Monday, January 27, 2014

Easier cooking for busy days

Since we decided to homeschool with some dear family friends, it seems that the day flies by. I'm not complaining, mind you. It has been an honor and a privilege to share this responsibility with their mom. I am committed to helping my friend homeschool her boys as she goes through nursing school. While I am physically at home with my students, we are so busy that time goes by so fast now. I turn around and it is supper time! I love my crockpot and it has saved me these past few weeks. However, I feel there is a better way to utilize it.

My goal is to be able to cook twice during the workweek and get several meals out of it. I want to utilize my crockpot or cooking ahead as much as I can. I am assuming your crockpot automatically goes to "warm" after its cooking cycle. If yours doesn't, run out and get one! Here is my revised busy life monthly menu for Winter:

BUSY LIFE WINTER MENU updated on 2/27/14
WEEK #1:

Shopping List for week 1:
Produce:  1 yellow onion, 5 cloves garlic, parsley, thyme, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fresh salad greens, fresh carrots, cucumber, green onions, tomato
Dairy: sour cream, 8 oz cheddar cheese, butter
Meat: 4 lb. roast, 2 whole chickens (you can also get 2 rotisserie chickens), 1 lb. smoked sausage
Frozen: baby broccoli, chopped carrots, peas
Baking Aisle: rosemary, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, yeast, chicken stock (1 meal), cornstarch
Condiment: Worcester sauce, croutons
Dry goods: Basmati rice, noodles (enough for two meals), plastic zipper bags

The weekend before:
Grocery shop for needed ingredients. Chop yellow onion and freeze it in a plastic zipper bag. Slice the cucumber, chop the tomato, chop the parsley, chop the green onions, shred the cheese. All go in separate plastic bags in the fridge. Cut each of the 3 cloves of garlic in half. Stuff the roast with the garlic.  Cook two chickens in the oven if you won't be home during the day this week. Prior to cooking, sprinkle the chicken with rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees. You can also purchase 2 rotisserie chickens.

On Monday morning:
Throw Roast into crockpot, half of frozen chopped onions and 1/4 cup of water, Worcester sauce, hot sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper (add salt right before serving). High 6-8 hours or Low 10-12 hours.
Throw ingredients into breadmaker for a loaf of bread

Monday night:
Roast meal #1:
Roast, Rice and Gravy and peas with fresh bread. Make rice and cook peas when you get home. After the meal, the leftover roast and gravy goes in the fridge.

On Tuesday afternoon:
If you are home, throw two chickens in oven to bake and hour and 15 minutes before time to eat. Sprinkle with rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. You can also purchase 2 rotisserie chickens or cook two chickens during the weekend. If needed, heat up the pre-cooked chicken in the oven before serving on Tuesday night.

Tuesday night:
Chicken meal #1:
Baked chicken, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Cook sweet potatoes in microwave (serve with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon). Cook frozen baby broccoli in microwave with a little butter and salt.  After the meal, debone the rest of the chicken meat and put in a zipper plastic bag in the fridge.

Wednesday night:
Roast meal #2:
Beef stroganoff. Add a little sour cream to the gravy and heat everything up on a low heat. Toss in chopped mushrooms. Cook noodles. A simple salad mix with croutons and half the sliced cucumber, half of a chopped tomato and the rest of the bread. (You can toast the bread in the oven with a little butter, a little grated cheese and garlic powder if you like.)


Thursday morning. Throw your jambalaya ingredients into the crock pot. This will use the rest of the pre-cooked chicken. Recipe here.

Thursday night:
Chicken Meal #2:
Jambalaya with fresh salad greens topped with grated carrot and croutons.

Friday night:
Chicken meal #3:
Chicken noodle soup. Recipe here. Use the rest of the leftover chicken. You can throw everything (except the noodles) into the crockpot in the morning or you can throw it all together 30 minutes before eating. Serve with the rest of the salad greens and croutons.

WEEK #2:

Shopping List for week 2:
Produce:  1 yellow onion, 3 cloves garlic, thyme, green onions (enough to make 1/4 cup of chopped onions), parsley, large baking potatoes for each member of your family, 2 apples
Dairy: butter, Parmesan cheese, 8 oz. cheddar cheese, sour cream
Meat: 4-6 pieces of bacon, 2 lbs smoked sausage, 1 whole chicken (or rotisserie chicken with meat removed)
Frozen: broccoli, artichoke,
Baking Aisle: Tony Chachere seasoning, cornstarch, olive oil, chicken stock, celery salt, Fruit Fresh, cinnamon, chopped pecans,
Condiment: Tabasco, hot sauce
Dry goods: Basmati rice, plastic zipper bags, Blue Runner Cream style beans, regular or spicy (see picture below), refried beans, nacho chips



During the weekend:
Grocery shop for needed ingredients. Chop 2 yellow onions and freeze it in a plastic zipper bag. Chop up 1 cup of green onion. Chop up the sausage. Grate cheese. Grate your carrot. Cook the bacon and crumble. All go in separate plastic bags in the fridge. Get a rotisserie chicken or bake 1 chicken spiced with Tony Chachere seasoning and remove the meat from the bone and put in plastic zipper bag. Chop up 2 apples and toss with "Fruit Fresh" so it doesn't turn brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon, add 2 Tbl. honey and some chopped pecans. Toss and put in zipper plastic bag.

Monday night:
Chicken Meal  #1:
Chicken pasta with artichoke and broccoli.
Cook your favorite pasta. Drain. Then start your meal.
Saute in 2 Tbl. butter frozen artichokes, broccoli and garlic together. Add 1/2 of the chicken and stir until it is hot. Add the pasta. 2 more Tbl. of butter and stir until butter is melted and mixed in well on pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve.

On Tuesday morning: Throw the chopped sausage in crockpot with the chopped yellow  onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add sprinkle of Tony Chachere seasoning and a dash of hot sauce. Mix 1 Tbl. of the cornstarch with 1 cup of the water and stir well. Add to crockpot. Low for 4 hours.

Tuesday night:
Sausage Meal #1:
Sausage, Rice and Gravy with broccoli. Make the rice. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chopped green onions on top of sausage and gravy before serving. Put the leftover sausage and gravy in the fridge.

Wednesday night:
Baked potatoes. Bake potatoes in microwave. Serve topped with butter, 1/2 of the grated cheese, sour cream, bacon, 1/3 of chopped green onions. Serve the chopped apple fruit salad on the side.

Thursday night:
Chicken meal #2:
Chicken nachos. Half of the remaining chicken with refried beans, the rest of the shredded cheddar cheese. After they are cooked, top with sour cream, hot sauce, the rest of the tomato and green onions. Serve with the rest of the cucumber on the side.

On Friday morning: put cornbread in bread maker.

Friday night:
Sausage meal #2:
Red Beans and Rice with sausage and cornbread. Make Rice. Heat up the sausage and gravy on low heat. Add the Blue Runner Cream Style Red Beans. Heat just until hot. Serve over rice with the cornbread.

WEEK #3:

Shopping List for week 3:
Produce:   3 yellow onions, 4 cloves garlic, cilantro, fresh oregano, parsley, mushrooms, 2 apples
Dairy: 16 oz. cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, butter,
Meat: 2 lbs of lean ground beef, 6-8 chicken breasts
Frozen: corn,
Baking Aisle: olive oil, pepper, salt, garlic powder, flour, oregano, chicken stock, sugar, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, chopped pecans
Condiment: sliced jalapenos. Cholula Hot Sauce
Dry goods: cream of tomato soup, bread, canned enchilada sauce (or make your own with this recipe), 6 flour tortillas, 1 can tomato paste, 2 cans Muir Glen Roasted Tomatoes, 1 can pinto beans, a handful of tortilla chips for garnish, pasta noodles (like 3 color Garden rotini),

 If you are making your own enchilada sauce, here are the needed ingredients:
butter, onion, garlic, bellpepper, 2 cans tomato paste, 1 can fire roasted tomatoes Muir Glen Organic, chili powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt

During the weekend: Chop 3 onions. Freeze 3/4 chopped onions. Precook 2 lbs of ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper add 1/4 of your chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 tsp. cumin, 2 bunches of cilantro chopped, 2 tsp. black pepper, 2 tsp. Kosher salt,  dash of Cholula Hot Sauce (or your favorite mexican hot sauce). Grate the cheese. Make Enchilada Sauce if you don't purchase canned sauce. Assemble your Enchilada Casserole with half of the cooked ground beef and top with foil (sprayed with Pam on the underside so the cheese doesn't stick). Grill 6-8 chicken breasts (or enough for 2 meals for your family). Put in fridge. Chop up 2 apples and toss with "Fruit Fresh" so it doesn't turn brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon, add 2 Tbl. honey and some chopped pecans. Toss and put in zipper plastic bag.

Monday Night:
Ground Beef Meal #1:
Easy Enchilada Casserole - pop in oven 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes.

Tuesday morning: Start bread in breadmaker

Tuesday Night:
Chicken Meal #1:
Grilled Chicken Breasts, broccoli with butter, homemade bread. Put your 4 whole pre-cooked chicken breasts in an oven safe dish, add 1 Tbl. water and cover with foil. Heat at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes or until hot. Cook broccoli in microwave.

Wednesday Night:
Cream of Tomato Soup and grilled cheese with apple salad. You can add some luncheon meat to your grilled cheese sandwiches if you want to make them heartier.

Thursday morning: Add all the ingredients for Taco soup in your crock pot. This uses the last of the pre-cooked ground beef and 1/4 of the frozen chopped onion. Recipe here.

Thursday night:
Ground Beef Meal #2:
Taco Soup (uses the rest of the ground beef and 1/4 of the onion) with cheese, sour cream & tortilla chip toppers

Friday morning: Throw your ingredients for Chicken Cacciatore into the crock pot. Recipe here. Uses the last of your onion and the chicken.

Friday night:
Chicken Meal #2:
Chicken Cacciatore - cook your pasta. Serve the hot sauce over the pasta. Eat with the last of your bread.

WEEK #4:

Shopping List for week 3:
Produce:   2 yellow onions, 3 clove garlic, 4 yellow potatoes, mushrooms, green onions, parsley
Dairy: Mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, egg
Meat: 1 lb. of ground meat,  3 strip steaks cut into thin slices, 1 chicken chopped into pieces
Frozen: sliced carrots, frozen stir fry veggie mix, eggrolls, green beans, peas,
Baking Aisle: onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning mix, nutmeg, bay leaf, cornstarch
Condiment: Worcester sauce
Dry goods: parmesan cheese, 1 can Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes, 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste, 1 box Rotini pasta, spaghetti noodles, French bread, Basmati rice,

During the weekend: chop your onion and freeze. Chop parsley & green onions. Chop your whole chicken into pieces. Grate your Mozzarella cheese,  Cook half a box of Rotini noodles. Put in a zipper plastic bag, toss in olive oil and mix it up to make sure all the noodles are coated with oil and put in fridge. cut your 3 strip steaks into thin slices. Divide evenly into two bags. Cube potatoes and put in a bowl with water covering them.

Monday morning: Throw all of your ingredients for spaghetti with meatsauce into your crockpot. Recipe here. Use 1/3 of the chopped onion.

Monday night:
Ground Meat Spaghetti Sauce Meal #1:
Spaghetti with meat sauce over pasta with corn. Cook your spaghetti noodles. Cook your corn with butter in the microwave. Take out half of the meat sauce and put in fridge for later on.

Tuesday morning: Add 1/2 of the sliced beef, 1/3 frozen chopped onion, 1 clove garlic, frozen carrots and green beans, cubed potatoes, mushrooms, bay leaf, and Worcester Sauce with 1/4 cup of water. Salt and pepper to taste. 4 hours high.

Tuesday night:
Beef Stew with 1/2 of French bread

Wednesday morning: Throw all ingredients for sticky chicken into crockpot. Recipe here. Use the last of the frozen onions.

Wednesday night:
Sticky Chicken over Rice and peas. Cook your rice. Heat your peas in the microwave.

Thursday morning: Put your ingredients for lasagna in the crock pot. Use your pre-cooked Rotini noodles. Recipe here.

Thursday night:
Ground Meat Spaghetti Sauce Meal #1:
Crock pot Lasagna with rest of French bread (you can toast in oven with butter and garlic powder)

Friday Night:
Stir fry beef and vegetables with eggrolls. Uses up the rest of the sliced steak. Here is a good recipe for a sugar free teriyaki sauce.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Forest Floor is complete!

Hello fellow gardeners! We have had some major developments in the garden area. First, I can officially say that our backyard is completely grass free! Yipee! We got another free load of chipped up trees from our local tree trimmer and our "Forest Floor" is complete. We had some cedar in this batch, and it smells wonderful. With some newspaper contributions from our generous friends, we have completed our project. We are so thrilled at the way it looks and we are over the moon that we will not have to mow in our backyard ever again. My youngest son did a wonderful job working with me. We became a well-oiled machine with his dumping and me laying newspaper and spreading! Here are some very bad quality pictures from my phone (my camera is on the fritz). We put a thick layer (4-5" thick) knowing from our past experience that it will settle down nicely. The only upkeep is that in a few years we will have to get another batch of free chipped up trees from our local tree trimmer and put another layer on it to keep it thick. Because we are not laying any more newspaper, it will go much faster. We had a nice rain shortly after we put everything down and the "Forest Floor" did a great job at soaking up the rain. It was so great to walk in the backyard and not have muddy or soggy areas. My dog was a little confused as to were she was to do her business as she preferred the few grassy areas we had left, but now she is AOK with it. If you are interested in how we did the "Forest Floor" landscaping project, check out my other blog entries by clicking on the "Forest Floor" page link to the right.

Second, I have been wishing that I had a rain barrel. They are pretty pricey, so it had been just a wish. Well, our dear and thoughtful friends surprised us this Christmas with a collapsible rain barrel. Too cool! The first light rain filled up the 50-gallon barrel! I am so impressed. Looking forward to watering my seeds with fresh rain water. What a difference rain water makes to seeds. They far prefer it to hose water. Check on the picture of the rain barrel below.

Third, I have been dreaming of a drip irrigation system. After pricing the pieces out, it isn't as pricey as I thought it would be. Sooooo.... this is my next big project.

the area around our cypress tree is now grass free!

we finished off the rest of the side of our house


the area in front of the cabin looks great!

Check out this little beauty! A wonderful collapsible rain
barrel. A thoughtful Christmas gift from our friends!

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