Funnel Cakes…

funnel cake

Funnel cakes are not just for the county fair! When I was younger, I remember my mom making us funnel cakes at home. I didn’t realize until I got much older that other families didn’t crank out funnel cakes at home. Really? We were always cooking up creative unusual items at our house. Egg Rolls. Egg Foo Yung. Homemade Corn dogs  The list goes on and on. My mom might not have been a trained chef but she sure had a sense of adventure and wasn’t afraid to try anything in the kitchen. That is probably where I get my culinary adventuresome attitude from! Thanks, Mom!

So, when the kids thought they saw funnel cakes for sell at the circus a few weeks ago, I told them that we could make them at home. Their eyes lit up with excitement. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Here is the recipe and it is super simple.

Funnel Cakes (makes 4)

Ingredients
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (divided)
1 egg
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil for frying (or as needed)
Confectioners sugar as needed

Directions
Mix salt, baking powder, and half the flour in a bowl. Set aside.

Mix egg, sugar and milk in a large bowl. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Continue to add remaining flour but use only enough to achieve desired consistency. Batter will be thin enough to run through a funner.

Heat oil to 375 degrees in an 8″ skillet.

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Put your finer over the bottom opening of the funnel, and fill the funnel with a generous 1/2 cup of batter. Hold the funnel close to the surface of the oil, and release the batter into the oil while making a circular motion. Fry until golden brown. Use tongs and a wide spatula to turn the cake over carefully. Fry the second side one minute. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar.

 

Menu Plan Monday 3/4/2013…

menu

This past weekend was an unusual one for us. John and Josh headed off to Space Camp with the Cub Scouts, so that left Brittany and I home alone. Since we had known this event was coming, I had asked Brittany a few weeks ago what she wanted to do. Her request was simple – she wanted me to sit down with her all day long and watch the Harry Potter movies. Now, the idea of sitting for hours watching movies was both appealing and appalling. I knew I would love spending time with Brittany and it being just the two of us cuddled up in pjs. I also knew that sitting and doing nothing for 12 hours straight would be hard on me since I tend to not just be a doer but a multi-tasker.  But if this is what Brittany wanted to do, how coud I say no? I have a theory that if your kids ever request to spend time with you, you say “yes” because the day will come that they will rather be with their friends.

So, how what the weekend? It was wonderful. We did exactly what she asked and didn’t leave the house for anything. Just parked ourselves in front of the television and watched the Harry Potter movies 4-8 (we had already watched 1-3 since we knew we physically couldn’t watch them for 20 hours!). We talked, cuddled, ate whatever we wanted and just enjoyed being together. And Josh and John had an equally great but exhausting weekend with the Cub Scouts.

Here is what we are eating this week:

Sunday: Quesadillas, leftover rice, carrots, applesauce, salad
It was just Brittany and I for dinner since John and Josh were headed back from Space Camp.

Monday: Chicken Fingers, Tater Tots, Apple slices, carrots
John won’t be at dinner tonight so I wanted an easy kid friendly dinner but still had some nutritional value. 

Tuesday: Almost Waffle House Waffles, Bacon, fruit
Another easy kid friendly dinner that will also provide breakfast for the kids for the rest of the week.

Wednesday: Chicken and Dumplings, Green Beans
A warm meal for a cold night.

Thursday: PF Changs Mongolian Chicken, Potstickers, Rice, Broccoli
It’s Asian Thursday! I found some great tasting potstickers in the frozen food section at Publix (brand: Ling Ling) and I’ll be serving these with dinner tonight. 

Friday: Fried Catfish, Roasted Potatoes, Fried Okra
The kids have been wanting fish for a few weeks now, so I will accomodate. I’ll buy whatever fish is on sale this week, so it may not be catfish.

Saturday: (Crockpot) Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach
I will save the leftover chicken for Sunday’s meal of Chicken and Dressing Casserole.

I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!

 

Friday Motivation – Dreamers and Doers…

 

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was very true. Who you decide to surround yourself with is so very important.

Proverbs 13:20 (NASB) says “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” and Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) states “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Who will you choose to spend your time with?

dreamers and doers

Money comes from work…

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One of the most important lessons that John and I want to teach the kids is that money comes from work. I want them to equal money with work so that when they are older, they do not have a welfare mentality. I don’t want them to feel as though they deserve anything without putting work into it. The only way to build a muscle is to exercise it. The only way to build the work=money muscle is to give them a job. They already have a list of chores that they must complete each week to get paid. No work = no pay. That is a real life lesson. But there are times when we need extra things done around the homestead and they need extra money so the two pair up nicely. That was the case this past weekend. Josh had $8 from this last paycheck but he wanted to go play air-soft with some friends. I called and was told that the cost was $15 to play. So, he had a shortfall.

Lucky for him, John pulled into the drive way with Big Willie (our Econoline van) full of wood that needed to be hauled to the back yard and stacked up. We negotiated a payment of $7 for Josh to help John haul it all back there. And it was  a lot of wood…

firewood

But the important thing is that he did it. And it wasn’t exactly with a great attitude especially since he got hurt twice (once he dropped wood on his foot and the other time he walked into my garden fence) but he pressed on and finished the job. And he got paid. The good news is that he got to play air-soft with his buddies and one of them even had a coupon making the cost only $11 – enough leftover to buy his own Mello Yellow, which of course, we made him pay for.

And Josh learned a valuable lesson that day. He learned that money comes from work and the best place for a broke person to go is to work. He also learned to take pride in what he does and that he has skills that are marketable. So, what will you teach your kids about money and work? Hopefully a lesson that will carry them through to adulthood. As a wise person once told me, we aren’t raising children, we are raising future adults.

Copycat PF Chang’s Mongolian Chicken…

chang chix

Most of my family loves Chinese food. If we go out to eat, the first votes are for Chinese. I say most because Josh is the lone dissenter. He does not like Chinese unless I am the one making it. So, since we like it and he will only eat it at home, I try to make it a part of the regular menu. When we go out to eat, we always order the Mongolian Chicken since that is something most of us will eat. We are not big beef eaters but even though the menu states “Mongolian Beef” we have found that if we ask, they will make it with chicken. I saw this recipe floating around on the internet and decided to give it a whirl. It called for beef too but I just switched up to chicken and it was a big hit.

P.F. Chang’s Copycat Mongolian Chicken

Ingredients

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup water
¾ cup dark brown sugar

vegetable oil , for frying (about 1/2 cup)
3 chicken breasts
¼ cup cornstarch
2 large green onions, chopped

 

Directions

1. Heat 2 tsp. of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium/low heat, without letting it get too hot.

2. Add ginger, garlic, soy sauce and water to the pan, being careful not to scorch the garlic.

3. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then increase the heat to medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat and set aside.

4. Slice the chicken against the grain at a 45 degree angle into 1/4″ thick bite-size slices. (Note: I sliced them too thin the last time and they were more like chicken jerky, be sure to not do what I did.)

5. Dip each piece into cornstarch and then let sit for 10 minutes.

6. As the chicken sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok over medium heat. You want it hot enough, but not smoking.

7. Add the chicken to the oil and sauté until brown, cooking evenly on all sides.

8. After a couple of minutes, remove the cooked meat and place on paper towels.

9. Dab excess oil off meat and add to medium saucepan with the sauce in it. Put the pan back over medium/low heat.

10. Add chopped green onions and let sauce simmer until warm. Serve over rice.

Blue & Gold…

josh b&g

Josh officially graduated from Bear to Webelo recently in our Cub Scout annual Blue and Gold ceremony. For those who are not familiar with Cub Scouts, Webelos is the top two levels of Cub Scouts before the boys go on to Boy Scouts. It is made up of 4th and 5th graders and it is an acronym for We Be Loyal Scouts (WE-BE-LO-S). Our Blue & Gold ceremony is what the boys work toward all year. They have to meet all the requirements for getting their patches including getting their whittling chip (learning how to safely use a pocket knife), riding their bikes for extended distances and learning how to maintain them and using tools to build a tool box. It takes lots of planning and time to ensure the boys get to this point in their journey before the ceremony in late February. It is also a lot of fun!

Included in the Blue & Gold ceremony is a cake contest among the boys. Some of the boys really go all out for their cake design. In the past, Josh’s cakes have been a campfire and a boat but this years is the best yet. It is a pocketknife and a bar of soap – the way they learn to whittle is using a bar of soap. It really “takes the cake”…

B&G cake

josh ribbon
Josh won “Judges Choice” for his cake! Yeah!

There is also a centerpiece competition that is as much about the leaders competing as it is the boys. Each den has to make centerpieces to decorate their tables with. We have made rockets before but this year went over the top. Our centerpieces were Blue and Gold (fish) centerpieces. Yes, that is a live goldfish in each centerpiece bowl. Luckily, we found families willing to adopt all the fish after the ceremony.

b&g centerpiece

b&g

 

On a funny side note, Josh won the raffle for a free haircut. As you can see from his picture, he is adverse to hair cuts so I don’t think he will want to be using that anytime soon.

We are so proud of Josh and the other boys in Den 7 for completing all their tasks this year and moving up to the next level. Cub Scouts has made some great memories for Josh and for us as a family. And Blue & Gold is a great way to celebrate!

Menu Plan Monday 2/25/2013…

menu

Today is my 37th birthday! Yeah to me! You know you are getting older when all you really want for your birthday is to be able to sleep past 6am on a weekday. Ha!

This year I did ask for a new pair of running shoes for my birthday. The ones that I have been running in are 14 months old, which means that I have logged approximately 560 miles on them. Boy, do they sure look like it. I recently went to a running store to try on shoes and when they saw what I had been running in, they almost had a fit. The tread is almost gone on the bottom and you can see where the color is wearing through. I don’t think I will be able to go as long next time of the shoes that I buy, especially since I am trying to up my distance on my runs. I spent the last day of my 36th year running my longest run ever – 8.8 miles. Hoorah!  I feel better and am in better shape at 37 than I was at 17 or 27. I am grateful to God for the strength and stamina to take care of the body that He has given and am excited to see what the next year of my life brings with it.

Here is what we are eating this week:

Sunday: Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots, Apple Slices
Josh and I have Mother/Son bowling in the afternoon so I needed something easy to throw together when we get home.

Monday: My Birthday Dinner
We normally only go out to eat on special occasions (like someone’s birthday) so we will be using a Groupon I picked up a few months ago for a local restaurants. Yum!

Tuesday: Chicken Chicken Quesadillas, Rice, Homemade Guacamole, Lettuce/Tomato Salad
I am making a Mexican meal for teachers appreciation today so I thought I would just make us Mexican too.

Wednesday: Baked Chicken and Rice, Broccoli

Thursday: Sesame Chicken, Rice, Roasted Asparagus
They were out of asparagus at the grocery store last week so we have been without it. The produce guy said there was a shortage so I hope that isn’t going to be ongoing, we don’t have that many green vegs that everyone will eat!

Friday: Frozen Pizza, Tossed Salad, Fruit
Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday so I will probably make something to go with that. Green eggs and ham? 

Saturday: Mother/Daughter dinner ??
Not sure what we will eat since John and Josh are at a Cub Scout overnight event. The girls are staying home and having a Harry Potter-thon movie fest. Yes, 8 movies in a row. I hope I make it through all of them since Brittany has been so excited to watch them together.

I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Parsnips…

parsnips

When I was a kid I only got parsnips at my grandmother’s house. I always thought they were white carrots and I loved them. I am a big vegetable fan and I really don’t have many vegetables that I don’t like. Now, some of them don’t like me (onions are one) but that is a different story. My kids are 8 and 10 years old and as far as I know, they have never had parsnips. We are always looking for new vegetables around here that the kids will like. Currently, we have a rotation between broccoli, green beans (in a can, yuck!), asparagus and spinach. Normally there is a starch paired up with the vegs like white potatoes or rice. I also make sure that they have some fruit during the day and some carrots at lunch. I am sure we don’t hit the recommended daily allowance for fruits and vegs but anytime I can get them to eat something from the garden, it is a win. And like all good mothers know, you have to take your wins when you can get them. So I am going to give this recipe a try and see if I can get a win out of it!

 

Maple ­Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

Author: Shaina Olmanson at Simple Bites
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins Yield: 6

Ingredients

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
3­4 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 leek, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (like Maille)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400º F. Place sliced sweet potatoes and parsnips in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the slices alternating between sweet potatoes and parsnips in the bottom of a small baking dish.

2. In a medium skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Saute leeks and garlic for 5 minutes. Pour in maple syrup and stir in the Dijon. Continue cooking for 2 additional minutes until syrup starts to simmer. Pour syrup and leeks over the sweet potatoes and parsnips evenly. Place in the oven for 30­-40 minutes until cooked through.

Remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

 

Family Pleasing Menu Planning…

menu plan

Looking to simply our lives, I took a look at my menu planning and decided to give it a re-work. I really like to try new recipes and kinda use my family like little taste testers – a new dish here and there. Most of the time, they are good sports about it and will eat whatever I fix. But in an effort to streamline the meal making process and save time and money, I decided to change up my menu planning.

First, I printed a list in excel of every dinner meal that I have made in the past two months. I then eliminated those that I knew the family didn’t like or was too expensive to make again. I also eliminated any duplicates, which weren’t that many. Normally, I try to not repeat the same meal twice in a month even though my family doesn’t mind repeating favorites. I used this fact to my advantage in the new menu plan.

Second, I gave each family member a list of the meals that I had made. I gave them specific instructions to cross through any or all of a meal that they did not enjoy. So, if the menu called for spaghetti, meatballs, salad and rosemary bread and they did not like the bread but liked everything else, they could just cross through the bread. John took it upon himself to also put big stars next to any item that he particularly liked, I think in hopes that I would put that on the menu more often. I was very surprised to find out that most of what I make, they like.

Next, I compiled the lists and marked on my master sheet who did not like a particular food. I simply put an “X” next to any meal that got cross through on the lists. Since there are 4 people in our house, we went my a majority ruling for most items. If it got 3 “X”s then the item was eliminated from the menu plan.

After I had a master list of the foods that my family likes to eat, I set up to create a re-occurring menu plan for each month. Most of our meals revolve around chicken as the main entree but I made sure to put either ground turkey, beef or fish in there once or twice a week. I also tried to keep the side dishes varied enough that we didn’t end up eating broccoli every night for a week. I ended up with 21 meals that we eat the first 3 weeks of the month and then I took the favorite items (as denoted by John’s star system) and repeated those meals the last week. I made sure that the meals that were repeated were in the menu as far from the last week as possible so that it didn’t feel monotonous.

In the end, I think I got a workable plan for each month. I am sure there will be some tweaking here and there as we learn to work through it. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t try new menu items, just with less frequency than normal. Everyone is happy about the new menu plan and I am glad to have things a little simpler around here.

Menu Plan Monday 2/18/2013…

menu

This is a quiet week around here which is much needed after our crazy busy week last week that culminated in a crazy busy weekend. Like my big word – culminated? I am trying to impress you. Ha. This weekend we went to the Big Apple Circus on Saturday with friends. On Sunday, John spent a few hours splitting and stacking firewood, I priced consignment sale items and then John took Josh to the air-soft field with friends. Fun but busy!

I spent some time lately revamping our menu and I will blog on that at some point. Needless to say, I am working on making it simpler and I think everyone around here is happier.

Here is what we are eating this week:

Sunday: (Crockpot) Salsa Chicken, Hard & Soft taco shells, Homemade Guacamole, Rice, Apple Slices
This is so easy that my 11 year old made dinner – put 2 chicken breasts in the crockpot along with some salsa and cook until done (about 4 hours for me). Shred and serve.

Monday: Mini Meatloaves, Homemade Mac & Cheese, Roasted Asparagus
Everyone gobbles these up in the mini size – just use muffin cups instead of a big meatloaf pan. Easy peasy.

Tuesday: Chicken Parmesan with Penne Pasta, Tossed Salad
Mine will be with the cheese – yum!

Wednesday: Ritz Cracker Baked Chicken Nuggets, Leftover Macaroni & Cheese, Green beans
I love that these are baked and not fried so I can eat them too. The kids don’t know the difference.

Thursday: Copycat PF Changs Mongolian Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Rice
I also have some fortune cookies that I will serve afterward, the kids love reading their fortunes! I’ll post this recipe on the blog a little later.

Friday: Frozen Pizza, Tossed Salad, Fruit
We made homemade pizzas last week so we might do that instead of frozen pizzas. The kids loved making their own pizzas!

Saturday: Cordon Bleu Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Frozen), Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli
John and Josh are going to the Supercross this night so Brittany and I will be hitting the movies after dinner. A fun girls/guys night outing!

 

I am linking up with OrgJunkie.com, so be sure to check out that site for more Menu Plans to help you with getting dinner on the table!