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Friday, June 28, 2013

Top 10 Summer Meals

It's supposed to be over 100 degrees for the next several days where I live. I have been racking my brain to figure out how to avoid using my oven and still produce something healthy and edible by kid standards. J-Dog voted for a week of Little Caesar's Pizza. D. would eat hot dogs for every meal....again, no. Here's a Top 10 list of easy, family friend Meal Ideas to keep you cool, calm and collected, if only for a minute.

1. Subs --break out the garden veggies, try lacing your bread with fresh herbs and dig out the cold cuts. Find some fancy bread--or even French Bread-- and make some Subs--best yet, the kids can make their own.

2. Sloppy Joe's- all on the stove top--under 20 minutes and dinner is done. Here's one of our Family Faves for this meal.

Sloppy Joe’s

1 lb.                        Hamburger
1                              Onion, chopped
1 can                      Tomato soup
1/3 cup                  Ketchup
1 tsp.                      Garlic salt
1/4 tsp.                  Chili powder
3 Tbsp.                  Mustard, yellow
                                Salt and pepper to taste
Brown hamburger until no longer pink
Add other ingredients.  Mix well
Bring to a simmer; simmer 20-30 minutes.
Serve over buns

3. Awesome Dogs--simply a very dressed up hot dog or polish sausage. Boil the hot dogs on the stove top. Once removed from the water, place in bun (if desired) and top with your own favorite combination. Chili, cheese, crushed Fritos, cilantro, onion, sauerkraut, chopped spinach,  diced tomato and basil, bacon bits, nacho sauce--use your imagination.

4. Spaghetti -really original, I know. But it's fast, easy, uses garden goodies if you have them, cheap and on the stove top. Don't complain.

5. Crock Pot Pork- there are a million versions of this, but I like this one.  Super easy and a crock pot doesn't heat my house. Use the meat for tacos, salads, sandwiches and nachos.

6. BBQ chicken. If you are lucky enough to have a family member who touches raw meat, you are in good shape. I like to marinade the chicken in lemon juice and basil and garlic with olive oil for a few hours and then grill it. Ok so the hubs grills, but I get it ready to go. There are many easy to use marinades on the market, or even Italian dressing works. Grill extra chicken to use for leftovers later. 

7. Eggs-boiled, scrambled, fried or over easy. Eggs are cheap, cook fast and are versatile. Egg salad sandwiches are a staple here when it gets hot.

8. Grilled pizza- yes, you can grill a pizza on a bbq. One version can be found HERE.

9. Shrimp Alfredo. Thy THIS you won't be disappointed.

10. Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken- crock pot to the rescue.
6 chicken breasts
1 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. vinegar
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp. soy or tamari sauce 
1 tsp. pepper

Line crock pot with liner, or spray with cooking spray. Put chicken in crock pot; mix other ingredients together and pour over chicken. Cook 6-8 hours on high. 

Stay Cool!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Really Matters?

I have been feeling a bit guilty lately complaining about what I don't have, when really I have a lot. For the last year I have struggled putting the pieces of myself together. What do I want? What do I need? What can I do? Sometimes it's become overwhelming, especially since what I want control over, I can't control; and those things I do have control over, seem trivial. It seems just as I get on top of things, something else offsets my balance, and I am back to the beginning. So instead of crying my eyes out, I have tried to find other things to do-to take my mind off things.

I have learned a few important lessons that I think may be of help to others too. I have no answer on how to be constantly happy--maybe it doesn't exist, but I have learned how to deal with change--which is really the only constant I have.

1. Communication- I have learned that I have to be HONEST about what I want. This is hard because sometimes it leads to hurt feelings. I think in all relationships it's better to be honest than to avoid resistance. I have learned that in my most important relationships I need to say how I feel and express what I need so I can be happy. Many women put themselves last in the line up of providing things and for me, I become empty and have nothing left to give. I need to speak up for myself--and I think lots of us should do it more. Why do we put ourselves last, or just go along with things we aren't comfortable with? Take a stand and let your needs be heard!

2. Commitment- whether it's a relationship, project, job or whatever--don't do it unless you are committed to see it through. I have learned that even while doing "good things" if I am not willing to go through the good and bad parts, I should not be doing it. The frustration is too great if I'm not in it 100%.

3. Cooperation-Life happens. Problems Happen. Good stuff happens too. I have tried to see problems not as "How do I get over this," but more like "What's my best option?" or "Who can help me?" It is ok, and NOT a sign of weakness, to ASK FOR HELP. On the same note "Who or How can I help others?" is another way of viewing the everyday crap we all deal with.  Very few situations are perfect. If I can retrain my brain to think win-win rather than just get it done, I learn more. Living is a daily experiment. If we continue to go through it plowing through adversity, we may miss the other great things that often surround adversity.

4. Control- You have none. Get over it. Seriously you can only control very few things, and sometimes just riding out the storm is a better option.

5. Compromise- There has to be give and take. If I am constantly giving in, that's not healthy. If I am constantly getting my way, that's not healthy either. Balance and moderation in all things can lead to contentment, and maybe even happiness.

6. Creator- Whether or not you believe in God, or a higher power, you need to believe in something. Church may not be a place everyone feels comfortable, and I am not sure it's all entirely necessary. But I do know that belief in some bigger purpose gives my life meaning. I believe if I am trying to be happy and do a good deed daily, my life has meaning and makes a difference. Enjoy your own version of whatever spirituality you subscribe to and learn to live with purpose.

~Deep thoughts --what matters to you makes a difference. Once you figure that out, happiness is within your reach.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Shrimp Pasta

This meal is light, tasty and delicious. It will save you $$$ because it's so easy, you won't have to go out to a restaurant to get it--you can do it at home in 10 minutes! The best part is if you have a garden, you can use what you grow and throw it in this dish for a fresh, healthful meal.

Katie's Summer Shrimp Pasta

1 bag of deveined, cooked shrimp (found in the frozen food section)
1 box of angel hair or fettuccine noodles
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, diced
1/4 tsp. pepper (to taste)
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (or use dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped (or use dried)
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c. water or white cooking wine
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. chicken bullion granule (one cube crushed up)
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or one can of diced, stewed tomatoes)
1 bottle Alfredo sauce, optional

Thaw Shrimp and pull off tails if needed
Cook pasta- while you are making the sauce recipe below

In a large pan cook onion and garlic in olive oil. Add cooking wine or water, bullion,  herbs, pepper, and cornstarch, and stir until bubbly--about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and steam them (put the lid on and don't take it off) in the mixture for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and if desired, and Alfredo sauce. Cook the sauce until it is warm. Then toss with pasta.

There is a lot of room for creativity with this dish. You could easily add other garden veggies--beans, zucchini, extra tomatoes or spices to create your own version. It's super cheap to make--especially if you have a garden. If you don't have fresh herbs, reduce your cost by using dried ones.

This dish cost me $8 to make and there were 8 nice, large servings. Pretty great considering you'd pay more than that for one entree at a restaurant.

Cost Breakdown
1 bag shrimp $5
1 box pasta .88 cents
1 onion, .25 cents
garlic, diced, .10 cents
fresh herbs -I grow mine, so maybe .10 cents for everything, but you should have these on hand so the cost is minimal
Chicken bullion .05 cents
2 Tomatoes or one can of diced .60 cents
Alfredo Sauce $1.33

~Happy Eating!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Scrap Simple

We've had a great week of vacation. Crystal Hot Springs (umm...public bathing with strangers, priceless) followed by breakfast in the canyon with some amazing parents, Trafalga and the local Arts Festival has made for one incredibly fun week. I have pictures and they overwhelm me. Every time I take one I think "do I scrapbook this one of (insert child's name here)?" And if I have a darling shot of one kid, don't I need to have something darling (or at least in existence) for each one? If I don't take a picture--which is proof we do productive, fun, family bonding things with our kids, did it happen? So scrapbooking has become a chore--see if I make one kid a book, they all need books, and then I need a book so when I'm old, grey and forgetful (yesterday) I can remember I had some great parenting moments.

This summer I've run across two things to help me out with this chore and reduce guilt and the time I spend pasting pictures. so I can have more time playing.

1- A #10 Tin Can--This is simply a large coffee can (or if you're from Utah, any of the large food storage cans). These are big enough to hold pictures, tickets, programs or other stuff to scrap later. It also comes with a plastic lid so all your memories are secure. I add notes of what we liked or best memories of what our trip was about and then later when I have time (I am guessing that will be about the 12th of Never) I can go back and try to retrieve our memories. Better yet, I can give the kids their own cans and make them scrap it themselves. In either case, and because I am a craftoholic--I take said can (see pic below) and cover it with fun colored paper, add a title to the can like --Crystal Hot Springs Vacation June 2013--and maybe some stickers. As I collect my memories--notes about funny things that happened or funny things the kids said, pamphlets, pictures, tickets, etc. I have everything in one place. And it's reusing something that would have gone in a landfill--so yeah for doing something to help the environment!

See how cute this one is below? I have a cute place to store everything so when we have a free minute or two I can scrap it and be done--times six books.

2- Flash drive- I got one of these for Christmas and didn't know what to do with it. I transfer my pics from my camera to the drive and they are safe if the computer dies, I can put them in a fire safe in case someone lights my illustrious kitchen on fire, I have them easily accessible and organized and most importantly in one place.  I have gotten some great online deals on flash drives at Best Buy, Amazon and Target--most under $8.

As a spin off to the tin can idea you can make some great gifts from these cans. A time capsule of "baby's first year"--cuz not too many new mom's have time to scrapbook with a newborn--it makes a great gift if you create the can, add pictures of family or family stories so the baby can have a sense of their family. You can also cut the bottom of a can with a pop top off and clean the can, then fill it with goodies and glue the base back on. These are fun ways to package teacher treats, or Mother's or Father's Day treats.

Click HERE for some fun ways to reuse metal cans of all sizes. Click HERE for a tutorial on how to make the tin can treat gifts.

I really want my kids to remember--especially as they catapult into the teen years, that our family has fun, and their mom had it all together at one point in time. I want them to see that beyond all the chores, lectures, yelling and hair pulling, that our family is unique and amazing and lucky to be us. Hopefully collecting memories and doing something with them will help them realize how much I love them next time I have to "parent" them, or they are bored or mad I won't let them do something that "everyone else is doing." Hopefully....the memories will speak for themselves.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spare Change can Change a Life

You might remember my "Loose Change Challenge" from a few months ago. Recently I figured out a fun way to spend it and spread a little joy and a lot of fun.

We have saved about $8 and here's a plan.

 1. Buy Otter Pops, or other Popsicles that aren't frozen.
They sell these and other varieties at many dollar stores (10 for $1). Otter Pops are about $3-$4 at Walmart for the 100 count box. Either way, you don't have to worry about them melting in the middle of the plan, and they are cheap so $8 can stretch a looonngg way.

2. Obviously since this is a money math problem, I can handle it. Other kinds of math not so much, but money math I am a Genius! So I get 2 boxes of 100 Otter Pops at my Walmart for $8.24. Then I divide them up into groups of 10--I have 20 "packages of fun."

3. Make a tag saying "Have a Fun Summer" or "You're so Cool" or "It's time to Chill Out." Something fun, simple, but the receiver has to know it 's not a joke or prank so make the tag sincere and maybe put your name. Tie the tag and pops together and you're on your way to changing someone's life (Ok- that's dramatic. You won't change their life completely, but you could make someone's day--and that's great!)

4. Over the next few days you can do a few things: 1- pick random houses and deliver them; 2- take them to the park and hand them out--obviously they need to be frozen first; 3- take them to someone who's made an extra effort to your life, your family or the community--with a Thank You card. People who do a lot often don't want recognition, but I know that a THANK YOU goes a long way.

4- Welcome the new families moving into the neighborhood with a quick "Hello."

Really the possibilities are endless. You are creating positive change using spare change--at the very least it will make a happy day just chillin' out.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Greek Yogurt Chicken

Most of you know I work for Bzzagent as a product tester and reviewer. Recently I received some free FAGE yogurt to try and we LOVE it. I am not just saying this, part of my job as an agent is to tell the truth.

Here's a recipe I recreated to use FAGE with an old recipe and make it more delicious and healthful!

Baked Chicken

4-6 Chicken Breasts
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1 c. FAGE yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 deg.

Pound the chicken out flat.
Place the eggs, yogurt and bread crumbs in individual bags or bowls.
Dip chicken in the egg, then FAGE yogurt and finally in bread crumbs--you want to coat both sides of the chicken with each of the three ingredients in order (egg, yogurt, bread crumbs).

Put in greased 9 x 13 pan, or on a baking tray with a lip, and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. It's done when the middle isn't pink and the internal temperature is 165 deg.

This tastes like fried chicken, but baked. The FAGE yogurt keeps the chicken moist.