Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preparing Meals in advance

Today I did our advance meal prep for the week. This system is really working well for us! I started all of this food prep at 4pm, and was done by 6pm.

I bought a big pack of ground meat, two packs of chicken thighs (bone in) and one pack of sirloin tip steak. I have been a little reluctant to stray from white meat, so this week is the big experiment.

The recipes I used follow (If the links don't show up for you, just visit the blog and they will show up). I modified the recipes to be allergen free for us, but I am linking to the original recipes.

First I prepped the chicken thighs. I removed all the skin and the bones to leave me with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I tossed all the bones w/ some meat remaining and skin into the stock pot to create Chicken Stock . I divided the chicken pieces and put them in the various marinades. Then you can either freeze them, or leave them to cook in a day or two. I cleaned and sterilized all the equipment, myself and the counters.

As I chopped the veggies for the kebobs, I threw the leftover vegetables and scraps into the stock pot too. I cut the beef into hunks and threaded them onto skewers, then placed them into the teryaki marinade for dinner tonight.

Then I prepped the ground meat and turned it into meatloaf and meatballs. I saved it for last because I really dislike the feel of ground meat, it sorta creeps me out to no end. Then I scrubbed my hands till the skin fell off :).

The nice part about this system is that so many of the recipes call for the same ingredients, so you use it in more than one recipe. Plus, clean up is so much easier each night.

A day in the life of John

1. Find a dead dragonfly outside and ask Mom if you can keep it. When she looks unsure, mention you want to draw it, cause Mom is a sucker for anything academic.

2. Draw your dragonfly, and blush when Mommy compares you DaVinci. Run when she tries to kiss you.

3. Sneak up on your sister while she is reading with the dead dragonfly. Sisters scream louder when the bugs are real.

4. (Pretend walkie talkie static) "Mommy this is John, come in Mommy" (pretend static) "The computer is broken and won't let me play my game, I pressed all the buttons at once, and it still won't work" (pretend static) "Do you read me Mommy?" (pretend static)

5.When Mom does your sister's nails, convince her to give you a manly "power finger" despite her hesitation.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summertime, and the living is easy? ...or not

This summer has been crazy time. Our normal schedule is out the window, all the school year activities have ceased for summer. You would think we would have this slow pace to life, right? No way, this summer has been random, unpredictable and crazy. We had a couple of weeks where every day was packed. Even fun can start to feel like a job. I was having flashbacks to our first year homeschooling, the "year of over-extending".

How did it happen? Each offer, or plan, or trip was a good thing on its own, but put together it leads to absolute chaos. All of it got me thinking about the coming school year. This past school year was everything I wanted from homeschooling with one exception, the girls are getting older. I want to be sure that we are including enough social, outside activities in our plans. The danger is that our school year will start to resemble our summer.

My new mantra: "I do not have unlimited time, money, energy, or emotional reserves. I cannot do it all."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bulk Meal prep in batches

I am truly, madly, deeply in love with this little corner of my fridge. Its where all my prepped food is stashed. This week my project was trying to find a hybrid prep ahead/cook ahead meal system. (p.s. if you don't see the links to click, just visit the blog).

I hate eating out. It feels like a waste of money. It stopped being enjoyable about the time I figured out I was allergic to every possible food allergen. Chili's is really awesome, they have this online tool where you input your allergens, and they spit out what you can eat on their menu. When I input all my allergens, the only thing left is Diet Coke... awesome. But when I am pressed for time and dinner doesn't get done, what do we do? We wind up eating out and I hate it.

I tried doing the cook ahead for 30 days thing in 1 day. It just didn't work. I can't get everything that organized, do that much shopping and invest that much time without losing my mind and I kinda need my mind.

So, onto what I am up to. Today I made main dishes for this evening through Sunday evening. Tonight Chicken Satay was on the menu. Normally, I am not a fan of Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade. Mostly because I am already proficient in the fine art of can opening and don't need a show about it. But her new show "Money Saving Meals" is a winner. She gives you a recipe for one night, and then you cook a double batch to use in another recipe another night. So the chicken satay on the lower right will become Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wraps for Saturday night.

Behind the Chicken Satay are the Hamburger patties I made for Saturday's Father's day Lunch. Next to the hamburgers I have pork chops siting in an apple brine waiting to be grilled for tomorrow night. On top of the pork I have Chicken Breasts seasoned and waiting to be thrown in the oven for Sunday night.

Maybe its a symptom of how myopic my world view is as a stay at home mom, but this really excites me. I like having this done, not having to worry about "is it defrosted?" and "what am I going to do with it?" Especially during the summer when we seem to have more activities that bump right up against dinner time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Changes in time

This is what happens when I tell the kids to "go and play with your brother while I cook dinner". This poor, poor adorable boy.

I am trying to change our schedule, mostly on my end. But it leaves me exhausted at dinner time. Those senior citizen early bird specials are starting to look appealing.

By nature I'm a total night owl. I function the best mentally between the hours of 7pm - midnight (or later). But this leaves me waking up somewhere near 7:30-8am. It just doesn't work well with trying to run the house.

So I moved my wake up time to 5:30am-6am and its killing me. I love how much I am accomplishing each day, but I am pretty muddle headed all day and I hit a wall of fatigue at about dinner time. I made it stick for about two weeks, and now I can feel myself slowly slipping back into the later bedtime/wake up. Hopefully this isn't genetically hardwired, and it will just require some patience while I shift over. AND my son won't wind up clad in twirly skirts, cause this bleary eyed momma might not notice.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Change your Dinner Routine

Sometimes, especially when Brian is out of town, by dinner time my brain is a little fuzzy. But sitting down to a family dinner to share that time together is one of my highest priorities. So now, I cheat! While I might not be able to come up with an original thought to save my life, I can read.

I picked up the chat pack at a local homeschool store, but you can find them here. Each card inside contains a quirky question. They have several different versions available.

The Dinner Games I picked up at Borders. The games are easy to play at the table. When I brought it home, Brian was envisioning the children wrestling on the table as our dinner game. Thank goodness it is nothing like that. Our favorite game so far has been the "guess what is missing from the table" game. One person shuts their eyes while everyone conspires and removes one item from the table. Then the laughter ensues.

We use them all the time now. The kids ask us to pack them up and bring them with us when we go out, that is the best ringing endorsement evah!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parent Hack: Swimmer's Ear Prevention

We swim most of the summer and because of that we have endured swimmer's ear more than once. I used to buy all the pricier name brand ear drops at the store to prevent it. But then I ran across a homeade remedy that works equally as well.

Swimmer's ear is an infection of the ear canal. This happens when bacteria grows in the ear canal, which is a passageway to the eardrum. A lot of swimming can wash away that wax protection and lead to these wet conditions in the ear canal. A scratch or other irritation to the ear canal can also lead to swimmer's ear.

Here is a recipe for a preventative concoction

4oz rubbing alcohol
2 tsp. white vinegar
4 drops in each ear after each hour of swimming

The Alcohol and the Acid prevent bacteria growth.

Dance Recitals 2010

The girls did so well at their dance recitals. They had a blast! I was a little concerned for Emma, she is my shy child. But she did awesome, and has even decided she wants to take theater arts classes.

John found other uses for his sister's lady bug wings, silly, silly boy.