I know, I know, it is the end of June. I completely forgot to come back and upload the rest of the June Menu goodies. With apologies- here you are. 🙂
So, you have your recipes, and you have fit them into a monthly menu, right? If not, see Meal Planning Part One- here. You will no doubt have filled your menu with family favorites, new recipes to try and fun treats. And if your meal plan looks like this:
Monday- Meatless Monday
Thursday- Chicken Bake
Saturday- Breakfast for Dinner
Well that is fine too. Whatever menu your family is happy with. I would suggest making sure you have actual copies of the recipes on hand. Also make sure your menu has an extras section for any other items you make regularly, be they bread, cookies, lunches, or that church potluck every 3rd Sunday (Yep I grew up Baptist. We potlucked). You don’t have to have exact recipes, but you will want to list what ingredients each recipe uses. I actually do this with recipes like my foil-wrapped chicken and potstickers. I don’t use an actual recipe, since I have made them enough that I have evolved my own recipes. Now here is how I like to do things, because this blog post is about my way. You will no doubt find your own way 🙂
I like to have actual printouts of the recipes I am making. Some of these are from month to month, some of these are new to this meal plan. (At the end of the year I go back through the recipes we have made all year and make a book out of our favortites. This year I plan to have one bound for my kitche. These make great family gifts. When my kids are old enough to move out I plan to send a copy of our family recipes with each of them).
I copy all the recipes text-only and paste them in a Word document, then I print them off. Each recipe gets its own page. Then they go into a three-ring binder with page protectors. This month I need to replace my page-protectors. They are several years old and are hard to read through anymore. My calendar of meals gets printed as well and put in the front of the notebook. (Don’t worry there will be pictures of this after I get my new page protectors).
Now comes the work. I label 4 sheets of notebook paper thusly: PRODUCE, DRY GOODS, MEATS/DELI, FRIDGE/FREEZER. If you are new to meal planning, I suggest you also label a fifth sheet: PANTRY STAPLES. I have been doing this long enough that pantry staples that I know I am out of go on the dry goods page automatically. Before I even start I can add things like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, oats, brown sugar, and other staples that I know I buy monthly. Don’t worry if you can’t make a list like this off the top off your head. Just add the pantry staples, that a recipe calls for, to the PANTRY STAPLES list. Then you can check that list against what is actually in your cupboard. If you are increasing the amount you are cooking, then you may have a couple of months that require you to purchase a lot of pantry staples while you build up a good base stash.
One by one, I go through the recipes, adding ingredients to the proper page. Tomorrow I will post my shopping lists for you to see in their rough form. If more than one recipe calls for the same ingredients, you can use hashmarks to indicate that you need more than one item. Let me give you a couple of examples: If I am making scones and biscuits in a month, I know they will both need baking powder. One jar of baking poweder is likely plenty. But if I am making fajitas and stuffed bell peppers, I know I will need 2-3 peppers for the fajitas and 8 additional peppers for the stuffed peppers. So while baking powder will be there singularly, bell peppers will have XI after it. As I continue through I will keep adding ingredients, so I may end up needing 15 bell peppers for the month. That gives me a very concise number as a base when shopping. If I find bell peppers on sale, I may buy extras for the freezer, knowing that we will eat them in fried potatoes or a few to keep fresh knowing that the kids love bell peppers and dressing for a snack. But at least I know what I NEED.
I also like to have the store flyer handy when making my list. If I need ground chicken or turkey but I see that leg quarters on sale for cheaper than I can buy already ground (and they usually are), I will get legs and quarters to take home and grind myself. If this is not an option for you that is fine, but keep in mind that if hamburger for burgers is $5.99 a lb and ground turkey is $3.99 a lb, you can easily sub in and make turkey burgers. Alternatively, instead of making burgers for everyone, you can also change your meal plan to include those legs and thighs, making half burgers and half grilled chicken legs. The key to shopping within a monthly budget for me is flexibility. It means thinking outside the box.
Many months, because of what is on sale, you will notice that our meals are heavy on chicken or heavy on meals that don’t use much meat. That is because I am shopping within my local sales, and planning accordingly. My budget doesn’t change just because the food I prefer to cook is not on sale. Another trick is to shop two or three different stores, time permitting. You can often find different items on sale different places, making it easier to round out your month with different options.
So send the kids out to play in the spring sunshine, take your notebook and recipes outside and get your lists roughed out. If they are messy or you make a mistake and put an item on there more than once, don’t sweat it. We will get there. Consider sides you might like to make, treats and snacks. You are halfway there!
Fridays on the Pond are typically Pizza Party Nights. Since I have been hosting the Meal Planning for Large Families page over on Facebook, I have been featuring recipe round-ups. This Friday I posted pizza recipes by the boatload. That of course led to the Froglets wanting pizza (which is fine, since pizza was the plan anyway.) Ray Bear found a recipe for Caprese Pizza, with a balsamic glaze, and begged me to make it. We decided on the caprese pizza, marghereta pizza, Greek pizza and peach cobbler pizza for dessert. Papa Frog voiced his opinion that 4 dinner pizzas was probably the right amount, and we agreed on 2 dessert pizzas. And people wonder why I don’t like to do take-away pizza. Even if it was as good as homemade, 6 large pizzas purchased from a pizza joint is not easy on the pocketbook. I started with my favorite pizza dough recipe. It’s amazing what one can do with flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil and whipped up the stovetop version of my crock-pot pizza sauce.
The caprese pizza called for tomatoes instead of a sauce so we started with it. I rolled out the crust, brushed on olive oil and baked it off. Then came the toppings. The entire time this Mama Frog was rolling out pizza, there were Froglets lined up watching. Let’s face it. That is probably as close as I am getting to know what it feels like to be a celebrity.
Topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes and ribboned basil leaves…
Then sliced fresh mozarella and a balsamic glaze.
Into the oven for 8 minutes and out for tasting.
He doesn’t really look convinced that this will be tasty, does he?
And he was right. He did not care for the tomatoes or the balsamic glaze. But everyone else loved it. In fact, they agreed whole-froggedly that the caprese pizza should have been the pizza we made 2 of.
Since it was her idea, Ray Bear got the first bite. She was supremely impressed.
Greek feta pizza with olives, feta and red onions- Papa Frog’s favorite.
Yesterday was unseasonably nice and after chores and school, the froglets spent the entire afternoon outside. Now, understand that on The Pond, in the winter, dark falls about 4:15. When the three big froglets came in, it was time for me to start dinner. The littles were playing computer games, and as much to stop a fight over electronics as anything I called the three big froglets into the kitchen. (This is also an excellent way to connect with kiddos you haven’t talked to for most of the day). I told them they could help make dinner and laid out the menu- spaghetti soup, salad with homemade bleu cheese dressing, garlic knots and chocolate lasagna for dessert. The way it worked out, each one started with a job for one dish (we combine bread and dessert tasks here). Ray Bear was in charge of salad and dressing, Lizard Breath made the soup and Jelly Bean helped me with dessert and bread. Lots of little steps and careful shopping, stirring and emulsing, mixing and kneading ensued. It wasn’t long before the kitchen smelled fantastic, and I had a group of laughing girls. Tiny Tadpole made a couple of disasters (a bowl of flour poured over his head like water *smh* and an upturned salad) but without fail, these were met good naturedly and as a team. Dinner was fabulous and the froglets got a lot of compliments, especially from Papa Frog who arrived at the end of dinner cooking. And the best part- they have all volunteered to help with dinner tonight as well. I am a firm believer that froglets should help cook. They should know the joy and the responsibility of feeding people. They should get to experience the service aspect and respect the work it takes to prepare the food they eat. And they should have the satisfaction of a thank you and plates scraped clean. At least that’s how we do things on The Pond.
Bleu Cheese Dressing
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
2 T. chopped parsley
3 gloves garlic chopped
2 dashes of worcestershire sauce
5 oz bleu cheese, divided
Add sour cream, mayo, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and half the bleu cheese crumbles to a bowl (or to the bowl of a food processor). Using a stick blender (or your food processor), pulse together until smooth. Stir in remaining bleu cheese crumbles with a spoon. Adjust seasoning to taste.
1 lb ground meat of choice (we used bison but any meat will work)
1 lg onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 pkg baby bell peppers (or one large bell pepper) sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1- 32 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
1 jar spaghetti sauce (or tomato sauce and extra spices)
2 tomato cans full of water
Brown meat in a pot. Add veggies and cook until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, adjusting salt and spices to taste. In another pot bring 2 qts water to boil. Break 4-8 oz spaghetti noodles into 4ths and add to the boiling water. Once cooked, drain and add to soup base. Serve immediately.
1/2 c warm water
2 T. yeast
1 T salt
1 T. sugar
4-5 c. flour
Add water, yeast, salt and sugar to mixer bowl. Let sit until yeast is nice and bubbly. Add flour 1 c at a time, mixing well between each addition. When dough is no longer sticky to the touch, cover and let rise until doubled.
Garlic finely chopped or garlic powder
1/4 c. butter, melted
Make your bread dough and let rise until doubled. Punch down dough and roll into a rectangle. Cut dough into strips and knot each strip. With a pastry brush, brush the topsof each knot with butter mixture and bake at 350 degrees until baked through. At this point, I use any remaining butter to brush the tops of the knots again.
6 T. butter, melted
1 pkg cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
2 small pkgs chocolate instant pudding
3 c milk + 2 T.
carton of whipped topping
Crush Oreos and combine with butter. Press into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Whip together cream cheese, 2 T. milk and 1 c. of the whipped topping until smooth. Spread over cooking bottom. Combine pudding mixes and 3 c. milk. Whip together until set and spread on top of cream cheese mixture. Spread remaining whipped topping over chocolate layer. I garnished with chocolate syrup and chopped Reeses PB cups.
Making dinner tonight with my Tiny Tadpole helper. I am making Italian Wedding Soup for my Frogs to enjoy, and what better spooky bread than bones. How do you keep a one year Froglet happy and out of trouble while you are cooking dinner? Lots of different ways. Some nights we baby wear.
Other times one of the Big Froglets lends a hand.
But tonight I let him help. Because really what is bread dough but play dough you can eat?
I have the best breadstick recipe that I found via Pinterest. But I have to admit, that knotting the ends so they look like bones makes them taste the best.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks here on The Pond. I have been busy making monster feet slippers and ghost fingerpuppets for Tiny Tadpole. But today, Papa Frog is back to work and fall is in the air! When we went grocery shopping in the city this weekend, I picked up some gorgeous locally grown apples and wanted to make poisoned candy apples and caramel apples before the Froglets got into them. For those who don’t know, poisoned candy apples are not poisoned apples at all, but are hard candy apples that are colored to look like something a out of a Halloween fable. I wanted to make black ones, but alas, someone had gotten into my gel coloring. I did however manage to find my white food coloring (which adds a nice color) and I used green and yellow. They turned out quite lovely. They are even bubbly and poisonous looking. I will just have to keep the Froglets out of them until after Papa Frog gets home.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cups water
- ½ cup liquid glucose/light corn syrup
- few drops food coloring (or mix your own colors)
- 6 -7 apples
- Grease a piece of baking paper and place on a tray/baking sheet.
- Insert popcicle sticks in all the apples and set aside.
- In a medium pot, combine the sugar, water, glucose/corn syrup and food colouring and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture feels smooth when you rub it between your fingers.
- When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and wash the sides of the pot down with a pastry brush dipped into clean water to prevent crystals from forming.
- Allow the candy to boil until it reaches the hard crack stage (150°c/310°F).
- Carefully dip the apples into the hot candy mixture and place on the baking paper to set and cool before eating.
WARNING: THESE ARE HARD CANDY APPLES. THEY ARE NOT SOFT CARAMEL OR SOFT TOFFEE. The coating is meant to be licked and crunched. Not for little ones.
Tiny Tadpole thinks he is quite big enough for a candy apple thank you! (But he is not)
Ok, so technically this candy has so many names, but for Talk Like A Pirate Day, we called it Pirate Candy. Papa Frog often makes hard tack, but this was a fun and yummy mock hard tack treat for the Froglets.
To make your own Pirate Candy you will need:
1 1/2 sleeves of soda crackers
1 c. butter (use the real stuff)
1 c. light brown sugar
1 bag of dark chocolate chips.
Line a large sheet tray with aluminum foil. Lay the soda crackers in a single layer, taking care to fill in the cracks the best you can.
In a saucepan, add sugar and butter and cook over med-hi heat, stirring constantly until the sugar and butter melt and begin to carmelize.
Pour caramel mixture over the crackers and slide your sheet pan into a preheated (400 degree) oven for 5 minutes. Remove, sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the hot caramel-y crackers. At this point you can either spread them with a silicone paddle or you can just leave them as mostly whole chips.
Pop your sheet tray in the freezer for 10 minutes, break into pieces and let your wee Pirate Froglets devour. Warning: These are incredibly tasty and prone to disappearance!