Recipes

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The recipe my Mother used was handed over by the neighbor. It belonged to her sister. It was revolutionary. It had chocolate chips in it and sitting down to a thick slice that was slathered in butter was a treat that couldn’t be duplicated, particularly if it was warm out of the oven. I still remember the way the recipe card looked (do people even use them anymore?) and the name of my neighbor’s sister and I certainly remember that bread, though my recipe is different.

Maybe. I’ll leave that teaser for later.

I think zucchini is a miracle food. It be cooked sweet or savory. It can take the place of noodles and taco shells and pizza crust.

You can bake it, stir fry it, steam it, saute it…anything Bubba Gump came up with for shrimp, you can probably do with zucchini, but my favorite is baked into bread. I serve it for breakfast and I serve it for dessert, it works for both. It’s sweet enough to pass for a treat, yet contains enough vegetables that I feel like I sneaked one over on the kids. It’s another thing that paired with some scrambled eggs and fruit makes a wonderful breakfast. Do I toast my zucchini bread? I do not, but I might warm it up in the microwave to make sure the butter gets all melty and delicious. Can I eat half a loaf on my own? Yes, I’m no lady in that regard. I don’t know anyone in my house or can’t/won’t eat half a loaf in a sitting. It means I have to make extra and none ever lands in the freezer to eat in Autumn as I had planned.

This year, I tried a new zucchini bread recipe. In addition, of course, to my usual. Double chocolate zucchini bread? It sounded like something we would like. I already add chocolate chips to our bread, so it wasn’t an unusual idea. The verdict? So delicious! I was afraid it might be too rich, but it wasn’t. It was a little crumbly straight out of the oven (we couldn’t wait) but firmed up nicely after cooling.

I did exchange the honey in the recipe for plain sugar. Honey and sugar can be substituted for each other exactly up to one cup. I didn’t feel like trying to get the honey out of the bottle and into the measuring cup and then into to the mixing bowl so I took the lazy way out. Maybe honey would have made it better? It’s possible, but it was so very, very good I just don’t see how it could have been any better.

Additionally, I was able to make two loaves of my annual stand-by.

Betty Crocker’s cookbooks have changed a lot over the years, but some things she’s still getting right.  This recipe is in my 2000 edition cookbook and I’m willing to bet it was in my Mom’s 70′s edition as well.  It’s a tried, tested and loved recipe but we make one little change.  You, of course, could add nuts and raisins, but we enjoy chocolate chips. About 3/4 of a bag lends just the right amount of chocolate to each loaf.  Betty Crocker’s Zucchini Bread recipe makes 2 loaves and our first didn’t survive it’s first night out of the oven.

 

Is school back in session in your neck of the woods? If it’s not, I bet it’s on its way. I guess I’m lucky in that I enjoy both the summers AND the school year. But, even I can admit to being ready for a little more schedule and structure once the end of summer rolls around.

However…

Mornings are hard. They’re a delicate balancing act of finding time with finding sleep and it’s kind of doubly difficult considering that neither Baby Bee nor I are morning people. Baby Bee and I both move slowly. We take a long time to wake up and it seems like our limbs are stuck in syrup.

This means that breakfast, most usually, is something that can be made quickly. Typically, instant oatmeal or cold cereal with milk. They’re fine breakfast choices, but I wanted to do something a little differently this year. Additionally, since the Princess is in charge of getting herself off I wanted some quicker, more filling options for her as well. I’ve done freezer cooking before and I’ve frozen leftovers pancakes and waffles, but I think this is the first time I’ve tried to put together a freezer full of breakfast foods.

My entire shopping bill for the following came up to just about $70 and I estimate that I have at least 65 breakfasts available. Of course, we’ll be supplementing with fruit, milk and eggs as desired, but for most of these recipes, the cooking time is literally 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave.  The food in the freezer should see us through the school mornings of September.

Here’s the recipes we’ve stocked up on with any notes on my changes…

 

1. Baked French Toast Stick

I stuck to the original recipe, but used a full loaf of Texas toast.  I estimate we’ll get 10 breakfasts from a full loaf of bread.  Be sure NOT to allow your sticks to soak in the egg mixture for too long or they’ll be sure to fall apart and/or require more baking time.  I like to put my French Toast sticks in the toaster, just be sure you use full length sticks so they don’t fall down beyond where you can safely retrieve them.

2. Buttermilk chocolate chip pancake squares

The kids gave these rave reviews!  We doubled the recipe for 24 generously sized squares.  Paired with fruit or eggs, this is a winner.  My one change was to omit the “pancake syrup” from the recipe and just increase the sugar to 3 tbsp instead of 2 tbsp.  I saw no compelling reason to put the syrup in it.   The kids even ate it without syrup, but you could add some without issue.  These baked up nice and cake-y.  To serve, they require just 30 seconds in the microwave to warm.

3. Sausage breakfast bowls

We used the recipe to kind of create our own thing.  Oddly enough, this recipe calls for .95 cups of sausage?  Which makes no sense.  I made 2 lbs, added a full bag of frozen hash browns and 18 eggs to come up with 12 generous 1 cup servings. At 1.32/serving it’s still FAR less than the name brand version at the grocery store.  The sausage and eggs pack a good protein punch to help keep kiddos satisfied until lunch AND it only takes 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave to re-heat.


4. Pumpkin Waffles
A double batch of batter makes about 16 waffles (half a cup of batter per waffle). I like to cook mine on the highest setting on my waffle iron. These are lightly sweetened with a hint of pumpkin and spice. Like an Eggo, I toast mine in the toaster after removing them from the freezer

5. Egg McMoms

I’ve been making these breakfast sandwiches for a long time. They are a great alternative to a fast food breakfast and they cost lost and take less time one you’ve got them in the freezer. They cost me just about a dollar a piece and need about 2 minutes in the microwave straight from the freezer. You won’t even get from the order box to the window in two minutes AND they taste better than drive thru. If you’re health conscious, it’s easy to swap in organic or light options and you know exactly what’s in them.


To get eggs that are ready to fit an English muffin, I use two circle cookie cutters as egg molds. I spray them before each use with cooking spray. However, be sure to be patient while your egg is cooking. Pulling the molds off too early will result in your eggs running across the pan as eggs will do.

I did my cooking in two sessions that totaled about three hours, but yielded a full month of delicious breakfasts in the freezer.

The first third of summer is already gone.  Time flies when you’re having fun, right?  That’s always the case.  I feel like I’m digging in my heels, trying not to let one minute slip through my fingers.  The girls have been getting along so well and I’ve felt so peaceful about things.


To make matters worse, the school supplies are already coming out and I know what it feels like to be those people who start fussing about Christmas stuff coming out in the stores so early.  Quit taking my summer, school!  We still have 2/3 left!

I won’t say I’m sorry to see July, however.  We have a lot of awesome stuff coming up and even though I’m trying to slow down and enjoy every single June day, I can’t say I’m super sorry to see July peeking it’s head over the fence.

 

We are having a “clean out the pantry/freezer” sort of week.  I’ll probably buy some fresh produce and some odds and ends to make meals, but overall, I want to use some stuff up.  I feel like we get ahead of ourselves sometimes and buy things we don’t use right away and suddenly the pantry and the freezer are bursting at the seams and we still have nothing to eat.  It’s kind of weird.

Monday Spaghetti with broccoli.  Baby Bee requested this for her birthday dinner, but we had cake for dinner instead.

TuesdaySloppy Toms, oven fries and carrots

Wednesday Southwest Chicken Chopped Salad

ThursdayBelated Date Night Menu (if Auntie Awesome is agreeable) Steak Bite, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic mushrooms.

FridayPicnic at the Park! Smoked pork and other picnic goodies! I have a ton of pasta, so I’m thinking I will probably make a pasta salad.

This week, the forecast is calling for warm, rainy days and that means the girls and I will be in the house more than we were last week. It’s tempting, when the weather gets iffy, to end up in front of the tv a lot. I admit to being a tv lover. I think I could probably watch 18 hours of tv a day if I didn’t have kids or a guilty conscience problem. But, I want summer to be a lot more fun than just endless hours of tv and video games.

The girls and I made bouncy balls a few weeks ago. We bought our kit at Five Below (for, well, less than $5), but this kit from Amazon makes a nice amount of balls for the same price. It absolutely worked and was easy enough for Littlebit to use with no help and for Baby Bee to use with minimal help.

Our one complaint is that as the balls dry out, they stop being bouncy, which is a bummer. Even soaking them in water doesn’t restore them, it only makes them slimy,but for me the price for the quiet activity time works out to a plus even when we take the hard balls into consideration.

Ahem.

We’ve also been enjoying playing with kinetic sand. Okay, it’s a little pricey for $20 for two pounds and, to be honest, you’ll need two pounds per kid. I also purchased a tray for playing and some molds, which makes this a pretty pricey activity, but the amount of play and interest far surpasses the price. The sand stays moist and pliable. It’s easy to mold/build with. It doesn’t dry out and since it sticks to itself, it’s easy to clean up. It even tempts adults to play with it and the texture is just…different. I love letting it run through my fingers.

I’ll be sure to share more fun rainy and sunny day ideas as we discover them over the course of the summer.

 

But, for now, the menu plan

 

Monday Grilled steak, baked potatoes and veggies

Tuesday Smoked chicken, mashed turnips and veggies

WednesdayChicken Fajita Kabobs and Spanish Rice

Thursday Date night: Grilled steak bites, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic mushrooms

Friday Family Date Night

Saturday Grilled Chicken and Southwest Cornbread Salad

Sunday Baked General’s Chicken with Rice and Broccoli

I hope you sang that to the tune of “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.  If not, try it now. It works.

Kids all over the country are in count down mode.  Parents are too (some looking forward with happy anticipation and others with dread).  I admit to loving summer time.  For a couple of crazy weeks, I’m pretty sure I could even homeschool!

And, then Big Daddy reminds me of the million reasons why that wouldn’t even begin to work.  He’d start with reminding how much therapy Baby Bee gets at school (and how much she needs it and how much it’s helped her) and then would end up with him asking me when the last time was the Princess sat down and willingly listening to anything we had to say.

So, I enjoy the summers.  I like the challenge of balancing fun with learning mixed up with ample amounts of quiet couch time.  It’s perfect.

The weather here in Ohio is making us long for school to be out as well.  We’ve had nice warm days (with rain!  So much rain!) with enough sun to make a dip in the pool or the lake seem like a good idea.  The windows are open and the birds are singing and the little girls struggled with bedtimes in the daylight (over summer, I adjust them to a later time to avoid this and to try and gain some sleeping in time for myself).  Just two more days.

The Princess graduated from Middle School last week.  I was more anxious about her transition to middle school than I am of her transition to High School.  The Princess has already been traipsing all over the high school and I feel confident about her ability to handle the changes that are coming.

Last week, Big Daddy and I sat down the Princess and had a Very Serious Talk about her future.  I admit, I don’t like to imagine it much.  I mean, I want her to have it, but I don’t like thinking about the day when our home starts to stop being the Princess’s home.  I know that will happen as she transitions to college.  For a while, this will be home and she’ll be pulled to come back, but as her life expands beyond us, she won’t.  But, I don’t want to spend too much time wishing the Princess away.  She’s only 14 and we have four years to go (Only four?  Wasn’t she just four?  Wasn’t it just a little bit ago that her childhood stretched in front of us so vast and open and now it’s shrunk to less than a handful of years which doesn’t seem like it’s nearly enough).

There are so few summers when your children are at home.  So very few.  Just 18 and I’m trying my damnedest to make every one count.

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Flat iron steak (thank you, Trader Joe’s!), carrots and crash hot potatoes

Tuesday BBQ chicken, quinoa and salad

Wednesday Last Day of School Party (Pizza and Cake!)

Thursday  Crunchy Chicken Salad and Egg Rolls

Friday Chicken Bacado Casserole with Salad

Saturday Smoked burgers, pasta salad and corn on the cob

Sunday Slow Cooker pot roast with balsamic vinegar and onions, salad and some lovely bread from the bakery.

Ten years ago, we bought a kitchen table. We started out without a lot, like a lot of people do, and over the years collected handful of furniture. Some of it was the cheapest we could manage to fit our needs, some of it was hand-me-downs and some of it, we made do with things we came into the marriage with. I called our decorating “early frat house” because it was mismatched and sometimes ugly.

But, there’s no shame in that. Having an ugly hand-me-down couch is kind of a rite of passage…everyone should have one so they can appreciate it when they get a nice couch.

In 2004, we moved to Michigan and left our hand-me-down table and chairs behind. They’d seen better days. For a while, we used our patio set indoors.

But, after Jack nabbing food off of the table at dinner time, we found a bought the perfect table.

It was a serious piece of furniture, or at least it felt like it to us.  We still had a futon as a couch.

So much has changed since then.  Our poor table.  It’s legs are wobbling off and a few of the chairs come with “sit at your own risk!” warnings.  The beautiful color in the picture above is a thing of the past, as it’s been bleached by years of sitting in the sun.  It’s covered in marker and at my spot is some glitter glue in mardi gras colors that will not scrub off.  I keep it covered up by a tablecloth now because I can’t get it clean no matter what.  It’s stained, gouged, faded and scarred.  It was the first, nice piece of furniture we owned.

In 8-10 weeks, a new table will be in the place of the table above.  We ordered to our exact specifications which are, strangely enough, the dimensions of the table above.  Counter height.  Sixty inches square.

As an aside, why are more dining tables not square.  Square tables are perfect for square rooms.

I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see our old table move on.  We’ll save the non-wobbly chairs for use in the kitchen at the island and the rest of it just isn’t worth saving.   I’m glad, though, that we bought it all those years ago.  We’ve had so many good meals and good times around it.

And, my new table is so beautiful that it’s hard to feel sad about it coming to live in my house and can’t 8-10 weeks be gone already?????!!?

 

The Menu Plan

Monday Grilled cheese pull apart rolls with tomato soup

Tuesday Spaghetti Carbonara

Wednesday Grilled chicken, garlic parmesan orzo and veggies

Thursday Lemon garlic tilapia, crash hot potatoes and veggies

Friday Pizza Night

Saturday Homemade corn dogs and oven fries

Sunday best ever baked chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies

My first happy thing photo was taken at breakfast with Big Daddy.

It was taken at a little diner we’d never tried before (and probably won’t again.  It was just not good enough to justify the drive).   Big Daddy and I are in transition right now, I think.  We both feel change in the wind, but as of writing this, what that change will be isn’t certain.  It’s just there, rolling around and spurring deep “what if” conversations.  I suppose it’s a blessing that we both feel like we’re at the same place.  It’s hard when one of you is in a transition space an the other isn’t.

The premise of #100HappyDays is simple.  For 100 days, you post a picture each day of something that’s made you happy. According to the #100HappyDays website:

The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.

Aren’t we all reaching for that? It’s a simple project, it takes little time. You register at the site and then let them know which socia media platform you plan on using for your project. Then, you take a picture and post it with the #100HappyDays tag. That’s it. Simple.

I do see it working. There have been days where, as the evening was drawing to a close I realized I hadn’t observed anything or taken a picture. So, I looked to find something. It’s not hard to find something that makes you happy, and slowing down to appreciate it something I’ve enjoyed. Only 91 more days to go.

The Menu Plan

Monday Grilled Bruschetta Chicken salad and garlic bread

Tuesday Chicken and gravy  with mashed potatoes and corn

Wednesday Grilled Chicken (seasoned with Bojangles Fry Seasoning.  Not just for fries!), Mexican sour cream rice and veggies

Thursday Brinner!!

Friday Bubble Up Pizza

Saturday Date night (or maybe Friday will be date night?)

Sunday Broccoli Cheese Soup in bread bowls

On Saturday morning, we left sunny blue skies and temperatures warm enough for Baby Bee, who is always cold, to wear nothing but a t-shirt out in the morning…


…and arrived home to blowing snow with accumulation.


For years Big Daddy and I have talked about the move south and this was the first trip where I actually dreaded coming back home. I’m tired of the cold temperatures, the snow and all that misery. This pleases Big Daddy. A lot.

I’ll be writing about our trip over the next few weeks in order not to overwhelm you with Disney related content, but one thing I was looking forward to was eating at home. I’m tired of fast food, road food and all other food that isn’t cooked at home. I’m excited to return to eating Simply Filling and to continue to work on my weight loss goals.

Oh, and a brief preview of our vacation; our five park days found us walking in excess of fifty miles. I’m shocked at the number of people intending to do that sort of mileage (about 10 miles per day) in Old Navy flip flops. People! Take care of your feet!

And now, the menu plan

Monday Mongolian beef with rice and sugar snap peas

Tuesday Crockpot Chicken Taco bowls with Salad

Wednesday Italian Beef, baked potato wedges and veggies with dip

Thursday Slow cooker chicken tikka masala with rice and veggies

Friday Pizza Night

Saturday Chicken burritos, Spanish rice and corn

Sunday Mozzarella stuffed turkey meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and salad

Once upon a time, I was very rigid. I don’t handle change well. It’s genetic. Then I met this guy and he was the opposite of me. Big Daddy believes in living life on the fly. Over the years, we’ve done what we do best. We’ve melded together. I’ve become less rigid. I accept change more easily and Big Daddy has come to realize that a hotel reservation and a loose plan is a great thing.

Last week really put this to the test. After two full week’s of winter break, we had two snow days due to extreme cold and poor conditions. I don’t mind that sort of thing. I like having the girls home but, admittedly, it kind of threw off my “rah-rah New Year” motivation and we ended up with two more days of Christmas break. Plans got tossed out the window. Wednesday dawned witha two hour delay. Baby Bee only had one day of school all of last week.

 

 

And then we woke up Saturday morning with no water and a canceled date night due to Auntie Awesome’s house flooding.

It wasn’t what I planned. I admit to being tense and a little on edge. It’s hard to roll with the kind of punches that mean you can’t do laundry or flush the toilet. We sent the girls out to dig snow into Big Daddy’s brew bucket and repeated the mantra “if it’s yellow let it mellow mantra” over and over. The water came back Sunday night and while the kids have a day off school today because of the lack of water coupled with a boil order, I’m okay. Another bonus day with my girls and since the weather will be mild, we should be able to work in a little unplanned fun. That’s a good thing.

Monday grilled pork loin, crash hot potatoes and salad

Tuesday Make your own grilled chicken salad

Wednesday Slow cooker pasta fagioli

Thursday Sloppy Toms with sweet potato fries

Friday Homemade pizza!

Saturday Still trying to get that baked sesame chicken on the table.  Maybe this will be the week?

Sunday Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic chicken (we opted to make store bought pot pies last week  to reduce the number of dishes we dirtied)

Buttery cookies and double layered cake.
Potatoes in the skillet and some that you bake.
Savory ham and pastry snackie things.
At Christmas time I ate all of those things.

Shredded pork at New Year and pretzels with cheese dip.
Shrimp cocktail and briskett and roasted garlic fontina dip
Have some more cookies and some chocolate pretzel things
At Christmas and New Year I ate all of these things!

Oh yes, friends. It was a great holiday season. I outdid myself cooking this year, if I may say so myself. Over the years, I’ve perfected the cooking process and we turn out some amazing food at our house over the holiday season. Last week, I asked Big Daddy to make me a mocha.

“Put in some cream”, I said.
“How much? LIke a tablespoon?”
“Are you crazy? No. LIke a cup.”
Big Daddy scraped his jaw up off the floor and made me a mocha, but now that Christmas is over, I’ll switch to fat free half and half. The tree is down, the outside lights are off and this week I’ll be packing up all of our special little doodads that made the house so magical over the past month. They’ll wrap in in the basement until next November when I pull them out again.

But, like half of the world, the New Year means that it’s time return to a MUCH healthier way of eating. No more cookies for breakfast, no more dip for dinner. No more whipping cream in my coffee. And, you know? I’m ready for that.

Last year, I had to face some hard truths about my weight. They’re still hard truths. I ended up the year down 10 pounds from my high in the summer. I realize that I could have lost more and maybe I should have, but I maintained through the holiday season and I feel okay with that. I’m ready to be done eating heavy food and sweets.

As soon was we get through that tirmisu in the fridge.

Monday Crock Pot Creamy Tomato Soup with a side salad and fresh rolls

Tuesday Crock Pot Sesame Honey chicken over rice with sugar snap peas

Wednesday Cajun Chicken Pasta with Salad

Thursday Baked chicken nuggets, oven fries, cooked carrots (I love cooked carrots!)

Friday Make Your Own Pizza

Saturday Baked honey sesame chicken, rice, egg rolls and veggies (probably sugar snap peas as they seem to go best with Chinese style food)

Sunday Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken, mashed rutabagas, roasted asparagus

 

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