Monday, October 30, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 10/30

Monday- Chicken fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Pasta or Leftovers before Trick or Treating
Wednesday- Chicken Spiedies with white rice
Thursday- Rosemary Chicken and potatoes
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- ?
Sunday- Meatball Sliders

Last week started off as planned after I reworked the plan for the change of having my parents visiting. I went through the freezer and pantry to see what we had for the coming month and started on the plan which was a good thing because it was already almost November.  I was totally out of ground beef but there was plenty of chicken and other proteins as long as I mixed them up to take me through the beginning of the month. I wrote a long shopping list of things that I need to get at Aldi and other grocery stores through the month.  Here is hoping I can get some great deals this month too!!  I hope that you have a great week and enjoy a stress free dinner time!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Right, Next Door Book Review

I grabbed a few books at the library because my pile was getting a little small and this was one of the books on the shelf that I didn't think that I had read before and I was actually right!  It wasn't part of a series or anything so it was perfect to start on whenever I wanted.  Right Next Door: Father's Day\The Courtship of Carol Sommars by Debbie Macomber was the next in the pile and I was happy to have two short stories to read!

Father's Day

Robin Masterson's ten-year-old son, Jeff, figures he needs a dog more than anything in the world. And there just happens to be one right next door! But the friendly black Lab belongs to Cole Camden, the unfriendliest man in the neighborhood. Still, Jeff persists…and soon his mom and Cole are looking at each other in a whole new way.

The Courtship of Carol Sommars

Peter Sommars is fifteen, and what he needs is a little more independence. Which is why he'd like his mom, Carol, to start dating. He even knows the perfect man—Alex Preston, his best friend's dad. As it turns out, Alex is interested, but Carol's doing everything she can to sidestep his pursuit. Which only makes Alex—and the boys—more determined!

I grabbed this to read after a few long books, this was the a breath of fresh air.  The first story was about Robin and Jeff who have moved into a new house to start their new life.  One of the promises in the move was to get a dog at the new house but it doesn't happen fast enough for Jeff so he decides to run away.  The good thing is that he only runs to the fort at the neighbors house with the neighbors dog.   The bad thing is that the neighbor isn't really thrilled with having a child break into his yard and take his dog.  There is an interesting relationship that develops with these neighbors but you have to pick up the book to find out what happens.  In the second story, Carol and her son Peter are dealing with their life when she meets her son's best friends father, Alex.  She is at a low point in her life when her car dies in the rain and she breaks a heel so she wanders into a bar looking for phone.  Alex is there and helps her home even though his date says she looks like a bag women.  Their relationship grows from there with their children's friendship and activities but Carol is very slow to open up.  I think that you need to pick up the book to find out what happens with these two.  Both stories are brought together by the fact that they are about single mothers and their daily struggles to raise their boys.  I hope that you check out this book and others by this great author.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Homemade Taco Seasoning

I have tried homemade taco seasoning powders and I always end up back with the store bought packets for different reasons.  One reason is that I can usually get the pouches for free at sale and coupon and you know that I like free.  The second reason is that the homemade ones never taste nearly as good to me.  I am sure that my body must love all the extras that they put in the seasonings but it nicely adheres to the meat and makes a great little sauce.

I decided to try a new recipe which I found on the Pioneer Women website when searching options.  I pulled out all of the ingredients from the spice cupboard including a few different options of each kind of spice.

I took the measurements and poured each one into an empty spice jar that I had washed out and keep in the cupboard.  It actually started to look a little like the sand art that I do with my son.

I put the top on and shook the bottle.  It mixed together really easily and looked a lot like the packaged taco seasoning mix to me.

I decided to try it for the first time with half a package of taco seasoning and half of this homemade seasoning and the taste was great.  With the added benefit that I only had half of a package of taco seasoning left.  Taco seasoning has some thicken agents in them so sometimes to get that more saucy feeling to the taco meat, you need to cook it up and add the seasoning and water.  If it doesn't get to the consistency that you want mix water and corn starch in a container until combined and add it to the  taco meat.  It should help the meat to be a little more saucy and still have that same great flavor.  I can't wait to try this taco seasoning again!!

Taco Seasoning

  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Measure out all the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. Then taste and adjust the salt or spices as desired. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For a larger batch (the equivalent of about 6 packets), use:

1/4 cup chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon each paprika, crushed red pepper, and salt
1 1/2 teaspoons each garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, black pepper

I hope that you try a recipe to make your own Taco Seasoning and enjoy!!!  Do you have any recipes that you like to make so you don't have to buy things at the store??

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters Book Review

I was on a long list to get Secrets of the Tulip Sisters: A Novel by Susan Mallery from the library and when I finally got it, I didn't read it right away because there were other books in the pile that I was trying to finish.  I started this book so late and had to finish it in days because it was due back to the library.  I was left reading all day on the last day in order to make the deadline and was even thinking that it might be worth paying the late fee because I didn't want to have to wait for months to finish the book that I had just started.  I was so glad that I got a chance to read this start to finish before returning it to the library.

Kelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone. But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.  While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

This was a really interesting book and totally different then I thought it was going to be.  Kelly Murphy lives with her father in her childhood home growing tulips while her father does the office work.  They live a pretty easy lifestyle with low conflict until the life is totally turned upside down.  Kelly's sister, Olivia, shows up which brings up lots of old feelings from when they sent her away at 15 to private school.  Olivia and Kelly are working on rebuilding a relationship as adults until that is turned upside down by another big surprise.  This book was full of surprises and changes that I thought were really well thought out.  The characters become so real and really have you pulling for some to succeed and others to fail.  I hope that you check out this book and others by the same wonderful author.  I hope that you will choose the same people I did to have good outcomes!!  This book was a great story start to finish and I am glad that I got to read it before the due date.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mozzarella Sticks

Mozzarella Sticks are one of my husbands favorite treats at restaurants.  We love to try different kinds and they tend to be one of those things that we both enjoy.  I had some cheese sticks that we hadn't eaten and I decided that I would make some Mozzarella Cheese Sticks at home for a nice treat with dinner.

First, I coated the cheese in flour to better help the egg mixture to stick to it.

Dip flour coated cheese in egg mixed with water until a good consistency.

Cover in breadcrumbs to totally coat.

Roll around and press into the breadcrumbs.

Coat in the egg mixture again.

Coat with second helping of breadcrumbs to make sure fully coated.

Add to hot oil and cook until golden brown.

They come out nice and crispy!! Make sure to let them lay on a paper towel to help them not be greasy.

They are amazing with a little dipping sauce!  Tasted just like the restaurant ones and we enjoyed them with our meal.

It was hard to get a picture of the inside with the melty cheese but it was stretchy and amazingly creamy with the crispy exterior.

We had a whole plate but they were quickly eaten and I realized that I needed to take another picture but I only had one left.  I love when I can make restaurant favorites at home with little or no cost.  It uses spaghetti or pizza sauce that I was already making, breadcrumbs that I made from stale bread and cheese that we had extra on hand.  I was sad that we used up all the cheese and I am going to try it again with a block of cheese instead of string cheese and see what the difference are going to be.

I hope that you try these too! I will totally make these again and again and again!  I want them tonight after looking at these tasty pictures.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 10/23

Monday- Chicken fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Philly Cheese Steak Pasta
Wednesday- Pork Chops with herb rice
Thursday- Chicken Marsala
Friday-Take Out or Eating Out
Saturday- Tacos
Sunday- Lasagna with salad and rolls

Last week, I made Monday and Tuesday meals without any problems and then I just switched Wednesday and Thursday because the chicken was thawed and the beef wasn't. Luckily, my weeks have been going pretty well minus the defrost issues.  Friday is leftover night but I have been eating most of the leftovers for lunch so I might have to rethink the leftover night but we basically make something happen and use up things in the house and this week I have the crescent rolls to use up and some other things in the fridge so I made taco pizza for me and leftover fried rice for my husband.  I got to use up the roast beef on Saturday night.  I finally put the egg rolls into a meal on Sunday night which is great because I bought those awhile ago and totally forgot about them but we ended up with chicken sandwiches made from the Johnsville garlic chicken from the recent sale.

This week is a little mixed up because my parents are coming into town on Thursday so I am working on moving all meals around to make sure that I have meals that can feed all of us.  We also have a few things that are right around dinner time so we need some fast meals between all of different Fall activities.  I have a lot of cross through marks on this weeks plan but I have lots on hand to get it done with a new menu that both my parents like including a few ideas for lunches like soup, paninis, and more which I hope will get us through the 5 days.

I have a some things in the freezer to incorporate into next months menu plan already.  I can't believe that it is already time to think forward to next month but I have some cheese ravioli, meat ravioli, lasagna, boneless chicken, Barber Chicken, Meatballs, Brats and a few other things.  I know that I have enough for the month but we will see if there is enough variety to make it through without getting more proteins.  I laid out lots of meals for the month and currently have 8 more days to fill in to finish up the plan. 

I hope that you have a great week and enjoy a stress free dinner time with a plan in place!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Taco Pizza

This is the second time that I have made this and I haven't told you about it so I thought I would share.  I haven't done a great job with pictures so I am going to try to make it up as I go along...just like I did with the recipe.  It was originally the way to use up my very little amount of taco meat to make a whole meal.  I started with this pizza crust but you can easily make your own.

I made some homemade enchilada sauce.  It is super easy to make from just a few ingredients which you can see here.  I have made both a red enchilada sauce and brown and we prefer the red one which just has a little tomato sauce in it which makes it even more perfect for pizza. The great thing is that I almost always have all of the ingredients in the pantry.

I made extra and put the other sauce in the freezer so that I would have it for enchiladas later.

 I spread the enchilada sauce and seasoned taco meat on the pizza shell.  Topped with cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.  I baked at 400 degrees until the cheese is lightly browned which is about 15 minutes and then I wait as long as I can to cut it into 8 pieces.  We topped the pizza with thinly sliced lettuce and enjoyed the whole pizza before I took this picture of the last piece left.

It is a nice difference with the hot and spicy bottom layer and the top lettuce layer. Feel free to add anything else that you like on your tacos.  We enjoyed this tasty leftover meal and so will you!!

I hope that you check this out for yourself and enjoy it as much as we did.  If you want to make your own pizza crust, my favorite recipe is here.  I hope that you enjoy this tasty dinner with this yummy recipe.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Little White Lies Book Review

I was excited to get to the next book in the series, Robert B. Parker's Little White Lies (Spenser) by Ace Atkins.  I have really enjoyed the Spenser series and I am quick to recommend these books to anyone who is interested in reading a lot of funny books filled with action.  This book was no different with lots of action and the funny wit of Spenser.  Hope there is another one coming soon!!

Boston PI Spenser and right hand Hawk follow a con man’s trail of smoke and mirrors in the latest entry of the iconic crime series. After conning everyone from the cable news shows to the local cops, it looks like the grifter’s latest double cross may be his last. Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site. He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the C.I.A. She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment.

But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card. A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge. Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that everything about Welles is phony. His name, his résumé, and his client list are nothing but an elaborate fraud. But uncovering the truth won’t be easy, as he’ll have to keep the mystery man alive long enough to get back his client’s money. As the trail winds from Boston to backroads Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Teddy Sapp to make sure Welles’s next con is his last.

Connie Kelly came to Spenser as a referral from Dr. Susan Silverman because she needed help tracking down her ex-boyfriend to find the money that he took from her.  M. Brooke Welles took nearly $300,000 to invest in project and quickly lost it.  He claims to have a military and government background and was working a con to get money.  He convinced Connie to fire Spenser and move south with him.  Spenser left the case alone but then Connie was found dead.  Spenser went to investigate and things got crazy.  There are tons of mysteries and actions that end up happening in this book and Spenser gets support from Hawk and Tedy (a friend from an old book).  I hope that you check out this book and all the others in the series!  It is a super amusing series with fun and action.  I know that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Apple Fritters

I have been wanting to make a recipes for apple fritters since I bought the Luck's Fried Apples at the grocery store as a money maker.  I knew that they would be great for these apple fritters because I don't like raw apples in things so I knew that these would make it better because they would be cooked through with the short cook time.  Although I think that you could use whatever works best and what you have on hand.

I mixed the dry ingredients in my bowl.

I didn't have buttermilk because I never do but I used some white vinegar in the milk to make the buttermilk.

I heated up some canola oil in a medium sized pan.

I took the apples out of the container and cut them into small pieces.

In a bowl, I whisked the egg whites until they were bubbly but I probably should have gone longer but my family was sleeping and it was loud.

I put the yolks in the buttermilk and mixed them together.

Mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

They combine into a thick and sticky batter.

Then I added the egg whites to the mixture and folded it in. 

It turns into a shiny mixture that has a little more air incorporated.

After mixing in the apples, you can see the high gloss finish in the dough.

I made the glaze with apple cider and powdered sugar and set that aside until the fritters were a little cooled.

Dunked them in here catching both sides with the glaze until they were coated with the glaze.

They sat on this tray so that the sugar would have a chance to stick to both sides.  I made the first few without the apples because I wanted my son to try it but it turns out that the apples add a lot of texture that is needed and the ones without apples were not good.

 I learned after the first few that I needed to cook longer on both sides and it was tastier and crunchier if I could drip it into the oil a little more like funnel cake because it make it is a little bumpier then just putting one spoonful in.

Although we enjoyed eating them, these were not the recipe that we will make again.  I am still in search of one that works for our family so stay tuned for another recipe soon.  I am sure that I didn't do things exactly the same as the original recipe but I hope that you check out her blog here.

Apple Fritters
2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups milk with vinegar (or buttermilk)
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups finely diced apples (I used canned)

Vegetable Oil for Frying

Powdered sugar
Apple Cider/Juice

1. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl mix together buttermilk and egg yolks and add to flour mixture. Stir just until mixed thoroughly.

3. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold beaten egg whites gently into batter. 

4. Fold in finely diced apples.

5. Heat oil in flat pan then drop batter by a tablespoon into hot oil. Cook one side until golden brown then flip over and cook other side until golden brown.

6. Remove hot fritters and allow to drain on paper towels until cooled so glaze can stick.

7. Mix powdered sugar and apple cider/juice in a small bowl until it is the consistency of thin icing. Dip warm fritter in icing flipping to coat both sides.
8. Return iced fritter to rack for any excess icing to drain and icing to set. Eat warm or cooled!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 10/16

Monday- Chicken fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Pasta (getting more creative with this because I am sick of plain spaghetti)
Thursday- Chicken and Rice Casserole
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- Roast Beef Sandwiches
Sunday- Egg Rolls and Simple Fried Rice

I think that last week went really well but I got a little confused on the meal plan.  Early in the week I switched Wednesday and Thursday because I didn't have the meat all the way defrosted in time but I thought that I was back on track.  We didn't have a lot of leftovers by Friday so I mixed Friday leftover night with Roast Beef Sandwiches because I got pork chops which I was going to make Saturday but I spent all day working and thought it was Sunday so I made Meatball Sliders on Saturday night and saved the pork chops and rice for Sunday night.  Although it went really well and I just slide around a few meals and still make it work.  I love when that happens!!  Luckily it all works out great because we have things that can be moved around easily and still food leftover to make.  I have worked hard this month to not get any take out and hoping we can make it until the end of the month and I might break down for Halloween because that is usually the best way to get my guy to eat before trick or treating.  I hope that you have a great week and enjoy a stress free dinner time!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bringing Maggie Home Book Review

I was excited to get to read another book by Kim Vogel Sawyer because I have enjoyed other books from her.  Bringing Maggie Home: A Novel by Kim Vogel Sawyer was next in my pile to read and I had to finish it before posting the review.  I was trying to find time to read and it seemed to always be taking a back seat to other things but I finally finished the book and enjoyed the amazing progress through the book to bring Maggie home.

Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery, and a Rift Spanning Three Generations.  Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.  Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.  When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Hazel has grown up with a big secret that she lost her little sister and it has changed the way that she lived her whole life.  Her parents told her she needed to forget all about it and burnt all of her sisters things but she hid some pictures.  Hazel grew up and was very overprotective of her daughter, Margaret Diane, which caused her daughter to revolt and be a lot less loving to her own daughter, Meghan, because she didn't want to put the same pressure on that she grew up with.  Seventy years later, Meghan finds the box of picture and learns of the long lost sister.  Meghan works with her friend, Sean, to try to find Maggie and bring her back to her grandmother.  The search and process helps heal the family and brings answers to the long family history.  It was interesting to read all about the family dynamics and see how one person's decisions changes all of the other decisions of the family.  It is amazing to see how one person's actions directly affect all the other people they contact.  It makes you rethink decisions that you make in your life.  The only problem that I had with the book was that although they were trying to bring Margaret Diane and Meghan to God but they were pushing it frequently more then needed to because it was obviously discussed through wanting to go to church and more.  I wish there were a few things that were left out that would have made the book faster moving and smoother but I still enjoyed the whole story searching for Maggie.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it for yourself.

**I was given a copy of the book for my review but all opinions here are honest and my own.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fried or Baked Mozzarella

I had used the crescent rolls to make some pizza bites in the past and I decided that it would be a good idea to try to see how they would taste fried.  I got a bunch free in the last few sales and we don't often make them to eat with dinner so I try to use them as creatively as possible.

I pulled out a few cheese sticks to see how they would taste.

I cut them into small bite sized pieces.

I sealed up the edges of the crescent roll division areas and cut them into a pieces a little bigger then the cheese.

I rolled the edge over the cheese like this.

Then I folded the edges in dough so no cheese can get out the edges.  After pushing in the sides, I continued rolling the dough until it was totally covered.  On any that had a lot of extra dough, I cut it off to make an extra one with the extra dough.

When this was done, you get a little thing about the size of a pizza bite.  I smooshed the dough in so that there wouldn't be any cheese leaking out. 

Originally I was going to bake these and I decided to try them fried because I really wanted to see what the difference would be in the taste and texture.

They browned up nicely and quickly into these much later pillow-y fried cheese balls.

When you bite into the center, it is soft soft and has a little crispy outside with the dough fried up.  It was super tasty and an interesting change.  It was great dipped in a little pizza sauce.  I enjoyed it for my lunch and reheated the leftovers for dinner the next night.  It tasted exactly the same!!  Perfect to make ahead of time and heat up for dinner.

They would be great with a little bit of pepperoni and sausage too!!  

Super easy and tasty made from things that I got super cheap or free at the store and enjoyed making them into a meal. Hope that you check out this and make some for yourself. I know that you will enjoy these tasty treats in a little bit of dipping sauce!