Sunday, September 25, 2011

MPM--September Sliding Away

Well, that month went fast. I think our routine is pretty good at this point, and now it's a race against the clock to finish all those projects I wanted to do "before I went back to work." I got the banking settled (woot! streamlining paperwork and cash flows FTW!), cleared the outgrown kids' clothes out of the attic, rejiggered the linen closet, and feverishly crammed through papers dating back to 2004. (Yep, just about the time I started staying home. Coincidence? I think not.)

This week: clear the boys' rooms...oh, wait. Nevermind. You were here for a meal plan. Right.

Monday: leftovers from Sunday spaghetti dinner with the family, veggies from CSA share

Tuesday: taco Tuesday!

Wednesday: chicken in mustard-cream sauce (see sidebar), or ginger-hoisin sauce (see below), or asparagus ketchup (trying again), salad, baked potatoes, CSA veggies

Thursday: leftovers, I hope, with veggies from the CSA

Friday: Football Friday. I'm so on it.

One other bloggy note before I go on to last week's reviews. Did you know it's less than 100 days to Christmas? Alas, there's the sad truth. So one more thing I did on my list: wrap the pre-bought gifts (also a review of What I Had since an October birthday is coming) and started with the 100 Days to Christmas blog. I do a (pathetically light) version of the Holiday Grand Plan, but can't keep up with it, but the 100 Days routine is much more my speed. With (usually) only one item a day, they do a great job keeping me on track for the holidays without feeling like I need to just leave my house and start over. It's also not just Christmas, they are sure to stop and enjoy the fall too. (Go apple picking, etc.) And: bonus this year: some great giveaways! They had an awesome Kindle giveaway last week. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next!

So, I got to the salmon with bok choy this week. My older son went crazy for the hoisin-honey-ginger sauce and had it on his chicken and rice. The salmon was yummy and easy. The bok choy was not a hit. I liked it but it wasn't great.

Based on the CSA, I made some kale chips on the fly. Oh, mercy--I forgot just how many of these my boys would chow down on. Why am I not making these every week??? The kale at the produce store is $1/bunch. Beats the heck out of chips, price- and nutrition-wise.

I'm also back in my miso-sweet potato groove, since we are receiving tubers of unusual size in the CSA this time of year. I love them and am enjoying them for lunch, um, yep, just about daily.

And the lunch box challenge is getting more challenging. The mercurial tastes of my son means that the exact same foods are chewed one day and eschewed another. And this is my "good" eater! But I did get 12/13 meals out the door last week. (I didn't know my husband was going to work early on Friday and there wasn't room in our very small fridge to have it made the night before.) So I'm working on it for next week and amping up the creativity factor. we have eight years of time at home coming to an end. That's not really fair; I've worked for pay for five of those eight years, but none with as much out-of-the-house time as this. It's amazing to me, I'm going back almost exactly eight years to the day after I left, almost the same amount of time my mother had, so I think in my psyche, I was just feeling like "it worked for her, it can work for me" and it made it easier. Of course, finding the right job helped a lot too. So stay tuned for a recap of my last "week of leisure" (ha ha, for that, I should have worked while they were little and taken off once they were in school!) and the blowing out of the water next week of all the routines I've grown to love. Have a great week and wish me luck in mine!

For really inspired meal plans, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! and see her most impressive list!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MPM--September Surprises

Well. Sometimes things come out of nowhere in a good way. I'm employed! It's a job I had no idea existed three weeks ago (unusual in my field, which is small and specific) but it's as close to an incarnation of a dream as I'll ever see. And in keeping with the dreamlike quality--they rewrote the contract to 25 hours per week for the first year so I could be home with my kindergartener after school. I am SO excited about the job and the company that thinks like that.

In other surprises, it was announced during back-to-school night that I am homeroom mom for my older son. I did not volunteer for that. I felt like Harry Potter when his name flew out of the goblet. I'll take it as a compliment. And fortunately, another mom I really like volunteered to help me once it had been announced.

This week:

Monday: really, the Crazy Jane's chicken this week, and stuff from the veggie box.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday

Wednesday: sausage bake (see sidebar for recipe), something green (maybe creamed spinach from the freezer, maybe something from the CSA box)

Thursday: Back to School Night (last one of three! phew) means leftover buffet

Friday: Football night! One of the cousins is a senior at a rival high school so it's his last season. They have an excellent concession stand (Chik-Fil-A, good pizza, and great hoagies from a local shop) so we'll have something there. Woohoo!

Not a whole lot to report from last week...I switched out the chicken for the pork with creamy mustard sauce (see sidebar for recipe link) and was reminded again how much I LOVE that sauce. And I say Crazy Jane's chicken but honestly? I might do creamy mustard chicken. So that might have to happen again.

Also, for the funeral last week, I was in charge of dips, and a kind friend sent some suggestions. I had so many, I forgot to bring the spinach dip over (fortunately someone else had brought it too). But: I thought that my spinach was too leafy, and my water chestnuts were definitely too big. So I threw it all in the food processor and yum. I ate it all week with carrots and celery, tremendously boosting my carrot and celery intake as well. So I need to do more experimenting with this. Maybe my son isn't the only one in the family who prefers things in the "smoothie" texture family.

And that's it from here. The school year started well (ok, there was the 2-hour stomach flu last Friday, but really, he was fine by 10am, so it barely counts), and things are humming along. If you work and have small kids and have fabulous meal ideas, please let me know. I'm all ears. Also? The older one is skipping the yogurt in his lunchbox (and won't eat sandwiches at school, he says they "smell funny" by lunchtime) and comes home starving. He won't eat cheese or eggs and they restrict nuts...any suggestions for proteins?

What are you making this week? Connect your post with menu at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MPM--September Mourn

The school year started off well, and soccer season is in full swing. But our family lost our patriarch last week, and it's really a bigger blow than I thought it would be. His 89th birthday would have been this month, and once he got past 80, it just seemed he'd live forever. But that's not really how life works, and so we go on. Add that to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which coincidentally coincides with my mother's death, and I'm really in a funk. I'll move on. But this week, like many others, I'm pausing to reflect, remember, and wrap myself in good thoughts.

This week:

Monday: yay veggies! Crazy Jane's Chicken and whatever's in the box.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday.

Wednesday: pulled pork sandwiches, roasted potatoes, something from the CSA box (it's back-to-school night for one child, so my sister- and brother-in-law are coming to babysit, yay, so big dinner for all)

Thursday: leftovers, if any, and if not, freezer dinner.

Friday: salmon with bok choy, rice. Kids might starve.

I'm obsessed with the White Beans & Cabbage. It's way better with butter. But I'll eat it either way.

I'm also obsessed with the Amazon grocery service with big discounts for scheduled deliveries. After seeing how fast we go through some of the pre-packed things with two kids with lunches, I'm scouting for the cheapest way. Thanks to a tip from a friend who works with Campbell's, I checked out Amazon, whom she told me is trying very hard to grow their grocery business. They have a thing going, Subscribe and Save, where you find the foods your family eats lots of, and sign up to have it delivered at intervals you choose, and you get a better price on it. I just joined our local big-box discount store (BJ's) and they have better prices on some things, but Amazon does on others, and the convenience of them showing up at my house when I need them...? Awesome. (Note: I am not an affiliate, alas, I just think this is very cool, even if it is iffy on the carbon footprint.)

I tried the Moroccan Shrimp recipe from Dinner: A Love Story but I think something was wrong with the shrimp, and I didn't have the cumin. I was the only one in the family who would eat it, and I wasn't letting $12 in shrimp go to waste. But it was not a big winner, alas. And otherwise, we didn't really try anything new. I shredded my zucchini and put it in the fridge, and it melted in to a big puddle of itself before I could make anything. Boo to me.

The Lunch Box Challenge, as predicted, wasn't very challenging, per se, but has been interesting. I have been trying to pack their lunches pretty much as they walk in the house. I also have adjusted what I'm sending; the sandwiches keep coming back home because my son is grossed out by them by the time he has lunch, so it's more full of little things (five yogurt pretzels, 6 cut up strawberries, a small container of goldfish or some other crunchy thing, a yogurt, a veggie or fruit item) than a traditional lunch. And they both get milk at school, which I love. They get chocolate milk, which is fine by me, because then we don't have it at home and it is Just Never Questioned. I love it when stuff like that works. And I'm willing to do it because it is hard to pack a drink for them that doesn't spill one way or the other; the chocolate milk tastes better than the white milk; and the school recycles the containers.

So, lots of transitions, lots of figuring out what we're doing, and I appreciate your patience as we get there. Sorry to be a bore but I'm really distracted by the rest of life and getting it on the computer is a stretch right now. BUT, if I don't, I'll be staring at 8 bags of nuts and butter shaped like a turkey in my freezer, wondering what to have for dinner, so the discipline is good for me.

For more inspiration posts, try I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MPM--Suddenly September

Well. Boy howdy, that was some storm last week, and I don't even live in Vermont. (If you do, I hope you are recovering.) We lost power from Saturday to Tuesday, and let me tell you--it was enough. "Camping in our own home" was not quite the cheery adventure I hoped to convince the kids it would be. And having the roving band of cranky boys from our street (9 in elementary school alone) with no access to electric entertainment--well, let's say that swordfighting has never been so popular on our street. There was lots of annoyed energy to go around.

It also threw off my meal plans in a big way. I could use the burners but not the stove, and we could grill. So we used a ton of things from the freezer, sent some off to kind friends around town with freezer space, and, in a teeny silver lining, cleaned and defrosted the freezer downstairs. So that's over. And while I totally admired my friends who went camping *after* the power was back, I am really feeling it for those who are still without. In a very first-world problem, our pool was shut down for the summer prematurely by the storm, which was sad, so soon after both boys got their blue ribbons (ie, passed the highest swim test). We were so proud, and I know they were too.

This week: school starts. Soccer gets serious. And we all try to get in the swing. So...

Monday: Labor Day. Last night before school starts. No CSA, but I am trying to use what we have. I will probably make the cabbage and white bean dish again, and I am hoping to try the Smitten Kitchen zucchini fritters because oy, the zucchini. We'll also have leftover tri-tip steaks from the freezer; see below.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, of course.

Wednesday: First day of kindergarten! I'm so excited. Noodles, little Mr. Picky's favorite, to celebrate his first day of the next 13 years of school.

Thursday: Leftovers & freezer meals.

Friday: Football game. I am hoping this week they bring back the walking tacos.

Not really much to report from last week. We grilled the frozen pizzas on the grill and while I prefer the toaster oven, it worked in a pinch. The baby eggplant were still delicious on the grill. One of the defrosted dishes was a chick pea curry I was happy to see again, and the Trader Joe's fettucini Alfredo were well received by the cheese-eating boy. My older one begged me to make peas when he saw them in the freezer, and I was happy to oblige. And I had a Kashi frozen meal--Lemongrass Chicken--that I will definitely purchase again. It was awesome.

One of the things that was defrosted was tri-tip steaks from Omaha. I got antsy reading all the websites that said how it can be tough if it's not marinated for 24 hours. So, we experimented, even though once it was out of the wrap, they seemed really tender. Two, we cut up in to kebab's with DALS's Tony's Steak dressing, then stuck 'em on skewers with cherry tomatoes. And two, we tried with this dry rub, despite a name that made me cringe. It was easy, and I had all the stuff, though I think I used too much of it. I would definitely use less next time, though when slices in to thin strips, it was easier to take. The kebabs were really dry, though, which was a bummer. Our grill has been fussy, so I don't blame the meat. For a steak dinner, it was easy and good.

If you aren't reading me in a reader (why not?)--and you are in the thick of school lunch prep--there is a challenge over here that I'm joining. It's not much of a "challenge" for me (my older son, the "good" eater, actually doesn't like most of the school lunches, woohoo!), but the giveaway is awesome, especially as my kids snarf Revolution Foods like the candy bars we save for desserts. I haven't found YoDrops anywhere but am intrigued.

And that's about all. For those who celebrate, Happy Labor Day! (My grandmother and her sisters were all in the ILGWU, so I still hum "look for the union label" on Labor Day.) And check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more menu plans!