Wednesday, April 28, 2010

YW Recognition Night

Tonight I had two delicious treats that I MUST FIND THE RECIPES FOR.

(Sorry for shouting.)

One was a lime slush. It was amazing.

The other thing was a pear tart. Don't let the boring name fool you. It shall be renamed "The Best Dessert Ever." No hyperbole here!

I know who to ask for the recipes, and if I get permission to publish them, I will share. Otherwise, I will keep them in my files and impress the heck out of you when I see you next.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Monday--(Missionaries) King Ranch Chicken, chips & salsa, black beans, green salad
FHE treat--Giant hot fudge brownie ala mode

Tuesday--Chicken Lime Cilantro soup (with broth from Sunday's whole chicken), cheese quesadillas

Wednesday--Baked tilapia, twice-baked potatoes, corn on the cob

Thursday--Giant green salad (one of my recipes printed in Taste of Home), homemade rolls (if I have the time)

Friday--Pizza for kids, Date Night for parents (!)

Saturday--Blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit salad

Sunday--Ham and Scallopped Potatoes (crock pot), mixed vegetables


So have you noticed we're eating fish once a week and vegetarian at least once a week? Good for us, right?

Friday, April 23, 2010

King Ranch Chicken casserole

I feel bad about throwing my mom under the bus on my post about picky eaters. Mom, I love you! I know you hate cooking but this is my favorite recipe from you and everybody loves it.

I make this whenever I need to deliver a dinner to someone. Add a green salad and black beans as sides and you're ready to go. It is the easiest of recipes--especially good for busy or novice cooks. (I made this a ton as a working newlywed.)

Photo taken from



2 10 ¾ oz. cans Cream of Chicken soup

1 10 oz. can of chicken

1 10 oz. can tomatoes with green chiles (I used Rotel and they do make a mild version if you don't like spice)

2 Tablespoons dried minced onion

15-20 Corn tortillas, quartered

3-4 Cups cheddar or Colby-Jack cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine soups with ½ cup of water. Add tomatoes w/ green chiles, minced onion, and chicken. Stir.

3. Spoon a thin layer of soup mixture onto bottom of an 8x8 or 9x13 pan.

4. Layer in the following order: tortillas, soup mixture, cheese. Repeat 3 or 4 times, ending with cheese.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.

6. Let stand for 10 minutes. (It will be easier to cut).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Organizing Your Food Storage

Remember how I said we have a certain closet? I call it the food storage closet since it has our gigant-o can rotation system in it as well as a bookshelf full of macaroni and cheese. But the kids call it the TREAT CLOSET since that's what they care about.

I just went to the store: new Oreos, Chip's Ahoy, Slim Jims, almond packs, fruit snacks, mini-bags of popcorn, and Gatorade on top of the bookshelf.

It's very nice to have something to bribe reward the children with.

I'm lucky enough to have a closet to dedicate to food storage.

But here's the thing. Even though I *do* have room for a lot, there's no way all this would last us more than 2 months. Isn't that crazy? I don't know how someone would truly store enough for a year. But that being said, I really do like my shelf reliance rotation system. It's like at the grocery store, where you take a can of soup off the shelf and the rest of them roll down. I especially like something to help me take stock of my #10 cans. As you can see, I have room to add more tracks.

This is my pantry.

If your pantry / cupboard / closet shelves are deep enough I'd definitely recommend the cansolidator system. Shop around for the best deal; I ordered mine through and the shipping was free. It also operates on the first-in-first-out method. It's very easy to see what you have and what you need (and apparently I am out of canned pineapple).

Even if your kitchen is small I think you could find a place to put some of these (even if that place is in your linen cabinet or bedroom.) In my pantry I have two sets of the two-pack bundle at costco; 2 1/2 shelves on the top shelf and 1 1/2 on the bottom one. They fit together like Legos.

These three tubs at the bottom of the pantry hold rice, flour, and sugar. I wish they had flip-top lids . . . then my life would be perfect.

My goal is to make the food storage accessible and usable. I figure the more I rely on pantry staples the better off I'll be in the case of a shortage or emergency--meaning I'll know how to use what I have.

My friend Melanie has a list on her pantry door. She knows she wants to keep a certain number of everything (let's say, 24 cans of corn) and when she uses a can she notes it on her list. Then when she goes shopping she gets a can of corn to replace what she used. That's a great idea, don't you think?

As I'm writing this I realize I'm in no way an expert and I really have nothing amazing to offer you. But I do like my shelves. I guess I'm an expert at buying shelves and having Bryce and his dad put them together for me.

What do you use to help you keep organized?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Monday--Broiled salmon, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables
FHE treat--Strawberry Milkshakes

Tuesday--Sausage and spinach omelet (crock pot), banana bread, sliced cantaloupe

Wednesday--Pizza Margherita (homamade crust if I have time), green salad, grapes

Thursday--Pork tenderloin, rice pilaf, steamed green beans

Friday--Appetizer Night (chicken tenders, boiled ravioli w/ marinara for dipping, potstickers, onion rings . . . or whatever else I feel like buying), cut vegetables with Ranch, clementines

Saturday--Black bean and cheese quesadillas, leftovers

Sunday--Whole baked chicken (crock pot) with potatoes, carrots, and celery

I'm getting my hair done (finally!) on Tuesday. Why is it that salt-and-pepper hair looks so much better on men? Whenever I have somewhere to be in the evening I make a crock pot meal. Usually that's Wednesday because of Mutual, but this week we've moved Mutual to Saturday night to see a performance of "Savior of the World."

What are you having this week?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feeding Picky Kids

I know this is a hot topic.

Some people say, They can eat it or go hungry. I'm not a short order cook.

Other people say, I like chicken nuggets and Pop Tarts too. It's easier to make that than fight about it.

Here's my philosophy. There are three things you can't control about another person: sleep, toileting, and eating. Once you try to control those things the other person will win at any cost. It may seem oversimplified, but don't push--and they won't push back. If  you can't be forced to eat something you find detestable, neither can they. (Even if that thing is something they ate last week, and is perfectly normal and free of "weird" ingredients . . . which I know is frustrating.)

My dinner meals consist of three items: the main dish, and two more "plain" foods that I'm fairly confident they will eat, like bread or fruit. If we have a main dish with separate ingredients, I serve the ingredients separately. For example with tacos I serve everything in little piles: ground beef, cheese, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, olives, and a taco shell on the side. The older kids serve themselves buffet style. 

I don't buy pre-packaged "kid" foods except for Kraft macaroni and cheese and frozen pizza, which they eat when they have a babysitter. I try to make homemade meals that I hope they'll like, but to be honest I'm really cooking with nutrition, cost, and my husband's enjoyment in mind. Some days I'm sure he would wonder about that!

My 5-year-olds can be nearly always be convinced to eat a few bites of the main dish food in order to get another piece of fruit or a roll or whatever.

But I must say, my pickiest eaters by far are the 10-year-old and the 13-year-old!!!!!!!

I think that in so many ways, older kids revert to toddler behavior. My little kids have good table manners; my older ones can be slobs. My little kids accept chore requests; my older ones can throw tantrums. My little kids will try new foods; my older ones can utterly refuse. Something about a school cafeteria completely ruins a sweet little kid's ability to eat politely. I think my 8th grader eats less of a variety of foods than any 2-year-old.

But here's the thing. He's had exposure to healthy-(ish) eating his whole life. We're no saints but I do think it's important to constantly offer fruits and vegetables and whole grains so they develop a taste for those things. Unfortunately he's in middle school where nachos and pizza and gummi worms are the main staples of a "normal" kid's diet. And so his tastes have shifted to high salt, high fat foods. But you know what . . . all that early training has not been in vain, because he has a number of whole foods that he loves.

 He likes tomatoes. He likes green-topped bananas, grapes, strawberries, and fresh pineapple. He likes green salad. He likes sunflower seeds. So I make sure to have those things on hand for snacks and on the dinner menu to round out his less-than-healthy midday munching.

So that's why I keep trying with the other ones. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Over and over. Would I rather have my kids love my homemade tuna-noodle surprise or a crunchy apple? In the end, I believe they will be better off loving fruits and vegetables than my (amazing! awesome!) home cooking.

That's the philosophy. Here's the practical application.

At dinner time they must sit with the family and join the conversation, even if they don't plan on eating anything. They may choose a fruit or vegetable to bring to the table. Once the meal is over and after-dinner chores done, they can make themselves a peanut butter sandwich if they want.

I don't make them eat any certain amount to get the Family Home Evening treat. Since we usually only have dessert on Monday nights I don't have to worry about that. I do use their behavior as leverage against the treat, but not their eating performance at dinner.

We don't have pre-packaged snacks in the pantry. When they're hungry between meals I have plenty of fruits and vegetables, string cheese, pretzels, and non-sugary cereal for them to munch on. However, we do have a locked closet with junk food in it like Air Heads, brownies, Cheetos, Gatorade. We're not Puritans. If they weren't locked up Bryce and I would be as likely to polish all that food off before the kids. After Saturday chores and on movie nights (and other times) we open the closet up so we can all pick out a snack or two (or three).

I'm hoping that by doing these things we can instill good eating habits in the long run. I know that's something I've had to combat. It's an uphill battle, especially if your foundation is based on fast food and pre-packaged food, like mine was. (Sorry, Mom.) Anyway, it's a long process but as the mother I'm determined to make the road to healthy eating as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Those peanut butter bars.....

....were awesome! Five stars, all the way.

One thing I liked was how easy they were to cut. You could definitely take these to someone's house and they'd look great (unlike the way I cut brownies.) I would recommend freezing them though before stacking or transporting, since the glaze is pretty soft at room temperature.

I would love to make these again. They have oatmeal in them, so if I'm having a bad day I can fool myself into thinking that they're healthy. Score!



3/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons water

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt


1-1/4 cups milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter


In a large bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, water and vanilla. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Spread into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 325° for 18-22 minutes or until lightly browned.

For glaze, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt chips and peanut butter; stir until smooth. Pour over warm bars; spread evenly. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Yield: 4 dozen. (**My note: made 24 nice squares. To make 48 they'd be quite tiny.)

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 153 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 18 mg cholesterol, 114 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Glazed Peanut Butter Bars published in Taste of Home August/September 2007, p31

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week's Menu

Wanna know what we're having for dinner this week?

I usually try to eat fish once a week and have a vegetarian meal once a week. However, this time that's not happening. Next week I'll get back on schedule . . . I just have some things I need to use up.

Monday--Cheez-It Chicken, green salad w/ tomatoes, clementines
FHE treat: Glazed Peanut Butter Bars (I'll tell you if these are good when they're done--I must say that the batter is pretty great)

Tuesday--Navy bean soup (w/ leftover ham bone), corn bread, sliced apples

Wednesday--Tri-tip beef roast (crock pot); baked potatoes; mixed vegetables

Thursday--Turkey burgers, little bags of chips (before they go stale), cubed pineapple

Friday--Shredded beef tacos (from roast), homemade salsa & chips, black beans

Saturday--Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches; leftovers

Sunday--I haven't thought that far ahead . . . I'm usually pretty low-key on Sunday. To be honest, by then I'm a bit burned out on cooking.

Fruit Pizza

The jewel of all desserts! I would take this over anything, ANYTHING you might offer, and I'm a pretty big lover of all things sweet.

Essentially this is a giant sugar cookie with cream cheese frosting and fruit on top. If you don't like cream cheese, I have one thing to say: I am so, so sorry. Well, I actually I have something more constructive to add: you could substitute shortening for the cream cheese to make a more traditional frosting . . . but I can't vouch for the final product's awesomeness.

I make my own sugar cookie dough but you could probably use refrigerated dough from the store. This recipe is my absolute go-to recipe for sugar cookies. The recipe is double what you need for one pizza; you can make two, or make sugar cookies with the rest, or roll it into a log and freeze it for later.



2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (sometimes I use lemon extract)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.

 Roll half of the dough onto a pizza sheet (for Easter I used a 10-inch springform pan). Poke holes in the dough with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. (Watch it, because I really can't remember how long I left this in.)

Let cool completely before adding toppings. If you're using a pizza pan, just leave it there. If you're using a springform pan, remove after 10 minutes and place on serving plate.

(For cookies, roll dough into balls and roll in white sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8 min. at 375 degrees.)

Cream cheese layer:

4 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese (1/2 of an 8 oz. block; use more if necessary)
1 cup powdered sugar (use more if necessary)
1 teaspoon lemon juice


Beat all ingredients with a mixer until light and fluffy. Spread onto cooled crust.

Fruit layer:

Any fruits you love except bananas (I just don't want to deal with the browning), enough to cover the pizza; sliced


Arrange sliced fruit on pizza.

If you're like me, you will love this!

Potato-Sweet Potato Bake

I created this when I wanted to add more nutrition to mashed potatoes . . . and I didn't feel like making gravy. The rule of thumb I use is 2/3 russet potatoes, 1/3 sweet potatoes. Confession: I don't really like sweet potatoes. If you do, feel free to make the ration half and half, or maybe the whole darn thing.

I have also learned over the years to allot one potato per person when making mashed potatoes, especially if you have several things on the menu. (This has also served me well in planning for very large groups.) But you know your family. If they are potato fiends then you can adjust accordingly.

This recipe serves 6.


4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup light sour cream (I used Daisy brand)
1 T minced garlic (from the produce section--it comes in a jar)
2 stalks green onions, diced, green parts only
Salt and pepper to taste


Turn oven to 400 degrees. Bring a pot of salted water to boil; add quartered potatoes. Cook until tender. Drain water. Add butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix with a hand mixer on medium, until smooth and creamy. Stir in green onions and garlic. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Dot mixture with butter. Bake at 400 degrees until the top is brown (about 15 minutes).