Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A few things about me AND some info about meal planning and shopping.

I am assuming that most of my readers right now are friends and family and you all know me fairly well, but for the few that don't - here is a brief summary of me, my lifestyle and my family. 
(And a really stinking cute pic of my Bug modeling a purse I made for her)

I am a thirty-something, Army Wife, mother-of-one, entrepreneur, small business owner, aspiring writer, roller derby blocker/part time coach, Pinterest addict, cook-it sew-it make-it-yourself'er. 

My husband and I will be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary next month. He is a Specialist in the Army. We made the decision to join the military when work in the civilian world became very difficult to rely on. He was a Journeyman Electrician and we lived in a economically sparse area. We are stationed in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Although its tough to be away from family, joining the military was a great decision for us. It will give us a stable future and that is what we wanted for our family. 

Our daughter just turned four. She is a spicy, creative, crazy dare-devil and a perfect blend of her Daddy and I. She keeps me on my toes and is whip smart. We chose to have only one child and we love our decision, no matter how much controversy it creates.

I started a small business when she was 6 months old, called Bug-a-Booties. I made soft soled baby shoes for her and everyone else. My business was small and moderately successful and I shipped products world wide. When my daughter stopped wearing booties, I started making other things. After a while, making booties for other peoples children didn't inspire me that much anymore. Did I mention that I am a very changable person and have the attention span of a gnat? Yeah, there's that. I've been sewing since I was a child, though only truly learning to do it properly for the last 13 years or so. I pride myself on my ability to be able to recreate just about anything I see. Lately, I've been making purses, wallets, messenger bags and household items. I'd really like to get into making clothing for myself.

So there is a whole lot of information about me. Now, onto the good stuff. I try my best to plan my meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) for the WHOLE MONTH! I know, that sounds like a lot. And its a lot of work but after you've done it for a whole year, you can keep going back to your monthly plans as the seasons change. 

I do my shopping on a two week basis. That means I buy everything I need to make all the meals and snack for 2 weeks in one trip. I'll still hit the store to pick up fresh produce occasionally. We live on a modest income. My husband brings home the bacon and its lean but consitant and we are HUGELY grateful for that. I try to plan meals around inexpensive ingredients and I tend to make a lot of things from scratch. We will splurge on an excellent cut of meat for the weekends, but we eat a lot of chicken, pork, turkey and vegetarian dishes throughout the week. I get half of my meal ideas from other bloggers via Pinterest and the other half are tried and true favorites or spur of the moment concoctions. I love to play around with flavors and hybridize recipes.

This month has been very tight for us. We are catching up from vacation splurges in August. So for this month I have been doing what I call, "Clean out the Pantry and Freezer". When we are really strapped for cash, we end up eating a lot of rice and pasta to fill in the gaps. The meals I cook for dinner are large enough to serve leftovers for lunches. This saves me having to come up with ideas for lunch (my biggest struggle). Here is an example of what we are doing for dinners this week, including links to recipes:

Monday: Chicken Parm Bake w/ salad

Tuesday: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta Skillet (my recipe, see yesterdays blog entry)

Wednesday: Sweet Hot Mustard Chicken Thighs w/ Roasted Cauliflower

Thursday: Chicken Adobo over Rice and Steamed Veggies (I'll post the recipe on Thursday)

Friday: Cheesey Taco Calzones (The original recipe calls for pilsbury crescent rolls, but we prefer homemade pizza dough)

Saturday: Cranberry Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Steamed Broccoli and Couscous (my recipe, I'll post on Saturday)

Sunday: Spicy Sausage Pasta Bake (we love this recipe and probably make it twice a month lately. plus this gal's blog is adorable)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let's get it started.

Hello friends! I have been talking about it for quite a while but there is no time like the present. So here it is, my work in progress blog. Why blog, you may say? Well, those of you who already know me know that I am always posting on facebook with whatever crafty thing I have made or recipe I have attempted. Some appreciate it, some don't. Sometimes I have a lot more to say than what can just fit into a status update.

For my first entry I would like to talk about this amazing meal I made for dinner. I had pinned a few recipes for roasted butternut squash and bacon pasta, but after reading through them I decided they just weren't what I wanted. So I concocted my own creation and am so happy with the results. So with out further ado, I give you:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta Skillet
(I don't bother with prep time, cook time and serving size. It will take as long as it takes to prep. It'll be done when its ready and a few people can eat a lot or a lot of people can have a little. You can figure this part out for yourselves. I know you can.)

3-4 lb butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cut into 1" cubes

1 medium onion, rough chopped
1-2tbsp olive oil
1 lb of quality bacon
8oz of pasta (I used penne)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese
1tsp dried, ground sage
salt and pepper to your taste

Preheat the oven to 450°. Peeling and chopping squash can be quite a chore. To make it easier, I through my whole, uncut squash into the microwave for 3-4 minutes to soften it up slightly before chopping. After you have your squash and onion chopped, toss them together with the oil and a little salt and pepper before spreading them onto a baking sheet. Make sure the sheet is not over crowded or the veggies will steam rather than roast. Place in the oven for 25-35 minutes, tossing after about 15 to evenly roast. Keep a close eye so they don't burn.
Meanwhile, cook your bacon in a large, preferable cast iron skillet. If you don't have cast iron, use a dutch oven or other large pot. Drain off the fat and crumble your bacon. Add the squash and onions to your skillet with the bacon. Pour in your broth, milk, cream, uncooked pasta and sage and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to al dente, stirring occasionally.

Once the pasta is cooked, add 1.5 cups of the jack cheese and stir to distribute. Once that cheese has melted in, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and place skillet under broiler until its all melty and delicious. 

Serve and enjoy!

Everyone in my family loved this recipe! Its definitely not low fat, but its great to splurge on something delicious now and then! I wish I had better pictures to offer you, but you'll have to make due with my iPhone pics. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here. If you try my recipe and blog about it, please link back to me and let me know what you thought of it!