Sunday, May 31, 2009

Homemade Corn Dogs

I am not a corn dog fan. One is usually more than enough for me. My husband, however, LOVES corn dogs. Last summer I went far, far away (5 months pregnant alone on an airplane for 5 hours with a two year old -- WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!.)My husband dropped us off at the airport and went directly to Sam's to purchase the biggest container of corn dogs he could. Barf. I've actually been meaning to make homemade corn dogs since then. I finally got around to it today. The delicious recipe I used is here.

I did make a few minor changes. First, I used craft sticks (like Popsicle sticks) rather than lollipop sitcks because I have them in the house (thanks, Michelle!). They worked fine. You just have to be careful not to bust open the hot dog when inserting them. I also ended up pouring the batter on to a plate to roll the hot dogs. This was easier than trying to roll the dogs around the mixing bowl.

When frying: you really don't need much oil at all and make sure to fry at a LOW HEAT. See that burned dog? That was on high heat (I think I thought I was deep frying or something). I turned them using the sticks -- I waited until the dough was set and the hot dog didn't come out of the dough when I pulled up. Or you could just flip them with a pancake turner (that's what you probably call a spatula, but it's correct name is a pancake turner. I'm full of useless information).

This was a super quick and easy recipe. I promise it will be a big hit with the corn dog lover in your house!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

At Least the Dress Looks the Same!

Wow... it's hard to believe we're even related! Somewhere along the way we lost the red tie.

The Importance of A Price Book

I was reminded last week why a price book (a list or book where you keep track of the lowest price you've found for an item) is so important. For the past few months on of our local Kroger-affiliate stores (Smith's)has been running 16 oz containers of sour cream for $1.00. Two weeks ago I was in Smith's and noticed the non-sale price of the sour cream was $1.16. Last week Smith's had sour cream on "sale" in their flyer for 4 for $5 or ... $1.25 for 16 oz. Nice, huh?

I will admit that I don't have an actual, physical price book. I have a very, very good memory (my husband can confirm that) and so I usually remember what my rock bottom price is for an item. My one pitfall is toilet paper. For the life of me I can't figure out what a good price is for TP! I think it's all the confusion with single/double/triple/big/jumbo rolls -- I've almost just given up on finding the bottom price and just buy it at Sam's. I used to get the 4 pack of Cottonelle ($.99 for 4 single rolls and I'd use a $.50 or $1.00 coupon), but I can't find them anymore so I'm back to square one. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

There are numerous free printables available to keep your price book here and here for example.

I think if I had one, I'd start by writing down the prices of products I buy each week when I shop. Then I'd go in and adjust the price down (including the date and where I bought it)when I found a better price. I don't think it's vital to write in the price every single time you buy the product as it's just a reference, but some people may want all that data (it just makes my head spin).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Napless in Las Vegas

I think I've mentioned that my two year old has been on a Mommy inflicted No Nap Schedule because she was staying up all night. I've notice her getting more and more tired during the day so when she fell asleep on my sister a couple of days ago I wasn't surprised. When she did it two days in a row, I put her back on a nap schedule. Back to the drawing board.

My Sister's Book Give Away

My sister is giving away a poetry book this weekend. Go here to enter on Saturday. Good luck!

Once A Month Cooking

I've been thinking about trying my hand at once a month cooking (OAMC). Basically, you cook ALL your dinners on one day, freeze them and then simply thaw and finish the cooking (usually just heating the dish up) the night you want to eat it. I generally enjoy my time in the kitchen getting dinner ready -- it helps me wind down believe it or not. But many late afternoons I just don't have the energy left to cook! I was thinking I'd start with just a few dishes, enough for 2 meals per week and see how I like it. I'm also concerned that I won't be able to stick to my budget if I'm cooking a month ahead. I'm also headed in to the time of year where I rarely turn on my oven so I need to make sure the recipes I choose are summer friendly.

I've found some great resources in researching OAMC. There is a new blog/website that provides, Once a Month Mom, that provides menus, recipes, shopping list, etc. Recipezaar has over 500 OAMC recipes (I just typed in OAMC in the search box). My library also has a lot of books on the topic.

Has anyone ever done this type of cooking? Any suggestions or ideas? Thanks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pizza Braid

I made this yummy pizza braid today for lunch. Very fun! I was thinking they'd be nice for a birthday party -- each one stuffed with different toppings. It is very filling and the dough is a little more bread like than my normal pizza dough. I wouldn't use pepperoni with the ground beef. I couldn't even taste the pepperoni (what a waste!). I'll try ham and pepperoni next time!

The Food Stamp Challenge

EDITED: Mark Bittman has an interesting (short) piece on this here with some good links.

I ran across a post last night about the Food Stamp Challenge. Hosted by Harvesters, a Kansas City food bank, the program challenges participants to live on a food stamp budget for a week. I found this interesting and while I really wanted to participate, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to. So I checked out the guidelines to see how much my budget would be for the week if I were on food stamps.

In order to participate using the guidelines, for a family of 4 (which we would be even though one is an infant and the other is a toddler), I would need to DOUBLE the amount of money I spend a week on groceries.

Did you read that: I spend half the amount of food, household items, and diapers than a family of 4 on food stamps is given.

The problem is that we are giving people food stamps without educating them on how to best use the assistance. I couldn't find any information on shopping or coupon classes in the food stamp website. It almost seems as if we (i.e. We The People) to fail. Ok, we are setting people up to fail, which truly is a shame.

I'd guess that the majority of people on food stamps don't have access to the information I do about sales, couponing, CVSing, etc. The people who need the help the most aren't getting it. If you don't have money for food, you most certainly don't have money for internet access in your home!

Another issue is transportation. We have a car and I can easily drive to as many stores as I need to get the best deals. If you don't have money for food, then you are most likely either walking or taking the bus to the nearest grocery store (at least, that's what I would do!).

The Food Stamp Challenge is a great idea and if I did it on their budget, without using coupons and shopping at the nearest grocery store only, I really don't know if I'd be able to feed my family. I honestly think I could just because I'd stick to sales items and go without things that aren't sale. I'm not sure I could do that every single month, though.

I would encourage you to go check out the guidelines and see how you compare to the food stamp guidelines in spending. I think my budget is most likely way below the national average (whatever that may be) so I'm probably in the minority in needing to increase my budget in order to participate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eating More Fruits and Veggies with the Relish Tray

About two weeks ago Laura over at Heavenly Homemakers challenged her readers to get healthier by eating more fruits and veggies. I have definitely been very lazy about serving veggies around here so I made a conscious effort to make sure we had fruit and/or veggies at every meal. I also realized that we get a lot more servings of fruits and veggies than I thought we did -- one apple is two servings!

Then Christy at A Southern Plate blogged about the good old fashioned relish tray. I immediately fell in love with the idea of having a cute little tray of fresh snacks for everyone to eat throughout the day and at meals. I immediately jumped over to eBay to look up relish trays and started debating whether to bid on one or to wait and search yard sales when I had to stop my daydreaming to make lunch.

As I was looking for a pie plate for lunch, I happened upon a chip/dip set that Sarah painted about 4 years ago. I love it, but I never get to use it. Viola! The official Gabel Relish Tray. The picture above is the second filling of the tray -- the first go around was inhaled. I mostly have fruit because I am scarce on fresh veggies (they are all frozen in the freezer). But I am planning to fill that puppy up as often as needed this summer and have fresh fruits and veggies for everyone to snack on.

Thanks Laura and Christy for the inspiration to eat healthier and use something I love and cherish in the process!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mommy & Me

My mom was forward thinking enough when I was little to set aside a dress that I had my pictures taken in when I was 3 years old (or so). It fits Ella now so we took her in to have her pictures taken in it. I believe the picture of me is still at my mom's house, so there is nothing to compare, but it's still cute!

I've made sure to put away a few of my favorite outfits for both Ella and Miles.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Day at the Museum

My sister and I took the kids to Centennial Day at the Clark County Museum today (Clark County turns 100 years old on July 1st). We have never been to this open air museum despite wanting to go for there Halloween and Christmas activities. We had a wonderful and will definitely be back! I highly, highly recommend this museum!

A Model A police car. Let's hope that is as close to one of those Ella ever gets!

Making butter -- so cool! There was cream in there with a small bead. We shook and shook it and sure enough, it made butter. Very cool kid project!

Each house at the museum is decorated from a different era. Today each house also had a recipe from that era. I had to let Ella hold mine so she'd take a picture (that is the paper in her hand).

The coolest quilt puzzle -- I need to figure out how to make this!

Me learning how to tie a quilt.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Six Months!

Our Little Man turned 6 months old yesterday and he has been BUSY the past week or so. He started rolling over last week much to delight of his sister. He also grew his first tooth, which I discovered on Saturday. He is now reaching for items he wants, including the remote control (it must be coded in the male genes) and is playing with and chewing on toys. I'm glad to see him progressing, but am sad to see the days of him laying there happy as a lark go away. I did manage to get him to smile a bit for the camera (he's fascinated with the thing so he rarely gives us one of his great smiles for photos!).

Miles also started on food yesterday. His first official meal consisted of green beans. This morning I gave him some rice cereal, went to clean up, and suddenly noticed how quiet it was....

Happy 6 months, Miles!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little Miss Independent

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I took our almost 3 year old daughter, Ella, to the swimming pool. Ella is currently sporting a one-piece swimsuit with "floaties" built in because I'm still going through the summer clothes and I have yet to find her life jacket. The floatie suit is just a tad too buoyant for Ella to be able to completely control where she goes in the water so Ella has been hanging on to the edge of the pool, inching herself around and refusing all help or assistance. I finally just grabbed her, got her in the middle of pool and let go. She was a bit scared, but realized that she could float and "swim" on her own.

Once Ella got back the side of the pool, she would inch along as before but now she would let go completely, bob around for a few seconds, grab back on to the side of the pool and yell "ELLA DID IT! YEA!!" Numerous times she would bob too far down in to the water (thanks to the poor construction of the floatie suit) and come back up sputtering. I'd immediately offer assistance, but Ella REFUSED. "Ella no need help. Ella do it myself" (Don't you love the toddler third person language??).

I was dumbfounded. I knew Ella was independent and strong-willed, but the fact that she'd rather go under water and do it herself really showed me how very, very independent she is. She was insistent on doing it herself without any help from anyone. Now I'm praying really hard that God shows me how to help her harness that independence for good and that it doesn't show up as rebellion during the teen years. I often get worn out from the constant (and I do mean CONSTANT)disciplining I have to do with Ella, but I've read enough Dr. Dobson to realize that it is much easier to tame her will now than to think it will happen later.

I'm just hoping that Miles has a bit less independence than his sister!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Using What I Have: The Chicken Stock Dilemma

I have been making an effort lately to try and use what I have on hand rather than running to the store for some solution. As I have mentioned before, I make my own chicken stock in my Crock Pot whenever we have a whole chicken, which can be as often as once a week. I recently hit two snags with my stock making that I have satisfactorily resolved by using items I already have in my home.

First, I no longer use paper towels, which I used to use in my strainer to strain the stock. I tried paper napkins, but those don't work well at all and since I'm getting rid of those as soon as they run out (switching to cloth), they don't really fix the problem. I then tried cheese cloth, but it is a bit expensive and hard to work with (it kept rolling over on itself leaving holes in the strainer exposed). Tonight I tried a brand-new, clean ShamWow. BINGO! I'm telling you -- those things may not live up to their claim, but they sure are handy. Anyway, it worked perfectly. I just dumped in the stock and then squeezed the ShamWow and all the good stuff came out and the nasty stuff stayed in. Perfect.

Second, I had a hard time finding containers for my stock. I tried plastic bags, but they stuck together and ripped thus rendering them useless for a second use. One evening, in a fit of desperation, I dumped the stock in to plastic Ball freezing jars that I use for jam. Perfect! The only trick is to get them in the freezer standing up while they freeze. Once they are frozen, though, you can stuff them in to any nook or cranny.

I am so proud of myself for being creative and using what I had on hand to solve my stock making dilemma!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sleeping Beauty v.2 (And A Little About A Cool Magazine)

Another nap snapshot of Ella. Yes, she fell asleep with her magazine over her face. She went down fighting!

The magazine is a Highlights magazine called High Five that is geared specifically for children 2-6 years old and WE LOVE IT! I can't recommend the magazine highly enough. Ella, who will be 3 in July, reads them over and over (and over and over and over) and goes to the mailbox every single day looking for another one. The magazine includes: read-aloud fiction stories—including stories that introduce the Spanish language; a special Hidden Pictures® activity and other puzzles; age-appropriate crafts and cooking activities; poems and simple nonfiction; finger plays and action rhymes (that's all from the website).

Ella's favorite part of the magazine is the Hidden Pictures portion -- basically a simply "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo" spread. She loved them so much that I signed her up for the Highlights Hidden Playground Club (they are full of Hidden Pictures) and those have been a huge hit.

We've also done many of the crafts and made most of the recipes in the High Five magazine -- all at Ella's request. I was really surprised the first time she brought me a recipe asking to make it (Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles). I thought she'd forget about them, but she didn't so we made them!

The subscription isn't cheap at almost $30/year (Ella's grandma (Babcia) bought it for her), but I still highly recommend it. Our magazines are getting worn out from all the reading we do with them. A subscription would make a great birthday or Christmas gift.

I don't make any commission on the product -- I just happen to love it and so I wanted to share!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Melt In Your Mouth Cinnamon Rolls

I've been making homemade cinnamon rolls for about 4-5 years now using a recipe out of the book Miserly Moms (my book is about 15 years old, I think). Those rolls in a tube have NOTHING on homemade rolls! Yesterday I needed to make some rolls for my women's Small Group this morning, but I didn't have time to start from scratch. I did, however, have some of this dough in the fridge so I gave it a whirl.

I ended up with the best, melt in your mouth, OMG delicious cinnamon rolls I've ever eaten (or made!). My sister and husband agreed that I could make serious cash selling those puppies.

I intended to make "mini" rolls (easier to keep the kids happy without so much sugar), but they ended up way bigger than I intended (still on the smaller side). I pulled out about 1/4 of the batch of dough and rolled it out on the counter to about 14 inches long and 6 inches wide. Next I spread roughly 2 Tablespoons of butter over the dough (using a small off-set spatula). Then I sprinkled about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1-3 Tablespoons of cinnamon on the dough. I rolled it up, and sliced it about every 1/2 inch or so. I put the slices in an 8X8 lightly greased square cake pan, covered it with plastic wrap, and let them rise for about 3 hours. I baked them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (in the toaster oven). When the came out of the oven, I immediately spread vanilla frosting on them (homemade cream cheese is better, but I was in a pinch and a rush). I let them cool in the pan, covered with foil, and took them this morning (the second pan was inhaled last night by the adults in my home).

Trust me, you will not be sorry you made these. Well, you might be sorry when you eat the entire pan yourself, but you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dinner Disaster

Have you ever had one of those dinners that just plain bombs? Usually for me a bombed meal involves a new recipe or difficult kids distracting me. But yesterday, the Pizza in a Pot was just not happening.

I had planned a Crock Pot meal because my son had to go see a surgeon (outpatient surgery next week). I got all the pieces of the dish together by 1 PM and turned the Crock Pot on at 2 PM so that it would be done around 5 PM.

We got home from the doctor around 4:30 PM. I had turned the Crock Pot on, but had not plugged it in.

So I turned it on and we went out to eat (I wimped out. I could've thrown something together, but I was tired, frustrated, and hungry.).

At 7 PM my husband asked if he should turn the Crock Pot off. I told him no, I wanted to wait until 7:30 PM.

At 8:45 PM I realized I hadn't turned off the Crock Pot yet! So I went over to check it and took off the lid to let it cool.

At 9:15 PM I heard some gurgling noises. I had taken the lid off the Crock Pot but had not TURNED IT OFF!

The very well done Pizza in a Pot is now in the fridge for lunch. And I'm really hoping the rest of the week's dinners go better!


One of our cats, BJ, has been a social butterfly lately. Ella was delighted to find him sitting in a tree outside our patio. He's been hanging around the kids a lot as well -- probably because Ella will sit as long as he wants and pet him. That's Sarah on the phone with Daddy -- she was saying "CHEESE", I promise!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

We've started a new nap time recently after learning that Ella was staying up ALL NIGHT LONG playing in her room. She now goes down for a one hour nap and I have to wake her up. I went in the other day and found her sleeping like this. I'll never complain about staying to read books!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

It's been a great day! I got to sleep in, haven't cooked a meal, received flowers and sewing lessons, and am looking forward to a ribeye steak dinner!

Hoping your day was as nice as mine!

P.S. The sweetest part of the day was when Ella came home with flowers for me and for her. My hubby always buys the girls flowers when he gets them for me. I love that about him!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yummy, Kid Friendly Recipes

I recently found a new blog to love, Heavenly Homemakers. She has a few recipes I wanted to try so I made them both yesterday.

The first is super cool macaroni and cheese recipe. You cook the pasta in the milk and the starch from the pasta thickens the milk. Totally cool! Definitely my new go-to mac and cheese recipe.

The second recipe is for "Breakfast Cookies." I've been meaning to find a good recipe for these for a while. What kid doesn't want a cookie for breakfast? I was a bit doubtful that they would be filling, but they are! Ella loves, loves, loves them and they have good for you ingredients in them. A new staple for our breakfast menu! I put some mini-M&Ms in the cookies (just enough to keep her interested). These are also a bit "cakey" -- I'd say a cross between a muffin and cookie.

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