Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fend for Yourself --A learning opportunity

In our house they are times when I just can't make dinner. I try to keep easy to fix items in the cabinet or freezer for these nights & until recently I always felt guilty telling my husband & kids dinner was going to be Fend For Yourself. One day it suddenly hit me that Fend For Yourself night is actually a very good learning experience for my family. I'm not organized enough to actually schedule Fend For Yourself into my plans for the week, it just seems to happen at the last minute once or twice a month.

Our most recent Fend For Yourself night happened when I found out at 4:30 in the afternoon that I was supposed to be at Middle School conferences that very night at 6. Hubby doesn't get home from work until 6:15 & we don't usually eat until at least 7. The meal I had been planning wasn't even started yet & there was no way I could get it made & get ready to leave on time. These events are middle school child & parent only, so I was already going to have to be late just waiting for Hubby to get home to stay with the rest of the kids.

I checked the freezer...1 pepperoni frozen pizza (not enough to feed Hubby & 3 girls)
I checked the pantry...boxed mac & cheese, cans of ravioli, cans of soup, PB&J.

At this point, I talked with my 11 yr old middle school son & my 9 yr old daughter...together we came up with a plan. My son cooked a package of boxed mac & cheese & ate most of it...he was fed, the 2 & 4 yr olds finished the rest. My daughter opened two cans of ravioli, put them in a large bowl, covered it with a plate & microwaved it. When it was done, she divided it into 3 bowls for herself & the younger kids. At 5:55 while I was changing the baby & finishing up getting ready to leave, my son put the frozen pizza in the oven for Hubby. I took the pizza out just as Hubby walked in the door & the middle schooler & I walked out, leaving Hubby with the 3 girls. It was a hectic hour and a half, but it really made me realize that not only are my kids capable of taking care of some of their own needs, they can also help with the younger kids. I wouldn't want dinner to be like this every night, but there is a certain piece of mind in knowing that even though they are only 9 & 11, my kids CAN make a meal for themselves & the rest of the family.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cooking with the kids!

When the weather turns cold, everyone in my house seems to get cranky. Baking treats is one of my favorite ways to cure that crankiness (at least temporarily) and involving the kids in the actual making of the treats not only cuts down on their boredom, but is GREAT family time as well.

When I first started baking with my kids, I found it easiest to stick to simple recipes or even boxed mixes. My tweens have recently graduated to being able to bake with their younger sisters.

The tweens read the directions & add the ingredients while the younger kids wait, not so patiently, for their turn to stir. When it's ready to go in the oven, I take over for a few minutes, but the tweens keep track of how long it needs to bake & soon we have a piping hot treat that everyone is sooo PROUD to have helped make!

Come by my Fullnest blog to read more about these aprons & enter for a chance to win a FREE apron of your choice.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let the Ball Drop!

*** Cross-posted at all the Lotsofkids blogs. ***

It's New Year's Eve (at least in this part of the world). 2009 is almost gone and 2010 is standing before us. It was a difficult year for many people. Financial hardships and insecurity made the year a struggle for so many. That said, even though things were hard, the trials led so many back to focusing on what is important, such as family and friends, as well as simple living.

2009 was a difficult time for us over at Lotsofkids, as we had to focus our spare time on projects to help make money to pay the bills, including our server costs. Though things are not particularly better now, we are thankfully at a point where we can re-focus on the site and our blogs like we want to.

A big "thank you" to all of our followers here, as well as our wonderful Bloggers who have kept things going during this down time. We appreciate you all! We are looking forward to 2010 and hopes for better times. We are excited as the prospects and hopeful that in the coming weeks we'll be getting things back to normal with regular blog posts and new content.

In the meantime (and while there is still a couple days left in the "holiday" season), we leave you with a little visual/musical gift created by me and my husband. We hope you like it...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OH NO! The turkey is still frozen!

I answered the phone yesterday to a question from a friend...Where's your turkey? She was wondering if I'd remembered to take it out of the freezer to defrost. Seems she'd just remembered that morning and it was a 28lb hunk of wonder so didn't know if it would be defrosted. It was then that I told her that I didn't have to worry about the turkey since my mom was cooking it. I also let her in on a little secret of mine...I very rarely defrost my turkeys anymore. Having only one refrigerator I don't really have the room to do it safely. What I do is cook the turkey right from the freezer. And the great thing about it...the turkey comes out juicy!

There were then lots of questions about it staying in the danger zone too long and introducing salmonella and whatnot to it. The same ones I had when I first wondered if it would work. Then I read this article over at About.com and decided to give it a shot. Now for me, it's the only way to go.

In a nutshell the above article says that it's safe to cook it this way. It's actually even safer since there's no juices to cross contaminate surfaces or other foods. The legs defrost first allowing them to cook longer and get to temperature. The breast being denser defrosts last and cooks less, allowing it to stay moist.

While the article says a 15lb turkey takes 5 to 5.5 hours. What do you do for a larger bird, like my friend's? I've used this method to cook a 21lb'er before and it took about 7hrs like the article stated. I've also read other articles that say to increase your time by half the thawed roasting time recommendation. Using this time chart I'd agree if you used the stuffed turkey time guideline. The important thing is to use a reliable meat thermometer and check everything....Legs and thighs should be 175 to 185, breast should be 160 to 170 and stuffing inside the bird should be 165.

Yes! You can still cook your stuffing inside the turkey with this method. The key is to stuff the bird (and remove the giblets packet and neck) about 2/3 through the cooking time. Just be sure to protect your hands since the turkey and cavity will be hot. Oh and a note from me, you definitely want to tent the bird in foil, otherwise the top layer of the breast will get too dry. Remove the foil an hour or so before the end of roasting time so the skin can brown up.

So don't panic if you forgot to defrost the turkey, you won't have to order pizza. Just get up a little earlier on Thanksgiving and take a little longer to cook your frozen bird. And enjoy!

I also wanted to remind everyone that Mirz wrote a great article last Thanksgiving which included her menu and timetable that helps her organize her time in the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Planning the Perfect Turkey for Thanksgiving

For our family Thanksgiving is all about the TURKEY. I've been cooking at least one whole turkey every year for the last 25 years or more, so it seems simple. But every year I hear people fretting about the fact they have to make THE turkey this year.

Here are a few tips that I've picked up over the years.

If you're buying a frozen turkey, be sure to give yourself enough time for it to defrost (preferably in the refrigerator)....my 14 lb turkey is going to take 4 days to defrost in the fridge

Invest in an electric roaster pan, this has saved my sanity on more than one holiday. The turkey can cook all day while you cook everything else in the oven.

Use online tools like Butterball.com to figure out how much turkey you need, how long it will take to defrost and how long it needs to cook.

Watch for grocery specials...this year I'm getting a FREE 14 lb frozen ButterBall turkey by using my customer rewards card at a local grocery store....I had to spend a minimum of $300 on groceries in a 45 day window, but since I needed to spend at least that much on groceries this month it was a GREAT deal. ButterBall currently has a $2 off printable coupon on their website that is good until the end of December.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Easy Peasy Red Beans and Rice - crock pot style

This is a VERY easy recipe, makes a lot, is tasty and can be served many different ways.

*cross posted from my personal blog*

Easy Peasy Red Beans and Rice - crock pot style

2lbs dry kidney beans
2 cups brown rice
8 - 12 chicken bouillon cubes
garlic powder
onion powder
3-4 bay leaves

Soak your beans over night or do a quick sock (as described on the back of the package). Dump in your 6 qt crock pot and fill with water until the beans only take up only half the space in the water. Add your two cups of brown rice (uncooked), garlic powder and onion powder to preference, chicken bouillon cubes and bay leaves. Cook on high until beans are soft and rice is done (you can cook longer and it won't hurt it). It will take approximately 6 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low. Taste great served with chips, on burritos or with cornbread. Top it with a bit of cheese, sour cream and or salsa. Just as a side note, mine needed a little more salt and pepper before eating - I used 6 bouillon cubes. My hubby likes to add red pepper to his personal serving :).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bread, delicious bread!

I found this recipe & wanted to adapt it to try with my kitchen aid stand mixer. I also had some white flour I needed to use. AND I never make just one loaf of bread, so I wanted to double the recipe. This is what I came up with and it's officially a WINNER in this house. It was very tasty!

Christina's Honey Half Wheat Bread

3 cups unbleached white flour
4-5 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I buy it in bulk @ costco) = 2 packages
3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup butter

Here is how I made it.

Warm 2 cups of water up in a measuring cup (approximately 110-120 degrees), then stir in active dry yeast. Let it stand approximately 5 minutes, until foamy.While yeast in standing, I measure out 3 cups white flour, 3 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons salt, into a bowl. Then in another measuring cup, I measure out honey and heat it up for 30 seconds (makes it easier to pour). In my kitchen aid bowl, I put my butter (melted or room temperature) at the bottom. Then I pour my water yeast mixture in and mix it. Then I add my honey and mix. Then I add my pre-measured flour into it and mix by hand for a moment. Then I put my kitchen aid bowl on my kitchen aid stand mixer and start it going at speed two. I gradually add the remaining flour (1-2 cups whole wheat) until the dough is still kind of sticky, but still is hangs onto the dough hook. Once it reaches this point, I let it run for a 4 or 5 minutes more. By then, it forms a nice smooth ball of dough (leaving some of the dough on the edges of the bowl). Then I take my ball of dough out, and plop it into a greased bowl to rise. I will often scrape out the dough that is stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl and add it to the ball of dough and knead it for a minute. Let it rise until doubled and punch down.

Divide in half or in three parts (just in half produces two LARGE loaves, three parts makes 3 average size loaves). I don't do anything fancy to shape my dough. I just pat and punch until it feels as if I've gotten most of the air out and then do some more patting until I get into the shape I want it. I then put the dough in two (or three) greased bread pans and let them *almost* double and at that point I bake them at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

*cross posted from my personal blog, http://www.clothconfessions.blogspot.com