Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Family Time & Early Spring

sunflowerPracticing Contentment by remembering the graces in the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This morning, while I am going to miss my after church quiet time at home, taking a moment this morning to write while rain pitter-patters outside and I can listen to HandyMan play with a happy GBaby - it's just as good!

This week we took a break from our normal and spent a week with family in Arizona.  IMG_3617This first taste of spring warmth will hopefully pull us through the last weeks of winter back home.  It was such fun watching GBaby grow closer to her grandparents, aunt and uncles.  She has explored the outdoors on her two little feet barefoot and now with sneakers and is getting the walking thing down pat! She continues to hold her record as a great traveler as she played happily throughout all our flights on Monday.

One of the biggest bright spots of last week came on Monday when we were traveling.  We placed the "amen" at the end of a a prayer for smooth travels and an on-time or miraculous early arrival.  It was almost like God was sitting up in heaven, scratching his beard saying, "yeah, ok".  Not 2 minutes later, my cell phone rang with an alert that our first flight was delayed by 2 hours.  A quick schedule review in my head told me that we would miss our connection which was the last flight of the day to our destination.

So I sent HandyMan and GBaby to drop the dog off with friends and I went inside to call the airline.  After navigating the goofy voice prompt system, I finally got a helpful reservations agent on the line.  I quickly explained the situation and no sooner did I finish explaining than he offered to re-route us on another airline which would have us arriving at our destination an hour earlier than scheduled.  He put me on hold to finalize the plan with the other airline.  Holding...holding...holding...holding.  Finally he came back, gave me a confirmation number and we were ready to go.  We made our connections with plenty of time and arrived an hour earlier than originally planned.  Direct answers to the small prayers are great!

It has been a good week, full of brightness and family.  May your week be blessed!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sewing a Computer Sleeve

As I was preparing for a recent family vacation, I was lamenting the absence of a computer sleeve for my netbook.  I went searching online, but kept asking myself if I really needed to spend the money on it.  The more I thought about it, the answer was "no".  I remembered batting that I had leftover from the Memory Quilt with Photos.  I also knew that I had a yard of lightweight denim in my fabric stash as well as some striped fabric leftover from some curtains I had made.

I didn't have a pattern to work from - so this is a "freestyle" project.  I knew I wanted it to have the main pocket for the netbook, a pocket that would fall inside the front flap to hold accessories and a pocket on the back side, outside the flap to hold my calendar, notebook for shopping lists, etc.

When I made the Mommy Bag I had worked with a bag pattern that had a pocket that ran around the outside of the bag so I used the same theory here.

I cut a large rectangle of the denim, batting and striped fabric that was a bit wider than the width of the netbook, and long enough to make the main pocket of the sleeve and the flap.  Then I cut a smaller rectangle of the three materials that was 3 inches wider than the first rectangle and about 15" long so that it would make the two outside pockets of the sleeve.

compsleeve1I sewed one ends of the rectangles and  turned them.  Then I folded in the edges of the flap and sewed it with top stitching.  Finally I pinned the two rectangles together and sewed the side seams together.  If you want a totally finished product, you could put bias tape over these seams.  I just stitched and trimmed.  Here's the finished sleeve:

compsleeve5

compsleeve4

I had some buttons around, so I attached them as closures for the flap.  With about two hours of work and materials I had on hand, I had a computer sleeve that was ready to go.

compsleeve3

This is part of the Sewing Show and Tell weekCheck the main post to link up your favorite sewing project or to get more ideas!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Toddler T-Shirt Dress: Reusing Your T for your Toddler

sewingshow&tellThere are many different ways to make t-shirt dresses for your toddling little girl.  One way is to take a shirt that fits the little one add a skirt of matching fabric and voila!  Easy dress.  This is what I had in mind when I went surfing through cyber-space and found so many other creative ideas.  Like this super cute ruffles and roses dress. I also found these directions for taking an adult t-shirt and making a toddler dress.

gdressIn this picture GBaby is sporting the finished dress with a white long sleeve onesie and her gray T-shirt pants - we'll have directions for that easy project tomorrow!

For this project I invested in a Twin Needle and it was SO worth it.  It took some tweaking of my bobbin tension (little screw on my bobbin case) to get it right, but it made sewing this together so much easier!

The other trick I used for transforming T-shirts into other clothing pieces was to use as many of the edges that were already finished as possible.  It saved the hemming of the jersey knit which can be kind of a pain.

What You Need: Adult T-shirt, thread, T-shirt that fit's Little One for sizing.

This is the adult shirt I started with:

d&bdress01



Here's how I did it:

1.  Cut out Pieces: Lay the toddler shirt over the large shirt and cut through both front and back of the adult shirt to get the front and back for the bodice piece.

d&bdress03

Then line up the toddler sleeves with the sleeves of the adult shirt to cut out the sleeves.

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Remove the neck from the adult shirt to use as the neck for the dress - either cut as close as you can to the stitching or use a seam ripper.  Then, measure up from the bottom finished edge of the adult shirt the length you want the skirt of the dress to be, and cut across.  You should have a front, back, two sleeves, neck pieces and skirt.

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2. Sewing

Pin and sew the stretchy neck material to the neck lines of the dress. You may want to trim the front neck line of the dress a bit to better replicate the neckline of the toddler shirt that is your sizing pattern.

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Sew the shoulder seams

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Attach sleeves to the bodice

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Sew seam along bottom of sleeves and the side of the bodice below the sleeve.

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Turn right side out and admire your handiwork, you're almost done!

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Hand baste the "skirt" piece and gather it so that it will attach to the bottom of the bodice.  Pin the skirt to the bodice, making sure right sides together and sew:

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Here is the finished dress:

d&bdress16

Do you have a good way to re-use extra t-shirts?  Link your sewing project up on the  Sewing Show and Tell main page.

*This post linked at It's A Blog Party and Life as Mom's Frugal Friday

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toddler Pants from Adult T-Shirts

sewingshow&tellI love finding projects that use items that I already have in the house.  This is one of those projects. Gather up some of your t-shirts that need a new use, match some thread, add some elastic and you're ready to make toddler pants. You'll also need a pair of pants that fit your Little One to use for sizing.

Rather than re-invent the wheel here, I'm going to send you over to RookieMoms for the full directions.  They have a great set of video and photo directions.

So far I finished two pair for GBaby: black and gray.  Each pair took 20 minutes-Ilove easy projects!  Tomorrow we're stepping up to a bit more challenging project and GBaby will be modeling her T-shirt pants tomorrow with her Adult T to Toddler T-Shirt Dress!

This is part of the Sewing Show and Tell weekCheck the main post to link up your favorite sewing project or to get more ideas!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Girl-Kerchiefs

sewingshow&tellThis is part of the Sewing Show and Tell weekCheck the main post to link up your favorite sewing project or to get more ideas!


A while ago while surfing the internet I came across a post about uses for the stacks of flannel receiving blankets leftover once an infant outgrows them.  Since GBaby outgrew those blankets by the time she was about 4 days old, I had a stack that needed new uses.

There are a lot of things that you can do with the fabric from these blankets. If you have another baby waiting in the wings, they can be turned into cute burp-cloths.  If you're a quilter, you can piece them together into new, larger blankets (this will be one of my March projects with my Season of Lent non-cooking time).  If you're a mom and your kiddo has a drippy nose and will let you use a cloth, but not paper tissue: you make Girl-Kerchiefs.

1.  Cut blanket in quarters

2. Zig-Zag or serge raw edges (I have a nifty little serger attachment that I got for about $20 that attaches to the arm of my sewing machine which worked great for this project)

3. Fold and keep handy for drippy noses.

This project is so easy and can reduce a little bit of waste.  And they're cute for your little girl to boot!

girl-kerchief

Do you have a fun re-use for flannel receiving blankets?  Link up your project on our Sewing Show and Tell home post!

Monday, February 22, 2010

'Sewing Show & Tell'

sewingshow&tellThis week I have a great line up of Sewing Show and Tell posts!  I'm taking a break from the kitchen and will be sharing sewing projects that use unwanted T-shirts, extra flannel receiving blankets and old sheets.  For some projects, all you add is time and thread and the re-creation is ready to go!  So dust off your sewing machine and get inspired.

Have you blogged some successful sewing projects?  Link them up below and join in the Sewing Show and Tell fun!  Click the Sewing category to see all of my sewing projects.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: A Stream of Giving

sunflower Practicing Contentment by remembering the graces in the week and practicing gratitude by giving.


Short of a couple hiccups, this has been a really good week.  Waking up this morning after an uninterrupted nights sleep was glorious!  Matched by the sun shining and now GBaby peacefully napping.  Today is a great day!

This has been a good week as we've begun our Lenten disciplines.  I'm amazed by all that we have that we have not put to good use.  So we are changing that and redirecting the under utilized resources under our roof to places where they can be put to good use and appreciated.  With a grateful heart I have begun giving.  I find freedom in looking at something, knowing that someone else can make better use of it and giving it away.  This is new for me and is a huge paradigm shift from the "well I'll use that for this someday" as I squirrel stuff away.

As I have found in my life, giving sometimes results in receiving blessings that you cannot imagine.  This came this week in the form of our completed taxes and finding out that we're getting a larger refund that I had expected.

Little things like chocolate mousse and a surprise dinner out also peppered my week with bright spots.  Receiving photos from my dad who's gearing up to bury GBaby in attention next week also brought a chuckle and warmed my heart.

This week I'm recognizing once again the truth that every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Season of Lent

40bagsMany Christian traditions celebrate the season of Lent, which is observed beginning on Ash Wednesday and spans 40 days until Easter.  While the Catholic Church is the most known for calling parishioners to sacrifice something during this time in order to deepen their focus on Christ, other denominations like Presbyterians and Lutherans also follow this tradition.

This is not a tradition that I grew up with and every year I find myself struggling to figure out what I’m going to “give up” because everyone else is talking about it.  This year our congregation was challenged to make a difference with your sacrifice.  If giving up chocolate, donate the money that you would have spent on chocolate to the soup kitchen.  If you sacrifice an activity, use the time to volunteer.

While discussing this year’s Lent season and batting around a few ideas, as a family we settled on minimizing our grocery budget as much as possible by eating meals that are stashed in the freezer and using the extra money (and time saved on cooking) to put together Hygiene Kits and Baby Kits for our denominational disaster assistance program.  I often feel convicted of how I spend my time, and was feeling this conviction when I came across Katie’s “What are you doing for Lent” post over at Kitchen Stewardship.  As I read the post my “what doing with your time” voice kept echoing in my head.  Then the first linked response on Forty Bags in Forty Days de-cluttering challenge caught my eye and was the catalyst that gelled in my heart what this year’s Lent season needs to be about for me: the spiritual disciplines of gratefulness and giving.

I strive to focus on being content and know that we have so much more than we need, but that does not turn into true gratefulness as often as it should. Rarely do I look around to see how much I really have and sometimes how little we actually use.  So over the course of the 40 days of Lent, 40 bags of various sizes (nothing smaller than a plastic shopping bag) will leave my house destined to be donated or recycled and I will daily strive to allow gratitude to fill my heart and life.

Would you like more ideas for observing the season of Lent in a unique way? Visit this Kitchen Stewardship post for ideas (scroll to the bottom of the post for link ups.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Flan & ChocoFlan

Happy Mardi Gras!  In celebration of decadence, I thought I'd share the yummy treats I made for Valentine's Day.

HandyMan requested flan as his Valentine Dessert. I had never made flan but I figured I could give it a try.  I found this recipe for Spanish Flan.  I did add an extra egg, but otherwise followed the directions to produce this beautiful Flan:

flan2

While reading through the comments on the Spanish Flan recipe, I found directions for ChocoFlan.  Now they had my attention.  After a bit more research, I found that it is as easy as the flan batter in the bottom topped with the chocolate cake batter and bake.  The results were as good as it looks!

flan1

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing Contentment by remembering the blessings of the week.

This week we were blessed by a firm confirmation that a small heart murmur that was detected when GBaby was born has healed completely.  We rejoice as we continue to be in good health as winter wears on.

GBaby has added tooth number 10 to the collection of pearly whites in her little mouth and continues to eat almost anything we put before her.  She is happy when left with friends so that HandyMan and I can have an evening out and is so tall she can now reach things on the kitchen counter and dryer.

A surprise Valentine arrived with an unexpected gift and a note from friends reminds me of the value of the long distance relationships in my life.

This week I had to purchase a new vacuum cleaner and am grateful for a recommendation on a good machine that barely nicked the piggy bank.

Our bellies are full, our house is warm, love abounds and we are well.  Praise God!

What goodness has filled your week?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yummiest Homemade Yogurt

I take a break from Freezer Friday this week as we are working on eating what we have and not "stock-piling".

Instead, to satisfy my cravings for warm summery things, I've been on a yogurt and granola kick.  I had bought really good Stonyfield Farm plain yogurt.  GBaby loves the stuff and I had been reading some tips on making better yogurt.  With the following modification on my original yogurt recipe.

1. Cooling Milk - To start, I brought the milk to 185 degrees per normal, then poured it directly into jars.  Then I put the jars in the kitchen sink and ran cool (not cold) water into the sink around the jars.  I let the milk cool down for about 20 minutes to 80-90 degrees.t

2.  Starter - I put the starter directly from the fridge to the jar, and just dropped the heaping tablespoon(s) into the jars.

3.  Incubation - I kept a closer eye on it and only left it in the warm box for about 5 hours, not letting it get warmer than about 105 degrees.

The finished yogurt was absolutely wonderful, rich and creamy.  There was not even a hint of tartness.  It is particularly yummy alongside the Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars and Blueberry Almond Granola (which I will post soon).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars

granolabarIf you're visiting from Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap, welcome!  I made these back in February and plan to make them again this fall as soon as I get apples dehydrated.  They are so yummy and can double as a snack or a dessert with a bit of icecream or yogurt!  Enjoy!

As part of my February Kitchen Challenge I'm working on finding healthier snacks to keep in the house.  I came across this granola bar recipe and started tweaking.  The result is an absolutely delicious bar that is loaded with healthy stuff.  I had a couple pieces straight from the oven with plain yogurt and it was fantastic-and could easily become habit forming! If they make it to the freezer they will be great airplane food for our trip later this month.

It fully meets my Whole Grain challenge and has some fruit and nuts thrown in for good measure. The honey flavor is prominent and they are rather sweet.  I think next time I will cut the brown sugar and honey to 3/4 cup each and add more pecans.  If you experiment before I do, please let me know how it turns out.

Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars


(Note: I made this recipe in a jelly roll pan, if you are using a 9x13, cut recipe in half)

2 cups Quick Oats

1 cup Brown Sugar

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

2Eggs

1 cup of Honey

1 cup Vegetable oil

2 cups dehydrated Apple Bits

1 cup chopped Pecans

Directions:

1.  Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and blend.

2.  Add all wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.  (HINT: use the same measuring cup for oil first then honey and the honey will slide right out!)

3.  Fold in Apples and Pecans.

4.  Grease pan liberally and press dough into pan.  I used shortening with a piece of wax paper and then used the wax paper to press the dough into the pan - worked great as dough is sticky.

5.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until edges turn golden brown.  Let cool, cut into snack size pieces and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Calzones

As promised, here are my directions for how I made calzones during my Italian Cooking Day.

First, I used this crust recipe.  I was able to divide out the dough for 8 good sized calzones.  I rolled out each section of  dough into a circle.  Be careful not to roll it  too thin or your fillings will leak.

calzone1

Then I filled the dough with lefotver cheese filling from the Lasagnas, shredded mozerella and sliced up Meatballs.

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I closed up the dough by moistening with small bit of water and pulling up the dough from the bottom and tucking it in with the dough on the top.  Bake the calzones at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

calzone3

Serve them up with HV Marinara. The extras were reheated in the toaster oven a couple days later and they were just as good as the first time around!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lasagnas

Remember when I posted my Italian cooking day and promised the Lasagna Recipe and Calzone instruction– well, I finally got my act together and here they are.  We’ll start with the Lasagna.  This recipe made 1-11x17 pan and 2-8x8 pans.  Scale back if you’re only cooking for one meal.  If you're on a vegetarian track, simply substitute all the ground beef for TVP - or substitute in chopped veggies of your choice - broccoli, cauliflower and spinach work great.

TM Lasagna


Meat filling:

2 pounds Ground Beef

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups Textured Vegetable Protein

Water

Marinara Sauce

Cheese Filling:

1-32 oz container of Ricotta Cheese

1-24 oz container of Cottage Cheese

1-6oz block of Parmesan cheese, grated with the largest side of grater.

8 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese

2-16 oz boxes of Lasagna noodles, uncooked

8 cups HV Marinara Sauce

Directions:

1.  Brown ground beef and onion in large skillet.  When cooked, add TVP and water.  Once TVP expands, add marinara and allow mixtaure to simmer 5-10 minutes. Add additional water if it cooks down too much.

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2.  Grate parmesan cheese and combine with cottage cheese and ricotta. (Mozzarella gets layered when the Lasagna is assembled.)

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3. Layer Lasagnas: Put enough marinara to cover the bottom of the pan.  Lay uncooked noodles on top of sauce.

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Spread a thin layer of cheese mixture on top of the noodles and then follow with the meat mixture and a thin layer of Mozzarella.

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Add a bit of extra sauce and then another layer of noodles.  Repeat process until pan is full.  The extra sauce is the liquid that will cook the noodles as they bake.

Bake at 375 covered with foil for 45-60 minutes.  Remove foil and allow cheese to reach golden brown once sauce is bubbling in the middle of the pan.  Baking times will vary depending on pan size.

And tomorrow: Calzones!  Click here for a printable Lasagna recipe.

Calzones

For the calzones, I used this crust recipe.  I rolled out the dough (too thin might I add – make sure to keep it a good ¼” thick)  added extra cheese mixture from the Lasagna, Mozerella and sliced up Meatballs.  I closed up the dough by moistening with small bit of water and baked them at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  We ate them with marinara.  We reheated the extras in the toaster oven a couple days later and they were just as good as the first time around!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflower Practicing Contentment by remembering the blessings of the week.


Right now I'm feeling a bit scattered and not collected enough to compose paragraphs.  Here are the blessings floating in my mind.


Warm Brownies.


First Steps.


Sewing Time.


A Nap.


A Healthy Child.


"Me" Time (under the guise of work).


Small projects done.


Hot tomato soup & fresh bread sticks.


Watching G hop from lap to loving lap during church.


Friends to hang out with when I need to be out of the house.


These are just a few of the things in my week that brightened my days!  May you recognize the blessings in your week.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Freezer Friday: Chicken Cooking Day

freezerfridaysmThis week my big cooking project was Chicken.  It was my goal to have cooked chicken, broth and Chicken Pot Pie filling for the freezer.  After giving my Crock Pot and stock pot good workouts, my missions were accomplished!

I’ve been following Kate at Kitchen Stewardship and decided to follow her instructions for making broth.  I started Monday evening by putting 4 ½ pounds of chicken thigh pieces and 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the stock pot with 6 quarts of water and vinegar.  Let it sit then fired it up.  Let it boil until I wanted to go to bed –about 4 hours.  Then I poured the liquid into the crock pot and added the chicken thighs.  The chicken breasts wouldn’t fit so I shredded them up.  I set the crock-pot on low and went to bed.  At an un-namable hour of the morning when GBaby had me up, I turned the crock pot up to high for another 3 ½ hours.  I added the veggies to the crock for about 45 minutes until the carrots were tender.

After straining the broth, I had cooked carrots for GBaby (see February Kithen Goals), two bags of shredded chicken, in addition to 4 cups of shredded chicken I set aside for the Chicken Pot Pie Filling, and about 5 quarts of broth.

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I left 1 quart of broth in the crock-pot for the Chicken Pot Pie fill and returned the rest to the stock pot where I let it boil a while longer to condense (so that it won’t take up as much room in my freezer!).  After it boiled down, I had three, 3-cup containers of rich looking broth.

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I added water, chicken, carrots, celery, onion, potatoes and spices to the crock pot until it was full, covered it and walked away.  At dinner time I added one can of condensed soup to one- 2 quart portion of the filling and topped with the biscuit topping (which I subbed in part whole-wheat flour) and popped our dinner in the oven.

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Meanwhile, two more portions of filling went to the freezer.  I think they will come in handy for a lunch I will be “catering” next month.

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When all is said and done, I only had to wash the crock-pot once and the stock pot twice.  Fewer dishes make me happy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grandma Foy's Chocolate Cake

gcakeLast weekend we celebrated GBaby's first birthday.  Her birthday is two days short of falling on the same day my Grandma Foy celebrated her birthday for many years.  In honor of my Grandma, I made Grandma Foy's Chocolate Cake for GBaby's birthday.  My Mom was here to help which was good since she'd made it with the Master.  It was a hit!

Grandma Foy's Chocolate Cake


2 Eggs

2 cups Flour

2 cups Sugar

3/4 cups Shortening

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 cup Bakers Cocoa

1 cup Boiling Water

1/2 cup Milk

1 Tablespoon White Vinegar

1  teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Directions:

1.  Mix together Eggs, Flour, Sugar, Vanilla and Shortening.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve cocoa in boiling water.  Add to first mixture and blend.

3.  In another small bowl, mix Milk, Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Salt.  Add to batter and mix thoroughly.

4.  Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan.  If you are planning to remove the cake to decorate, add flour to prepare the pan as well.

5.  Bake at 325 until center pops up when poked or toothpick comes out clean.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 Goals Update

I went back to my 2010 Goals List last night to check in on myself.  I'll be honest, I fired off the list into cyber space and then didn't glace back until now.

I'm happy to say that I've completley RAFTED my personl in-box. Purging, filing and sorting through over 600 old e-mails plus all the daily correspondence and junk that comes through.

I'm making progress in some areas (budgeting, grocery bills, healthier recipes) and have yet to start my progress in some other areas (exercise - hoping warmer weather will help with this one).  I have all year to work on it,  right?

How are you doing with your goals?

Monday, February 1, 2010

February Kitchen Goals

kitchen challengeAfter completing the Eat from the Pantry Challenge in January, reminded me that I am a very goal oriented creature.  In most areas of my life, having something to work towards is a motivator and I love being able to see the progress as I go.  So, for February, I'm setting some kitchen goals to hopefully produce food for my family that will be a little bit healthier.

1.  One plate salad meal a week. I find that  our menu often lacks the veggies that we should be eating and in the winter, it is a huge challenge to find good produce at reasonable prices.  But here goes - we'll see how I do!

2.  Up the Whole Grains. I bake a lot and I use a LOT of regular un-bleached flour.  I am challenging myself this month that every baked good that comes out of my kitchen will have some portion of whole wheat or oat flour.

3. Back to the Baby Food. GBaby has moved past the mush baby food to eating a lot of what we eat.  When it seems like she needs more produce, I grab a banana.  Poor habits, I know!   So this month I will have cooked finger food veggies in assorted colors available in the fridge/freezer for GBaby's meals and snacks.