Some of my favorite things

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Posted in Personal

How I Meal Plan

You’re ready to start planning out your meals but you’re not sure how to begin. There are three good ways to do it:

  • Using Evernote or some other note taking software
  • Using some sort of spreadsheet software like Excel or Google Docs
  • Using pencil and paper

Personally, I use Evernote. My daily tasks are still managed with Remember The Milk, but Evernote is another invaluable tool that I use. If you’ve never heard of it, you really should go take a look at it.

My Process:

  • I decide if I’m going to do 1 week or more. For this example, I only did 1 week.
  • Check to see what I have on hand in the refrigerator. This time, I had extra zucchini and eggplant from the farmer’s market (I had got such a great deal on it). I also had ground chicken that I needed to cook that I had gotten a good deal on, too. Also wanted to use some of the cheese we have.
  • Put the few meals I knew I wanted to make, like the chicken meat loaf, bbq beef and eggplant parmesan.
  • Check my schedule to see what days were my busiest. Put the meals that I can do in a crock pot down for those days.
  • Check to see what’s in the freezer. In this case, I have some Tilapia that I want to use.
  • Fill in the lunches with leftovers
  • Update my shopping lists: Trader Joe’s, Vons, Farmer’s Market, etc.
  • Voila! Complete meal plan.

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Posted in Miscellaneous

Loving my droid

I can’t believe how useful my did is. And now that I have this new app I can write posts on the run. Hopefully this means that I’ll be posting more frequently.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Meal Planning

After several discussions on twitter over the past couple of days, I thought I’d write a post about meal planning. I was never a big fan of it. In fact, it always seemed quite restricting especially since I’m more of the fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. But there are quite a few benefits that I have come to rely on. So meal planning is essential in our house.

Meal Planning Saves Money

Both my husband and I are used to good food. My husband’s father is a chef. I had gotten used to eating organic since I had all the issues with pesticides. So between the two of us, we eat well. When my husband and I first moved in with each other, we would spend about $100-150 a week on groceries and about $50+ eating out. However, after my husband had his second pay cut, we really needed to buckle down and figure out how to make every dollar count. Neither one of us wanted to give up on having good food, so I started paying attention to how I could save money.

The obvious money saver is that when you know what you’re cooking, you don’t eat out as much. But more importantly, when I use a meal plan, I know what foods I need for the week. So after my plan is done, I make lists for the places I get my groceries (in my case Trader Joe’s, Farmer’s Market, Vons and Jons). I know who has better prices for what and I know which place to buy organic.

Also, I don’t buy extra food that I don’t need nor do I waste food. HUGE money saver!

Eating a More Balanced Diet

Having a toddler, I try my best to make sure that we eat a well rounded diet which includes lots of vegetables. Another concern is getting the proper nutrition. So my meal plan usually includes a daily source of vitamin C, vitamin A every couple of days and as much Folic Acid and DHA as I can fit in. Some weeks, I do a better job than others. But most weeks, I’m pretty happy with my meal planning as far as a balanced diet goes.

Having More Time

You would think that cooking (nearly) every day would take up a lot of time. But it doesn’t. One of the things I do when I meal plan is look at my calendar. If I have a few days that I know I’m going to be busy all day, then I plan a crock pot meal. Since I know what I’m making, I usually get everything ready the night before and just put it in the refrigerator. In the morning, all I have to do is put it in the base and turn it on.

Also, since I know what I’m making for the week, I try to fix as many things ahead of time as possible. Most of the time I have my vegetables chopped ahead of time and sitting in the freezer, but even if I don’t, I will chop everything I need for the week at once. For example, this Saturday, I didn’t have any frozen chopped onions, so I chopped the onions for my meat loaf, the BBQ beef, the turkey chili and chopped all the rest of the onions I had on hand and froze them. On Sunday, I grilled up all of the remaining vegetables that I used in the panini on Sunday, but will also use for lunch on Thursday.

Another time saver is that since I know exactly what I need for the week, I don’t waste my time driving back and forth to the grocery store. Although I prefer to break it up into two shopping trips a week, my shopping trips are quick and easy since I know exactly what  I need.

You Get To Be More Adventurous

Sometimes I see food at the Farmer’s market or hear about a dish that I want to try. Thanks to the internet and wonderful recipe websites like CD Kitchen and All Recipes, I can look for recipes and then plan them into my week. The beef stroganoff I recently made was one of those little adventures. I had never made it before, but it turned out amazing. Who knows when I would’ve gotten around to it if I hadn’t put it in my meal plan.

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Posted in Feeding, Thriftiness

Been busy the last couple of days

I really do try to write on my blog every day except Sunday (my husband and I have a deal that neither of us do any work other than stuff for the household). But its been busy the last few days.

Yesterday was my 2 year anniversary, which also coincides with my son being 15 months, so we also had a doctor’s appointment. As you can guess, yesterday was not a good day for updating the blog. I can’t believe how quickly time passes.

It seems like I was just planning a wedding, then just planning for a baby. Now my baby is a toddler. Life is good!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s – Aug. 23, 2010

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s – Aug. 23, 2010.

Anyone who reads my blogs, or more specifically my recipes, is probably very aware of the fact that I shop at Trader Joe’s… A LOT! Although this article is quite long (I read long articles in the newspaper, but online, I find them a bit difficult) it is very informative.

There is one comment (towards the end) about Trader Joe’s not being good for a family because they don’t sell baby food. That’s not quite right. In fact I buy most of my food for Milan at Trader Joe’s.  Always have. BUT I make the majority of it myself.

It is true, there are not any baby food jars there. But here are some Trader Joe’s shortcuts or ready made food for babies:

  • pear sauce
  • organic apple sauce – they even have them in snack cup sizes
  • Bananas
  • Squash cut into cubes in a bag. Just plop that in a steamer or microwave and blend with some water. So quick, so easy.
  • Joe’s O’s – The Trader Joe’s version of cheerios, just a little healthier

Here are current foods that I purchase from Trader Joe’s for my baby:

  • Bananas – simply the easiest food to feed your baby
  • A “Fig” Walks Into a Bar – cereal bars that both my husband and my toddler eat all the time
  • Dates
  • Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Grapes and just about any other fruit
  • Teriyaki tofu
  • Those little pita pockets – I fill them with just about anything
  • All of his smoothie items: Whole grain or almond milk, almond or peanut butter, organic yogurt, dried dates (I just put them in some water the night before to soften them up)
  • Organic Milk – they have some of the best prices around when it comes to organic dairy products

For the most part, I feed Milan whatever we’re eating and not prepared foods. We started doing that as soon as we could. I used to change my meal plans to things that he could eat.

I have a few exceptions to prepared baby food which include Plum Organics Pouches and Ella’s Kitchen Organic pouches. They are super easy to just throw in your diaper bag for when you’re on the go.

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Posted in Feeding

Moms Fashion File Twitter Party | Mom’s Fashion File

Moms Fashion File Twitter Party | Mom’s Fashion File.

Now that I’m a mom, I’m constantly in need of some fashion advice. I find I’m always falling into the same fashion rut: comfortable mom clothes. I’m excited to see how this Twitter Party turns out from Moms Fashion File. I’m looking forward to a monthly party, too.

Maybe I’ll be able to get some advice on what’s comfortable and stylish. Who knows… I might just get lucky and win a good from Sue Devitt Beauty, LilLuxe, Stella Dot Jewelry, Deux Lux Handbags or Miracle Jeans!

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Posted in Miscellaneous

I’m tired

Last week, I got a Motorola DROID X and I am completely addicted to it. I have spent much more time on there than I should.

Today, I’m not really going to blog about anything because I want to go catch up on my sleep. But I will tell you that my Droid is responsible for the lovely photos of the Beef Stroganoff that I made the other night. So its not all for nothing.

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Beef Stroganoff in the Crock Pot

As you can tell, I really like using my crock pot. Today was no different. About a week ago, my husband and I were talking about different foods we ate growing up. When I mentioned beef stroganoff, he told me he had never had it. Of course, I went on a quest to find a crock pot recipe. I found quite a few, but they all used “cream of” soups. I’ve been trying to make meals from fresh, minimally packaged ingredients. I combined several recipes together to make it – and it turned out great! My son gobbled it up and my husband is very happy that we’re having leftovers tomorrow.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-4 tbsp flour, any kind (all-purpose, oat, garbanzo, etc)
  • 1½ pounds beef, cut into chunks (stew beef works perfect)
  • 1½ cups sliced and/or diced onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8-10 oz sliced mushrooms
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp Dijon style mustard
  • About 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1½ cups beef broth
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1½ cup sour cream
  • Package of egg noodles prepared according to package directions

Directions:

Turn crock pot on high. Coat beef in 2-4 tbsp flour (will depend on how small you cut your pieces – more or less surface area). I used garbanzo flour to add a little bit extra fiber, but all-purpose will work perfectly, too. I put the meat and flour into a plastic container with a lid and shook it. Put olive oil in pan on medium-high heat. Wait just a moment, then put the beef in the pan.

Cook meat until it is nicely browned. While meat is cooking, put onions, garlic, salt, mushrooms, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and parsley in the crock pot before you put the beef. Whenever you’re cooking a fatty meat (even lean beef is fatty), you’ll want at least a small layer of veggies on the bottom to prevent the meat from sticking and/or burning on the bottom.

If you feel inclined to, deglaze your frying pan with a bit of beef broth and pour into crock pot.

Pour (the remainder of the ) 1½ cups of beef broth over the meat and put the cover on.

If you have less than 8 hours before you eat and you’ll be around, cook on high for a couple of hours. Otherwise, cook on low for 7½-8 hours.

About an hour before dinner, mix the ¼ cup flour and ½ cup beef broth together. For best results, put the flour in the bowl first and then add just a little bit of the broth until it forms a paste. Then add the rest of the broth. This will avoid clumping. Add flour broth and sour cream to crock pot. Mix everything until the sour cream has melted.

Cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes. Now is a perfect time to make your egg noodles. Turn off the crock pot at 30 minutes or if you see the stroganoff starting to bubble. Its best not to let it boil as boiling breaks down milk products. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the sauce thickens up a bit.

Put noodles on plate and top with the yummy beef stroganoff.

Enjoy!

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Posted in Recipes

Baby on your back – part 2

After I made the first video about wearing your baby on your back, I took Milan out of the wrap. I realized that it is just as important to learn how to take your baby out of wrap. So here’s a video showing you how to get your baby out. I’ve also included some other tips and tricks.

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Posted in Miscellaneous