Thursday, August 28, 2008

WEDNESDAY: Leftover Magic

Once again, I'm late with my Wednesday post :o( The kiddos have started getting up with the sun and going to bed at the same time as dh & I so posting will be much slower until that changes, since I have a hard time writing while listening to enthusiastic children chatter about their passion du jour. :o)

My friend Melanie has several great blogs and she also blogs for Prevention. Her recent post at Prevention inspired this leftover post. She blogged about how they cook their homemade pizza (brilliant!), and pizza is a great use for leftovers. Almost anything can make a great pizza topping. For example, when we have leftover chicken, it will often find itself on top of a pizza. One of our two favorites is BBQ Chicken Pizza, which combines shredded chicken, BBQ sauce and purple onions (which we often have in the fridge) plus cheddar cheese. The other is Chicken Alfredo Pizza which includes shredded chicken, a white sauce with garlic and parmigiana, any cooked veggie (we love spinach or mixed grilled veggies) and topped with whole milk mozzarella. Yummy! Add a salad and you have a complete meal, quick, easy and frugal, not to mention delicious.

Melanie's article on Pizza shared how their family will grill their pizza outdoors to avoid heating up the house. I love this idea! Not only will the house stay cooler, but the grill will give the pizza a gourmet flavor and texture. Yummy! We're having pizza for supper and it is definitely going on the grill! Thanks Melanie :o)

Do you have any leftover combinations that you like on Pizza?

Homeschooling Idea

Something that has been fun for the boys and for me is learning about money for our Math lessons. Today, they are doing a math lesson and don't even realize it. I gave them each a handful of coins and told them that if they could count it, they could keep it. After separating each denomination, they are skip counting to determine its worth and then writing the amounts down. They will end up with a 4 row equation to add (the 5 year old will get help from big brother). I've never seen them so eager to work :o) (This is in stark contrast to the usual whining, negotiating and outright refusal to work that we sometimes get around here :o) I could really get used to this :o)

Update: They just finished and are asking to do it again :o)

Monday, August 25, 2008

MONDAY: Making Money From Home

Have you heard of MyPoints? A friend of mine referred me to MyPoints about 6 weeks ago because she had earned free movie tickets for her children just by reading emails and such. I decided to give it a try and have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly you accumulate enough points to redeem for nice gifts. I signed up about 6 weeks ago and have already earned a Starbucks gift card for my DH and am half way to movie tickets for the kids.

All I do is read the bonus emails they send, plus I also go to the website and click on "easy Points" and also I loaded the MyPoints toolbar and I use their search feature sometimes (you get points for searching :o) . You can earn points even faster by buying things from their partner sites, but I don't do that - I'm trying to earn these gifts for free :o)

I am able to refer 5 people each month. If you are interested, I'd love to refer you. All you need to do is email me at motheringwithgrace at yahoo dot com and tell me you are interested and I'll get you all set up :o)

MONDAY: Menu Plan Monday, Aug. 25th

The weekend was busy and this week looks to be crazy busy, too. While I know a menu plan helps make these kinds of weeks easier, I'm having trouble finding the time to even make a plan. Here, though, is the start of a plan.

I have pizza dough in the freezer that I can take out and defrost to make chicken alfredo pizza. I think we might even add spinach to it (yummy!). We make it with a white sauce to which we add lots of garlic and parmigiana. After rolling out the crust, we'll add the white sauce, cooked and drained spinach, cooked chicken and some yummy whole milk mozzarella and bake at 425 until golden and bubbly. We'll pair this with tomato, basil and mozzarella slices drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We're also going to have Tuna Burgers this week, and baked chicken. The details on these meals have yet to be worked out. I'll try to update this post as soon as I can inventory the pantry and freezer to plan the rest of the week.

Be sure to check out more menus at Menu plan Monday on I'm and Organizing Junkie. Also, be sure to visit our Wednesday feature Leftover Magic for ideas to use up your mid week leftovers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

WEDNESDAY: Leftover Magic

I've been sick since Sunday and yesterday, I just could not pull it together enough to post :o( I'm feeling much better today, so I figure, better late than never on the Leftover Magic post, right :o)

We're Cajun, born and raised. While we don't live in Cajun Country right now, we do still sometimes eat like a Cajun and that means rice and gravy. Here is a good use for leftover rice.

Did you know that you can make Quiche with a rice crust? Not only is this a great use for leftovers, but the rice crust has sooooo much less fat than a traditional crust. This recipe is for Spinach Quiche with a Rice Crust, but the great thing about quiche is that is is so versatile. You can take the above recipe and substitute to use what you have. For example, lets say you check your fridge and find that you have leftover rice, cheddar (or any) cheese that needs using, leftover chicken, leftover roasted veggies, some milk or cream and eggs. Right here, you have the makings of a really yummy quiche.

Start with about 1.5 cups rice, one egg and about an oz. of grated cheese. Mix it together and pat it into a pie plate. Bake at 425 for about 5 minutes or until firm. For the filling combine 2 eggs with 1 cup milk or cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place leftover meats (rinsed of any sauce) and veggies (not rinsed) on the bottom of your crust. Add a couple of ounces of cheese, then pour the egg mixture over everything in the pie pan. Bake at 350 deg for about 45 minutes or until center is firm.

If you have lots of leftover rice, you can double the recipe and bake one, and freeze the other for a quick meal on a busy night. To cook the frozen quiche, simply defrost in the fridge then pop into the oven at 350 deg for 45 minutes or so.

How do you use leftover rice?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TUESDAY: Book Review

Whether you are looking for a fun unit study or a great gift idea, Science with Magnets is a great find. And through Monday, August 25th, this great kit is only $6.73! That's half price!

This kit has everything young scientists need to perform the simple experiments from the 24-page book. Complete with 3 magnets, a compass, 5 feet of coated wire, corks, clay and paper clips, the kit will provide hours of experimentation and fun. Children can easily explore the mysteries of magnets with these safe projects.

Click the picture to learn more.

TUESDAY: Homeschooling Link

Many homeschoolers are single income families. Therefore, we need to watch our pennies. Currclick: Curriculum in a Click helps us keep our homeschooling costs down. When you order something from them, you download it and then only print what you need. I love that! And, if you subscribe to their newsletter, each week you will get a link in your inbox to a free download! Every week! Check them out :o)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

MONDAY: Menu Plan Monday, Aug. 18th

Be sure to visit every Wednesday for our new weekly feature Leftover Magic.

This week will again be pretty simple. I'm coming down with a cold, so I know I won't feel like cooking much on Monday. Our menu will reflect that. In addition, my birthday is Friday, and dh & I will be going out to dinner without the kiddos. Remember that the items in bold are locally grown or raised.

Breakfast (with milk and fruit):
Baked Oatmeal
Eggs and ham
Whole grain pancakes with homemade fruit preserves
Apple muffins

Broccoli Cheese Soup (Leftover Magic)
Turkey Roll-Ups
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Baked Potatoes topped with "your choice"

Homemade Cookies
Fruit plate
Blueberry Popsicles
Strawberry Smoothie
Fig cobbler

Tabasco Chili (from the freezer) over Frito's with cheese and sour cream and a veggie plate.

Beef Fajitas with red peppers and onions, sour cream, tomatoes and fruit.

Meatloaf (turkey) sandwich with tomato, basil and mozzarella salad

Pan fried chicken strips, purple hull peas and fruit.

Check out more menus and Menu Plan Monday on I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

THURSDAY; Gardening

Last Friday, we got the first real rain in about 6 weeks. Couple the lack of rain with the 100+ deg temps we'd had over the previous two weeks and you can imagine my garden looks rough (I'll get pics up as soon as I can). The rain on Friday and the repeat on Monday have helped start the recovery. We're still getting cukes, a few tomatoes, peppers and my current favorite, purple hull peas. The corn we planted in mid June is silking now as well, so in about 2 months, if it doesn't freeze first, we will have corn from our garden :o)

Gardening has been an interest of mine for a long time, but this is the first home we've lived in where conditions were right for a garden. We've been enjoying both the process of gardening and of course the product of our garden.

Currently, the garden contains mostly hybrid plants but we do have seeds for 2 and 3 plants that are open pollinated or heirloom plants. We have seeds (for next year) from a beautiful purple tomato and seeds for a purple bell pepper (it tastes like a cross between a sweet bell and a purple onion). We also have a watermelon plant, 28 or so purple hull peas and 32 onions that are non-hybrids.

What is the difference between a hybrid and an heirloom plant? Well, basically if you save the seeds from an heirloom, you will get another plant that looks and acts just like the parent. If you save hybrid seeds, you will get a plant that doesn't look much like the parent and that either produces little fruit or none at all. In other words, for hybrids, you must buy your seeds from a seed company every year.

Up until a few years ago, I didn't really care or understand why I would want heirloom plants. I believed that all plants were the same. But then I learned that before the industrialization of farming, we had tens of thousands of varieties of plants that were farmed and now we are down to only a handful of varieties per plant family. When you think of things in terms of eating having only a few varieties doesn't sound that bad, but when you consider the possible impact of a disaster on the existence of our species, the picture changes a little.

Relying on only a few varieties of plants is like putting all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. Should we be taking that chance with something as important as our food supply? Biodiversity is important. And many heirloom varieties of plants are close to extinction. But if we plant them and incorporate them into our diet, we help ensure that they will be around for many years to come.

If you are interested in gardening with heirloom seeds, here are a few links where you can buy them.

Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom

You can find lots more by typing heirloom seeds into a google search. You can also get seeds by trading with someone who grows them. Mention your interest in heirlooms to other gardeners who may be able to help you. You can also buy heirloom veggies at some farmers markets and save those seeds.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WEDNESDAY: Leftover Magic

I'm a reformed food waster. I used to be really bad about throwing out food. We wasted at least as much as we ate. Terrible, I know. Things are different now, but its not always easy. We often live with (and maybe even gave birth to) people who don't like leftovers. This makes it difficult to save money and not be wasteful. Thus the need for leftover magic - transforming once served foods into something completely different.

My very favorite form of leftover magic is to create vegetable soup out of leftover veggies. Today I'll share our use for leftover broccoli. You will notice that broccoli cheese soup is on our menu very often. We're really blessed - our kids LOVE broccoli and so do we. Broccoli is served with dinner at least a few times per week and sometimes we don't finish up all that was prepared. A half cup of leftover cooked broccoli is really all it takes to make a nice broccoli cheese soup. Here's my recipe:

Heat about a tablespoon of oil (I use butter) in a sauce pan until it shimmers (for oil) or bubbles (for butter). Then sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of flour over the fat and stir to combine (if you've never made a white sauce before, this will look like a thick paste). Next, slowly add about 1-1.5 cups of milk, stirring to combine. Continue stirring over heat until this mixture thickens, adding more liquid if it gets too thick. Next, slowly add cheese, a little at a time, stirring each addition until completely melted before adding more. If you add more before the previous addition is incorporated, you might end up with stringy or clumpy cheese. Finally, once you have the cheese to your liking, add about 1/2 cup broccoli and stir. Once heated through, serve.

You can use just about any kind of cheese in this recipe. Because my littles really like American cheese, we often use it, but sometimes, we also use cheddar. This week, I'm going to try it with Havarti because we have some of it in the fridge that I need to use up before it goes bad :o)

You can also use less milk when making the "soup" and you get a nice cheese sauce to pour over leftover veggies to transform them somewhat :o)

Do you have a favorite Leftover Magic recipe? I'd love to know about it. You can post about it on your blog then link to it in the comments or if you don't have a blog, post your recipe in the comments. :o)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Bloggy Organization :o)

My Mozilla Toolbar crashed two weeks ago and I lost all of my RSS feeds - . Slowly I'm finding things again. Since I'm working on organizing my blog, I thought I'd update my "favorites" on the blog, too. I'll try to remember to continue updating my favorites as I locate other lost blogs, that way, when (not if) my toolbar crashes again, I can still find my favorites. Check out some of my favorite places in the blog sphere in the list on the left.


TUESDAY: Homeschooling Link

We are big fans of Art in our home. We look at it, read about it and create a lot of it. Today's featured link (Masterpiece Art Instruction - Teach Art at Home) offers many curricula but what I love most about it is the newsletter. It contains a free project that so far (we've been subscribers for over a year) has always been wonderful, easy, creative and unique. I also love that her projects are art and not crafts. She offers directions for your child to follow, but your child still has lots of room for creativity. You can subscribe by clicking on the hyperlink above and visiting the site.


Bloggy Organization?

I try. Really I do. But its just not in me to be really organized. I have all of these big ideas for the blog, but most don't come to fruition because I lack organization, so I forget what I wanted to post about or forget to post all together. So, I'm going to try putting myself on a schedule.

Most "How To Blog" articles recommend that you pick a topic for your blog and stick to it. I tried doing that - my blog was supposed to be about my book business - if you read my blog for more than 5 minutes, you'll notice that its not really about my book business, at least not often. I've also thought about making this a gardening blog, cooking blog, eat local/ sustainable living blog, homeschooling blog, blog about my kids, frugal blog etc. I like to write about all of those things but to pick just one - I don't think I could do it. I'm one of those Jack of All Trades, Master of None kind of people. I don't want to write on only one topic. Here's where my schedule will hopefully help. My plan is to blog as follows:

Monday: Menu Plan Monday plus Making Money From Home tips, ideas and links
Tuesday: Homeschooling Links and Ideas plus a Book Review (for my book business)
Wednesday: Leftover Magic (recipes to use leftovers to make new meals)
Thursday: Garden Update
Friday: Independence Days Update plus Sustainable Living links

Do I think I'll do them all every week? Ha! Not likely. I'm betting that Menu Plan Monday and Leftover Magic on Wednesdays get done almost weekly and the rest, occasionally. I'm okay with that :o)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - August 11

It has taken me all day to figure out what we're going to do for our menu this week. All day I've been contemplating the 25 lbs of chicken beef in the freezer and after 8 hours, I was still drawing a blank. When it was nearing supper time, I had to do something , so I opened the freezer and found several freezer meals (yay!) that I'd forgotten about. So this week for supper we're having:

Fiesta Chicken (again)
Turkey Meatloaf
Cheese & Chicken stuffed shells with alfredo sauce

We'll toss in some steamed veggies and call it dinner :o)

Breakfast will be:

Eggs and ham
Baked Oatmeal
French Toast
Bagels and honey butter


Grilled Cheese
PB and honey or jam
Broccoli Cheese Soup

Snacks? Still drawing a blank. I'll update when I figure it out.

Want to see more menus? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

GREEN BEAN DREAMS: Sustainable Superheroes

Can we consider ourselves to be living sustainable lives even if we are not yet "there". Are our efforts towards sustainability enough? A post on this subject had been floating around in my head for weeks, especially since I've been rapidly approaching burnout (I'll post about that later). Green Bean Dreams covered the subject better than I could ever hope to. Don't miss this great post.

GREEN BEAN DREAMS: Sustainable Superheroes

Independence Days Challenge - Update

Its been several weeks since I updated our Independence Days Challenge. Here are our efforts towards food independence over the last few weeks.

1. Plant Something: Its been above 100 deg. most days for the last few weeks, so until today, the weather was much too hot to plant. The weather prediction indicates a little easing of heat, so this morning, I planted 24 sweet pea seeds. A few weeks ago, we planted 18 and these are growing, although slowly because of the heat. Here's hoping to a great harvest in a few weeks.

2. Harvest something: Again, because of the heat (I think), our harvest is slowing a little. We're getting a cuke about 3 times a week, one or two tomatoes daily, purple hull peas and now red bell peppers. In addition, our tabasco peppers are turning color - such a beautiful plant.

3. Preserve something: Made 6 pints of fig preserves and froze 3 gallon size zip top bags of figs. Today, we are trying our hand a blueberry fruit leather. I'll post pictures if it turns out okay.

4. Prep something: Albertson's had bottled water on sale for the last two weeks, so we have 72 bottles of water now.

5. Cook something: we're trying our hand at making fruit leather. If it turns out well, we're making strawberry, raspberry and peach next.

6. Managed Reserves: We're doing fine rotating our stored foods.

7. Work on local food system: Still doing most of our shopping at the farmer's market and making many nice acquaintances of the farmers. Making arrangements with many of them for when the market closes in a few months.

8. Compost Something: We're still composting all of our garden scraps, organic veggie scraps and yard clippings (grass and such).

Are you working towards independence for your family? I'd love to hear about it. Please leave a comment and a link if you have a blog that talks about your journey.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Recipe: Fiesta Chicken

This is a really simple and quick recipe - I like to have the ingredients on hand for those days when we're too busy to cook.

4 Cups diced or shredded chicken
Fajita Marinade
1 Jar Salsa
2 cups (one can) black beans
! cup frozen corn

You can either use the marinade on uncooked chicken as a marinade or you can add it to the pot when you combine cooked chicken with the other ingredients. All you have to do to prepare this recipe is marinate the chicken, cook it, shred or dice it, then add the other ingredients to the pot until heated through. We like to eat it in tortillas with cheese, sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes, but it also makes nice quesadillas.

Menu Plan Monday-August 4,2008

After a few weeks off from blogging, I'm back today with Menu Plan Monday. This week, I'm going for simple, as we'll be doing a lot of canning of garden produce and my poor brain can't handle both thinking about cooking and thinking about canning, lol. So, this week is officially SANDWICH WEEK! On Sunday, I made up a few sandwich fillings to keep in the fridge and about mid week, I'll make up a few more. We have a variety of breads veggies and cheeses, plus dressings and other condiments.

So far, in the fridge, we have fiesta chicken which can be eaten on tortillas or if we're feeling more like cooking at the time, it makes a nice filling for a quesidilla (which I do not know how to spell). We usually eat this with lettuce and diced tomato plus sour cream. We also currently have BBQ roast in the fridge awaiting a toasted bun with veggie sticks on the side. In addition, we have a creamy imitation crab salad that we'll put in wraps with romaine lettuce and Cesar dressing.

About mid week, we'll make a few more fillings, including chicken salad to be eaten on French bread with lettuce, tomato and pickles, Teriyaki beef stir fry to be eaten in wraps with lettuce or on french bread. This is really yummy with stir fry veggies, so we make it with both beef and veggies and tighten up the sauce a little so that it clings to the beef and veggies and doesn't make the bread soggy. It can be eaten either warmed up or cold (I like it cold in wraps). Now, I just need one more sandwich filling. What is your favorite sandwich? Please post a comment with your favorite and a recipe or directions to make it. Thanks!

This week for breakfast, we're going easy as well. We're going to eat from the freezer. We have baked oatmeal, pancakes and french toast in the freezer so we will rotate those during the week and supplement with yogurt and fruit.

Snacks will include hummus and pita, trail mix, any muffins we might have in the freezer, bagels and probably more packaged snacks than I'd like.

Head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday.

Items from our menu that are in bold are locally grown or raised.