Just Heather

Last month, I stumbled on a #bakingday hashtag through my Twitter feed. The idea is to tweet and/or blog about your freezer cooking progress to give one another ideas & encouragement. It sounded fascinating, and I wanted desperately to jump in. However, as I was not prepared or stocked for 2 days of baking, it just wasn’t in the cards. I was paying attention this time around, though, and have been buying ingredients here and there for the last few weeks.

I RSVPd on Facebook, and have been watching Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom for all the details. I was all set to blog about my plans when I realized I didn’t really have any. Basically, at this point I know I want to use up the leftovers from Thanksgiving, and put together some breakfast & lunch options since the next few weeks will be very hectic and exhausting. It’s time to put together an actual plan.

The Freezer Cooking Menu:
Turkey Pot Pie (leftover turkey & veggies)
Ham & Potato Casserole (leftover ham & amp; broccoli)
Stuffed Baked Potatoes (leftover cheese & Hormel bacon bits I got triples shopping last week)
Baked Potato Soup (Seriously, I bought a ton of bacon bits)
Lasagna (the sauce is ready from doubling the recipe last time; I just need gluten free noodles)
Cranberry Muffins (leftover cranberry relish)
Banana Nut Bread (I just have a lot of bananas right now)
Breakfast Casseroles (I way overshot on the eggs we’d need for Thanksgiving baking)
Ham & Cheese Omelets (Again with the eggs!)

That gives me some lunches, a few breakfasts and several dinners to get us through my last few weeks of college. I think the ingredients overlap quite nicely to make it easy on me. I’m not getting too ambitious since I’ve got homework, Girl Scouts and a 4-year-old, but I’m hoping to make some progress. If you see me tweeting tomorrow without the #oamc hashtag, make me get back to work!

menu-plan-mondayI truly believe in the importance of weekly menu planning. It’s the only way to get dinner on the table before bedtime and it keeps us out of the drive thru. However, it always seems to be the first to go when I backslide on any semblance of organization. It definitely went by the wayside during our chaotic summer. I’m determined to get back on track, starting with Menu Plan Monday.

My parents had our children all weekend so Spencer and I could celebrate our 12th anniversary. We spent a chunk of our childfree weekend at the grocery store. Because, really, what’s more romantic than shopping without kids? (Well, pedal boating down the canal, but we did that too!) Our pantry is now stocked, our produce is fresh and we have a variety of meat in the freezer. Meal planning on a week like this is pretty easy, but I’m all about baby steps! By next week, our supplies will have dwindled and the menu will get a bit more creative.

Monday: I have a meeting so this one will be a bit thrown together and/or on Spencer. Had I planned last Monday, I would have been ahead of the game for tonight. I’ll be organized tomorrow next week someday. I hope.

Tuesday: I have a Girl Scout meeting in our home so it needs to be something with easy cleanup. Maybe a pressure cooker roast, potatoes and veggies—only one pot to wash!

Wednesday: Fried Steak, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Thursday: BBQ Chicken, Crash Hot potatoes and sweet corn

Friday: We need something fast before we head out of town for the weekend—I’m thinking a one dish meal with the stew meat we bought. Let’s call it beef stew! I can even toss in any leftover veggies from Tuesday. Bonus!

Saturday: This one is easy. We’ll be at a reception so dinner is done for us.

Sunday: Still out of town with family so we’ll end up with a big lunch and probably leftovers for dinner. Holiday World had also been discussed as a possibility, but not recently so who knows.

Monday: Labor Day – We still haven’t decided when we’re leaving for home. We’ll either leave after hamburgers & hot dogs with my Mom or have to leave early enough to cook them ourselves. It’s kind of a thing. We’ll toss in corn on the cob and baked beans. Probably a last of the season watermelon too.

There are dozens of amazing deals this week at Meijer. I headed out to snag them on Saturday night after dropping Stacia at a friend’s house to sleepover. Quite impressed with the bargains and selection, I moved on to the checkout, where my good impression was quickly replaced. The cashier was rude, clueless and superbly slow.lush

So when I got home with my spoils, I was really not in the mood to put it all away. Since much of it required refrigeration, it had to be done anyway. That was when I realized I had accidentally purchased many of the ingredients for my favorite summer dessert. It’s an old family favorite and I needed only to buy pecans. I put it on my mental list (because actually writing it down was just too taxing at that point).

While digging through the freezer on Sunday (for the ingredients to make grilled pizza), I noticed a nearly empty (but just enough) bag of nuts. I was so excited about my pecan discovery that I immediately twittered about my need for a pitch-in so I could have an excuse to make the dessert. At nearly the exact same time, I got a text inviting me to an impromptu Memorial Day picnic. Friends, fun and an excuse to showcase my bargains in chocolate? Sold!

Just in case you also need a yummy, cool dessert (and/or you scored all the same deals), here is the recipe for Lush (I know—how can you resist something with a name like that?):

Cut 1 stick butter with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Spread into the bottom of a 9×13 dish and bake 10-11 minutes at 375. Meanwhile, set out a brick of cream cheese and 16 ounces Cool Whip to soften. Cool crust completely before continuing the delicious layers. For the 2nd layer, mix cream cheese, 1 cup Cool Whip and 1 cup powdered sugar. If you plop the mixture onto the crust in a bunch of different places before attempting to spread this layer, your crust will remain intact a bit better.

2007-07-031The 3rd layer (this is where it gets really good) is 2 small packages of chocolate pudding whisked with 3 cups milk. Honestly, you could use any flavor you want but why wouldn’t you want chocolate? For the final layer, spread the rest of the cool whip onto the pudding after it sets. You can also garnish with crushed pecans, sugar crystals or fresh fruit (totally kidding—I would never attempt to make it healthy!).dessert You could also use fat free cool whip and fat free cream cheese, but, really—what’s the point?

Step 1. Make a serious mess with gravy in the oven at dinner.
Step 2. Ignore said mess and go to bed
Step 3. Decide to bake the next day, suddenly realizing smoking gravy will not make pumpkin taste good.
Step 4. Set the oven to self clean, without attempting to remove any of aforementioned gravy.
Step 5. Watch enormous flames wick from the gravy while you attempt to unlock the self-cleaning oven.

I love Lorelai’s “accent” even though I occasionally have trouble figuring out what she means. She speaks very well for her age, but sometimes what she says doesn’t come across because you would never expect a 2-year-old to know that word. Today’s lunch is a perfect example.

She’s eating already because she brought a can of veggie soup to me at 10 and asked for soup. I was saying no (repeatedly), until she said please. We’ve been working on that word so it resulted in lunch at 10:30 in the morning. I thought she wanted to watch the new Chinese show on Nick Jr. called Kai-Lan while she ate because while I was getting her soup ready she kept shouting “Tie-yan! Tie-yan!” Our kids have all had a strange T pronunciation for the K sounds so it sounded just like Kai-Lan to me.

Then I opened the fridge to grab a drink and she pulled out the salad dressing. The Italian salad dressing. She is now having soup and salad and thrilled to no end.

My kids crack me up on a regular basis. There is something about Brenia, especially, that just makes me laugh all day long. It’s probably a good thing since when she isn’t making me laugh she’s likely doing something to piss me off.

We are having trouble getting her diet figured out. We saw massive behavioral improvements when we went gluten free. This fall, we pinpointed the red dye issue. Even Brenia started to see the correlation. Now when she takes candy she isn’t supposed to have, she leaves the red ones behind!

I actually think she has some sort of problem with processed sugar. She’s not diabetic or anything—it’s more behavioral than medical. She honestly gets out of control when she has had any sugar. I don’t mean hyper. I mean it’s like a switch is flipped on her attitude. She gets mean, angry and lashes out over nothing.

When we skip the sugar, she is a sweetheart. If I could afford all organics, we’d definitely go with that for the entire household. It’s not sugar that is the problem because she can handle cane juice or organic sugars. It is the processing involved in so much packaged crap.

In between sugary, meltdown treats I give you this:

  • “I’m the smartest kid I ever thought!”
  • “Stacia, stop being such a smartiac!”
  • “Mommy, I have bunches of boogers in my nose. Can I please have a tissue?”
  • “Hey, mom! Can I have that half-eaten cookie off the platter? That one’s mine.”

I’m still swimming upstream, but in the interest of full disclosure I’ll work on getting this up-to-date.

  • Being sick sucks. The entire family had a stomach bug last week (which we so lovingly passed onto my hometown via my nephew). This week it’s a cold so bad I honestly thought it might lead to pneumonia. It seems to be clearing a bit, but I have been through about 2 boxes of tissues in as many days.
  • The armadillo my Girl Scout troop adored on our field trip died in a fire this weekend at the zoo. That makes me unbelievably sad.
  • Venatieri can go back to the Patriots now. That is all.
  • Except to say I just don’t see this great clutch kicker everyone talks about. Vanderjagt may be an arrogant smart ass, but I’d take him any day.
  • I’m working on arrangements to do a live segment on Black Friday. They want me much earlier than usual though, and I was planning to be at Target right about then.
  • The pacifier is officially gone. My goal was by age 2, which happened 10 days ago. Two days before her birthday, she went to bed without and hasn’t had it since. She asked about it nightly for awhile, but seems to be over it now. If only potty training were that easy.
  • I’m planning a Charlie & Lola Pink Milk Party for Brenia this year. It was supposed to be a Pirate/Princess Tea, but the stupid Birthday Express catalog came in the mail and she fell in love with the C&L crap.
  • The gluten free diet has been deemed an official success by the girls’ pediatrician. This time last year we were still in the testing stage and Lorelai weighed 14.4, falling in the 1 percentile. At her 2-year checkup she weighed nearly 26 pounds and falls right at the 50th percentile!
  • If anyone has ideas on how to teach organization and responsibility to a 4th grader, I’m all ears. After a month on the Spell Bowl team, winning Power Speller each week, we found out Stacia doesn’t actually get to compete this week. She is an alternate because she did not bother to turn in 3 50-point assignments. Oops.
  • Also, if you have ideas on organization for a busy mom, send them my way! We worked hard all weekend and I’m starting to get control of some things around here. However, I have yet to tackle the 50-gallon tub that holds my paperwork.

Courtesy of her gluten intolerance, Lorelai had never eaten a pizza before. A couple weeks ago, I bought tostada shells on sale with the idea of using it as a pizza crust. There was even a recipe on the back for Mexican pizza.

I heated vegetarian refried beans and spread them over the shell. I topped it with a Mexican cheese blend and toasted it in the oven until the cheese was melted. The result?

“Yay! Pidda!”