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Monday, June 30, 2014

July Food Menu

I've had a bunch of requests for Meal Ideas, so for all my friends who've been's what's for dinner at our house in July. And I'm not gonna lie, I am a slacker when it comes to summer time. I want to be out playing, not inside cooking. The grill and crock pot become my best friends during these months--just sayin'.

Chili Dogs
Shish Kabobs (click here for easy ideas; I just use whatever veggies I have coming out of the garden, and marinate my beef cubes in 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Rosemary, salt & pepper to taste, and 2 Tbsp. of Red Wine Vinegar or Red Cooking wine; I marinade my chicken in 1/2 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. oil and rosemary, oregano and basil)
Grilled Tuna Sandwiches (basically a tuna sandwich topped with sliced cheese and tomato (opt) and put under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until cheese is bubbly)
General Tso's Chicken (crock pot) I've never tried this recipe, but it is what's on the menu--I'm always looking to try new things. Check out the recipe here.
Enchiladas- another good way to use up things from the garden. I always double the recipe and freeze one pan for later. If you don't have a favorite recipe check out this one.
Grilled chicken and pineapple--slice the pineapple into rings and throw it on the grill before your raw meat--or on an upper grill rack. I cook extra chicken too for later in the week.
Veggie and Chicken Pasta-cook pasta according to directions, add your choice of veggies and the extra chicken from your grilled chicken meal and dinner is done.
Crock Pot Chile Verde- you can make this not too spicy for kids who are wondering "what is this green stuff?" I love spicy food, so my kids are used to eating it. However, when they were little they didn't always eat it--so have a few PBJs on the side if needed. I don't have a recipe, I just throw stuff in--but here's a good one you may want to try.
Sloppy Joe's
Mozzarella Meatballs and buttered pasta
Spaghetti Pie-again my version is spicier than most, but here is a basic recipe. Make one and freeze one for later.
Tomato basil soup and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches
Chicken strips (I purchase the oven ready variety, but you can certainly make your own)
Chicken cordon blue pasta (Alfredo sauce, chopped ham, cooked & diced chicken, chopped onion, pepper, basil and oregano make a great sauce. Heat all ingredients together and throw over cooked pasta)
Olive Garden soup (I know weird to have soup when it's hot outside, but it's filling and uses up garden veggies so I roll with it.) Recipe here.
Summer Shrimp Pasta
Pad Thai
Chicken Pillow
Hamburger Stew (crock pot)

If you need other ideas for meals, just type "Meal Time" or "Meal Ideas" into the search bar on the homepage of my blog!

I try to keep lunches around here simple too--simple enough the kids can make them. I don't like to use a lot canned or frozen food to feed them, but during the busy times here's how we roll: canned ravioli, sandwiches, pita pocket sandwiches, bean & cheese burritos ("homemade" with canned beans and sliced cheese in a tortilla and warmed), chicken nuggets, salad and leftover chicken, soup, mac & cheese, left overs, cereal, pb & j or pb & honey. It's pretty simple around here cuz we'd all rather be out playing in the water, camping, shopping, discovering and exploring, than heating up the house.

Enjoy Summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Most Awesome Vacation Perks -#1 Food

We are home from our first  vacation with 5 kids, on an airplane, in 2 hotel rooms, for an awesome week of fun, sun, surf, and great food. This was our favorite restaurant. It's called Barra Barra in Old Town San Diego.

Not only is the food very good, kids under 10 eat FREE EVERY DAY with the purchase of an adult meal! (One kid meal per one adult meal purchased). This little surprise was a huge adrenaline rush for me. It was so nice not to have to eat fast food every day to save our budget. Adult meals were reasonably priced $10-15, and the portions are large. Finally having a large family paid off in the financial world!

D. fell 'in love' with the refried black bean dip--literally polishing off 3 bowls by herself. So now we've been spoiled with free food, and wouldn't you know there's a website to help you figure out what kids meals are free, and when. Kids Meal Deals offers lists of local kids meals--so if you are going on vacation simply enter your vacation zip code and the list of restaurants offering free meals for kids will pop up. If you're at home, you can still take advantage of this website by entering your home zip code. The list does come with one disclaimer: call the restaurant to make sure the deals are still active.

Either way, this is a great way to save money at home or on the go. We loved our vacation and as soon as I finish the wash, I will post some pics and tips on family vacations on the cheap, including special tips for those of us with large families.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yard Re-do #4 and Final

Now your garden is one step further to your end result. Congrats! You've planned, prepared and planted and now you can sit back and enjoy....almost.

Once you've planted everything, be sure to lay down 3 inches of mulch/compost to feed the plants and help prevent weeds. I use Oquirrh Mountain Compost and have for nearly 15 years. I love it. You can learn more about it here!

Remember like anything worth keeping, you have to maintain your space. 

Fertilize regularly (every 4 weeks on average)
Check your watering system to make sure plants aren't dry
 Dead head-snip the dried out heads on your flowers to help them grow new blossoms.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yard Re-do #3

Don't worry, we're almost there! Here are some things to consider before making your final purchases.

1. Check out your plot map and make sure the things you want to put in will fit into the space you have. Check the tags to see the height and width of the plant at its maturity so you don't over plant. Each plant needs plenty of water, sun, food and space to thrive.

2. Consider the height and width of each plant to make your final placement. You want tall things in the back and shorter (and rounder) things up front.

3. Buy things that will bloom in various seasons. Bulbs are great for early spring; many perenials bloom from mid-spring into summer; others bloom mid-summer to fall. You don't have to buy these items all at once, just consider bloom time as you finish your map.

4. Consider placing containers or other art pieces in the garden for variety. 

Once you've checked that off, go buy them. This can often be an overwhelming and expensive step. You don't have to buy all at once. Also think about doing one section of the yard each year.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Yard Re-Do #2

Your PLOT MAP is done! If you're reading this next step I am hoping you're ready to move on. You know what you're keeping and at least an idea of what to put down. I know you want to run out and buy things, but Don't Do That Yet! There are a few more prep steps to take.

1. Sun-Know the way your house faces and how sunny or not, your spots are. Certain plants need certain amounts of light--full sun means at least 6 hours. Pay attention to the plant's tag so you know how much sun your plant needs.

2. Soil prep-This includes weeding and fertilization/mulch/compost. Each year you have to put down compost to provide the plants with enough minerals/nitrogen/etc. so they can grow. If your soil is clay-like or sandy you will need to amend it. Local garden centers can help you decide what you need to get best soil possible. You can also visit the Utah State Education website HERE for advice.

3. Water- know how your system works, and if you need to adjust how it sprays or how long. Depending on what you are growing a full Rain-bird head spreading over the yard may not provide enough water for your garden. Consider drip systems for planted pots, and smaller heads for better watering.

4. Plant Types- Consider Water Wise Plants and Perennials in your final design. These are cost effective because they come back each year, and they can often be separated into new transplants at the end or beginning of the growing season, so you can make a new plant next year from the one you purchased this year. Also consider planting herbs. They're are many that are perennial and they are a great addition to the garden.

Annuals vs Perennials: There are lots of opinions here, but basically annuals have bright colors and are great fillers for any space. They only bloom the year your plant them, and can get expensive. Perennials come in many varieties, shapes, sizes and colors, and are a great investment because they come back each year and can often be split off to make new transplants. A mix of both is a great solution!

Find a list of Utah Native Plants Here!
Find a list of Utah Friendly Herbs Here!

Next Step: Visit Nurseries to help make final choices on what to add to your space. PAY ATTENTION TO THE MATURE SIZE ON THE PLANT TAG. They look cute in those 4 inch pots, but they won't stay 4 inches for long. Make Your Final List of what you want to plant and where you want to plant it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Yard Re-do #1

We've lived here for seven years--almost. It's a great house, with a (now) great yard.
See my cute Mother's Day pots?

We did that-and the new mulch--and this!

Point being--if I can do this, so can you! I must first say my knowledge is, at least in part, due to my awesome friends at the Jordan Valley Home and Garden Club. They inspire me each time I see them, and they are awesome. Thanks Cynthia, Emily, Roxine! Thanks to the many other teachers who have helped me grow (pun intended :)) this year!

Our yard wasn't always so great. And some day, there will be weeds again. I'm here to help you break down the HUGE task of re-landscaping (it's a scary word, so replace it with something like re-do or fix if that helps) your yard so you will LOVE it as much as I love mine.

1. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want your yard to look like? What flowers, bushes, trees or art do you want? No ideas--no problem! Drive around the neighborhoods and take pictures; check out landscape design websites; visit local nurseries or the Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan. You will get lots of ideas.

2. Once you know what you want, decide what you don't want. Take out the "Three D's"--anything dead, decayed or dumb (as in you don't like the plant at all and/or you don't like where it's placed in your current yard). If you like a plant, but just don't like where it is, you may be able to transplant it if it's a perennial.

3. Now you should be at the point of your re-design that A) You know what you want and B) You know what you don't want. The next step is making a PLOT MAP of the yard. This is a simple sketch of your yard including it's measurements. Use graph paper if you want to be precise. Otherwise just measure how big your planting spaces are and include what living things you are keeping in the sketch.

Don't go out and buy anything just yet, this the first step in getting your yard the way you want it!