Foodie Friday: September Menu

I cannot believe that August is so close to being over! Here’s the September Menu. As always, you can find the recipes on my September Menu Pinterest Board. Happy eating!

september menu

September 1: General Tso Chicken, Quinoa Fried Rice, Broccoli
September 2: Lasagna, Caesar Salad
September 3: Leftovers, S’more Cookies
September 4: Mollettes, Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits
September 5: Fish and Chips, Broccoli, Spinach Salad
September 6: Italian Stuffed Flank Steak, Crispy Artichoke Hearts
September 7: Grilled Shrimp and Bacon Salad, Bread
September 8: Coach’s Stacks, Salad, Green Beans
September 9: Chicken Fajita Pasta, Salad
September 10: Leftovers, Apple-Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
September 11: Breakfast Quesadillas
September 12: OSU is playing at home, so we are tailgating!
Honey-Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Cowboy Caviar, Veggie Sushi
and Chocolate Chip Cookies
September 13: Mustard Brisket Wraps, Guacamole, Black Bean Salad
September 14: Slow-Cooker Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes, Fried Zucchini
September 15: Bacon, Pear and Raspberry Grilled Cheese, Salad
September 16: Mongolian Beef, Veggie Stir Fry, Brown Rice
September 17: Leftovers, Brownies
September 18: Texas Eggs Benedict, Green Chile Home Fries, Fruit
September 19: OSU is playing at home and we’re tailgating!
Beef and Chicken Fajitas, Guacamole, Cowboy Caviar
Salted Caramel Apple  Hand Pies
September 20: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken, Asparagus, Corn on the Cob
September 21: Steak and Balsamic Salad, Bread
September 22: Chicken Tacos, Guacamole
September 23: Homemade Pizza
September 24: Leftovers, Brownies
September 25: Chicken Penne Bake, Salad
September 26: Zach is competing in a Triathlon, so we’re going out to celebrate
September 27: Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes, Salad
September 28: Hoppin’ John Salad
September 29: Cuban Sliders, Wilted Spinach, Sauteed Bell Peppers
September 30: Coconut Shrimp, Hush Puppies, Salad

 

Cleaning House

Over the weekend, I cleaned the grout in my kitchen floor. It was quite a chore! Our house is 15 years old, and I am certain the grout has never been scrubbed like that. I’m embarrassed to say that I actually didn’t know the color of the grout until I got it clean! I am also embarrassed to say that I purchased the supplies to clean the grout two years ago and just now got around to it.

My wonderful husband had cleaned the house for me last week, so when the weekend rolled around and the house was still pretty clean, I decided to get it done. I tested a small portion right in front of the sink first and then I realized it wasn’t going to take nearly as long as I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it still took 3 hours. I just expected it to take all day.

Hubby and I were talking about why I never got it done, and we decided it’s because our house is rarely tidy. If we were better about keeping things continuously picked up, we would have more time to focus on things like the grout or cleaning out closets.

Okay, I know you’re dying to know what I did to get my kitchen floor to shine. Here’s the skinny:

I took some gel toilet bowl cleaner with bleach and squirted it directly on the grout, drawing boxes around my tiles. I let that sit a minute or two and then scrubbed really vigorously with a plastic bristled scrub brush. Then I wiped it up with a we, soapy rag. I kept soapy water in my sink for this.

It’s important to work in small sections because the cleanser dries fairly quickly. Once it’s dried, scrubbing becomes more difficult. After I finished one half of my kitchen, I mopped with my regular mopping supplies. Then I went on to the next section, and so on. Once the entire floor had been done, I mopped the entire kitchen again.

The mopping is important because the toilet bowl cleaner leaves a slippery residue all over the floor.

Here’s an embarrassing photo:

floor

The tiles on the left have been cleaned, the tiles on the right have not.

Quick Tip Tuesday (Recipe Edition): Pantry Trail Mix

I’m always on the run. I need snacks several afternoons a week, but I don’t always want cracker packs from the grocery store, and I don’t always remember to buy them. A quick snack that you can put together is pantry trail mix.

I just use whatever cereal I have on hand, a few chocolate chips, and some nuts- again, whatever I have on hand. I also might throw in some dried fruit if it’s there. Mix it all in a zipper top bag and run out the door!

Some other ideas are leftover popcorn, pretzels, crunched up potato chips or sesame seeds.

Foodie Friday: Baking Boo-Boos

I judged the baking section at a county fair here in Oklahoma today. It is always a fun time to judge at the county fairs, but not all entries are made equal. I want to share with you some of the common mistakes I encountered at the fair today. I’ll talk a little about breads, cakes and cookies.

Bread Problems

Kneading is an important step in bread making, but when done wrong, the end product can really suffer. Bread dough is kneaded to develop the gluten, which helps the bread stay together during baking, helps bread hold its shape, and is responsible for the elasticity that allows bread to rise. These are all essential to bread- but you can knead too much. This makes the bread tough. Some people do not knead the dough long enough. This is also a problem. Under-working the bread dough means the yeast may not get enough interaction with the moisture. The bread may not rise enough or at all.

The best rule of thumb for how long you knead bread is the recipe.

Cake Problems

When a person enters a cake into a county fair, it is totally from scratch (or it should be) as no mixes are allowed. I have to say, I love cake mixes. They make cake absolutely fool proof. Unfortunately, baking a cake from scratch is not fool proof. There are some common problems. Cake batters need to be beaten with an electric mixer (I guess you could do it by hand, but why?) so that air gets worked into it. This air is what gives cake its springy texture.

Cake should be light and airy. It should create a lot of crumbs when cut and eaten. Over-beating cake batter can make the cake tough and dense or could possibly cause it to fall during baking. It will be less crumbly and will be heavy. Under-beating cake batter does not whip enough air in which can cause it to be too flat in the end.

Another cake problem is having the top be sticky. This could be due to low oven temperature, or not cooking long enough. You can buy a small thermometer for your oven to make sure that it is heating to the set temperature if you are not sure that your oven is working properly.

Cookie Problems

I am discussing a regular drop cookie dough, not a rolled cookie. Cookies should be slightly rounded on the top and perfectly round. I see two really common cookie problems with regard to shape: flat cookies and puffy cookies. If your cookies spread out too much during baking, you are probably using melted butter instead of softened butter. If your cookies are tall and puffy it’s probably because you are using too much baking powder.

I also see some problems with color. Leaving out the salt or not using enough sugar can keep the cookies from browning properly. Also, not baking long enough or at a hot enough temperature can also do this.

A lot of cookies are hard or too crumbly. There are numerous reasons why this might happen: too much sugar, not enough fat, over-baking….

I have shared this tip before but I think it’s genius: Freeze your cookie dough before baking. It makes the cookies so soft! I don’t know the science behind it, but I promise it will improve your cookies.

I hope this helps with your future baking and I hope you will enter your goods in the county fair!

 

 

The Lazy Summer Days Are Over

School has started for my daughter and for me. As some of you know, I started graduate school this week. I am enrolled in six credit hours (while I work full-time and raise two children) because I am a glutton for punishment. It is day three of the semester and I am already starting to lose it! It will get easier, I know. It always does. Here is my number one tip for keeping things all together when life gets extremely busy:

DAY PLANNER

I use a planner. I use it religiously. What do I put in it? EVERYTHING! I found a new one that I am going to order that has the whole month, then each week right behind the month. On the pages that have just one week, there is a vertical layout so that the days of the week go across the top, then beneath each day there are three boxes going down the page. You can label those boxes any way you choose. I am so excited! I think I’m going to label my boxes as “kids,” “work,” and “school.” Those are the three things I need to keep up with on a weekly basis. One example I saw had “morning, afternoon, evening.” That would be very useful too.

I can’t tell you enough how important it is to keep a calendar! My husband uses the electronic calendar on his phone. I really don’t like doing that. I need the activity of writing something down. It helps me remember, and I can quickly reference it without fumbling for my phone or fighting my kids for the phone. My little paper planner is just for me. Nobody else wants it!

I can’t really tell you the best way to do things because everyone is different. BUT I can tell you how I do things. It’s simple. I write everything down. When something unexpected comes up and I run somewhere for work that wasn’t planned, I still write it down because I will need to remember what I did at the end of the month. I write down what’s happening, what time it’s happening, and where it’s happening. I use abbreviations when I can to save space, but I only use abbreviations that are common and well known to me. I don’t make them up as I go because I might not remember what they mean!

I WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN!

 

Foodie Friday: Disaster Dinner

Have you ever had one of those evenings when everything went terribly, terribly wrong? One of those nights when cooking dinner seems like an insurmountable hill to climb? That was what my kitchen was like on Monday!

If you follow my menu posts, you know that I do salads on Monday nights. This week was a fruit and grain salad that had a bed of greens, some quinoa and lots of fruit. It also included a very simple homemade dressing. Moments after I started preparing this salad, I was having doubts about whether we would eat at all! I felt like I was on some candid-camera-esque reality show called “Disaster Dinner.” Maybe “Cutthroat Kitchen” on the Food Network. It was brutal, let me tell ya!

First, I bought the wrong quinoa. I needed plain, unflavored quinoa. I didn’t realize until I had the water boiling that I bought a quinoa-rice blend with a savory rosemary seasoning. My husband saved the moment by pulling some plain quinoa out of our pantry. I had no idea it was in there, but I was still not sure what we were going to do with my savory grain blend that I already had going. Did I mention that I didn’t have an appropriate sized pot with a lid that fits, so I put a bigger lid on top and made a HUGE mess? Well, that happened.

Next, I asked my husband to grill up the chicken I bought. The recipe called for smoked salmon, but I wanted chicken. He opens the package (which I had just bought like two days ago) and it stinks. Not just a little, but it is definitely not something we are going to eat. No biggie, I’ll just boil some eggs and throw those on top for a little protein.

After the chicken debacle,  I made a beautiful salad dressing with basil from my own herb garden. I love using produce that I have grown myself. This dressing used almost all the basil I had, but it was going to be worth it! I made it in a very small food processor and I set the canister over to the side for later. At some point, Sophie (my one-year-old who started screaming for food the moment I entered my kitchen) knocked the whole thing off the counter from her high chair. Oily salad dressing went everywhere!

At this point, all I can do is stand and stare. And blink back tears.

I rallied and pulled out a different salad dressing that I had made the night before for a different salad. I assembled everything and called the family to the table for dinner. Husbee actually said “a lesser woman would have given up!” And once I sat down to eat, I did give up. I’m pretty sure the film of olive oil is still on my kitchen floor and every pan I own is dirty!

messy kitchensalad dressing mess

Just A Little Bit More About Christmas

I promise, this will be my last mention of Christmas until mid-October. That’s when I get in full-swing preparing for the holidays.

As you start your Christmas budgeting and planning, try to think of some clutter-free/consumable gift ideas for the adults. Kids like to get toys and they’ll probably use them. Adults, especially older adults, have a lot of stuff already sitting around their homes. I know I would rather have something consumable that isn’t going to take up precious real-estate in my home than something that sits on a shelf.

Here are some of my best clutter-free gift ideas:

  • An offer (or coupon) to help redecorate a room in someone’s home. It could be an offer to purchase paint and paint supplies, but it needs to include some free labor with it.
  • Gift certificates. I know this can seem impersonal, but you can definitely tailor it to each individual personality.
  • Handyman service. If you’re handy, this could be an offer to help fix some things around the house. If you’re not great with tools, offer to pay for a day or two of handyman services.
  • Event tickets. Whether your recipient is a sports fanatic or a Broadway enthusiast, there are always events nearby that you could buy a season pass for. The local community theater, zoo, museums, or local sports teams are a few ideas.
  • A car detail.
  • Family photo session.
  • Fancy chocolates or wine.
  • Subscriptions to magazines, satellite radio, or TV/movie streaming services.

I love all of these ideas, and spoiler alert, I will be using some of them this year!