Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking Revisited

Several weeks ago I told you that I don't like cooking.   Within hours of posting that, my friend Molly called me and told me about Once A Month Cooking.  It's basically the same idea of the Dinner's Ready thing we had been doing (which isn't available anymore) except that I would do all the food shopping, prepping, and freezing.   I immediately started doing research.

One of the first sites I found was Once a Month Mom.  They create a bunch of different menus (traditional, vegetarian, whole foods, gluten free/dairy free, baby food, diet) and give you the recipes for them.  Each menu has several breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  Every month a new menu is made.  Cool, less thinking for me to do!

Then I saw that they not only give you the recipes, they also give you a shopping list for ALL the recipes.  So if one recipe calls for 1/2 cup of carrots, and another recipe calls for 2 cups of carrots, the master shopping list says to buy 2.5 cups of carrots.  Woohoo, even less thinking for me to do!

And then I noticed that they had set up both the lists and the menus on Google Docs spreadsheets so that I could change the number of servings I wanted.  When I did that all the amounts of ingredients on both the recipes and the shopping lists changed, too!  At this point I was totally sold.

But it got even better.  They even tell you exactly how many freezer containers you'll need for everything and have labels you can print out with the directions for how to thaw and prepare each meal.  Each frozen meal could be thawed and prepared by Geary!  I think I may have jumped up and down and pumped my fist into the air a few times.

So I chose the Gluten Free/Dairy Free menu and set it up to give us 4 servings per meal.  I'm counting all three kids as two adults.  Then I printed out my recipes and the shopping list and the labels.  And then I noticed two more things that added to the ingeniousness of this whole plan.  A Chopping List and a Cooking Day Master Plan.

The Chopping list is a list of everything you need to chop and in what quantities.  Things like, 2 medium onions--diced.  1 medium onion-sliced, 1 medium onion-minced.  It also told what things you should prepare ahead of time like rice, since some of recipes called for cooked rice.

The Cooking Day Master Plan was a road map of which order to cook things in on Cooking Day.  For example, prepare the banana bread muffins.  While those are baking prepare the orange spice muffins.  While those are baking, make the stir fry.  Everything was laid out for me!  Giddiness ensued.

Next, I plugged in everything on the Shopping List into  I didn't want to go grocery shopping and find out that this plan was going to cost $800.  I told myself that if it was under $300 I would just go ahead and order it from Safeway.  Sure, I could have gotten better deals by shopping around, but I was saving time and tantrums but not going shopping with three antsy boys.  My total was $203 and change including delivery.  I chose not to buy spices (and some flours)  from Safeway because I didn't want to spend upwards of $6 per spice jar.  Instead I took my Shopping List to the bulk section of Fred Meyer and bought a smidgen more of each spice that my  list told me to get.  13 cents for parsley?  Sounds good to me!  So that was another $17 worth of grocery budget.  Safeway didn't really have any gluten free flours and stuff so I also had to go shopping for that stuff.  This was what really drove numbers up, things like xanthan gum and rice vinegar and tapioca flour.  But now I have it on hand so next month's grocery bill won't be as high.  All in all, I spent $248 and change on groceries.

Saturday was my Cooking Day.  I was going to do all my chopping on Friday night but something big came up and I didn't do it.   I started at about 9 in the morning.  Geary took the boys out for a tour of a bunch of libraries in our surrounding area.  They also stopped at Grandma's house for a while.  I turned on Pandora and listened to approximately 3.5 songs before I realized I was listening to a Christmas station.  I switched to Gungor radio and commenced cooking.  At around 3:30 pm I was only a bit more than halfway through and my back and feet were killing me!  I took a little break to whine about it on Facebook (and got loads of encouragement, thanks friends!) and then I switched my music to my The Mamas & The Papas station and got back to work.  Thankfully the last few recipes involved little to no actual cooking.  It was just sorting things into freezer bags and maybe mixing up a couple sauces.  I finished (sort of) by 6:45.  I still had an egg strata to make but somehow I didn't have enough eggs (I thought I had a full carton in the fridge when I did my shopping, but it only had 4 eggs in it.) So I called it quits, cleaned up the ENORMOUS mess in the kitchen and then took a shower.  When I came out Geary was home and had brought me a gluten free sandwich from Subway.  Then he rubbed my feet while we watched episodes of the West Wing.

I finished the egg strata today.  So now, in my freezer I have two each of the following 4 serving meals:
Updated on 5/7/12 to let you know how we liked each meal.  We rated each meal on a scale of 1(gross!) to 5 (amazing!):

  • Blueberry Pancakes
Rating: 3.  Jeana liked them but the kids didn't like the flax seed texture.  Geary didn't really care for them either.
  • Banana Bread Muffins 
Rating: 5.  Super delicious!  We've made them a few more times since then.  Make sure to use VERY ripe bananas.  
  • Orange Spice Muffins 
Rating: 4.  This was the recipe that I accidentally put a tablespoon of salt into instead of a teaspoon.  Oops!  They were very salty.  But I made a new batch with the proper amount of salt and they were pretty good!
  • Thai Vegetable Soup
Rating: 3.5.  Jeana LOVED this soup but the kids weren't crazy about it.  Geary is not a fan of Thai food and wished it had meat.  If I make it again I'll be sure to add chicken or something.  It was especially good served over jasmine rice.
  • Chicken Fried Rice
Rating: 5.  Everyone loved this.  
  • Minestrone Soup
Rating: 4.5.  We ended up adding ground beef to the recipe and although the kids aren't crazy about soup/beans they ate it.  Geary and Jeana both really liked it.
  • Egg Strata
Rating:  4.  It was pretty good.
  • Roasted Red Pepper Meatloaf
Rating: 4.5.  Everyone liked it but it was a little spicy for the kids.  Ketchup helped.  If I make it again I will use less peppers for sure.
  • Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf (was supposed to be burgers but I didn't feel like making patties so it became a meatloaf)
Rating: 4.  Everyone liked this but it was also kind of spicy for the kids.  
  • Raspberry Chicken
Rating: 5.  Everyone LOVED this.  It was also good as leftovers.  I ate it cold on top of a salad.  Yum!
  • Lemon & Spinach Stuffed Chicken
Rating: 4.5.  Really tasty!  It would have been even better served with some type of risotto or something.  
  • Beef Brisket Pot Roast
Rating:  4.  We've had better pot roast but this one was pretty good.
  • Sweet Pork Tacos
Rating:  3.5  I think everyone would have liked them better if I had bought flour tortillas instead of corn.  
  • Pork Chop Rice Casserole
Rating: 2.5.  The rice was added dry and was supposed to cook when we baked the casserole but it didn't.  It just stayed dry and hard.  The pork chop part was okay but we're also not big fans of pork.
  • Burgundy Mushroom Stew
Rating: 1.  Nobody liked this.  I should have guessed--it was very heavy on the mushrooms and also used sweet potatoes which was just an odd combo.  The original recipe got rave reviews so some people evidently love it...just not us.

No wonder I was exhausted!!

Now that I've had a good night's sleep I know I definitely want to try this again.  Here's what I'll do differently in April.
  • Carefully read through the chopping list and all the recipes.  I bought a fresh ginger root and then had to mince the whole thing (it was used in a lot of recipes).  I don't even know what you're supposed to use to mince ginger root so I ended up using a really fine cheese grater.  This took forever and had I known better I would have just purchased a jar of minced ginger.  The same goes for garlic.
  • Borrow a food processor and do not skip Chopping Day!!  I'll need to save up some money to buy a good one (this month's allowance went to a new cell phone since I put my old one through the washer--again).
  • Consider doing all the baking on Chopping Day to make Cooking Day go faster.
  • Wear shoes.  And maybe a back brace. 
  • Create a measuring cup and spoon station.  I kept misplacing these and I'm pretty sure I accidentally put 1/2 tablespoon of salt into a recipe that called for 1/2 teaspoon.  Next time I'll know better on how to organize my working spaces.
  • Plan break times and have little snacks prepared for myself to grab throughout the day. 
I can see how this will be good for my family.  I still don't love cooking but I like this plan. And trying new recipes was actually kind of fun.  I've never cooked with shitake mushrooms or parsnips before.  I tasted the Banana Bread Muffins (amazing! And they are gluten, dairy, and sugar free! Here's the recipe), the Thai Vegetable Soup, and the Chicken Stir Fry.  We had the Blueberry Pancakes for breakfast this morning.  So far everything has been delicious!

Here's the website again in case you don't want to scroll all they way back up: Once A Month Mom  Oh, and did I mention that all the plans and menus and everything are totally free?  It's seriously awesome.  I noticed a button on the website for people to donate money which I will be doing because I am super thankful that they've taken the hardest mental parts out of the whole process for me.  There are also posts on how to create your own menus and shopping lists in case you don't like all the items on the current menu.

So there you go.  My first experience with Once A Month Cooking.  If you read this whole thing you are a champ.  Pat yourself on the back.

Young Jedi

Last weekend Auntie Em took Noah to see Star Wars Episode I in 3D.  Geary and I encouraged Noah to wear the Jedi Costume I had made last summer.  Noah was game and I knew he could get away with it because he's a really cool kid.  I asked Autie Em to take a picture of Noah by the movie poster if she could.  But Noah was able to come home with a much cooler souvenir

The movie theater employees were so impressed with his costume they gave him the official movie theater poster!   We told Noah that for the 3D release of Episode II we'll try to go to a midnight premier where lots of people other people will be in costume, too.  For now we just have to find a place to hang Noah's poster where it won't look too scary at night!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Interview with Toby

In 2009 I interviewed Noah as a six year old.  You can read his answers here.  This time I'm interviewing Toby who will be five on March 29th.

1. What is something your mom always says to you?
          Toby, can you clean up your room?

2. What makes your mom happy?
          Eating  ice cream?  That makes me happy.

3. What makes your mom sad?
          I have no idea.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
          When she says funny things at me.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
          I think she liked baby dolls.

6. How old is your mom?
          20 and half?

7. How tall is your mom?
          86 inches.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

          Getting ice cream.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
          Working or making something.  Like she could make a shirt or pants for me.  Or she could make a  soft banana that is not real.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
         Being really funny.

11. What is your mom really good at?
          Making stuff.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
         Putting all the clothes away.  She just leaves 'em on the couch lots of days.

13. What does your mom do for a job?
         My mom is a artist. What's a artist?

14.What is your mom's favorite food?
         .Cereal?  Is that your favorite food?

15.What makes you proud of your mom?
         That she works so much.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
          Isabella, because she has black hair.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
          .Watch a movie.  Play Mancala.  Uh...that's about it.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
          We both have the same color hair.  And we both have long eyelashes.

19. How are you and your mom different?
         Uh...we don't  have the same shirt.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
          She tells me and she gets pizza for me sometimes.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
          Everything.  His hugs.  She's happy to see him.

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?

Friday, March 09, 2012

First Project

Look what I made with Irene today!   This is the gathered clutch design by Anna from Noodlehead.  And I pinned a Bloom Brooch to the front for an added touch of whimsy.   I actually bought Anna's pattern with the rights to sell my finished clutches so you might see some in my etsy shop soon.  This one and another that I made today are gifts so some people might want to keep an eye on their mailboxes :)

If you'd like to make your own gathered clutch Anna has a free tutorial that can be found HERE, plus lots of other great sewing projects on her blog, Noodlehead.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Yesterday afternoon  heard a "blam, blam, blam!" at the front door.  
When I opened the door this enormous box was on the doorstep.

 It was full of packing peanuts.  Yay!

But there was something else, too.

Something named...Irene.

Do you know what it is?

My new sewing machine! 

When my old sewing machine died  I emailed my husband's sister's husband's mother (my mother-in-law-in-law, although I should just call her my fairy godmother-in-law), Ginny, because she is an incredible quilter and I trusted her advice on what to look for in a sewing machine.  I asked a bunch of questions and she not only answered all of them but she also emailed her quilters guild and asked if anyone had a machine they weren't using that she could buy for cheap.  Ginny's friend Irene responded immediately that she had one that she wanted to find a new home for and that I could have it for free.  

Isn't she beautiful?  And clearly, I have to name her Irene.  

And she has everything I wanted in a machine.  
Clear, easy to decipher dials and buttons.

A drop in bobbin case.
  Vertical ones are the bane of my sewing existence. 

A free arm for sewing clothes!

And look at all the feet she came with!  This isn't even all of them, I found more after I took these photos.  And look, look!  A walking foot!!!  Do you you even know how much I wanted one of those?? 

Plus Irene included all these bobbins and some extra needles and other notions. I am giddy!

AND it even came with this serger attachment!  
This is so above and beyond.  And Irene just gave it me.  
And Ginny organized it all and mailed it to me.  
I am blessed.  So blessed.

Oh, Irene, we are going to be good friends!

Thank you, Ginny and Irene for my beautiful new sewing machine!

And thank you, Abba, for providing beyond what I could even ask or imagine.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Return of the Mojo

I haven't been feeling very inspired to blog lately.  I even posted this on facebook:

So here we go.


Some people love cooking. They find it relaxing.  They just can't wait to mix up the perfect blend of textures and flavors.  It makes them happy and they feel accomplished and they want to feed everyone they meet with this amazing new recipe they just invented.

 I am not one of  those people.  This e-card perfectly sums up how I feel about cooking:


Basically, I go about my day doing chores and finishing projects and being amused by my hilarious children and wondering what a baby platypus is called* and every single day dinner time sneaks up on me.  I know this is because of my own lack of planning and time management.  But even when I plan menus and write post-it note reminders to myself about when it's time to cook dinner I don't love doing it.  For awhile, it was even on my "To Don't List."  Unfortunately, it's back on my "To Do" list now so I really need to get a system in place.  Bleh.  But I still don't like it.  Anyone who wants to come and be my chef for free is hired! 


Weigh in Wednesday is still alive an active.  We're just alive and active on our own WIW blog now!  So you don't have to miss those posts.  You just have to click over to the new WIW site every Wednesday to see what we're talking about and to check in about your weight loss journey, too, if you want to.  There is also a link to the WIW blog at the top of this blog. 

What Miles is Doing Right Now

Right now, at 3:07pm on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, Miles is...taking a nap. 

As for what he's doing at this general time in history well, he's still very into clothes.  He can usually be found wearing gloves (a.k.a. hands), a hat, and his rain boots.  He also loves costumes and whenever he wears a jedi cloak or a clone trooper mask he says, "I'm a Lego!"  This is because his brothers are very into Lego Star Wars.  Despite his love of wearing accessories, Miles is not a big fan of wearing his diaper lately.  Fun times.  He also loves puzzles, play food, coloring, and play dough.  His current favorite movies are The Cwebbles (Incredibles) and Pickly Me (Despicable Me).  He plays a mean air guitar and his current favorite snack is raisins which he calls "some o'doze yittle sings."  

Thank you, Tara, Kelsey, and Garyanna for helping me find my blog mojo!  Come back tomorrow because I'll have an exciting post to share!
*A baby platypus doesn't have an official name but is commonly called a Puggle or a Platypup.  The more you know! (ding)