Archive for February, 2011

Crock Pot Beef Tostadas, yum!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2  pounds  boneless beef round steak
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1/4  cup  lime juice
  • 3    garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1    jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1  large  onion, chopped
  • 1  tablespoon  chili powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  cumin
  • 1/8  teaspoon  cayenne pepper
  • 12    packaged tostada or hard taco shells
  • 3/4  cup  fat-free refried beans
  • 1-1/2  cups  shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1  cup  reduced-fat shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • 3/4  cup  salsa

Directions

1. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Place 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, the garlic, jalapeño, onion, chili powder, cumin and cayenne in a slow cooker. Place beef on top and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 8 hours.

2. Remove beef to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, shred with fingers or using two forks. Place shredded beef in a large bowl.

3. Strain remaining liquid in slow cooker over a bowl or measuring cup, discarding solids. Add strained liquid and remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice to beef in bowl and stir to combine. Cover; keep warm.

4. Warm tostada shells in oven according to package directions. While tostadas are baking, heat refried beans in microwave for 1-1/2 minutes on HIGH, stirring halfway through until warm and spreadable.

5. Spread each tostada with 1 tablespoon refried beans. Place 1/3 cup beef over beans and divide lettuce equally among tostadas. Top each with 1 heaping tablespoon cheese and 1 tablespoon salsa.

* If you follow an OAMC plan described in an earlier post, then prepare the slow cooker marinade ahead of time.  When it is time to cook, simply add everything to the crock pot (takes 30 seconds, prep time is eliminated).

What a fast, delicious meal! 

Nutrition Facts, Servings Per Recipe 12 tostadas

Amount Per Serving: Calories 187; Total Fat (g) 8; Saturated Fat (g) 3; Cholesterol (mg) 41; Sodium (mg) 152; Carbohydrate (g) 13; Fiber (g) 2; Protein (g) 18

Baby Food

I just finished making our first batch of baby food. Carrots. Ingredients? Carrots.

A side benefit: it only cost $0.50 to make 24 ounces.

OAMC questions answered

It seems that many of you are interested in trying Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) in some capacity or another.  I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  I’ll answer the questions I’ve received so far here.  Comment if you have additional questions about OAMC.  If you missed my previous post on OAMC click here to catch up!

Q: What exactly do you prepare ahead of time? 

A: As much as I can.  I cook meat, mix sauces, chop veggies (a food processer/chopper is a big time saver), and so on.  I’m posting a Crock Pot Beef Tostada recipe tomorrow (check back, it is great!).  For that recipe, I would chop the onion, and mix the liquids on prep day.  I would then put the liquid marinade in a freezer bag and freeze (remember to label).  I thaw the marinade and meat the night before, and throw everything in the crock pot the next morning.  It is ready when I get home from work.  You’ll get the hang of preping early. 

Q: Have you discovered a dish that does not freeze and/or cook well?

A: Honestly, I haven’t.  It is simple to freeze most things.  The only thing I’ve had problems with is pasta.  A few dishes I’ve made have been mushy once cooked.  There isn’t a problem with the freezing process, and I definitely recommend freezing pasta dishes.  The problem occurs on prep day.  I use to cook the pasta thoroughly on prep day before freezing (as many recipes suggest).  Then when I’d cook the meal for dinner, the pasta would come out over cooked.  I’ve learned that if I freeze pasta that is slightly undercooked, then it is perfect on meal day. 

Q: Are there shortcuts or alternatives to OAMC?

A1: Yes.  I’ve mentioned using food processors/choppers.  You can buy inexpensive choppers that really reduce prep time.  It is much easier and faster to chop an onion in a chopper.  You can try OAMC for a month or two before rushing out to buy a chopper in case this cooking style isn’t for you. 

A2: There are alternatives to this style of cooking which I use all of the time.  Double recipes while you cook that way you have a ready-made meal on another, more hectic day.  For example: when I cook fajitas, I’ll double the recipe and cook everything as usual.  Once the meal is cooked, I’ll freeze half the meet, peppers, onions, and seasonings in a gallon freezer bag.  To cook the recipe at a later date, I simply thaw the night before and heat up the already cooked fajita mix when I get home.  It takes about 5 minutes.  If you aren’t interested in cooking enough meals for a month, you can at least benefit from the concept by doubling recipes and freezing what you can. 

Feel free to ask more questions!

Who would like to cook once a month?

I’ve recently discovered Once a Month Cooking (OAMC).  Since my discovery, I’ve had a lot of friends ask about the process.  There are pros and cons to consider, but for me the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.  It takes time and dedication, but once you get the hang of OAMC, then you’ll never turn back.  Below, I’ve provided: a pro and con list; a “how to” guide; and some tips and shortcuts that I’ve developed.  I’ll continue to post fun recipes and tips that relate to OAMC and freezing meals.  (For a vegetarian twist, visit this site.) 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

–      You save money by buying in bulk and eating at home

–      You only have to go to Wal-Mart once a month (that is a big plus!)

–      You have ready-made, healthy meals for your family (essential for busy moms)

–      You don’t lose money from vegetables going bad because they are frozen

–      Your husband is able to help cook more – there isn’t a recipe to follow!

Cons:

–      This process is time intensive in the beginning (although you’ll end up saving time over the course of the month)

–      You need a lot of freezer space

–      You have to be very organized and have a clear plan

How to Guide

1.) Make a menu for an entire month – pull recipes from my blog, search recipes online, or use a favorite cook book.  You can consider breakfast, lunch and dinner options; however, it is best to start with dinner until you become a pro.

2.) Make a grocery list – List everything you’ll need for the entire month based on the recipes you chose.  Include everything from meat to seasonings. 

3.) Go shopping – Shop Aldi, Wal-Mart, or Sams for the best deals on bulk items.  Don’t over buy.  Stick to your list.

4.) Do prep work – cook the pasta, cut veggies, follow freezer recipes.

5.) Freeze – you’ll need freezer bags and/or freezer containers

6.) Cook – when the day comes, take out the meal and follow cooking instructions.

7.) Enjoy a delicious meal and more time with your family!

Tips and Suggestions

–      If this process seems overwhelming, then start out slow.  Try freezing meals for one week and see how it goes.  You can also cook double batches of your favorite recipes – eat half and freeze half – that way you have a recipe ready to go for a later date. 

–      Use coupons to save even more money.

–      Label well.  I write on the outside of the freezer bag or write on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the outside of the container I’m using.  I write the name of the dish, and cooking instructions (cooking instructions helps the husband as well). 

–      Even prepping and freezing the vegetables, and portioning out meat and freezing with a marinade will reduce your cooking time every day. 

–      Keep a list of all of your frozen meals.  This will be a nice reference when choosing what to prepare the next day.  You’ll also know what you have and what you’ve already cooked.

–      Don’t forget to thaw the night before.

–      Have a game plan when you prep.  If two recipes call for diced onions, then dice enough for both recipes at once.  This will reduce prep time. 

–      Food processors will reduce prep time.      

–      Try not to cook on the same day you shop.  You will wear yourself out and won’t enjoy the process. 

–      Have fun – cook with a partner to add conversation.  Loud music also helps!

OAMC saves time and money, and provides you with easy meals for busy weeks.  One of my favorite things about OAMC is the extra free time.  I have extra time with my family during the week because I’m not stuck in the kitchen. I also have extra time on the weekends because I’m not at Wal-Mart grocery shopping. 

I hope you’ll enjoy the process and save yourself time and money.  Stay tuned for easy recipes!

Creating Traditions

Childhood is fun, full of simple pleasures and comprised of beautiful memories.  Think back to your childhood.  What are your fondest memories?  They may include one big event like visiting Disney Land, but likely most of your memories stem from traditions – things you did as a family every week, month, or year.  Traditions give your family a gift to cherish for years, or generations, to come.

Family Traditions Accomplish a Few Things:

  • Enriches the time you spend with your children
  • Creates positive memories for you and your children
  • Gives families a chance to reconnect and share their lives
  • Makes family life predictable. In a world where life is often unpredictable having a family ritual helps make life more secure for both parents and children.
  • A family identity is formed through rituals. By establishing family traditions & rituals we give children an identity, a group to belong to, and a sense of who they are.
  • Family rituals teach children values. Children learn what their parents value by the rituals that are observed such as attending church, giving service, and visiting elderly relatives. Rituals give children a set of values that they can take into adulthood and use in their own families.  By simply making family time a priority, you are teaching your children the value and importance of family.

Family traditions can be something that you do nightly, weekly or even yearly. They can be simple or complex. The only criterion is that you choose something that you and your children are both interested in doing.

Ideas to Get You Started:

Everyday Activities

  • Go to church as a family every week
  • Read a story every night before bed
  • Eat dinner together every night
  • Have a big family breakfast every Saturday or Sunday
  • Have a family night every week
  • Have a family reunion every year

Holidays

  • Ring in the New Year as a family every year.  Have a dress-up party.
  • Decorate the house for every holiday making the holidays extra special and memorable
  • Take a yearly camping, floating, or fishing trip
  • Let your child choose his favorite meal for his birthday
  • Make pancakes in the shape of the year your child is turning for her birthday
  • Read the Christmas Story from the Bible every Christmas
  • Buy Christmas presents for a needy child
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen  
  • Go to the pumpkin patch and pick out pumpkins for Halloween.  Carve them later!

Other Occasions

  • First day back at school – have a big breakfast, send a special lunch, and/or take pictures (your child my grumble but they will be able to look back and laugh at their outfits and hairstyles).
  • First day of summer vacation – have a pool party, BBQ, or let them invite friends over
  • Family pet’s birthday – let the kids plan this one.  They’ll have fun playing this role after watching you plan parties.   
  • Report card celebration (given they have done well) – have an ice cream party at home
  • Annual family walk on the first day of spring (rain or shine).

As parents, we need to create wonderful memories that will last a lifetime, instill family values, and build relationships with our children.  Keep it simple and fun!  (share some of your favorite traditions with the group)

BBQ, what? BBQ, who?

Oh, how I’ve missed my BBQ grill! Reconnect with yours this weekend. Here is a great marinade to try. It works with burgers, chicken, beef, or pork. It is my go-to marinade. It is great!

1/2 cup olive or canola oil
1/2 cup worecestershire
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon season salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

(marinades about 1-2 pounds of meat. Reduce or double recipe if needed)

Marinade chicken or pork overnight if possible. Marinade beef or burger patties for about two hours.

Enjoy the nice weekend!

Eye Can Get Use to This

I must share one of my favorite beauty items.  I was introduced to Urban Decay’s Eye Shadow Primer Potion almost two years ago and immediately fell in love.  The primer makes my eye shadow look freshly applied – even at the end of the day.  My eye shadow stays put without smears or creases.  It is amazing.  My love for this product has grown since having Kaden.  It is a great product for any woman, but is especially amazing for busy moms.  I use the primer when I have a work event, dinner, church, meeting, or any activity after work.  I can go, go, go with fresh-looking makeup.  I will try the foundation primer next and expect to love it as much as the eye shadow primer.  I purchased the primer at Sephora, but you can also purchase it online.  The prices may seem a little high, but it lasts a long time.  I’ve been using the same tube for nearly two years.  

Happy Shopping!  

Full Size Primer $18

Travel Size $8

Box of Potions $38 ($88 value)

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