Friday, January 29, 2010

Rice-A-Roni Fake Out

While taking stock of my pantry, I found 3 bags of fine egg noodles.  I didn't even realize they there!  I don't use them and I didn't buy them!  Sometimes Joe does the food shopping and odd things like this end up in our pantry! 

I made chicken noodle soup the other night and included some of the fine noodles instead of the heartier noodles that I prefer.  I was shocked at the small amount that was needed from the bag!  Still had more than half a bag left and 2 more full bags in the pantry!  I'll never use them up! 
I saw a recipe on the package for Pasta Rice Pilaf.  After checking to see if I had all the ingredients, I planned this for dinner the next night! 
I am known to be product loyal with some things.  For instance, Acme's knock off of Bush's beans are awful!   Other things, I love buying the store brand in order to save some money.  Giant brand of Raisin Brand is just like Kellogg's Raisin Bran.  (Before that  discovery, I could only eat Kellogg's Raisin Bran...see, I'm product loyal.)

I was super-surpised and thrilled with this recipe!  Not only did it taste better than beef-flavored Rice-A-Roni, it was easy, made larger serving sizes and I am sure WAY cheaper!!!!  (I don't have a price break down at the moment.) 

So, here's the recipe: 

Pasta Rice Pilaf


  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice

  • 1/2 cup fine egg noodles

  • 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

  • 2 3/4 cups water

  • 2 Tbsp. dried minced onion

  • 4 tsp. beef flavor bouillon granules

  • chopped fresh parsley, optional 

  • In large skillet, cook rice and noodles in melted butter or margarine, stirring frequently until rice and noodles are lightly browned.

  • Add water, onion and bouillon granules.

  • Bring to boil.

  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes until rice and noodles are tender.

  • Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

I served this with grilled London Broil and steamed broccoli. 

This recipe makes 4 hearty portions.  Hubby and I have big appetites and usually when a recipe serves 4, we don't have any leftover.  I had plenty of rice to put away! 

I left off the fresh  parsley, since we didn't have it, and I'm not much for garnishes when it's just the two of us for dinner. 

The recipe calls for beef bouillon, but I cannot wait to try it with chicken bouillon next time! 

Also, the recipe calls for the fine egg noodles, but I'm sure this would work great using the broken spaghetti, angel hair or vermicelli bits left at the bottom of the boxes.  Save them up and use them for this recipe!  I also think that orzo pasta would be a great match too!  We always have a 1/2 a box or so left in the pantry! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mini Veggie Trays: great for lunch or snacking!

Last week, I mentioned that one of my goals for this year is to get healthy and hopefully, as a result of my new healthy lifestyle, lose some weight. 

Monday, I weighed myself.  I didn't get the results I was hoping for.  But I wasn't surprised.  I know that not all of my meal/snack/drink choices were healthy choices. 

On one hand, I had trouble with portion sizes (some of the time) and wasn't able to give up my soda. 

On the other hand, I snacked on fresh veggies during the day and tried to include milk as a beverage each day. 

At the beginning of the week, I made a bunch of mini veggie trays for myself.  This made it much easier to choose a healthy snack, since it was right there in the fridge.  All ready and waiting for me! 

I sliced some cucumbers, cut up  some celery in thin sticks (the way I like it).  I placed some of the cucumbers and celery into plastic containers and added a handful of baby carrots to each container.

I stacked the containers in the fridge, so they were in plain sight.  Making it easy to just reach in and grab one.  Each day after lunch, when I was in need of a snack, I'd pull one of the containers out, fill a small bowl with fat free dressing for dip and snack on the veggies up until dinner time! 

This post is linked to:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

15-minute Tackle: Guest Room / Thank You Cards

I'm really happy that The Domestic Contessa is hosting the 15-minute Tackle on Tuesdays.  I'm hoping that by participating each week, it will make me accountable for getting my weekly task completed. 
I wouldn't want to admit failure to all of you! 

While working on my 15-minute Tackle last week, I realized that since Grace was born, my daily life has become a series of 15-minute Tackles:
loading the dishwasher, sorting laundry,
making dinner, filling bottles,
taking a get the idea!

Gracie sleeps great at night.  As a result of her sleeping 12 hours straight every night, she rarely naps longer than 5 to 10 minutes, if at all.  
I see it as a trade-off for a great night's sleep! 
I also see it as a major obstacle in getting anything accomplished
on a day to day basis. 

Gracie will nap occasionally for more than 5-10 minutes, but only if I'm holding her.  If I hold her (like today), she'll take a 2 or 3 hour nap. 
I use that time to catch up on some of my shows that Comcast offers On Demand (I wish they offered all the shows I like On Demand). 
But, holding her doesn't allow me to get anything accomplished around the house.  Defeats the purpose of naptime, as far as I'm concerned. 

She loves watching TV. 
As much as I hate the TV being her babysitter, I  NEED to get stuff done. 
Yo Gabba Gabba, The Wiggles, and Jack's Big Music Show all seem to be the best at keeping her occupied and happy while I get a few things done. 
She loves music and all three of these shows provide lots of singing and dancing as well as some very educational lessons! 

Last week, my 15-minute Tackle was all about decluttering.  I needed to get some baby stuff packed away and get the Christmas decorations down and packed away for Joe to put up in the attic. 

I did great on both tackles! 

I have a huge box of baby clothes that Grace has outgrown, as well as her
co-sleeper and infant carseat in the garage.  I wasn't able to get the swing broken down, so that will have to wait for hubby to do. 

I also have 5 bins of Christmas stuff all ready to go and live in the attic until it's time to bring them down to decorate next year.

Here's the proof: 

The carseat box is holding all of the outgrown baby clothes, her co-sleeper is stacked on top and sitting in front is her infant carseat. 
The three red bins are all Christmas decorations and there is a clear bin on top that is holding some Christmas lights that Joe bought on clearance. 
The 5th bin is still in the basement. 
Joe said he'd carry it up since it's bigger than me! 
It's all still in the garage waiting to be put up in the attic. 
Joe worked most of the weekend and didn't get the chance to take it up yet.
But it's really not bothering me being in the garage. 

I was so focused on getting this done, I was able to spare more than 15 minutes each day on each one.  Every chance that I had where Grace was playing quietly or enjoying one of her shows, I forced myself off of the sofa to get it all away.

I managed to get done early and work on a tackle that I had planned for this week.  Kitchen cabinets.  I reorganized 4 of the cabinets in my kitchen! 
I'm very pleased with myself! 

This week's tackle is going to be the guest room.  The guest room is where most of our clutter lives since we don't have guests too often. 
I'm hoping to have a visitor in the next couple of weeks
and the guest room isn't fit for sleeping at all! 

Here's a small peek at what I have to deal with this week: 
Paper seems to be our biggest clutter problem.  Coupons, bills, newspapers, sale ads, printed recipes from the internet....

I really need to find a system that works for us, but until then, I just want this room to look clean! 

I'll also be working on thank you cards from Christmas.  I had something in the works, but that plan fell through, so I have to come up with something else and get them out in the mail soon! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ultimate Recipe Swap: Pantry Challenge ~ All Day Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

I'm not officially participating in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge that's been going on the past few weeks.  Although, I am trying to use items I have on hand, as much as possible, rather then spend money at the grocery store. 

The Ultimate Recipe Swap hosted by Fish Mama (Life As MOM), is all about Pantry Inspiration this week!  Be sure to check it out.  You might find some recipes using items you already have in YOUR pantry! 

Today, I am trying a new recipe.  I had a pound of ground beef that never made it into the freezer that needed to get cooked today.  I'm in the mood for spaghetti with meat sauce but we are out of the jarred or canned spaghetti sauce we normally purchase. 

Searching other blogs for healthy recipe ideas, I found a recipe for Long Simmered Spaghetti Sauce posted on Kimi's blog, The Nourishing Gourmet.  After a quick check of my pantry and a few changes to accomodate missing items, this is what I threw into the crockpot today: 

All Day Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 28 oz. canned whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 28 oz. canned chunky-style crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz. tomato paste
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce
  • 14 1/2 oz. vegetable broth 
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 small onions, diced 
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of minced garlic 
  • 1/2 Tbs. parsley
  • 1/2 Tbs. oregano
  • 1/2 Tbs. Mrs. Dash
  • 1/2 Tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • brown the meat in a frying pan, drain. 
  • add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  
  • serve over your favorite pasta. 
This made a lot of sauce!  Since it's just the two of us, I was able to freeze 3 containers (4 1/2 cups each) of sauce for future meals.  That makes me happy!  I love knowing that I have something pre-made in the freezer for those hectic days that don't allow time for cooking and the budget just can't afford take out. 

The sauce itself, was well seasoned, but was thinner than we are normally used to eating.  I may play around with the ingredients a bit until it's perfect for us.  We did think that instead of the beef and sausage, that seafood would be a good paired with this sauce.  Mussels, scallops or shrimp.  Mmmm! 

Edited:   Photo added and review of recipe after meal time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The 15-minute Tackle: decluttering

The Domestic Contessa is hosting a new, weekly blog carnival starting today. It's called The 15-minute Tackle.
I'm really happy to be participating in this carnival, since I've used a similar practice myself for large projects. I used to set my timer for 20 minutes and get as much done as I could. Then take a break for 20 minutes. Then work the project for another 20 minutes. Until the project was done.
Now, this idea really comes in handy since a lot of my day is occupied with the baby. Now, if I can manage to get something major done taking 15 minutes here and there for a whole week, it should be something I can manage!
My 15-minute tackle this week is decluttering the house. After being sick after Christmas, I haven't gotten a chance to take down the Christmas decorations. So, I have that to deal with along with outgrown baby clothes and gadgets. Not to mention everyday clutter like the newspaper and mail.
Yesterday, I dealt with the clothes that no longer fit Gracie. I've been storing them on shelves in the basement in diaper boxes. It seemed silly to have them stored on shelves that could be put to better use. Now, the diaper boxes full of clothes are stacked together in the box that Gracie's carseat came in. They are in the garage waiting to be taken up to the attic where they will be stored until we decide if we are having another baby or not.
Today, I am dealing with the baby gadgets. Gracie has outgrown her infant carseat, her co-sleeper and her swing. Those items need to broken down and stored in the attic along with the baby clothes.
After those items are out of the way, I can deal with the Christmas decorations. I started with putting some lights away yesterday, but the majority of the stuff still needs to come down. Probably some of it will come down tonight and tomorrow. Working on it 15 minutes at a time, here and there while Gracie watches either Yo Gabba Gabba or The Wiggles.
When I pack away the decorations, I want to have it packed away a bit more organized that I did last year. Two bins were in the attic and another 2 were in the basement. I had no idea what was in each of the bins and it made decorating (15 minutes here and there) a hassle. So, the rest of the week, my 15 minute tackle will be organizing the decorations and getting everything ready to go up into the attic.
Hopefully, I can get everything done by the weekend, so Joe can take the stuff up when he is home from work. Storing the stuff in the attic is Joe's job. I don't like ladders. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Year...New Me

I'm a little late in posting this since we're 18 days into the new year already, but I'm also a little late in starting my path to the New Me.

Better late than never. Right?

Joey and I have set some goals for ourselves this year. Most of our goals for this year involve home repairs/purchases and saving money. I doubt that we will accomplish both since the home repairs will require money! But we've been here for 2 1/2 years, it's time to get going on fixing and painting and all that fun stuff!

I've made a goal for myself. I need to get myself to a healthy weight. I was heavy before we planned to start our family. And now, with the added baby weight, I am at my all time highest weight. I'm not pleased with that fact at all.

I won't be sharing my starting weight with you all. No way! But I will share my losses and gains each week. As well as any diet-friendly recipes I may come across.

I used to be a member or Weight Watchers Online. I loved the program and really loved the Recipe Builder that the online program included. I did really well while I followed the plan, but slacked off and gained it all back (plus some).

This time, I don't have the money to join the online program and I'm sure I'll miss the Recipe Builder. But I'm going to try this on my own this time. I'll still snack. I'll still have desserts. I'm just going to cut back on portion sizes and try to make healthier choices.

For now, I don't plan on making special "diet" dinners. Breakfast and lunch will be more diet type foods since I only prepare those meals for myself. Dinner for my husband and I will be the same foods I normally prepare, I'll just be eating less of it....I hope.

I want to drink more water. I rarely drink water and I know it's not good for me, but soda is always my preferred choice. I really want to drink less soda. Once a day or at dinner time and only if my goal of 8 glasses of water a day is achieved. We'll see how that goes.

So far, so good today. 4 glasses of water before noon and no snacks. I'm starting to feel hungry now, so I guess I'll go see what's for lunch while the baby is napping.

Wish me luck!

Menu Plan Monday: 2 week plan

After taking a little vacation from blogging and menu planning, I've decided to get back on track a bit. It's been rough the past couple of months, not having a plan set for meals. Lucky for me, my husband isn't at all picky and will eat leftovers even if it means eating the same meal 3 nights in a row!

Since it's my first week back, I decided that I am not going to assign days to particular meals. I'm also going to plan meals for 2 weeks instead of just one.

I'll also be limiting our trips to the grocery store in the next 2 weeks. My husband usually stops at the store to pick up baby formula once or twice a week depending on how well the store is stocked on our brand. Any items that we need to complete meals or supplement the necessities like milk or fresh produce will be limited to only those stops at the store. And even then, just the necessities.

Here are 14 meals that I plan on preparing over the next two weeks, in no particular order:
  1. French Toast, bacon
  2. Cowboy Stew
  3. Crock-pot pulled pork sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, green beans
  4. Hamburgers, baked beans, oven fries
  5. Whole chicken (crock pot), rice, broccoli
  6. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots
  7. Eggs, fried potatoes, sausage
  8. Shake 'n Bake Chicken, buttered noodles, peas
  9. Spaghetti and meatballs
  10. Cheese steaks, oven fries
  11. Meatball sandwiches
  12. Hamburger Macaroni, corn
  13. Tuna salad sandwiches, soup, salad
  14. Hamburger Stew

I'm planning on the 14 meals in 14 days, but if things don't go as planned (life with an 8 month old doesn't always go as planned) or if we get together with friends, then my "plan" may change a bit.

Also, a lot of these meals will allow for leftovers, usually enough for another night's dinner. I'll freeze the leftovers to use sometime next month.

Some of the meals are already linked to recipes either posted here on this blog or on my other blog, My Vintage Kitchen. I'm hoping to post some of the other recipes from my menu plan, too. So, be sure to check back here or over at My Vintage Kitchen.

I'm sharing this post over at Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Head over there and take a look at other menu plans for more great recipes or just some inspiration!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork

I don't cook pork a lot. But when I do, I usually stick to the same 3 ways of preparing it: in the crock pot with sauerkraut, in the crock pot with bbq sauce, or fried or oven pork chops.

I found this recipe while searching for a slow cooker recipe for pork that only called for a few ingredients. As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe in order to avoid a trip to the grocery store!

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork


  • 2 1/2 lb. Pork Loin
  • 1 can cranberry sauce (jellied)
  • 1/3 cup Catalina dressing
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes


  • season pork loin with salt, pepper and garlic powder (to your liking)
  • place in bottom of slow cooker
  • in a small bowl, stir together the cranberry sauce and the dressing
  • stir in onion
  • pour over pork loin
  • sprinkle with red pepper flakes
  • cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 -3 hours

The cooking time on the original recipe was longer than it took for mine to cook. Sometimes I think my crock pot cooks faster than most. I was able to slice it, when usually when I cook pork, it just shreds.

I served with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans.

The sauce ingredients sounded very odd to me, but I was willing to try it after reading the reviews of the original recipe. I liked it enough to make it again, but it's not an absolute favorite.

I think I will try it again using FRENCH dressing as stated, rather than the Catalina that I had in my fridge.

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