Rooms

I love to look for new decorating ideas...especially now that Chloe has her own nursery and the girls don't share anymore.  I have a good idea of what I want to do (and it has to be cheap).  Paint, pictures and ?????  
I found this website for designing babies, kids & teens rooms.  Super cute & fun.  www.designdazzle.blogspot.com please check it out if you have some extra time!  

I am hoping to paint Chloe's and Beau's 'new' rooms soon and will post pictures eventually one day when they are finished.  Hopefully before Chloe's five.  : )
Here's the before (there's no after yet...so I suppose it's the NOW picture):
so you can see that the room ahead has blue on the wall...it was Beau's old room which we never painted.  you can also see that Chloe loves to empty the drawers out.  

Here's our corner crib that they all have used.  I love it, but it has been a bit of a pain...Joey's had to fix it a few times.  I do love it though.  So the new room will be pink, hot pink, black & white.  That's the plan today.  I wish somehow it would just be magically painted one day.  

Life is sweet...

Here are a few random days of our summer...

she likey!
a BOY bike...finally.  no more princess..no more barbie...not that he ever complained.
beau took this picture of belle....pretty good, huh? 

once a month cooking

I had been pondering this "once a month cooking" (OAMC) thing for a looooong while.  I talked to my friend Caren about it and we decided to go for it!  My mom decided to join us and we were happy to have another set of hands...especially from someone who's so fun!  My mom makes anything more fun!  First you will want to get together to plan your meals (I highly recommend doing this with at least one other person).  Also, keep in mind that all the grocery store's mailers come on Tuesday (at least mine do) because the sales start Wednesday.  It's a good tool to look through those while you menu plan.  So then you shop, make all these meals (you can double some) and freeze them.  You will pull out 3 at the beginning of the week to let them defrost in the fridge.  You won't be able to eat a casserole the first day, because it will need a couple days to defrost.  You will supplement these meals with other things like "Taco Tuesday" night or something that can't freeze like Chinese Chicken Salad or have a pizza night.  You get the drift.  I will shop for fresh veggies & fruit once a week.    

Lets start with the menu:
1. Chicken Parmesan Bundles
2. Creamy Chicken Lasagna 
3. Chicken Cordon Bleu
4. Chicken Sticks
5. Lemon Pepper Chicken
6. Baked Pesto Ravioli with Chicken
7. Slow Cooker Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches
8. London Broil
9. Pepper Steak
10. Baked Ziti
11. Stuffed French Bread
12. Chili Verde

You can put it all down on your calendar now (I did it after we cooked).  

Here is my menu.  I put little asterisks by my OAMC meals.  If you click on the picture it should be able to read it.  At the upper right hand corner I have other meals I may substitute for something if one night I don't feel like tacos or pizza or something.  I also have a running list of the meals  taped under the calendar.  I crossed off one Pesto Ravioli Chicken Bake since we ate one the other night.  I sill have 1 more to make.  
you can go to www.frugalmom.net and print your own blank calendar.  I post this on the inside of my pantry door. 

Next on your list is shopping (this is a biggie).   You will want to do this 1-2 days before you cook.  Caren was nice enough to tally up all of our ingredients for us.  She went through all 12 recipes and tallied EVERYTHING.  Once you get it all tallied up you will go through your pantry first and cross off what you don't need to buy.  I also marked the things my mom & I wanted to share.  Then you go out and get the rest.  Here's a portion of our list:

share Cheese Tortellini or spinach ravioli (lb.) 6

Chicken, cooked (lb.) 8

Chicken Breasts 12 + 6 halves

share - Tri Tip/Boneless sirloin tip roast 3 to 4 lb

Pork Roast - 1

Chicken broth (c.) 7

Zucchini (c.) 6

share - Red bell pepper (c.) 1 ½

Green Bell Pepper (c.) 3

share - Celery 1/4. c.

share - Green onions (1/2 c.) 3

share - Basil Pesto Sauce (c.) 1 ½ 

share - Parmesan Cheese (c.) 3 ½ + 8 TB

Italian dressing (c.) 4

share - Country time lemonade mix (c.) 1 1/3....

Ziploc....big freezer ones....


Like I said....it was just a portion of the list.  My mom & I shopped together on Friday.  I suggest shopping with your cooking partner if at all possible.  


Time to prepare.  Some of the food had to be cooked before our Saturday - "cooking day" for our recipes (cooked chicken), the pork roast for Chile Verde & the Tri-Tip for the Slow Cooker Italian Sandwiches.  


My mom took both of our pork roasts home to put in the crock pot and I cooked both of our tri-tips (with the brown sugar & Italian dressing) in my crock pot. 


Here's a few things I did the night before:  washed veggies, tri-tip in crock pot at 9pm on low and boiled & shredded chicken.  I could have done more.  Like label Ziploc and/or write the info out on White address labels so they would have been ready to stick on.  If you are not going to cook at your house then I suggest packing up all your non-perishables and anything else you want to have with you when you cook.  I have some other tips.  Get organized the night before, clear anything you will not use from your counter tops.  Use only a few knives, cutting boards, measuring cups, & bowls.  Wash and re-use.  When pouring things into your big Ziploc bags fold down the top so none gets in the "zipper" part when you trying to close it  - it will be free of any food or marinades. 

Also, if you make do freeze it in a 9x13 baking dish you will line it with foil first.  Then freeze and later take it out of the dish.  This will give you a bit more space in your freezer AND you can still use your dish.  Make sure it's completely wrapped in the foil before you put it back in the freezer.  If you just keep it in the 9x13 in the freezer make sure you put saran wrap first to help prevent freezer burn.  Then cover with foil.  DO NOT forget to take the saran wrap off before you bake it.  You may even want to include that on your label.  


We each worked on different a meal on Saturday.  Caren made the Pesto Ravioli bake, my mom made the stuffed french bread, I made the parmesan chicken...and so on.  You make enough for each person.   My kitchen has a lot of counter space and it worked well.  I thought it was going to be horrible, but it was really fun.  We were able to chat and even ate lunch.  We started at 8:30 and ended about 4:30.   I think we could have been a little faster, but it was my first time and now I think I know what do to to stay more organized!


This is the Pesto Ravioli Chicken Bake thingie.  Notice Caren's nice labeling and it was flat when it froze.  Most of mine are flat, but there are a few that we couldn't make flat. 

This is my messy freezer.  I am wishing I would have flattened my rice when I froze it.  I didn't.  We also made a 2 dishes that required toothpicks.  It makes it tricky to freeze.  The chicken cordon bleu is in 3 ziplocs to make sure the tooth picks don't poke through and the chicken Parmesan bundles are in the gladware.  Good food, but I think I might opt not to make 2 with toothpicks to save room in the freezer.  Mine aren't labeled quite as nicely as Caren's labels.  It was the end of the day and I was pooped.  It might be a good idea to label all that beforehand.  Save yourself the step.


RECIPES:



Chicken Parmesan Bundles

 

4 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 1/4 c. Kraft shredded low-moisture part-skim Mozzarella cheese, divided 

6 T. Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan cheese, divided

6 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

1 egg

10 Ritz crackers

1 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce, heated


Preheat oven to 375.  Pound out flat.  Mix cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 3 tbs of the Parmesan cheese until well blended, spread evenly onto chicken breasts.  Starting at one of the short ends of each breast, roll up chicken tightly.  Secure it with wooden toothpicks, if desired.  Beat egg in shallow bowl, Mix remaining 3. Tbs.  into crushed cracker crumbs.  Dip chicken into egg, then roll in crumb mixture.  Place seam side down, in 13x9 inch baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove & discard toothpicks.  Serve topped with spaghetti sauce and remaining 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. 



Chicken Sticks 


2 Loaves Bridgford frozen bread dough, thawed

1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, chopped up

1/4 c. chopped celery

3 green onions, finely diced

1 c. shredded jack cheese, divided

1/2 c. caesar salad dressing

1/4 c. melted butter or oil.


Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly grease baking sheets (I don’t).  Set aside.  In a small bowl combine your chicken, celery, onions, 1/2 cup cheese and dressing.  On a lightly floured surface roll out dough, divide into 4 equal sections (4x6 rectangles - good luck with that).  Spoon 3-4 tbs. of mixture on each piece of dough, along the 6 inch side.  Roll up tightly in jelly roll fashion.  Seal the seams brush with melted butter or oil.  Sprinkle lightly with rest of cheese.  Bake immediately for 15-20 minutes.  Serve warm.  


I usually boil my chicken in the morning on low all day so it’s ready to go when I am making dinner.  I also use mozarella cheese.  I’ve tried many, many different Caesar dressings and have found I like Kraft’s or Ken's best.  Also, take your dough out the night before and thaw in the fridge.  It gets that crusty top and something about the way it bakes makes it yummier.  This is a great finger food....fun to eat at all ages.  If you have left over (yields 8) then freeze the rest.


Creamy Chicken Lasagna


12 uncooked lasagna noodles (12 oz)

1 Tbs. butter or margerine

3/4 c. chopped green bell pepper

3/4 c. chopped onion

1/2 c. milk

2 cans (10 3/4 oz each) condensed cream of chicken soup

1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 container (12 oz) small curd cottage cheese

3 c. diced cooked chicken

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese


Heat oven to 350.  Spray bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Cook & drain Noodles

While noodles are still cooking, melt butter in 2 qt sauce pan over med. high heat.  Cook bell pepper & onion in butter, stirring occassionally, until crisp-tender; remove from heat.  Stir milk, soup, basil & pepper.

Place 4 noodles in baking dish.  Top with about 1 cup of the soup mixture, 1/2 cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups chicken, 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese & 1/3 cup cheddar cheese.  Repeat layers once, starting with noodles.  Place remaining 4 noodles on top.  Top with the rest of the soup mixture and cheese.  Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

 Bake uncovered 50 to 55 minutes or until bubbly and hot in center.  Let stand 15 min before cutting.  8 servings


Baked Ziti


1 pound dry ziti pasta

1/2 onion

1 pound italian sausage

2 - 26 oz jars spaghetti sauce

6 oz. provolone cheese, sliced

1 1/2 c. sour cream

6 oz. mozzerella cheese

2 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese


Cook pasta according to package.  

Brown sausage and add spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or spray 9x13 baking dish and layer as follows: 1/2 Ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream (spread it with a spatula), 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzerella cheese and the rest of the sauce.

Bake for 30 mintues or until cheese is melted it.


We don’t use provolone, because my hubby doesn’t like it.  We just use more mozzerella cheese.  When I use this for OAMC then I don’t simmer the sauce with the sausage.  I just layer the sausage then the sauce.  Once you’ve completed it you can put saran over the top, then foil and then 


Baked Pesto Ravioli with Chicken


2 pound cheese filled ravioli, fresh or frozen

1 pound cooked chicken breasts in 1/2 slices

2/3 c. chicken broth

2 c. zucchini, cut into 1/2-in rounds

1/2 c. chopped scallions

1/2 c. store bough basil pesto sauce

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 c. grated parmesan


Basically, you combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix.  Bake in a greased 9x13 pan at 350 for 1 hour.


If you are using OAMC, then label, date & put into a freezer bag for up to 3 months.  Easy & yummy.



Lemon Pepper Chicken


2/3 c. dry lemonade mix

2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 (16 oz) bottle Italian dressing

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves 


Combine lemonade mix, dressing & pepper.  Mix well.  Add chicken and toss to coat.  Put in a 9x13 baking dish, cover & refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.  


When ready to bake heat oven to 350 and bake for 30 min or you can also BBQ. 


For OAMC, just mix ingredients, throw in your frozen chicken, toss to coat.  Label, your ziplock FIRST.  Put it all in the ziplock and freeze.



Slow Cooker Tangy Italian Beef Sandwiches


3-4 pound beef boneless sirlion tip roast, trimmed of fat (we used tri-tip - same thing?)

1/4 c. packked brown sugar

1 bottle (16 oz) Italian dressing

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

12 sandwich buns, split


Spray inside of crock pot with cooking spray.  If beef is tied, remove string or netting.  Place beef in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  Pour dressing over it.

Cover & cook on Low for 10 - 12 hours.

Remove beef from crock pot & shred beef using 2 forks.  Return beef to slow cooker; add Italian seasoning and mix well.  With a slotted spoon spoon beef onto buns or for OAMC Label your ziplock and place COOLED beef into ziplock and freeze.


 Stuffed French Bread:


1 loaf french bread

1 stick low-fat yogurt based spread or butter

1/2 c. nonfat cream cheese

1/2 c. yellow onion, diced

1 tbs. dried parsley

1 tbs. poppy seeds

1 c. precooked sausage, cut into 1/2 - inch pieces

20 slices canadian bacon (that’s a lot...not so sure about that much)

9 slices swiss cheese (we used mozzerella)


Place a 3 foot long pice of foil on a clean workspace and place bottom half of the loaf on it.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together the spread, cream cheese, onions, parsley and poppy seeds with handheld mixer.  Blend the sausage into the cream cheese mixture.  Spread the mixture evenly on the bread halves.  Layer the canadian bacon on the bottom half of the loaf and the top with the mozzarella cheese.  Place the top half of the bread over the toppings and wrap tightly in foil.  


Label & Freeze for OAMC


Pre-heat oven to 400 or heat grill to med. heat.  Bake break in aluminum foil for 15 minutes.  Unwrap and slice into 2 inch slices.  Eat like a sandwich.



I still have a few more recipes that I forgot to copy from Caren (Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chile Verde, London Broil & Pepper Steak).  I will get them and post later.  


Whew!  I'm tired!  We also made a Lemon Wild Rice (and we were going to make twice baked potatoes) for sides.  I have that recipe as well.  Super easy.  


So now my freezer is stocked with yummy food.  The Lasagna recipe made us 2 each!  We tripled the Ravioli Chicken Pesto one and have 2 bags of it....so glad...it was super yum!


I'd love to have any of your freezer friendly dinners or even your favorite easy dinner. I'm always looking for something easy to make.  


I hope I didn't totally ramble and made some sense....I can email recipes too.  Just let me know. 




ulterior motive

This morning Isabelle decided to sweep and then clean all the sticky spots from my kitchen floor.  In fact, she's still doing it.  I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into, because I haven't mopped in quite a while.   She was sweeping away and telling me how fun it is..."do you think it's fun?" You all know the answer to that...NONONO!!!  Mopping is not fun.  Good thing she likes it (although I'm sure that won't last long).  She said she couldn't wait to tell my mom (who is coming over in a bit) that she could do this for her at HER house.  Oh.  I knew she had an ulterior motive.  When Beau heard that he came running, "I can help.  I want to help."  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I see how it goes kids.  It's all about the Grandparents.  They can't help it if they are more fun than us.  I can definitely use this to my advantage!  Maybe we should have more....I could have my own little cleaning crew!  Oh...hmmm....the more kids the more mess.  Maybe not. 
She looks cute even when she cleans.  Notice the Christmas clip in her hair.  Looking fabulous!
 
Isn't this 'hun'?  (that's fun?)  look at him so proud...grabbing his crotch???  Why do boys do that all the time?  Which reminds me of something else funny that he did the other day, but I'll save that for another post.  

Anyway, they are taking a snack break right now, but reassured me that they will get back to work right after.  Wow!  : )

summer, summer, summer

Wow!  It's July already?  We are really enjoying our lazy summer.  Mornings in PJ's, pancakes & cartoons.  Now that I found out that Beau has afternoon Kindergarten I really want to take it easy....I have to drop Belle of at 8am, Beau at 11:30am then pick up Belle at 2pm and then pick up Beau at 3pm!  Whew...I'm tired just writing about it.  We are really living it up this summer, playing outside, bike rides, staying up LATE!  I really thought this summer was going to stink without a pool, but we are so fortunate to have really great next door neighbors that let us swim any time we want.  Their kids are the same ages as Isabelle & Beau and they love to spend time together.  It seems like they just run back and forth between houses, riding bikes, playing inside and then of course swimming!  It's been really fun. 
Isabelle lost her tooth (while swimming next door) on top and she looks adorable...especially with her new shorter haircut!  I can't believe my girl is 6 and going into the first grade! She really fits the first child, big sister role...she is truly my big helper and I am such a lucky mommy!  She really helps me with Chloe, holding her, playing with her and just loving her!  Isabelle is still my social butterfly, too.  She just loves to be out and about...especially for girl time with me!  She is a funny, because as much as she is girly she is also a tomboy.  She loves, purses, nail polish, skirt, jewelry and all the frillies...She also loves riding her bike fast, climbing, star wars light saber duels and wrestling.  She's so much fun!
 
Beau is turning into such a big boy.  He's still not ready to spend the night at Coo-Coo & Papa's house, but he loves to be over there until it's time for bed.  He still is very much a mama's boy (and daddy's boy, too).  He loves to be at home.  He's coming out of his shell a little bit, but I am glad he's not in a hurry to be away from us for any length of time.  I am sure there will come a point and time when he will never want to be at home.  He is really coming along with his Lego building, too.  He's so creative and makes these awesome, planes, trucks, trailers, boats & houses.  He's pretty amazing (just like his dad)!  He's going to be a Kindergartner next year (sniff).  I can't believe he'll be 5 in September.  I ask him if he's still my baby and he tells me that Chloe is my baby now.  He's says he's not my baby, but he still loves to snuggle and be held...sounds like he's my baby to me!
 

Chloe is adorable...her hair is getting so light & curly!  She looks a lot like her Auntie Deni (Joey's sister).  She's still easy going, she can skip naps and not be a total crank (which I am sure will come in handy next school year with our crazy schedule).  She's just a happy girl and so sweet!  She is also very busy!  She's into everything and very fast.  As soon as she hears a door open to the garage she comes a runnin!  She has figured out that being out side is very fun and is not happy when we don't let her join the kids out there. She LOVES the water - the bath, a slip 'n slide and the pool.  She is a water baby...just like her siblings.  She puts her face in the water, Joey dunks her and he lets her float around the pool in a ring.  Something tells me she will be swimming at an early age just like her siblings....I fully expect her to be swimming like a pro next summer...Joey has a lot of work to do!  : )