Monday, August 15, 2016

Menu plan for the week of August 15

Two more weeks of August.  We got this, friends.  The hot is almost over.  There is at least one upside to the hot--I continue to harvest about one zucchini per day.  In fact, I have five of them sitting on my kitchen counter right now.  It always amazes me how much a zucchini can grow in a day.  I'll go out to the garden, and say...hmmm...this zucchini needs one more day.  And I'll go out the next day, and it'll be bigger than I thought it would be.  What's even more surprising is how I can find fully grown, ready-to-harvest zucchinis in my garden that I had never noticed before.  How does that happen?  Those zucchinis have some powerful camouflage mojo going on.

In response to this stellar zucchini harvest, I've been putting zucchini in and on pretty much everything, and I will continue to do so this week.  If it's shredded and cooked down a bit, no one even notices.  So, yup, there will be zucchini in every evening meal this week.  I think I might also add to the 22 cups of shredded zucchini in the freezer this week.



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Wildtree Freezer Meal Workshop Experience

As I mentioned several weeks ago, I attended a Wildtree workshop in June.

And I knew I should have written this post right away, while it was fresh in my mind, instead of waiting until I had actually tried some of the meals I prepared at the workshop.

Oh well.  I think I can do an adequate job, even lo, these many weeks, later.
So Wildtree is a direct marketing company, with home parties, kind of like Tupperware or Pampered Chef, but instead of selling stuff, Wildtree offers food.  They offer two types of parties: tasting parties and the kind I attended--freezer meal workshops.  From the website:
Wildtree was founded on the premise that food should be natural, nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare - all at the same time. [Their] products are made with the finest ingredients available and contain no preservatives, additives, MSGs or dyes. 
Here's how it worked.  First, I got an email inviting me to attend a freezer meal workshop.  The email contained a list of the meals that would be prepared, and a link to sign up and pay for my freezer meal bundle.  Wildtree has about six different freezer meal workshops available at any given time--I did "Get Your Grill On."  The $86 fee paid for the Wildtree products I would need to put together 10 recipes at the workshop.  I was responsible for buying proteins and veggies on my own, which I estimate cost another $80, purchasing most of my proteins on sale.  A couple of weeks before the workshop, I got a shopping list, and then about a week before the workshop, I got a set of instructions for prep-work to be done at home, and a list of equipment (like measuring spoons) to bring along.

The day of the workshop, I prepped my bags according to the instructions, put everything into a cooler and set off to the workshop.  When I arrived, all of my Wildtree products were set up at a work station for me.  There were a few community supplies on the table, like salt and pepper, that were provided by the hostess.  After a brief introduction by the Wildtree representative, who was well organized, very professional, and helpful throughout, we set to work assembling our meals.

The instructions were straight-forward and easy to follow, and all of us (even the ones who were a bit chatty-er than I) put together 10 freezer meals, each serving 4-6 people, within an hour and a half.  Some of the ladies at my table split their meals, so they ended up with 20 meals, each serving 2-3 people.  Along with our meals, we took home our leftover products, cooking instructions and serving suggestions, a freezer inventory list, and all of the recipes for the meals we prepared as well as a few bonus recipes that can be made with the Wildtree products we had purchased.   As each of us finished, we got to sit with the Wildtree consultant for a few minutes while she tried to sell us more stuff, get us to sign up to host our own party, and in my case, flatter me into becoming a Wildtree consultant.  She did not succeed, well, in my case, anyway.

In the weeks since, we've tried seven of the ten meals I made that night.  They've been good, but not spectacular.  Which is, considering my family's...aversions...actually quite high praise.  Everyone has been willing to eat every one of the meals.  High praise indeed.   Two meals, the Asian Ginger Beef Tips, and the Agave BBQ Country Ribs, my family wants me to make again, and I will, with pleasure.

Here's what I liked most about the workshop:
I didn't have to think.  Someone else told me what to buy and how to put it together, and I knew it was good-for-me food with no preservatives, additives, MSGs or dyes.  I went home with 10 different meals for my freezer.  Without having to think about it.  As my family's only meal planner and grocery procurer, that's huge.

Was it worth the cost?
Well, I'm not sure.  This is certainly more than I would have spent on meals that I put together myself, but on the other hand, it felt so good to have someone else telling me what to make instead of having to figure it out for myself, and it's been an amazing feeling to be able to just pull something out of the freezer to feed my family with minimal prep time.  How much is that peace of mind worth?  All I can say is I do not regret attending this workshop.

Would I do it again?
You know, I think I might.  I hear Wildtree has a Crock Pot freezer meal workshop.  Y'all want to do it with me?

Want more information about Wildtree?  Start with my consultant (she's fabulous) or find a consultant near you.  Or you can take a peek at their 2016 catalog.

This is not a sponsored post (although I would be willing to do one *hint*hint*), just my honest assessment of my experience with Wildtree.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Happy Zucchini Day!

Hey y'all!  Today is the day!  Happy sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day!  I told you it was a thing--did you not believe me?

As promised, I have something extra special for you today!  In honor of this very special day, which anyone who's ever grown zucchini will completely understand, I've got some fun zucchini recipes for you.  You know, for all that zucchini your neighbors will be sneaking onto your porch.

As you can see, zucchini is a pretty versatile ingredient.  What's your favorite way to eat zucchini?

Main Dishes: 
Turkey Zucchini Meatballs from Kendra's Treats

Zucchini Nachos from Betsy Life

Spinach Zucchini Ravioli from Las Vegas Food Photographer

Low Carb Beef and Zucchini Lasagna from The Fit Blog

Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boats from Cooking Classy

Tex Mex Stuffed Zucchini  and Zucchini and Ground Turkey Pizza Boats from Slender Kitchen

Zucchini Pizza Casserole from Kendra's Treats

Chicken Zoodle Soup from Damn Delicious

Side Dishes:
Roasted Zucchini and Red Potatoes from CookPad

Zucchini Tots from Old House to New Home

Zucchini Chips from Mostly Food & Crafts

Cheesy Zucchini Breadsticks from Smile Sandwich (you can also use this recipe to make pizza crust)

Zucchini Potato Pancakes from The Prudent Homemaker

Breakfast, breads, and muffins:
Golden Sweet Zucchini Pancakes from Super Healthy Kids

Blueberry Banana Zucchini Bread from Made to be a Momma

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread from Cooking Classy

Chocolate and Yogurt Zucchini Bread from Give Recipe

(The BEST ever) Zucchini Nut Muffins from me!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread Breakfast Cookies from Kristine's Kitchen


Mmmm.  So much deliciousness!  I think I'm going to try the Chicken Zoodle Soup--which one of these are you going to make first?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Yet another Friday menu post

I know you love 'em, the Friday menu posts, that is.  But that's not why I'm posting this one.  I'm posting this one on Friday because I have something extra special for you on Monday.  Something extra special that has something to do with ... well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Can y'all believe how fast this summer has flown by?  We have not had all members of our family home for more than 5 days in a row so far this summer.  Usually it's been less than 5.  I think someone's planning on going somewhere next weekend, too.  Maybe all of us?  Not sure.

Zucchini oat chocolate chip cookies
As much as I love these lazy days of summer, I must say I'm looking forward to the routine of the school year.  Who am I kidding?  These days have not been lazy, and I do not love them.  Much too hot.  Much too much packing and unpacking.  Much too many "there's nothing to do"s.  But it is a little sad to think about another year passing.  Happy, too.

Mixed feelings, y'all.  That's what is happening in my head right now.

What I don't have mixed feelings about is eating.

OK, that's not true either.  Sheesh.  On to the menu.

Zucchini Nachos |
Zucchini Nachos

Grilled Chicken Legs Recipe |
Grilled Chicken Legs

Monday, July 25, 2016

Menu plan for the week of July 25

I hesitate to post this menu plan, my friends.  I mean, you seem to like the Friday posts so much.  I understand, I guess.  A Friday menu plan gives you time to incorporate interesting recipes into your own menu plan for the following week.  But here's the thing, Monday is better for me, and it is all about me, ya know.

It has been super hot.  Ugh.  I am sooo not a fan of hot.  But we're in the home stretch now.  It'll be cooling down soon.  In the meantime, I'm trying, and mostly succeeding, to not heat up the oven for meals.  Desserts, on the other hand, are totally worth it.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Delaying Decisions

I read, on a blog, the other day, that procrastination is really just a way of delaying decisions.  As a lifelong procrastinator*, that statement rings true for me.

Case in point: right now, as I am typing, I have two wedding gifts sitting, unwrapped, in a corner of my bedroom.  I have had these wedding gifts in my possession for at least a month.  I will be giving one of these wedding gifts away on Friday.  But I haven't wrapped them yet.

Why?  Well, here's the deal.  I can't decide how to wrap them.  I'm pretty sure we don't have any wedding wrapping paper.  So my choices are:

1. no wrapping
2. gift bag
3. buy wedding wrapping paper
4. Christmas or birthday or camouflage paper
5. comics
6. wrap in plain white or brown paper, which has the additional subsets of:
  • leave plain
  • leave plain but decorate with pretty ribbon
  • color or paint
There is, of course, also

7. "accidentally" forget to bring the gift to the wedding and ship it later, with or without wrapping paper (delaying the decision even further).  Can't do that, though, because we need it for the reception.

All of these options have merits.  All of them have disadvantages.  My brain cannot sift through the possibilities and decide on a course of action.  So I continue to procrastinate.

Procrastination = delayed decisions.

The author of this blog asserted that delaying the decision is not going to make it any easier to make, and if we keep delaying decisions, we will end up with a pile of decisions to make all at once, so we should just do it right away and get it over with.  While that's not true in every situation**, it's mostly true.  

I know that.  But knowing doesn't help.

You might be thinking that the fact that I have had these wedding gifts for over a month, for weddings in July and September, would tend to belie my statement that I'm a procrastinator.  A true procrastinator would buy a gift on Friday for Friday's wedding.  I guess I'm just a selective procrastinator.  I knew exactly what I wanted to give these beautiful couples in celebration of their unions, so those decisions were easy.  I procrastinate only when the decisions are difficult.  Like the wrapping paper thing.


*I am a lifelong procrastinator, except for the time period starting in the winter of my freshman year of college and continuing until...well, I'm not sure when I stopped not procrastinating...but that's another story.  I think it's funny that I can pinpoint the day I stopped procrastinating.  It was ... memorable.

**Sometimes decisions are easier to make after a delay, like for instance, if one can't decide whether or not one wants to buy tickets to an event, if one procrastinates, there is a good possibility that the tickets will be sold out, which makes the decision-making super easy.

P.S. I'm going to wrap that present now.  Plain brown with pretty ribbon.  If I can find the pretty ribbon.  If not, I'm going with camouflage.

Monday, July 18, 2016

NIrV Minecrafters Bible: A Review

From the back cover:
Do you ever fell like it's more fun to exist in the computer world than in the real one?  Is that the only place you fell like you can control your destiny?  Well, God is the original great world builder, and he gave us the power and the skills we need to make changes in the real world.
The NIrV Minecrafter's Bible contains the entire text of the New International Readers Version of the Bible.  It includes 24 pages of full-color illustrations in the style of Minecraft, interspersed throughout the text.  These pages each contain a brief explanation of the story they portray, a Bible passage to read for the story, and a challenge to complete in Minecraft. The book also includes a table of contents, an alphabetical listing of the books of the Bible, a dictionary of terms and a listing of where to find "Great Bible Stories."

I like that this book contains the entire text of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and the NIr Version is easy to read and understand.  As the Mama of a Minecraft fan, I also appreciated the tie in to Minecraft.  The tie-in will draw in Minecraft fans, and the challenges will keep them thinking about the stories they've read.

The color illustrations are placed in chronological order, but not next to the story they portray.  It would be nice to have the text adjacent to the explanation, picture, and challenge.  I also wish this Bible had sidebars within the text itself, explaining concepts, and drawing parallels to the game and to real life, like other children and teen Bibles.

Bottom line: This book will engage your Minecraft fan, and the Minecraft challenges will keep her thinking about the Bible.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Old Age: A Beginners Guide--A Review

Michael Kinsley is a journalist, former editor, and a member of the baby boom generation.  He also has Parkinson's Disease.  In Old Age: A Beginner's Guide, he writes,
Sometimes I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my fifties what even the healthiest boomers are going to experience in their sixties, seventies, or eighties.  There are far worse medical conditions that Parkinson's, and there are far worse cases of Parkinson's than mine.  But what I have, at the level I have it, is an interesting foretaste of our shared future--a beginner's guide to old age.
I wanted to read this book because not only do I have baby boomer parents and in-laws, who are aging, but also, someone close to me has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  I was expecting tips or encouragement for people who are aging in general, and living with Parkinson's Disease in particular, but I didn't find that in the pages of this book.

What I found was a frank exploration of aging, from the perspective of the particular generation known as the baby boomers, with their shared experiences and values as an age cohort.  Mr. Kinsley explored aging from the perspective of "winning" at aging.  Does the person who lives the longest win?  Or the person who keeps hold of their physical or mental capacities?  Or the person who leaves the longest lasting legacy?

The book was interesting, but because it wasn't what I was expecting, and because I am not a baby boomer, I couldn't really get in to it, and I didn't like it all that much.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

25,000 Mornings: A Review

We humans are given 25,000 mornings on earth, more or less, and author Faye Rowe believes we should start them with God.  I happen to agree, so I was eager to read her devotional, 25,000 Mornings.*

The book contains 140 short devotions, arranged in 11 categories, such as "On Being Yourself and Living With People," and "On Getting it Right."  Each devotion consists of a short story or anecdote, which often quotes scripture, along with a short Bible passage at the end.

I really wanted to like this book--unfortunately, I didn't.  I did like the organization of the book into categories.  Each category page listed the title of the category, along with a short, one or two sentence explanation.  The categories would make it easy to find encouragement for specific situations.  But the stories and anecdotes did not resonate with me, and I found myself reading about the same stories multiple times.  The scripture references were mostly from the New King James version of the Bible, which I find somewhat difficult to read.  What bothered me the most is that the short Bible passages rarely seemed to have anything to do with the devotional I had just read.

Bottom line: Loved the concept, did not love the execution.

* I reviewed the electronic edition.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It's a jungle out there (or, a garden update)

Is it really an update when I didn't tell you about it in the first place?  I dunno.  Whatever.  I'm too tired to think about that right now.

Anyway, it's a jungle out there.  According to the square foot garden people, tomato plants can be spaced one per square foot, so last year, that's what I did.  And those plants got huge!  And crowded out everything else in that bed, including the poor zucchini plants.  So this year, I decided to give the tomatoes a little more space.  This year, I planted 8 tomatoes in 16 square feet.  And just look what happened.

 It's so thick in there, you can't see through.  I'm loving it, because I'm thinking this much tomato vegetation means lots and lots of tomatoes for me.  But once again, I have to say I am thankful that tomatoes turn a color other than green when they are ripe.

Here's the first tomato to set (that I'm aware of).  I'm watching it to give me an indication of when the first harvest will be ready.

 Tomatoes are not the only thing I planted this year.  I also planted zucchini.  They're doing amazingly, out from under the tyranny of the tomato plants.  I think they're taller than Bubby.

And this is what happens when you go away for 3 days, in July, leaving your zucchini plants unattended.  I guess I should have included something in there for size comparison, but suffice it to say--those things are huge.  If you've never grown zucchini, you might not know this, but those suckers can go from non-existent to baseball bat in a matter of days.


I was talking to AKD this morning about the salsa (yes, I broke down and bought tomatoes, and I was making sure that he was still willing to help), and I said we could put zucchini in it.  AKD insisted that we needed to save all of the zucchini for zucchini muffins.  Um.  I'm harvesting a zucchini a day.  Each zucchini makes two dozen muffins.  That's a lot of muffins.  I don't think even AKD can keep up with that kind of production.  For the first time ever, I will have zucchini to celebrate national sneak zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day.  Yes. It's an actual thing.  Don't say I didn't warn you, neighbors.

I also planted strawberries this year.  And I've gotten to eat one.  Some creature keeps sneaking in and eating them as soon as they're ripe.

And that's it.  Tomatoes, zucchini, and strawberries.  But really, what else does a person need?  Oh. radishes.  Apparently, Hubby needs radishes.  Unfortunately, he didn't tell me he needed radishes until a couple of weeks ago, and now it's too hot for the poor little things.  They're going into the zucchini/strawberry bed at the beginning of September.

I'm already planning for next year.  They boys said they would build another 4 x 4 foot garden bed for me, so next year it'll be strawberries (with better protection) in one, tomatoes in another, and zucchini, corn, and pumpkins, as well as any other random veggies or fruits the fam wants in the third.  I'm also thinking of planting asparagus in another, already existing bed, but we'll see.

And that's what's happening in the jungle garden.  I'll leave you with this picture of the jungle canopy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pictures from Camp

AKD and MC were away at Boy Scout camp last week.  Special thanks to A Friendly Boy Scout for taking most of these pictures.

It's become a tradition for Troop 168 to spend part of their time at camp in the storm shelter.  What a first night welcome for these boys!  Here they are playing janitor while waiting for the all clear.
My biggest boy and my middlest boy tug-of-war-ing.  This is actually a pretty accurate picture of their relationship sometimes...
These boys set a goal to climb a mile during their week in camp.  That means 165 ascents of the climbing tower.  They did 175.
AKD and his best buddies in the foreground--waiting to climb.  Isn't it cute how they're matching?
My middlest boy earned the small boat sailing merit badge.  Best merit badge at camp, so I'm told.
Some of these boys look impossibly young.  And some of them look impossibly green.  That pink hat looks awfully familiar, though...
The middle-aged boys
 There aren't many pictures of AKD because he was off doing high adventures instead of just, you know, regular adventures, and A Friendly Boy Scout did not go along--regular adventures were plenty adventurous for her.  AKD had a great time, though.  His favorite day consisted of mountain boarding and ... well, two other things that I didn't hear because I was too busy freaking out over the fact that my son went mountain boarding.

AKD has earned just about all, if not all, of the merit badges offered at camp, so he just gets to have fun.  You can really tell he's having a lot of fun from this pic, can't you?
MC earned five merit badges: small boat sailing, emergency preparedness, first aid, geology, and cycling.

The rest of us muddled through the week at home.  We were lonely without our biggest kiddos, but we made it.

I must say, it' for three, now that I'm used to cooking for five, and I can definitely understand why persons who are used to cooking for more might have trouble suddenly cooking for less.  Especially if these persons don't really like leftovers.  I can relate to a lack of ambition to prepare meals--it hardly seems worth the effort to cook an entire meal to serve just three people, and, since Hubby was at camp for both of the bracketing weekends, I discovered it feels even less worthwhile to cook for just two.

Or not-so-suddenly cooking for fewer, I guess.  These are planned transitions, after all.  From the very beginning, We've planned for these children to live with us for only a short while.  We've planned for them to grow and learn and be independent.  As our kiddos grow and leave home, we'll be down to four, then three, then two again.

As it should be, of course.  These periodic glimpses of the future are a great reminder to enjoy the time I have with my family.  If all goes as planned, they will leave in time, but we are not guaranteed that all will go as planned.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Mini Muffins

Well!  I guess that answers that question.  Y'all can handle a Friday menu post.  I'm not sure if I can, though...  But I'll see what I can do.

These chocolate chip graham muffins from last week's menu are Bubby's new favorite--the cinnamon streusel topping adds a satisfying sweet crunch, and the addition of graham flour, in the form of crushed graham crackers, takes these chocolate chip muffins to a new level of deliciousness.  These muffins are reminiscent of chocolate covered graham crackers.  Here's the recipe, very slightly adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate, and More.

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Mini Muffins
{click here to print this recipe}

What you need:
  • 2 c. all purpose flour (substitute white whole wheat flour for up to 1 c. of the flour)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 c. crushed graham crackers (about 9 whole crackers is sufficient for both the batter and the topping)
  • 1 c. unsweetened almond milk (or substitute whole milk)
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. mini chocolate chips
Topping ingredients
  • 1/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. crushed graham crackers
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 4 T. melted butter

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F; grease or line muffin tin with papers
  2. Make the topping: combine 1/3 c. flour, brown sugar, 1/3 c. crushed graham crackers, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Add melted butter, and stir until all ingredients are moist.  Set aside.
  3. Combine 2 c. flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and 1 c. crushed graham crackers in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl (I use a 4-cup glass measuring cup), whisk together milk, oil, egg, and vanilla extract.
  5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.
  6. Distribute batter evenly between 42-48 mini muffins cups.  Top each muffin with about 1 t. of the topping, and press the topping gently into the batter.
  7. Bake at 400°F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 10-14 minutes.

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