Category: Informational- No Recipe


So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

Hot damn; I’m bloggin’ again! I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve said to myself “I really want to blog… but I’ve got nothing.” You may ask “Why nothing?” To which I answer “because of the kitchen from hell with which I was making do.” See; when we moved to South Dakota I was in Colorado with the kids and my husband was in the Dakotas/Minnesota area working and it was almost impossible, as the new guy, to get time off to go look at places to live. So we went down to the wire and found the mobile home that would be ours with only a couple of days left before he came back to Colorado to get us. The mobile home was AWFUL but it was what we could get. Unfortunately, the worst part was the kitchen. My stove couldn’t boil a pot of water reliably (I’m not joking), the oven turned out to be incredibly finicky, and I had almost zero counter space. I literally had about a 3 inch width of counter space to work with most of the time, otherwise known as “the counter in front of the sink”. I’m perfectly serious; that’s all I had to work with. The tiny amount of counter to the right of the sink was constantly full of drying dishes and counter top stuff that could go NOWHERE else, the stove had hot spots over the pilot lights for the burners; if you weren’t careful, just setting something on the stove would melt it and I burned myself  a few times by forgetting those hot spots were there. All this to say that as the days wore on and I tried to cook and bake I was met with failure after failure. I’ve cooked in inadequate kitchens before. I started this blog cooking in one, in fact. But the kitchen in that mobile home was totally and completely unusable for anything beyond frozen pizza and what could come out of the microwave. I went back to buying nearly everything premade. Our budget suffered because that stuff is way more expensive than homemade and our waistlines suffered because it’s also far less healthy than what I make from scratch. I haven’t blogged because there was not a single thing coming out of that kitchen that was blog worthy. It was awful. It was depressing. AND IT’S OVER!!!

If you’ll notice, I have been using the past tense in my explanation. We’ve moved! Yes; again. But not only that… We’ve bought a house! It’s in beautiful Northern Wisconsin and in desperate need of interior updating (meaning it’s a very sound house, but the previous owners seem to have not updated the inside since the late 70’s/early 80’s), but it’s ours and at a crazy low price! That means we can afford to make the aesthetic upgrades it needs.

Kitchen

Yeah. Definitely needs some upgrading. But it’s actually MINE! I’m not borrowing it from family or renting it from a landlord. And, get this, the kitchen has crazy amounts of storage space! It may not look like much, but there’s plenty of counter space and very nearly my whole kitchen has been unpacked into it and I have cabinets and drawers left empty! Seriously!! I have never had enough space in my kitchen so this is amazing!!

But, the kitchen not withstanding, I still have a lot of work to do unpacking the rest of our stuff. This being the case, I’m trying to make sure I cook easy meals with as little clean up as possible so I can do what I need to do in the rest of the house. I’ll have plenty of time for kicking around the kitchen after our stuff is unpacked. So this week I’m re-sharing my recipe for Crock Pot Caesar Chicken. It’s quite possibly THE easiest recipe I have in my entire repertoire. It truly is almost as easy as ordering takeout, it tastes fabulous, and there is a very small amount of cleanup. It’s also versatile: serve it as a sandwich, a wrap, on a salad, or even just on Triscuits or crackers!

I’m hoping to start blogging regularly once again. But if I can’t make it every week for awhile, please forgive me. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me thus far! ❤

Crockpot (Slow Cooker) Caesar Chicken

Crockpot Caesar Chicken

 

 

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance 🙂

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/

I wanted to do a quick post just for the people stopping by for their first visit or those wanting to see what’s new. Currently there’s A LOT that’s new- just nothing I can post about at the moment. Everything is up in the air, but that’s a good thing. My husband has been in the hiring process for an amazing job since late January and is now finally at training. Things have been so crazy lately that I haven’t been able to write a coherent post in months. I want to blog but I’m afraid I’m on a bit of a forced hiatus until about June. But I will return! And when I do I will be blogging from a new kitchen- my own kitchen instead of my in-law’s! Please keep checking in and looking around- I’m glad to have you!

So I’m taking this week off. Why? Because I’ve had a crappy week, that’s why. We have been having MAJOR issues with the minivan we bought in February and the worst of it has been in the last 2 weeks. I’ve seen our mechanic far more than any person should see their mechanic. Ever. Last week I almost caused an accident because the van was acting up and so back to the mechanic I went. The time from last Tuesday to this Tuesday was spent trying to get life lived with no transportation and figure out how to still get things accomplished in a town that is not very walking-friendly. Most of it is a blur. An exhausting blur. Needless to say, being able to blog was a fond wish this last week.

The van is kindof fixed now so we’ll see what happens. I can at least get to the grocery store and do what needs to be done appointment-wise, so life is somewhat better now. All I can do is smile and continue on. I’m still Blessed and Loved and that’s more than I could ever ask for. I will have a post up next Wednesday and it’s going to be awesome! I really think you’re going to like this one! 🙂

Only 8 more weeks of summer left! I can’t even tell you how ready I am for summer to end after this week. C’mon autumn!

Food Porn… I’ll admit it: I love it. I’ll go so far as to say that I’m almost addicted to it. I spend several hours a week on Foodgawker, browsing the pictures; looking for a dish I’d like to spend some time with and make my own. Don’t look at me like that. You’ve seen it- and you’ve probably drooled over it at least a little. At the very least you’ve seen it and thought “Hey- I’d eat that”. But if you’re like me you see the amazing food pictures in magazines, on TV, and on the internet and you oggle them openly; dreaming about how that dish tastes because it looks so good you have to stop yourself from licking the screen, or imagining the delightful texture (that they’ve so cleverly highlighted) on your tongue. I also happen to see those and think “I can make that, better than they can even- it just won’t look anything like what’s in the picture”.  And that’s the catch. When you see food porn you are looking at something shot by a professional almost every single time. Food porn, like regular porn, isn’t real. The food, like the act, is real- sure. The dish was cooked mostly according to the recipe, with a tweak here and there for aesthetics, so that the final product can be molded into something that will be the height of photogenic. And that, my friends, defeats the whole purpose of why I am writing this blog. I’m going to be arrogant for a moment, so bear with me. (I am the Humble Food Snob after all. Sometimes I’m prone to a bit of actual snobbery ;.)) When I cook or bake, the results are- usually- pretty darn amazing. BUT, while it looks very appetizing,  it doesn’t look like something you’d find on Foodgawker or on the cover of a magazine. And I realized something recently: that is how it should be! I write my blog to help people understand that with a very few exceptions anyone can do what I do! Anyone can turn out fantastic food- you just have to learn how and the lessons are not that hard! I’ve been beating myself up since I started this blog because my pictures aren’t food porn. I’ve seriously come to the brink of giving up on something I truly enjoy because my pictures aren’t “good enough”. They aren’t something that a food editor would jump at to put on a magazine or feature in an article online. That being the case I was convinced that my blog wouldn’t be a success. I have recently realized that that is not the truth. For my blog to be a success all it takes is ONE PERSON to be inspired to try to cook something they wouldn’t have considered before; for ONE PERSON to realize that they can cook! So no- my pictures are not professional quality. If that turns you off I’m sorry. But I will continue to try my hardest to get the best pictures I can and hopefully they will be sufficient to boost the inspiration! So, that being said, my next blog post will be an actual food post- with a recipe and all! :.)

I’m back! I have missed blogging terribly but I have come to a realization: I am a seasonal blogger. I hate Summer. I really do. I have what you might call Reverse SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder); instead of getting down when it’s grey and cool/cold for too long, I get down and moody when it’s sunny and warm/hot for too long. When it’s cool/cold, grey and wet I am nearly giddy- no exaggeration. So Summer for me is endless torment. Especially this summer with it’s drought. I tried to blog but got nowhere because I resented being in the kitchen when it was so hot and I was moody because of endless sunlight and heat. Also, Summer food just isn’t that much fun to cook or blog for me. My favorite foods are comfort foods which are, for me, synonymous with Fall & Winter foods. So I have decided that I will blog during my preferred time of year- doing so happily- and take Summers off.

On to today’s topic: Menu Planning. I posted on Facebook last night that I am going a bit menu crazy right now. I have November’s menu nearly done (two slots to fill + a few sides to figure out!) and I’ve also gotten a start on December’s menu. I got a few comments to the tune of astonishment and a question of “How do you do that?” as well. So I decided to address the topic because I really do think most everyone can benefit from having a menu plan. It saves me money on groceries and it saves me tons of headache trying to figure out what to get on the table for dinner. I used to spend way too much money on things that were easy to get on the table because I didn’t have a plan and I spent way too much thought on “What in the world am I going to make for dinner tonight?!’ But then I started planning out my menus and it was an incredible relief to be able to go to the fridge and, instead of staring blankly into it racking my brain for something to make for dinner, just take a look at the menu hanging there and say “oh- I need to make sure I start cooking____ at 4 pm and then make ____ to go along with it. Oh and I need to get ____ out to start thawing for dinner 2 nights from now”. Dinner problem solved. It’s an incredible blessing to not have that stress anymore!

So here’s the how-to… As I’ve mentioned, I plan my menus out a month ahead of time. We do a big trip to Sam’s and King Soopers at the beginning of each month and then we do little filler trips in between. So for me it’s just easier to do the whole month at once but alot of people just do a weekly menu and that’s great- whatever works for the way you do things! One of the commenters on Facebook said she would love to do a month at a time and fewer shopping trips but hasn’t figured out how to do so because of produce & other perishables. Those are the things I buy on the filler trips. After our big shopping trips are out of the way (and when I say big I mean BIG. We need 2 carts at Sam’s and sometimes King Soopers as well) my filler trips usually consist of about 10 items. Things like milk, produce, yogurt, etc. are on my fill in list. And let me tell you- doing it this way may not cut down on the number of trips but it is so much easier to get just a few things each week than having to negotiate the entire store with a full shopping list every week. What’s the trick to having only one big shopping trip every month instead of weekly large trips? Besides menu planning, of course: using pretty much the same things every month. I have also mentioned before in this blog that my family cannot eat the same thing all the time. And it’s true. We can’t. We can’t do pizza every Saturday night or Tacos every Wednesday night. We’d go crazy. That’s just the way we are. I can’t make any dish more than once each month. But my shopping list looks pretty much the same every month. How? I use the same items just in completely different ways. I buy 10 pounds of chicken breasts and about 6 pounds of hamburger every month but there are literally thousands of ways to cook them. Those are just 2 examples but you get the point. And if your family can do Taco Wednesday and Pizza Saturday, etc. every week then your battle to get a menu plan done is half won. You just plug those in and you’re good to go! You’ll actually have an easier time making a monthly menu than I do!

As for the mechanics of how I make my menus- the actual writing them out- I use a pen & paper as well as my Google Calendar. I keep spiral bound notebooks that are solely for menu planning. Here is what I have so far for November…

In the upper right hand corner I have the number of meals I will need for the month and the page is numbered accordingly. You can see that I have a special section for Breakfast for dinner. That is the one thing my family can eat every single week. I always do it on a different day of each week and I always make something different each time. The items that are circled are special meals that have a whole menu of their own- in this case Zachariah’s birthday dinner and Thanksgiving. If you’re one who is counting the number of meals I have listed you will see that things don’t add up- I’m missing some days. That’s because I make Sundays “Fend For Yourself” nights. (BTW, one could also make these “Leftover Nights” and get rid of all the bits & pieces that are kicking around your fridge.) That is the night I take off of cooking and I make maybe chicken nuggets or frozen pizza as a main dish for the kids and then Ron (if he’s home) and I will eat later. After the kids go to bed we might have frozen pizza or I might make some sort of special sandwich or something and we’ll watch a movie or the like and just spend time together. The point is I’m not cooking a whole meal that has to be on the table for the whole family at one time. I’m the only one in the house that does the cooking and the dishes so every week I get a break on Sunday night.  This is the format for every month. And since I keep all the menu lists together in spiral notebooks it’s easy for me to go back and get ideas for current and future menus, see what I’ve made recently, and what I haven’t made for awhile that may be due for a reappearance. You could do this on your computer of course but I like having it on paper so that if something happens to my computer (Heaven forbid!!) I can still access all my menu info and not have to start again from scratch. After I have this page done for the month I go to my Google Calendar and plug everything in, making sure we aren’t having chicken 3 nights in a row or Breakfast twice in one week; that sort of thing. This is also where I make my lists for my big shopping trips as well as plan out some of my smaller weekly shopping trips. If I see a recipe that will be made, say,  in the 3rd week of the month that needs heavy whipping cream I can plan to get that the week I’m making the dish instead of at the beginning of the  month because if I bought it during the big trip it would be bad by the time I needed it.

Now this is just how I do mine. There are many ways to menu plan but this is what works best for me. I’ve checked out the menu planning sites but I don’t like them. Most of them want you to pay for the really “useful” things they offer and most of them make planning too complicated. I am perfectly capable of (and thoroughly enjoy) making my own shopping lists & tracking sales, and I don’t need their recipe ideas & suggestions so I leave those sites alone and do it this way. I use Google Calendar because it’s the one I’ve found that is easiest to use with they way I do menu planning. And no one says you have to do it by the month- by the week is fine. Or maybe you just do the weekdays and weekends are open. There are also some people who only plan out the main dishes and leave the sides for last minute. I don’t do it that way because that’s not how my brain works but if that works for you that’s awesome! You’ll still have a much easier time figuring out what to make for dinner than if you didn’t plan ahead of time at all.

I hope this has helped those who are having a hard time in the menu planning department. I can’t even begin to tell you how much having a menu pre-planned and on paper (or in the computer) has helped to relieve my stress in the kitchen. To be able to look at my menu and know what I’m making each day is so much more preferable to the dropping feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I realized I had to have dinner made in a few hours & I had no clue what to make and all the meat was frozen still. Once you put the effort into getting it done and see how much it helps it will be a breeze to do each time :.)