Monday, July 25

Menu Plan Monday

So many of my bloggy "friends"/acquaintances are doing pantry clean outs right now.  So I decided to join in last week and am continuing on this week.  This last weekend I went grocery shopping and spent 1/2 of my budget for 2 weeks worth of food!  I'm gonna have to save some of it, though.  I unfortunately missed our local meat sale and so I'll have to pony up a bit more for things like ground beef in the coming weeks/months.

Here's the plan for this week...

mini quiche
breakfast cookies
baked oatmeal
yogurt with fruit
peanut butter banana smoothies

quesadillas/roll-ups with lunchmeat and cheese; fruit
hot dogs; chips; fruit/veggie

hummus with veggie chips
fruit smoothies
granola bars (used only 1 T coconut oil and added in sunflower seeds)
healthier rice crispy treats
chex mix
protein bars
lara bars

baked potato with brocolli cheese sauce; salad
cheeseburgers (w/o buns); corn on the cob; cheesy peas
potato-corn chowder; salad
oatmeal pancakes; sausage patties; eggs
cheese taquitos; seasoned black beans; mexican rice
chicken and rice; salad
mexican beef and bean casserole (already prepared and in the freezer); salad/fruit

The last two nights I've been able to take some extra time and put a few meals up in the freezer for next week.  I was also able, last weekend, to get some of our snacks made and put in the fridge.  I made granola bars, rice crispy treats, and chex mix (though we will need more chex mix).  So nice to have a quick snack to grab that is diet friends, with little to no extra sugar, and I made sure they were all sources of complete proteins :)

Tuesday, July 19

Pantry Clean-out Tostadas

So we had tostadas for dinner last night.  Wow!  It was the simplest of ingredients, but turned out SUPER yummy!  We'll definitely be making these again :)

Beef and Bean Tostadas
12 corn tortillas
3 cans pinto beans, drained
1 can rotel
3 cloves garlic
1 t cumin
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning (3 T of homemade seasoning)
1/2 c water (optional)
3-4 oz velveeta, cubed

1. Lay out tortillas on cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 until browned (turning at least once while baking) - approx 10 min.
2. Place drained beans, rotel, garlic, and cumin in blender and blend until combined and thin (may need to do in batches and may need olive oil to thin out a bit).
3. Brown ground beef, drain.  Add taco seasoning and water.  Simmer for a few minutes then add velveeta until melted and incorporated.
4.  Assemble tostadas with tortilla, bean mixture, and topped with cheese/taco meat.

This turned out great!  We were in a hurry or I would have made rice to go alongside.  This would also make some killer nachos!

Recipe Options:
- Adding water will thin the meat/cheese mixture and stretch it a bit.
- You will probably have leftover bean dip...we had quite a bit leftover that we'll use to dip cheese taquitos in later this week.
- You could substitute regular cheese for the velveeta (it's just what I had and I'm trying not to go grocery shopping).  You may need to add a bit of milk if you use regular shredded cheese.

Got the idea from two blog posts is for how to make the tostadas and the other on how to make the bean dip.

Friday, July 15

Pantry Cooking Day 5

Is anyone surprised that the first thing I'm going to say is that I didn't make dinner last night?  My son just wanted fruit for dinner.  So he had fruit, part of a cheeseburger, and a larabar.  Some days are better than others, right?  So, of course, yesterday carries over to today :)

Breakfast: giant breakfast cookies
Snack: grapes
Lunch: cheeseburger pie (already done)
Snack: mixed fruit
Dinner: baked potato & salad/leftovers (for me and my son respectively)

One more night :)

Thursday, July 14

Cheeseburger Pie

This is a go-to recipe for our family, and to be honest it has been even before we were gluten free.  This was one of the first recipes that I "converted" to gluten free.  But do you wanna know a secret?  It was super easy since you can now buy a gluten free Bisquick mix!

GF Bisquick is pricey compared to it's gluten-filled counterpart, but for us it was worth a shot simply because I needed something that made me feel more normal when cooking in the kitchen.  One thing that has been nice is that we use it exclusively for this recipe so this one box has lasted us several months!  By the way...there are people online with recipes for making a GF version of Bisquick at home that is supposed to be closer to the regular version, so if you want to save some money you could look into those options.

GF Cheeseburger Pie
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, minced/grated
1/2 t Montreal steak seasoning*
1 c shredded cheese (we like sharp cheddar)
1/2 c GF Bisquick**
1 c milk
3 eggs

1. Cook beef with onion and drain off excess fat.
2. Stir in steak seasoning and spread in pie plate.
3. Sprinkle with cheese.
4. Beat Bisquick, milk, and eggs.  Pour over beef/cheese mixture.
5. Bake @ 400 for 25-30 minutes.

*You can also just use 1/2 t salt + 1/8 t pepper, but I prefer the depth provided by the steak seasoning (FYI...Aldi's carries the same seasoning under their own brand name).
**If you use a homemade GF Bisquick mix, only use 2 eggs.

Pantry Cooking Day 4

4 days down and my pantry doesn't seem to be looking much different.  I'm praying that next week I will have more enthusiasm to really be creative and clear some space since my husband will be home.  I have trouble being creative and even doing any real cooking when it's mostly just for me.  I am pushing through by asking my son (almost 2) to eat the exact same things (within reason) that I am eating.

Unfortunately, my frustration with cooking for 1 1/2 got the best of me yesterday.  Son had a Larabar for lunch with trail mix and I cooked us a very early dinner.  Therefore we only made it through the cheeseburgers I had planned for lunch yesterday (and I forgot the corn).  For dinner, after my kids were in bed, I had 2 cheese roll-ups and a salad...the salad makes it healthy, right?

Anyway, today did not start out as I had hoped (since it started with a collections call from a bill I received for the first time last month).  But we rebounded a little.  I was able to make breakfast cookies this morning and am prepared to have leftover burgers for lunch :).  So here's the rest of my plan for today...

Breakfast: giant breakfast cookies (recipe being tweaked a bit and I'll try to post it soon)
Lunch: cheeseburgers; chips; fruit
Snack: fruit w/Larabar; chex mix? (this didn't get mad yesterday but I'm going to try to make it right after lunch)
Dinner: cheeseburger pie; salad (recipe to be posted later tonight)

Wednesday, July 13

Chicken Taco Filling

I realized today that I have not yet posted this AWESOME recipe on my blog!  I've emailed to a few friends and somehow never got it up here...not sure how that happened but I'm fixing it now!

This recipe is great for company, especially if you are dealing with allergies/intolerances.  I recently made this for a friend who came to visit.  She is lactose intolerant and we are gluten free, so there were some issues (especially since milk is in almost every recipe in my repertoire).  This turned out wonderful!  One note, if you want this to be lactose free...make sure you buy a milk free chicken stock and make sure you use a milk free cheese (our friend buys Kraft Naturals brand as it claims to have 0g lactose and she's good with that).

Chicken Taco Filling
1 c chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning (or the equivalent of a homemade variety)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken (or just eyeball how much you'll need...I usually use about 3-4 large breasts)

1.  Pour broth and seasoning into slow cooker and stir to dissolve seasoning.
2.  Place chicken in broth.
3.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (I always check at 4-5 since my slow cooker cooks rather quickly).
4.  Use forks to shred when done.  Leave in slow cooker and in juices until ready to serve (be sure to turn slow cooker off or to warm setting).

We LOVE this on tostada shells (homemade).  I take corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil until they start to brown, flip and fry on other side, and remove to paper towel.  These make the shells crispy, but still easy to fold over like a taco shell (and are much cheaper than buying taco shells).  We normally top these with cheese and avocado/salsa.  Yummy!

Side note:  You could prep this ahead of time by putting the broth and seasoning in a zip-top bag and then adding the chicken.  Freeze and then thaw the night before you're ready to fix it.  Probably won't save a lot of time, but you'd have a quick dinner pretty much ready to go!

Pantry Cooking Day 3

Yesterday I made a trip to the store for a few items (eggs, milk, garlic salt, sour cream, etc).  It wasn't all absolute essentials...but it will help me stay on track with what I'm making in the next few weeks.  So I didn't really feel like cooking much last night which worked out ok because I forgot to thaw any ground beef to make hamburgers for dinner...whoops!  Anyway, pulled out some ground beef last night as well as some frozen hotdogs (did you know Oscar Meyer is now making nitrite/nitrate free hotdogs?).

My goal today is to finish recording what I have in my freezers and pantry and hopefully post that list tomorrow. I also want to get some snacks/breakfasts made for the rest of the week.  On my list...chex mix, hummus, deep dish cookie pie, mini quiche, and breakfast cookies.  Wow...that looks more ambitious all written out like that, I guess we'll just have to see what happens!

Breakfast: eggs with toast and fruit
Lunch: hamburgers with corn
Snack: chex mix and fruit
Dinner: bean tostadas

***On a side note, if you are looking for a cute picture of an adorable baby's bottom...check out my post from yesterday about diaper rash on our family blog...How to Kick Start your Child's Modeling Career. ***

Tuesday, July 12

Pantry Cooking Day 2

Yesterday was my first day on my own since our first son was born, and it showed in the fact that I didn't want to get off the couch all day.  I came very close to allowing my missing my husband to be more important than caring for my two little blessings.  However, I did keep them fed, changed, and entertained all day.  I wish I could say the same for myself.  I realized late last night that I had only had a handful of trail mix since breakfast.  So today I'm out to make sure I eat lunch :)

The plan for Tuesday:
Breakfast - chocolate chip muffins
Lunch - gluten free chicken helper (using leftover chicken from last night's dinner)
Snack - arrowroot cookies with chocolate chip cheese ball (no, it isn't healthy but it's leftover from Sunday's Bible study and it's yummy)
Dinner - hamburgers, corn, cheesy peas

The chocolate chip muffins went over ok with Carter, though he didn't ask for more so that's usually a sign that he's not too into something.  I thought they tasted like wallpaper paste :(
Also changed dinner from oatmeal pancakes to hamburgers b/c I have some fresh corn that is going to go bad soon.

Monday, July 11

Eating from my Pantry - Day 1

I usually try to use Monday's to post my menu plan for the week.  Unfortunately this week is shaping up to be a bit different.  My husband will be out of town, my family is visiting for most of the week, and--out of neccessity--I am trying to clear out my pantry and freezer.  The pantry cleanout is so I can save money on groceries this week and next.  Also, I have some items that have been in there for quite some time and I need to use them up.  My plan is to try and post a few times over the next few weeks with what we are making as we get creative in using the contents of our pantry.  I'm also going to (if I get a chance) post an inventory of the food we have on hand in hopes that some of you may be able to help me find recipes to use them up :).

Tonight, I'm going to try something different.  I'm going to cook a few chicken breasts in the crockpot with some chicken stock and cranberry sauce.  Served over lettuce with my salad.  I'm hoping it turns out well :)

Wednesday, July 6

Visions of Babies Danced in my Head

I have wanted to post about this for a long time.  Finding the courage and strength and will power to sit down and do it...well that's been my hangup.  It's painful...frustrating...happy...amazing...awe-inspiring...and immeasurably emotional for me.  What I plan to tell you is the story of my journey to motherhood (both times).  What you will get is my version, what happened and what could have, in at least three installments.

I married the man of my dreams in 2007, May to be exact.  Six months later we were living in Oklahoma, dealing with the tragic death of my sister's boyfriend, and contemplating our future.  As my husband and I sat in our one-bedroom apartment talking we made the life-changing decision to start trying to have a baby.  Actually, the exact thing we decided was to "not try to not have" a baby...and that's what we did.  I quit taking birth control and we waited.  By April of 2008 I was frustrated and quite a bit poorer from the number of pregnancy tests I had purchased.  After reading an article my grandma sent in the mail about Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) I decided to talk to my doctor about it.  So in July I went, I talked, she tested and determined that I did, indeed, have PCOS.  I was put on a low dose of Metformin (a drug that counteracts the insulin resistance that can be characteristic of PCOS) and told to come back in 6 months to see if we should up the dosage.  She also warned me that we "might never be able to have kids".  So we waited some more and I mourned the loss of possible future children.  I tried to be happy with my life, but felt very empty when I thought that we might not have children.

We were busy, we had just bought a house and a dog, and I sort of lost track of things (or worked very hard to forget them). I started to think that this was just God's plan for us...maybe we were meant to adopt or foster...maybe we should focus more on doing things while we were childless like traveling.  The fall of 2008 I started researching more on PCOS and it's relation to diet.  I read Managing PCOS For Dummies and learned about a connection with eating a low Glycemic Index diet.  We started making some changes in our diet, but I didn't really see much of a change.

In December of 2008 my grandpa Claude passed away from a very long struggle with heart disease and my life went to pieces.  Two deaths in two years sent me reeling.  I was able to see my grandpa before he passed away, while he was still able to open his eyes and acknowledge that he knew I was there, and I spent the next week with my grandma trying to be as supportive as I could.

Shockingly, I started my period for the first time since April on the morning my grandpa passed.  It was bittersweet.  The thought that this could mean a possible pregnancy might be in the cards was exciting, but that knowledge mixed with the loss of my grandfather was very difficult to process.  The funeral came and went.  I went back to Oklahoma, returned to work, and tried to focus on preparing for going back to Missouri for Christmas a week later.

Somehow we muddled through packing, trip preparations, and traveling with our 80 lb dog.  We made it through Christmas, thanks in large part to my niece are her amazement over her gifts and having us in town.  My heart ached at the thought that being an aunt might be it.  But I was determined to enjoy myself.  We met up with some old friends on this trip and I discovered, much to my amazement, that a close friend also was struggling with fertility issues due to the same illness!  Suddenly I felt much more hopeful.  Knowing that I wasn't alone was very comforting and I walked away from dinner with an encouraged spirit and rekindled friendships.

When we got home I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't getting pregnant anytime soon.  So I figured we should plan on something else... a trip to Europe!  It would be a year or more in the future but we started talking about saving money, possibly going back on birth control (just in case) and saving vacation time at work.  We were recovering from some major financial issues and it all seemed to be coming together to be a great year.  Despite my enthusiasm about the trip I was still frustrated that I hadn't had a period again after the one around my grandpa's funeral.  I chalked it up to stress leading to that one and figured the meds just weren't working.  So I started making a list of things to discuss with my doctor at my upcoming appointment.

Then I got sick.  I couldn't eat anything but peanut butter and crackers for 3 days lest I wanted to feel nauseous all day.  I thought I had the flu and just muddled through.  After many jokes from my dear husband about being pregnant, and many shed tears over how I couldn't be.  I gave in.  One night while he was at work I decided to take another pregnancy test to prove to him it wasn't possible and to put an end, finally, to the jokes that were so hurtful to me (though I never let him know).  Imagine my surprise when that stick showed two pink lines!  Was this for real?!?!?  Were we actually...finally...pregnant?  I rushed to Target and bought two more tests.  As I sat in our bathroom looking at three VERY clear, positive tests I called him at work.  He thought I was joking and then realized this was no joke...we were going to be parents!

***Stay tuned for part 2...the birth of our first son!***

PCOS is sort of a catch all.  It describes a set of symptoms experienced by women, but the source of the problem is still unknown.  There are many theories on what causes this disease:  poor diet, celiac disease, diabetes, etc.  No one person has it figured out and if you talk to anyone they will probably have advice on how to treat it, someone they know who cured themselves, or tell you it's made up...I've experienced all of these things when talking to others.

According to WebMD, PCOS effects approx 1 in 15 women.  If you think you may have a problem with this disease, you can check out more information here and please talk to your health care provider.  My story is neither typical of a woman with PCOS, nor is it the only way to get pregnant.  One thing I do believe strongly in is starting out slow (with natural changes before starting medication, low dosages to begin with).  While women are usually frustrated after their diagnosis (probably b/c they were diagnosed after a long time trying already) they usually jump on a high dosage medical treatment plan.  This may or may not be the best way for you to regulate your hormones.  I didn't know much about natural ways to help my body combat this disease (check out this site for more info on nutritional changes) and started with medication.  I was, however, fortunate to have a doctor who wanted to go slow.  The dosage I was put on was EXTREMELY low...many women take upwards of 2,000-3,000 mg twice a day with no results.  I very much believe that you should try natural methods to begin with and then, if you decide on medication, to start out on a low dosage and allow it to work in your body before moving up...but of course discuss that with your doctor.