Saturday, October 30, 2010

POIIs...Points of Internet Interest

My little explorers during a recent geocaching expedition
Here are some interesting sites that I have stumbled upon lately during my internet explorations...

How to Make a Skirt From Men's Ties | - Last Spring I noticed one of the other moms in our 4-H group wearing one of these awesome skirts.  Since I have an affection for upcycled clothing, I was intrigued.  I just stumbled upon this tutorial to make your own.

49 Creative Reuse Ideas That Will Inspire & Surprise You Roundup | Apartment Therapy Re-Nest  - A page full of links to various sites with ideas for reusing all kinds of household items.  I love to read through the creative ideas.  I suppose that is a sign of a true packrat, huh? 

Sally's Kitchen: Rice Cooker spaghetti recipe - In my ongoing quest to creatively use my rice cooker, here's another recipe I discovered.

Maps - Old Testament Bible Maps by Generation Word - Here is one for my bible study buddies.  This site has relevant maps that correspond to nearly every chapter in the bible.  Very helpful!

Pick Up the Pen - Learn to Write! - This site has a bunch of links to help teach the alphabet, penmanship for both printing and cursive.  There are many printables, too.

Enjoy your weekend!



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leftover Magic: Seasoned Taco Meat

Do you eat leftovers?  We do - we love them!  I even count on them for lunches throughout the week.  I am always amazed when I hear that people hate leftovers and just throw them away.  I supposed I was just raised that you do not waste food.  With the advent of microwaves and quick easy reheating, leftovers are wonderful.  I seldom make enough of one dish to get two complete dinner meals out of it, but we can usually squeeze out lunch for me and the kids or pack my hubby's lunch.  Just packing a lunch for my husband daily saves a fortune when you consider that he spends $6-7 a day on average if he has to go out and grab something.  We can save $35 per week, over $150 per month and over $1800 per year just by packing up leftovers in a container for my husband to take to work with him.

Sometimes, though, I do go overboard and make way too much of something.  Although the family may love it the first time around, by the third meal of it, they are crying, "Enough!"  Since I have a no-throwing-away-perfectly-good-food-policy, I have to do something.  One option is to package leftovers in the freezer to pull out in a few weeks when it will seem new again.  Be sure to LABEL things well.  I cannot tell you how many times I have hurriedly thrown something in the freezer thinking, "Oh, I'll remember what this is." only to unearth it months later from the back of the freezer with NO IDEA.  Sometimes you just have to thaw it to figure out what it is.  I suppose if you like adventure, you could just do this and call it a "mystery meal" and no one (including you) knows what's for dinner before it hits the the plates.

Another option for surplus leftovers is to morph them into something else.  That is what I am going to talk about specifically here.  My son had a birthday a couple of weeks ago and requested tacos for his family birthday party meal.  When I do tacos, I usually have enough fixings for hard or soft shell tacos as well as taco salad. The kids love tacos, hubby and I prefer to create a yummy taco salad with lots of lettuce and veggies over corn chips topped with salsa and Italian dressing.  I never am quite sure how much seasoned taco meat to prepare, especially when we are having guests.  So, I decided to err on the side of too much.  I cooked a LOT!  It was pretty economical because I used the ground turkey from Sam's Club that I mentioned before along with some ground beef I had in the freezer from Angel Food.

As a side note, I never use those little packets of taco seasoning from the grocery store any more.  They are too expensive. You can by taco seasoning in a big container at Sam's Club or Gordon Food service.  The container at Sam's club costs on $3.88 and seasons 14 pounds of meat. Compare this to the packet at the grocery that sells for over a $1 and seasons only 1 pound.   I find that this is even cheaper that making your own homemade taco seasoning.

Anyway, I ended up have TONS of leftover taco fixings.  We ate tacos again the next day and still had lots left.  I didn't think that I should push the envelope and eat it a third day, so I decided to get creative.  I had bread dough in the fridge which is not uncommon, so I decided to create a stuffed braid.   I rolled out a rectangle of bread dough and placed my leftover taco meat, onions, tomatoes and cheese down the center of it.  Then I cut 1 in strips along the edges and wrapped these over the top of the filling to create a braid.  I realize that is kind of vague.  I am a visual person and I need to see images.  Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and didn't snap photos of the process.  However, this page has a good explanation with pictures.  I did take a photo of my finished braid before baking it which you can see here.

I know it looks more like a mummy than a braid.  The kids were kind of amused by that fact.  Like I said, I was in a hurry because we had someplace to be right after dinner.  I didn't snap a shot of this baked, but you can use your imagination.  It looked like the before picture only more brown and puffier.  Make sense?   The verdict was that it was really yummy and it didn't feel like we were eating tacos again.

Believe it or not, we still had taco leftovers the next day.  So, we made mexican pizzas.  I had some flat tostada shells and topped them with tomato sauce straight out of the can, taco meat, refried beans, onions, and cheese.  I microwaved the taco meat first so it would spread better and not clump, so these only needed to bake long enough for the cheese to get toasty.  I popped them into a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  We topped them off with leftover shredded lettuce and diced tomato.  Even though these tasted rather taco-like, it was a fast and fun variation.  We had a few of these leftover and ate them cold out of the fridge the next day for a snack and it was even yummy that way.  This, by the way, used up all of our taco leftovers.

Other ideas for leftover taco meat:
There are so many things you can do with this, you may decide to make extra on purpose and do some mega cooking and prepare a bunch of these dishes ahead to freeze.  I love having already prepared meals in my freezer on a day when I am overloaded.

Leftovers are a treasure trove in the frugal kitchen.  Don't relegate then to the garbage disposal; get creative and use them up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tried the Mac'n Cheese!

Yesterday after lunch I decided to start a double batch of the Rice Cooker Mac n' Cheese that I posted the other day.  I didn't have any heavy cream, so I used a combination of half and half and whole milk which I did have in my fridge.  To make up the difference in fat content, I added about 3 tablespoons of butter to make sure it was plenty rich and yummy. 

Part way through the cooking time, the rice cooker started to sputter and spew liquid out of the vent.  Just when I thought that I would have to shut it down to prevent a big mess on the counter, it settled down and cooked just fine.  After the rice cooker was done and switched to warming mode, I added the cheeses and salt.  I didn't have any mozzarella, so I just used more cheddar instead.  After mixing it through, I shut the lid and let it go until dinner.

I was wonderful to have a a big chunk of dinner done and ready ahead of time.  I cooked some pork chops and broccoli to go with it for a quick and easy meal.  A real bonus was that part of the family wasn't home at dinner time and I just put the meat and veggies in with the macaroni in the rice cooker which kept it warm and ready until they got home.  No reheating and nothing was overcooked.  Loved that!

Oh, and the mac 'n cheese? It was delightful!  It was well received by all, even my macaroni-and-cheese-hating hubby! I am glad to have this recipe in my stash.

I am really falling in love with my rice cooker.  (This is the one I have.) It is not a fancy one, but it seems to work like a charm.  The other day when I was searching for rice cooker recipes, I noticed the Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook mentioned.  I placed it on hold at the library and already have it in my hands.  I see many yummy recipes in the future.  When I find some winners, I will be sure to share them with you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rice Cooker Mac 'n Cheese

Sounds kind of crazy doesn't it?  Who ever hear of making macaroni and cheese in a rice cooker?  I found this recipe on a rice cooker thread on the ChowHound site.  (It was posted by tbunny27...thanks tbunny!)  I am posting this untried, but I wanted to preserve it here for future reference because I fully intend to experiment with this.  Here's the thread, if you are interested:  Rice Cooker Recipes.   I also found another site with a bunch of recipes that sound pretty yummy at

Rice Cooker Mac 'n Cheese

1 1/2 cup macaroni of your choice (shells, stars, macaroni etc)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 up chicken broth/stock
3/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 tspn Kosher/Sea Slat or to taste.
Combine noodles, broth & cream in rice cooker.
When machine switches to warm, add rest of ingredients & stir thoroughly until cheese in melted.
When switches to warm, its done.
The bottom will be browned like in the oven, so you can invert in into a casserole dish and sit back to rave reviews.

We have been making a lot of rice lately due to my daughter's food allergies and stomach issues.  She is happiest living on a diet of rice, veggies and fruit.  Who am I to argue with that?  I have been looking for some ways to spice up plain rice and cooking different grains.  My hunt for a Spanish Rice dish prepared in a rice cooker led me to this site.  Of course, the mac 'n cheese wouldn't be eaten by my oldest daughter due to the dairy, but the rest of the family would probably enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lessons From Raising a Strong-Willed Child

I have mentioned before that I have six children. I find it amazing that each one is uniquely different. The characteristics of each of their personalities are unique to one another. Oh, I see a few similar personality traits and they definitely share similar looks, but for the most part they are each their own person. Today, I want to share a bit about my fifth child, Rachel. She is an adorable four year old with crazy, curly blond hair. As with all of my children, I love her more than words can express. BUT, there are days that I do not like her a whole lot. You see, if you took all of the stubbornness of all of my other children and put it one one side of a scale, Rachel would outweigh them with ease. Most days, nearly every little thing she is told to do becomes a HUGE battle. And when she is frustrated and digging her heels in, it usually also means she feels the need to scream at an ear-piercing level (which is especially fun in public...not). Now, every child goes through phases of being strong-willed and having temper tantrums. I have dealt with this before. I have four children before her; I consider myself experienced. However, I am NO match for this fiery tempered little girl! I have pulled every tactic I know out of my bag of tricks. Often, I am at a loss with how to deal with Rachel and throw my hands up in frustration.

One thing for sure is that Rachel has driven me to my knees to seek God's wisdom in parenting her on many occasions. I guess if you look at that, I could consider her personality to be a blessing. She forces me to realize that I can't be her mom on my own. My skills alone are inadequate. I need God's help. So, when I can see the battle lines being drawn, I am trying to remember to stop and pray for God's wisdom and words to help in the situation.

The other day when I was just loving on Rachel giving her a hug, a realization hit me. It doesn't matter how much she battles me, screams at me or how uncooperative she is, I still love her. She is my girl and I can't help but love her. I look into her eyes and see her insecurities and her weakness and I have compassion for her. The amazing thing I realized is that our relationship is a model of my relationship with God. I am His girl. He is my heavenly parent. Often when He asks me to do something, I argue with Him. I stubbornly dig my heels in and choose not to do what I know is right in His eyes. I often choose not to pay attention to His voice and feel like I know the best things for me. Just like I, as a parent have the wisdom of experience and know what is best for my little girl, God is ALL-knowing and knows what is best for me, but often I won't listen. The amazing thing is that He still loves me in that same unexplainable way that I love my little strong-willed girl. In fact, he loves me more even though I don't deserve it. That is what God's love is. It is an amazing thing!

So, if you finding yourself loving your little one or big one or other special person today, remember that God's love for you is so much bigger no matter how you behave. He loves you for just being you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Monday, October 04, 2010

My Discovery of Ground Turkey

For years I have read that substituting ground turkey for ground beef is a healthy choice.  So, I trekked to the store and my jaw hit the floor when I saw the PRICE of ground turkey.  It was usually over $4 per pound.  Well, I stuck to my ground beef.  Then one day I was at my local Sam's Club and discovered that they sell two 20 ounce packages (5 pounds) of ground turkey for just over $10.  $2 per pound is less than even the cheapest ground beef unless you find a good sale. 

So, I decided to try it.  When cooked, ground turkey is much lighter in color than ground beef and does have a different flavor.  However, when you are mixing it into a dish, these differences are not very obvious.  One nice thing about ground turkey is the lack of fat that cooks out of it.  You can brown it and not drain it or use it in a dish like meatloaf and not worry about it swimming in a pool of fat.  Because of this, though, I find that I need to add a little olive oil to my skillet when I am browning it. 

So, you might be wondering what exactly to do with this stuff.  I have used it in casseroles and chili.  It makes wonderful seasoned taco meat, too.  I have also started making meatloaf with it which is quite yummy.  We use one 20 ounce package of ground turkey to make this and it feeds our little family of 8 with some leftover.  Although you can form it into loaves, I find that it is simpler just to press it into a 9" x 13" casserole dish like a big meat cake.  We cut it into pieces, like cake, to serve it. 

Turkey Loaf

A delicious yet healthy version of meatloaf made with ground turkey.  Could also be made with lean ground beef. Serves 8.

  • 2 1/2 pounds (40 oz.) ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large eggs *
  • 1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup applesauce (unsweetened) **
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese ***
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce
Mix all ingredients EXCEPT the spaghetti sauce together.  Clean hands work best for this.  Press into a greased 9" x 13" pan/dish. (You can form this into several loaves, but I find that it is quicker and easier to just place into dish and cut like a cake to serve.)  Pour sauce over top.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes.

*To lower the fat in this recipe you can substitute 4 large eggs for the 2 whole eggs.
**When I am out of applesauce I have substituted ketchup, baby food, or cooked and pureed vegetables.
***May be eliminated if trying to keep this dairy-free. (Yes, sadly, this is now a concern in our house.)

The recipe can also be found here.

You can also make this and freeze it baked, half-baked, or unbaked.  If your family is smaller, you could make this into two loaves and bake one and freeze one for a future meal.  I love when I can make two meals for the effort of one.  What a bonus!  You could also make snack size meatloaves in muffin tins.  You could just bake them and eat them for dinner or bake them and freeze them for individual lunches or snacks.  You could pop one or two out of the freezer and microwave them.
Hope you enjoy!