Month: March 2013

For a friend :) Imperfections

A brilliant friend of mine and mama to a special little one with Spina Bifida just like my Ky, came forth on her blog yesterday and discussed something so near and dear to my heart: Anxiety.

She brought out that one should never judge our blooper reel against someone else’s highlights, and not stress over the non-pinterest-worthy-parts of our homes and lives.

Someone challenged her to blog about all the non-perfect parts of life…

I am doing it right along with her.. the things that I would never want someone to see about me.  The things that keep me up at night, and cause me anxiety.

Here goes.

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This is my piano.  It is the bane of my main floor decorating existence.  It serves as a storage area for projects, crafts, hiding spots for dog hair, the occaisional song played on it, and an all around grey elephant.  On my piano I have things I need to hang, the people stickers I need to put on the back of my car, mail that needs to be returned, an air duster for electronics, the nerf guns that my kids can only have when they ask for them and bring me back all the ammo that was issued the previous time, my menu plan, cards and important papers hiding behind my menu plan, a frame one of my kids made that needs a picture in it, my kids decorative tea cups from Charity’s party, and that green shopping bag next to the bench? Yeah, completed school work that my kids finished last semester, still sitting there from my homeschool review.

My house attracts clutter… Stephen and I always have disagreements about what needs to stay and what needs to go.  I find things useful (usually craft supplies)

Ahem: my craft table

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And he like electronics and apparently junk mail.  We have magazines and junk mail that I’m sure has one piece of normal mail in it shoved all over our dining room.

I have piles next to the ends of my sofas, too much furniture in my living room because we just cannot decide what is to come of the black table that used to be our coffee table but was replaced.

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The ends of my couch have tables with anything from tissues and baby wipes to completed school work, puzzles, picture album, card games, board games, more piles of catalogs or magazines, Christmas crafts that are leftover, Valentines Cards that are sitting out, various writing implements, easter baskets, work out equipment, empty boxes that need to be recycled, and pillows.

Yep… Embarassing.

It gets worse… If that black coffee table cannot be decided on, it will go into my version of Limbo.

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Here is what once was a clean room, that now houses 2 book cases, various boxes of things that are “too valuable to donate”, unnecessary furniture, pieces to the girl’s bunk beds, crocs I need to dye for my husband to be able to wear, our game and puzzle cabinet (that we can’t get to), random carpets that are stained, old, and worn out that are just covering the concrete floor, and light fixtures that “may be useful”.

When we don’t decide on something it sits.  Half my house is full of stuff that just sits.

We are people who hold on to stuff.  I have Kyle’s first wheelchair (even though it doesn’t fit him), I have his first AFOs, I have his stander that doesn’t fit either, I have his first bath chair out on my back deck that doesn’t fit (redneck huh?) and I am the queen of boxing stuff up to leave it in a pile.

This is my current pile:

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It doesn’t seem so bad, right? well, a month ago, this was a beautifully clean space that my dogs used to have for their food, water, and food storage.  I have since moved their food and water dishes to my dining room, to provide better flow… but what did I do? I put something ELSE there! Self-sabotage!

The worst part about this stack of boxes? IT’S TRASH!!!! AAARGH! There, I said it! No excuse other than I forget when trash day is constantly.  I have better things to think about!

Piles number 2-5: Laundry

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snow gear from the last outing yesterday into the slush- still sitting by the front door on top of a box containing plaster I chipped off the chimney in my kitchen.

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This one is a bag of stuff for good will, a bag of shoes that need to be put away, a gate that is broken and needs to go out for recycle, and a piece of old wood that is stained to match our house… completely inexcusable!

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Yes, it is in baskets… and the sorter’s under that pink basket? Yeah, they’re empty! *hangs head in shame*

I have no excuses, so I won’t try- but this is the stuff that stresses me out.

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This is even worse… this is a pile of stuff I *should* keep, it is bedding for beds we cannot use right now.  sheets that need to be stored until we have that size bed in circulation again, and videos that were returned to me over a month ago!

but it sits… on my folding table for laundry, in my basement, collecting dust.

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Here’s my laundry table, ridiculous! I have handwash only items sitting in a pile against an outlet, and some of those things have been there for months… I kid you not.  I HATE handwash items…

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These are all collecting places for our CRAP.  things that need to go down or upstairs, our dress-up clothes that we wore to the Easter Egg hunt before we got too cold, and in general, dust.

Then I have the “other” stuff that bothers me…

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stuff out of place… the stove top not being clean.

Wires exposed that are dangling, pipes that are serving no purpose other than mouse subways through my house. Trash that needs to be emptied, recycle that needs to be taken out.

IT. NEVER. ENDS…

I didn’t even have time to photograph my upstairs, but it’s not any better, trust me.  You can’t tell that my dresser or TV console or nightstand have ever had horizontal surfaces, or that I’m a “type A” organizational person.  I could show you pictures of things that make me proud, like my organization of video games, or craft supplies in my cabinet upstairs, my pantry storage, dish/silverware storage, or my kids clothing storage… but this is a post about imperfections, of which, I HAVE MANY!

There is not a single room in my house that is finished.  We don’t have any heating or cooling installed outside of our two fireplaces. We have WAY too much stuff in our lives, and every time I want to purge, I have the breaks put on because I get rid of something useful or necessary, or something that I really shouldn’t.  So it sits and gets worse and worse, every day.  more and more stuff comes into my home, more things to depress me, bog me down, and make me realize that I will never successfully move my family cross country, even if it is for their benefit.

The things that are intangible- we don’t spend enough time outdoors.  We are perpetually committing to too many things, we spend too much money on frivolous activities, and we watch too much television as a family.  We haven’t played a family game in ages, and we can’t coordinate ourselves enough to have a family meeting.

We are still alive, and I am thankful, but this summer will be spent cleaning up most of what I just showed you 🙂

weekend updated

I haven’t updated this blog in *gasp* 5 days … shame on me 🙂

Life got a little busy, we lost a dear friend on Thursday and it was really hard.

Thursday evening, I made whole grain organic spinach and tomato pasta with spaghetti sauce, and the kids had that while Stephen took me out to dinner.  We never went out for our anniversary, and since my birthday is Monday, we kind of combined the two.

We went to Outback Steakhouse .. I was craving Bloomin’ Onion

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All I can say is YUMM!!! It was DELICIOUS! I needed a cheat day in my diet too, I had meat AND gluten that night 🙂

Friday morning was a bit of a blur, I had a juice (as per my usual) and the kids had bagels with Nutella, nothing special.

We quickly ate lunch (leftovers- Grace had chili, Charity had pasta, Dominick had fried chicken) and headed out to the Nature Center to play with our friend’s all afternoon.

The kids have been being promised Dominick’s Pizza now for weeks, so since it was pizza night and we were out until the Nature Center closed at 5, it seemed like a good night to do that.

So we did… and it was movie night, and I DID NOT take a picture 🙂

Saturday, we got up and I made a coconut milk smoothie for everyone before we headed up to our dairy farm for their easter egg hunt.

We had a great time, and definitely enjoyed ourselves.  We had some hand dipped Ice Cream

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and then stopped at Panera Bread on the way home for a snack.

By Sunday, we still had plenty of leftovers and snacks that needed to be consumed, so I made up some nachos with some avocados that were about to turn.

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UM- again, delicious!

For dinner, the kids and Stephen had leftover pizza and I had the rest of the stir fry.

Super no effort huh?

I tend to get on a pattern of not cooking things when I don’t cook, and when I do get in the habit of cooking every meal, things just go better.

Monday was a snow day, and I gave myself the day off.  I promised I would update, but then I failed to do so because playing out in the snow with my little monsters was more important.

BUT- we did have a lovely cooking day.

We started out with whole wheat cranberry orange carrot muffins with orange cream cheese frosting

2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 eggs, 2 cups shredded carrots, 1/4 cup butter, 1 cup milk, 2 cups chopped cranberries, 1/4 cup brown sugar.

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The frosting was improvised out of a block of partially used cream cheese, a Tablespoon of Orange Juice concentrate, 1/4 cup of melted butter, and 1 cup of confectioners sugar.

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They were AWESOME! My kids actually ate them!

I dealt out the rest of the leftovers for lunch, and made pulled BBQ chicken in the crock pot.  2-4 chicken breasts, depending on how big they are, how many people you are feeding etc, some worstershire sauce and some BBQ sauce poured in on top, set on high for 3-4 hours and then separated with a fork.  The longer it cooks, the easier it is to separate.

Served on buns with green beans on the side.

(I’ve really been slacking on the picture front, I will do better).

Anyway.  That catches us up.  The kids had oatmeal for breakfast, I’m still juicing my breakfast in order to get a good start to the day.

Gluten Free/ Dairy Free- Continued

Yesterday was Gluten Free and Dairy free.  I also made dinner Egg free for my friends who have egg allergies.

We had Fried Chicken with Broccoli and Sweet Corn.

(I actually couldn’t eat, because I gorged myself on snacks all afternoon – all gluten free and dairy free-

I made a Pamela’s kitchen chocolate cake, and a coconut milk and powdered sugar glaze for the top, ate hummus and veggie chips and a plate full of fresh veggies along with some blueberries,and a fresh juice – beet, carrot, kale, chard & apple-)

I started with making my “breading”.  I used corn meal, steak seasoning, sea salt, basil, oregano, garlic, and sage.

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Then I got out 3 chicken breasts (I could’ve easily done more, but given the fact that I wasn’t hungry and the kids snacked all afternoon, we didn’t really need any more than that.  This is one of those recipes that you make as much as you need..)

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I tossed all the chicken to coat it with the breading mix, and heated the oil up for frying. I use about 1 cup of canola oil for frying foods, spread over the bottom of a 16″ skillet.

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Lay each strip in the pan for approximately 5 minutes, flip and cook another 5 minutes.  I keep my “done” chicken strips in the oven on warm until it’s all ready.

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Prep your veggies and you’re done!

I could’ve also done a salad, rice pilaf, bean salad, or added a carrot and raisin salad to this to give it more substance, but as it was everyone had plenty and there were no complaints.

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Today started off (miraculously) with a fresh, raw juice.  I had beet, kale, chard, carrots, romaine lettuce, tomato, and an apple to juice.

Lunch will be leftover curry from yesterday for me, the kids will likely prefer some kind of snacky lunch like quesadillas and black bean dip.

(totally not gluten or dairy free for them!)

Dinner tonight is yet again a mystery (can you tell that I haven’t done meal planning in a while?) the menu says that we should have minestrone soup, and we may just do it, I have about 14 lbs of ground beef that we should be consuming…

Today- will NOT be gluten or dairy free for dinner 🙂

Gluten Free, Dairy Free…

Yesterday was day 3 Gluten Free for me.  Today is day 4.  Today I’m also going dairy-free because every once in a while it’s good to shake it up.  I also happen to be entertaining a sweet young lady who is both gluten and dairy free, and want her to feel right at home in our house.

Yesterday, if you recall, I had a smoothie for breakfast, raw juice for lunch, with hummus and veggie crisps.

Dinner was Stir-Fry.

Here’s my basic ingredients:

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An onion, a fresh carrot, 2 frozen chicken breasts (the frozen part is important), a bag of stir-fry veggies, some stir fry sauce, and basmati rice.

*not pictured- the olive oil I use for the stir fry-ing*

I start out prepping my oil.  This is very important to me, as I don’t cook with non-stick cookware, so to keep my food from sticking, you have to start with cold oil in a hot pan.

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Once you see the oil starting to form waves, it’s hot enough to put your food in.  While I was waiting for it to heat up, I thinly sliced the chicken breasts (why I needed frozen, have you ever tried to slice a rubbery, raw chicken breast that was NOT frozen at least partially? UGH!) and the carrots and onions.

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I added what you see on the cutting board to the hot oil and stirred for one minute before adding some water to steam the veggies a little better.  I started with 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and added 1/2 cup of water.

After about 7 minutes, this is what I had

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I went ahead and started the rice to pass time for the chicken to cook. I also added about 1/2 tsp ginger and curry powder to the chicken and veggie mix.

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Once the chicken is cooked most of the way through (always stirring, always moving), I went ahead and added my stir fry veggies that were frozen.

*note- at this point, you could cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes, but I don’t have a 16″ lid for my big frying pan… so I just added a little more water and tried not to stir too much. (which is hard for me, so I cleared the table, set the table, and got a drink of water… I can’t leave the kitchen while I cook without it being really anxiety-causing)*

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After 5 minutes, the veggies are crisp, but still not quite cooked the way I like it, so I added 3 Tbsp of “stir-fry sauce” I found at wegmans.  This is a fat free sauce, there’s no oil, just spices. No artificial sweeteners, and tons of flavor.

I also like Veri Veri Terriyaki, and Thai Peanut Sauce, but my family is a bigger fan of the plain stir fry.

3-4 more minutes and the stir fry was done, I like my veggies so they still have a little crunch to them.

The longer you cook your food, the less nutritional value it contains.

*diabetic note* the longer you cook your food, the faster your body gets the sugar out of it, so especially with veggies, raw is the best form… slightly cooked is good too, and can really enhance the flavors in the foods.

Here’s the finished product.

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It was really satisfying, twice as many veggies as meat, and I only cooked 3/4 cup of rice for the whole family, so our grain portion of the meal was less than 25% of our plates.

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Up for today (3-20-2013)Raw Juice for breakfast, Coconut Curry for lunch (see post http://www.gigglebugmama.com/?p=38) for details on how to make the chicken curry.

I haven’t decided on dinner yet, tonight is traditionally Pasta night, but since we are having pasta with our lunch, I will more than likely opt for a casserole or soup dish.

Will update on that 🙂

Menu Planning- at it’s best

So I am feeding a family of 6.  Kyle doesn’t really eat, but his formula still requires some ingredients.  All of my meals are plotted out for a minimum of 3 adults, 3 kids (whether Grandma eats with us, or Stephen or I eat it for lunch the next day is the extra adult)

Some meals wind up being able to feed 4 adults. Some are cook to order (ie-only the people you need to feed)

My monthly budget for food is approximately 100$ per person (600$)

100$ of that goes to our weekly milk delivery which consists of the following

Delivery fee: $3.00

Whole Milk: $6.00

Chocolate Milk: $3.50

1 dozen eggs: $4.00

Ground Beef: $7.50

for a weekly total of: $24.00

We wax and wane on our milk consumption, so this gets us through without wasting or throwing out any, and keeps us supporting our local dairy farm.

I round up to 100$/month.  This is more when we have seasonal items like egg nog 🙂

I have 500$ left in my budget for food for the month.  This does not include 50$/week to spend eating out.

So here’s how I plan.

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I plan Monday to Friday.  Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks stay the same for one entire month.  That means every Thursday for 1 month, my kids will have Oatmeal for breakfast.  It changes the next month, so it’s only 4 times in a row that they are eating the same thing.

**side note**

any lunch item may be swapped with leftovers from the fridge.

The kids have three easy to grab/make snack options available to them every day.  They can choose to have all three or just one, but they can’t have the same one three times.  (kind of like a strike out system) This gets them responsible for their own bodies, there are options, if they are hungry, they may choose one.

We only snack between 9:30 and 10 am and then between 2 and 2:30 pm.  Any later than those times and we interfere with lunch and dinner cooperation.

We aim for 5 meals a day of smaller portions in order to stay healthy.

I plan a different meal every day of the week and we consume leftovers on Saturday and Sunday or we use our weekly eating out budget for that.

So here’s my list of things not in my cabinet that I will need for next month.

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Wegman’s has an amazing iPhone app that totals up my shopping trip, and there are very few taxable items on my list.

yes, 10 jars of pasta sauce seems excessive for pizza, meatball subs, and lasagna.  They are on sale through April the 14th, so I am stocking up, but it still counts into my monthly total.

I will continue juicing a minimum of once per day, and some nights I will not eat the same thing as the rest of my family and opt for a salad instead.  My budget accounts for that as well.

Trader Joe’s, MOM’s, and my “other” category (costco/BJ’s) are my best estimates based on the prices last time I shopped there. I try to over estimate my spending rather than underestimating.

This plan leaves me with $100.00 of “wiggle room”, feeding a family of 6 for $125/week.

I am not skimping on anything, and I’m not reducing the amount of meat my family eats.  They are pretty big meat-eaters.

We do not use meats that contain any nitrates/nitrites.  We buy from our local farm when possible, but they are out of the items we need this month.

With my “wiggle room”, I can indulge in extra junk food, crackers, snacks, sodas, items I find on sale that I need to stock up on, impulse purchases etc.

More often than not, this is typical of our spending habits and budgeting for a month’s worth of home-cooked meals for everyone.

I menu plan a minimum of 10 days in advance to reduce stress, add in forgotten items, and to solidify my plan of action.  This menu plan will most likely begin April the 1st, though it could begin as early as March 27th.  I do not have to have it start on a monday since it is a rotating schedule, it will just run out whenever it runs out.  Monday’s are typically my shopping days since we already schedule less school work then and have dance right near my closest Wegman’s.

If we decide to go out during the week, the meal that was planned is “saved” for the weekend, or cooked the next night if it is something uber-perishable.

 

Quick Chili

So I had no idea what to make, and have very little on hand (next week is our big grocery shopping trip of the month, so most things are out, and that’s good for us because I get creative and use things I really want to use)

ie: we have no bread.  I buy one loaf of bread a month, so when it’s gone, there are no more sandwiches.

So here’s what I pulled out to throw together.

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I wound up only using one can of pinto beans, not two. But here I have 2 cans Organic Pinto beans, 2 cans chili tomatoes, 1 can organic dark red kidney beans, 1 lb ground beef (pasture raised, antibiotic and hormone free), and 2 yellow onions.

I chopped the onions and cooked the ground beef with them.

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I season my beef and onion mix before adding anything else, a little cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, and steak seasoning.

Potentially the most important step in all of chili making (according to Charity) is blending the tomatoes so that there are no chunks and a nice smooth consistency.

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Rinse and drain the beans.

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Toss everything in the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

AAAND… Chili.

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I served it with tortilla chips and cheddar cheese on top, but you could easily make corn bread to go with this if you prefer.

Everyone seemed to like it.

Tuesday morning is smoothie day, so we had Strawberry, banana, avocado, coconut milk, peach, mango smoothies (say THAT five times fast!)

I did NOT juice for breakfast, so that’s what I’ll wind up having for lunch with some hummus and fresh veggies most likely.  Today is chicken nugget day.

**Spoiler Alert**

Next week is our week to do our major shopping trip and re-do our menu options.  I will provide details on our budget, recipes, and at least one day a week will be vegetarian, and one day a week will be gluten free.  (not necessarily the same day)

My family doesn’t eat enough veggie proteins to go for vegan, but making small changes to our diets in the right direction, I hope over the next few months to be able to add a vegan day to each week as well.

Stay Tuned 🙂

The weekend catch up

As most of my facebook friends know, my son Kyle was in the emergency room most of the day Friday.  (full story at http://www.kylexavier.com/?page_id=681)  So my day took a little turn for the weird.  Here’s how most of my days start out.

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Rainbow chard, spinach, Kale, Beet with greens attached, a few carrots, tomato and apple.

which turns conveniently into this :

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Nutrient packed power house that doesn’t leave me groggy and crazy headed.

Then the kids had Macaroni and Cheese (Annie’s Organic) for lunch.  Miraculously, we finished school work (including catch up for missing Tuesday due to ER visit as well) by 11 am! Playroom was clean, so we were going to have a special cooking project day of mini cheesecakes in jars.

On our way to the store to pick up the ingredients for said cheesecakes, we got a call from the pediatrician to take Kyle in, so needless to say, the rest of the day was kaput!

Stephen took the kids from the ER to dinner at Chick Fil A (which we planned for the following day since we had errands to run nearby a chick fil a and it was requested by all of the kids).  I had another juice for dinner since I didn’t want to mess up the kitchen cooking when I finally got home around 8 pm.

Which brings us to Saturday… we all slept in a bit and I made a juice again 🙂

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Then Stephen made some uncured bacon and eggs for breakfast for everyone (Stephen- over easy on toast with cheese & bacon, Grace and Domi- scrambled with cheddar (bacon on the side), Charity- egg white only with bacon on toast, and me- one egg over medium and one piece of bacon)

I forgot to take pictures, but it was delicious!

We wound up stopping by Panera, and I splurged just a bit and had a few pieces of toasty baguette with butter and a half of a Mediterranean veggie sandwich!

Then we went to a birthday party for dinner, the kids and Stephen had pizza and cake, I had some veggies and hummus, a few gluten free crackers, and some fresh fruit! YUM!

This brings me to Sunday…

Sunday is always tough.

This particular Sunday, the girls grabbed a quick bowl of cereal while I juiced (yes, it’s becoming a habit, I hope I can keep it up, I’m feeling GREAT) and we went shopping together.

We went to Kohls and MOM’s and Trader Joes.

Lunch was all the random leftovers from the fridge for the week, kind of our way of cleaning out the fridge without actually putting in any effort.

Grace had the rest of some Hunan Chicken with rice, Dominick had Orange Chicken with rice, Charity and Stephen had Chicken Pot Pie, and I had hummus and veggies and veggie squares:

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I would’ve taken pictures of their lunches, but by the time I finished prepping everything, they were all done eating.

Except Charity, who takes forever to eat even her most favorite foods 😦 *sigh*

Friday night’s dinner was supposed to be Calzones.  Well, since everyone was upset about not having them, I made them for dinner Sunday.  I make my own dough, using the following

4 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/3 cups hot water (that’s one and one third, not 11 thirds)

2 packets dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)

1 1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp Olive Oil.

3 tsp Sugar

Combine half the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.  Gradually mix in remaining flour until soft ball is formed. (you can add rosemary, basil, oregano, and garlic at this point)

I knead it for about 5 minutes and let it rest for 10 before rolling it into crusts for pizza, strombolli, or calzones.

For our family, this makes 5 portions, 3 equal portions for kids, and 2 equal portions for adults.  I do this by dividing the dough in half, then in half again for the adults, and thirds for the kiddos.

Everyone picks what they want on it, my kids are boring, cheese and garlic and herbs.

I decided I didn’t want the bread, I’m trying my best to be gluten free since I know I’m sensitive to it.

So I had the peppers, onions, and broccoli, stir fried with a Tbsp of Olive oil and some herbs and spices to liven it up.

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I added in Spinach & Grape tomatoes towards the last moments, and then dumped it on a plate while the calzones were cooking

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Then I put some extra marinara sauce and mozzarella on top of the sauteed veggies, popped it in the oven for 5 minutes, and Voila! Gluten Free, Vegetarian Entree.  Boy was it good!

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The kids and Stephen finished off the apple pie and Vanilla Ice cream.

YAY! That brings me current.

Today is Monday.  I loathe Mondays… Especially today.  We had a Dr. appointment at 8 am this morning, which means getting myself up at 6:30, dressed, and start working on getting everyone out the door.  I juiced, I made Stephen a tortilla stuffed with scrambled egg, cheese and ham, Grace had cereal, and Charity and Dominick ate Kashi Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars on our way to the dr. (because they really WERE dragging their feet that much).

Even after MULTIPLE prompts yesterday and Saturday, Charity’s leotard and tights were miraculously missing this morning **facepalm**

She wound up just dancing in tights and her clothes (skort and t shirt).  I had to run out the door so quickly this morning, I had no time to pull together a real lunch, so I took a banana, chocolate covered raisins, peanut butter pretzels, freeze dried strawberries and some triple ginger cookies with us to stave off the hunger pains until we got home.

Plans changed happily and we found ourselves out to lunch with an old friend and Daddy was able to join us too:) We went to noodles and company, and I had the indonesian peanut saute with rice pasta.  MMMMMM.

Tonight’s menu was supposed to be home made macaroni and cheese, but since we had pasta for lunch, I’m still wracking my brain to think of something.  I will definitely post later on what we figured out 🙂