions, decisions.
  • √Dust/vacuum. I feel like I just did this! I've been trying to stick to a chore chart, with a specific chore to tackle each week, and spot cleaning as needed for other cleaning chores. It's rough sticking to a chore chart! But it's the only way I can stay on top of all the little messes that my loving family shares with me. :)

What's on your own "To-Do list"? Visit Lisa at Crazy Adventures in Parenting to link your list!

A Better Breakfast: Pumpkin Bread

I can't take much credit for this particular breakfast. Really, I owe it all to Libby's. I bought a pumpkin bread kit several months ago when I found it on sale and happened to have a really great coupon. I spent about $1 buying the kit that day. I decided that pumpkin bread would make a really tasty breakfast, and since the kit made enough for two loaves, I knew that I'd have enough for a few breakfasts, instead of just one.

I used both my stone loaf pan, and my breadmaker. The stoneware cooked the bread in about 65 minutes, but the breadmaker took 1 1/2 hrs. Either way, the house smelled sooooo good!

And the pumpkin bread? Heaven!

Guest Post at Melissa's Bargain Blog

My great friend Melissa invited me to guest post about frugal freezer meal planning at her blog, Melissa's Bargain Blog. With her "extreme couponing" and her now $35 weekly grocery budget, Melissa is one of my heroes. ;)

You can view my guest post by clicking here and reading up on how you can prepare for your freezer meal cooking day, plus save money in the process.

While you're at it, make sure to take a peek at Melissa's blog. She's got tons of thrifty tips, plus scenarios to help you get the biggest bang for your buck at the store. Not to mention, she just announced a giveaway for a chance to win 2 free bags of Mahatma rice!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Pork and Broccoli Risotto

I've only made this on a couple of occasions. I like that it's a stir-fry, but it doesn't taste like a stir fry. Tonight, I used cooked, shredded pork roast that I pulled from the freezer, saving me time from cooking the pork. I originally planned on having this meal for dinner Friday night, but hubs took our son on a father/son camp-out our church was had, so it was just Little Miss and me. I didn't care to make a large meal for the two of us, so I decided to make this for dinner on Sunday night since we didn't have any Corned Beef leftover to make sammies.

Pork and Broccoli Risotto

1 lb cooked pork roast, shredded
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups broccoli florets
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
grated Parmesan

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute' broccoli, bell pepper, garlic and onion in oil 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Turn heat to low. Stir in pork, Worcestershire, salt & pepper. Simmer until heated through 5-10 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked rice; sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Wok's For Dinner: Sweet 'n' Sour Pork Chops

Here's another Taste of Home recipe that became an instant hit with our family. I can't think of any TOH recipe we've tried that we didn't like. Hubs surprised me by MAKING SUPPER and then TAKING A PICTURE OF OUR MEAL! He is the photographic novice, but it still brought a smile to my face at his kindness and thoughtfulness. The chops were a freezer meal that I prepared last month and stuck in the freezer. They thawed out in the fridge, so he just heated them up in the microwave. Still, he prepared the broccoli/cheese rice and the mixed vegetables all by himself. What a guy!

The oiginal recipe serves 6. I scaled it back to fit our family's size (the kids are 3 & almost 6 and definitely don't eat a whole pork chop, not even between the two of them).

Sweet 'n' Sour Pork Chops (serves 3; adapted from recipe at Taste of Home)

3 boneless pork loin chops
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/8 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water

Sprinkle pork chops with pepper. Cook pork over medium heat in a nonstick skillet for 4-6 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove and keep warm. Add the water, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce to skillet; stir to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and cold water until smoothe; stir into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Return chops to the pan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wok's For Dinner: Li'l Cheddar Meat Loaves

This is a Taste of Home recipe, and it is good! It became an instant hit with our family the first time we tried it, and I haven't made a traditional loaf of meatloaf since.

Li'l Cheddar Meat Loaves

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup (4oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb ground beef
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp prepared mustard

In a large bowl, whisk egg and milk. Stir in the cheese, oats, onion and salt. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 8 loaves (I usually end up with 9 loaves); place in a grease 13x9-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard; spoon over loaves. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until no pink in the middle.

Menu Plan Monday: 3/22-3/28/10

Last week, I was feeling really motivated and eager to get some things done around the house. It was a busy week for us, but I still managed to do a lot, include working out in our garden Saturday afternoon. A glance at this week's calendar indicates another busy week. You know, we only have 2 kids. What would it be like if we had 3 or 4?

Here's what's on the menu for this week. I'll post the recipes during the week, so check back often. :)

Monday--Sweet 'n Sour Pork Chops, Rice Threads, Peas & Carrots
Mondays are our weekly "Family Home Evening" or FHE nights. We have a special lesson and activity, sing songs, make a dessert. Each member of the family has a responsibility (titles we call songer--picks out the songs, snacker--picks out the snack, prayer--says the prayers, reader--reads from the scriptures). For our activity, instead of sending out Easter cards, I'll have the kids color an Easter picture and we'll send those out to their grandparents & great-grandparents.

Tuesday--Don't Know the Name But It's Delicious
I have to leave soon after work to go to a meeting at church and I won't get home until late in the evening. Hubs gets to prepare supper and play "meals on wheels," delivering my food to me as I leave work. I've tried planning side dishes for the Tuesday night meal because this is typically his cooking night anyways, but he always ends up making something else. So rather than waste my time, I'll let him decide what to have with this meal since that's what he'll end up doing anyways.

Wednesday--Oven Barbecue Chicken, Baked Beans, Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday--Preschool Spirit Night @ Chick-Fil-A

Friday--Hubs & the kids are on their own
Girls' night out! This is my monthly scrapbooking night.

Saturday--Adobong Baboy (Pork Cooked in a Pickling Style), Green Beans, Cantaloupe
My freezer meal cooking day! It seems like my last cooking day was so long ago, but it was just last month. I've just been preparing for this one for what feels like forever. If you missed my freezer menu for March, you can click here to view it.

Breakfast: Oatmeal Pancakes
Dinner: Mu Shu Pork, Rice, Oranges

For hundreds of menu plan options, visit OrgJunkie.com!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garden Buddies

It all started a couple weeks ago. We were with friends, talking about gardening. Last year was a first gardening experience for both of our families, and we were comparing notes about how things went and what we want to do differently.

We jokingly commented about working in each other's gardens. Then had an epiphany--helping each other out by working in each other's gardens was a perfect idea!

Hubs and I had gotten a jump start on our garden this year, planting seeds in Jiffy pots, which were growing like crazy already. So we agreed to start our garden first, and scheduled a helping day at our friends' house a couple weeks out.

Today was a bright, warm, glorious first day of Spring day, perfect for garden work! Hubs decided after all to expand our garden size, actually tripling the size of our garden from just under 500sq ft to 1500 sq ft, actually larger than our house. You can see in the picture below where the original garden is, with our cabbage and the rest of the broccoli growing.

Our wonderful friends showed up shortly after lunch, and we were soon working the shovels and tearing up the tough ground. There were a lot of tree roots, which slowed down our progress. But we managed to get a good section of the ground dug up, and grass, weed & tree roots pulled out and thrown into a pile to be sent to compost.

The kids for both families liked helping us relocate the earthworms we found as we were digging up roots, but other than that, they enjoyed each other's company and had fun playing. Occasionally, one or two would come and help throw roots into the pile. Our friends' oldest is 12 and he even helped work the shovel for a spell.

Ah, nothing like a hard day's work. And two men "sleeping" on the job while the womenfolk are still pulling up grass, weed & tree roots! lol

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