A Little of This and That

First of all, I want to say thank you for the feedback via Facebook on my last post.  I'm thrilled that a few of you took the time to read my riveting thoughts! Glad to know that there are a few more of you out there working on the meal planning business.  If there are hints or tricks that you have discovered that make it easier, I'd love to hear them.  Next week, I will post a few recipes that I have found to freeze well. So, stay tuned. 

This weekend, we will be celebrating the 60th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. A milestone for sure.  One that we don't see often enough.  I am thankful that God has blessed them with so many years of marriage and that I have been able to witness that example of strength in relationship.  I am especially looking forward to time with family--I love seeing the littlest cousins together.  Four generations in the same place is something that my kiddos don't get to experience nearly enough. But that means I need to finish packing, so I better keep moving! 

Have a great weekend, Everyone!   


I've Got a Plan!

Psst.  Wanna know a secret?

Although I really do enjoy cooking--baking especially, if you haven't noticed, but meal times are tough for me--specifically the evening meal.  Supper?  Dinner?  The terms are interchangeable around here, but other places not so much.  Anywhoo, I digress.  Lunch is easy for me.  We typically have sandwiches or work on the leftovers.  But the evening meals?  It's our only meal of the day that we are all together.  I want it to be a nice meal--maybe not super elaborate and certainly not gourmet but more than the same PB sandwich the kids and I had for lunch.  Not that there is anything wrong with that--we've had our share of PB sandwiches. But ideas are scarce for me when it comes time for preparing something.  I guess you could say I am not good under meal planning pressure. The only way I have found to counteract this is to do meal planning.

I first started doing meal planning after The Little Man was born.  It was a good way for me to balance the meals that our friends were bringing, the food I had pre-made and placed in the freezer pre-baby as well as the cooking I occasionally felt up to.  It was a God-send for me to just look at the calendar, go to the freezer and essentially pull out the evening meal.

And I have tried to continue with the planning.  Some months are better than others, but when I don't meal plan it's bad.  I get horrible idea block, I never have the right ingredients in the cupboards and we eat out way more than we should. Thus spending way more money on food than necessary.

I resisted meal planning for a long time.  My big argument was "how am I suppose to know what is going to sound good two weeks from Tuesday?". The crazy thing is this--when I have it scheduled out, it nearly always sounds good.  And if not, I can easily switch it with another night's meal from later in the week or month.  If we end up with dinner plans with friends or we end up not at home at meal time, it's fine.  I just flex the planned meal to another night.  I also plan a meal or two out--and that goes into the monthly budget.   The other added benefit of meal planning it that we have less waste.  I PLAN to re-purpose leftovers or make full recipes and freeze half so that I have a quick meal for another time. 

What I do is this--I print out a blank calendar and plan out 3-4 weeks at a time.  I use meal plans from previous months for ideas, as well as my cook books, websites like allrecipes.com and ideas from blogs that I read.  I coordinate the meal plan (main dish, veggie and usually one other side) with the grocery ads and coupons that I have so that I can get the best deals. And I try to do one new recipe a month. I generally do one or two (at the most) big grocery shopping trips a month.  I make my grocery list as I do the planning.

I just re-read that last paragraph and it sounds like I have this big, complicated process.  It's not. I promise you. To plan the whole month, it usually takes me less than an hour TOTAL and I don't usually get it all done in one sitting.

So, what's been on the plan so far this month?

Cheese Enchiladas
Chicken Broccoli Braid
Homemade pizza
Roasted Chicken
Beef Stroganoff
Spanish Rice
Chicken Stir-fry

And yes, my kids eat it all. Some meals go over better than others, of course--just like at any one's house! 
I am always up for new recipes and open to new ideas for the process. Are you a meal planner?  If not, what's holding you back?  If you are a meal planner--how does your process vary?  Do you have a "go-to" recipe or family favorite?


One More Fall Favorite

 The last favorite fall recipe that I am going to share is for a quick bread that is on my list to make again this weekend.  It freezes super well so I almost always make a double batch--one for now and one for some day when I am completely unmotivated and need some thing "different" for the family breakfasts.  It always hits the spot! 

Pumpkin Bread
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. solid pack pumpkin (approx. 1/2 of a can)
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of each-ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x5x3in. loaf pan.  (Yes, I use the spray with flour.) In a large bowl combine all ingredients.  Beat until well mixed; pour into prepared pan. Bake approximately 45-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes.  Loosen edges; remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes 1 loaf. 


Not Now

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about our decision to put our home on the market in hopes of moving closer to DH's job and our family. We had prayed about it considerably and the timing felt right.  I just KNEW that it was right.  Winter faded into spring and spring into the warmth of summer.  Now the crispness of the morning air lingers more with each passing day.  And the nearly barren trees witness the house off the market and us waiting. Shows how much I know!

The decision to cancel our listing had been coming for some time.  There were moments when we were ready to pull the plug, and a small flicker of hope would glimmer and a tiny flurry of sudden activity would catch us by surprise only to see any possibility wane. I have been left frustrated, not necessarily because of the process or the economy but because it is obvious that God is saying "Not now."  I've cried many tears in prayer begging for understanding.  I know what a considerably shorter commute for DH would mean to our family.  It breaks my heart when Princess Pigtails declares that she wishes we had "more time  (with Daddy) at night", because my soul is saying "amen".  I feel caught and twisted in the guilty reality that we are truly blessed and yet some how I long for more.  We have a beautiful home, my husband has a fantastic job which he loves and God has blessed us beyond measure.

The life of faith calls us into a trusting of the Unseen in all circumstances.  To rest in faith is to know that God is in control and is able to "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).  So I suppose it is the sinful nature of my humanity that causes the desire to lie on the floor and pound my fists, to ask why our home couldn't be the one to sell for full asking or before even hitting the market, why couldn't our home have been the one for XYZ family.  There are examples all around me...and yet when I take a deep breath, when I can begin to get my head and my heart on the same page I know it is because God is saying "not now". Not "never" but "not now".  I know that God's timing is perfect and so the struggle continues. 

With each day I have to consciously give it over to God--to literally acknowledge that "this is in YOUR hands".  I have struggled, cried and done all that I can only to find myself at literal definition of the phrase "out of my control". When the questions begin to come, I am learning to turn that into prayer.  Because there is only One with the answers to the questions that bubble out. I wish I could say that the answers have been revealed, that daily I feel the disconnect shrinking between my brain (what I know the Gospel says, what I know to be true from experience) and my heart (my manic emotions).  But the gap is still there.  I choose to be thankful that the Lord covers that void.  With each day I choose to believe the promise held in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." That give me hope for today and it is enough. 


I've Got Dreams

I've got some lofty holiday baking goals.  Yes, I do.
Check that out.  It makes the regular bag look like a fun-size bag!  Love it.
So, what's on your holiday baking list? 


Challenge of the Day

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Definition of Yummy Goodness

Here's another favorite of mine that always, always fits the bill when the weather starts changing.  It's great with milk for breakfast, over yogurt or on fruit, and even tasty sprinkled over ice cream. I'll warn you now--you will either need to do a half recipe, split the recipe across two 9x13 pans or use a roasting pan (which is what I use).  A full recipe is a lot of yummy-ness--but you could share! I've been known to share with friends and neighbors as gifts...It is so fantastic!   Here you go:

8 C. Regular (not quick cooking) Oatmeal
1 C. sweetened coconut flakes
Spread in a large pan (see above recommendations).  Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.  Stir every 15 minutes.

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 C. honey
2 tsp. vanilla
Heat until brown sugar dissolves.  Add vanilla.  Pour over dry mixture; stir well.  Bake 20 minutes.  Add 1 C. wheat germ. This is where you would add anything else you want--raisins, slivered almonds, pecans,craisins, other dried fruit...  Stir every 10-15 minutes as it cools.  If you fail to stir it frequently as it cools (like I did the first time I made it...) you WILL have one giant piece of granola!  :)  If that happens, just pop it back in a warm oven and let it warm the sugar once more and then it will be soft enough to stir!  Enjoy!