Sunday, March 8, 2009

Can you feel Spring in the Air?

This is Texas and we tend to do things early.  Here it is the beginning of March and already we are having 80+ degree weather, the smell of fresh tilled earth is in the air from people prepping their gardens and flower beds.

Lawns are being scalped in preparation for beautiful green grass.  Daffodils are popping up everywhere.

The Mesquite Parks and Recreation is gearing up for another season of outdoor activities starting with our first festival of the year coming up next month

Real.Texas. Festival.  It’s a big thing here.  The rodeo grounds (after all Mesquite is the Rodeo Capital of Texas) will be transformed into a wonderland of rides, a bbq cook off, face painting (all ways a must at any family entertainment in these parts), and of course the rodeo! 

What good Texas festival would be anything without music.  Not just any music but Texas bands.  Not to be out done by anything Dallas can do this three day festival has 30+ band performing.  Mostly Country and Tejano music, the bands run from Los Lonely Boys and James Otto to locals like Jolie Holiday and Paula Nelson (yep that’s Willies Daughter)

Then to top off all that great music there will be a battle of the bands, open only to local “garage bands” which is going to be a lot of fun.

Yep this fair city, small as it might be is in high swing to be ready for warmer weather.  Heck even the squirrels are all a tizzy.

Spring is definitely  in the air here, how about your neck of the woods? 

Are you seeing signs or are you still in the grips of winter?

How does your city or town celebrate the coming of spring?  Do you even know all the things your city offers?  

We have Easter Egg hunts set up, the Rodeo Parade, Movie in the Park, swimming lessons and even Doggie Splash day, where you can take your best canine pal swimming with you.

Why not take a little time to do some research and see just what you city does have planned.  You might just find they offer the perfect out door activity for you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce

I realized a long time ago, that many low carbs have given up all fruit.  I too tried that but found I really missed fruit.  I tried adding in just a few berries like so many suggest, but what I found works best for me is half a fresh crisp Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith apple.  I’m not a fan of the Delicious varieties.

A nice firm crisp Pear is even better, but harder to find.  Most of the pears I find at the grocery are a bit mushy or a soft variety.  The pears I grew up on came straight off my grandfathers trees.  We had pears with peanut butter for an afternoon snack everyday during the fall.  The perfect after school snack.

Well I’m not a kid any more, but I still love pears or apples with peanut butter. 

Peanut butter as you well know is a wonderful low carb food, if you are careful with it.  It can get carb pricey very quickly. 

So this is my solution. A half a piece of fruit is plenty. Just rub the other half with a little lemon juice (even the bottle kind will work)before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap.

peanut butterFirst you need a little peanut butter.


Then add in  equal or a bit add cream cheese and pop them both in the microwave for about 10 to softenmore  Cream cheese and pop them in the microwave until warm and melted together

tsp or two of cream Thin with a little cream, only takes a couple of teaspoons.


Stir it all together  a little sweetener I used Nuva one of the stevia-erythritol blendsand add a little sweetener to taste.  I used Nuva a stevia/erythritol blend.

All that’s left is to enjoy!

serve with sliced apples, pears or celery!

Freezer cooking helps me save $$$

If you know much about me you know I’m a big fan of freezer cooking. But how can it save me money? Well actually there are lots of big and little ways to save a few Abes (you know Lincoln=pennies)

First and foremost, is the ability to eat at home and not flake out and run through the drive through. If I have meals I can thaw and put together in minutes and with little effort, then why go out for a burger?

A slightly more subtle side effect of that is less Dr. bills, by not eating all that unhealthy junk food and in mom’s case less $$ on insulin.

Second, I can buy meat and veggies on sale. Stock up while they are on sale and not have to worry about buying meat weekly. Ex. This past week our local Tom Thumb (Safeway/Randall’s in other parts of the country) had boneless chuck roasts on sale for $1.96. That’s boneless baby. So I picked out 2 of the prettiest roasts you ever saw, I already had 2 in the freezer, so I didn’t need more and had 20 lbs. ground.

Yes that’s a big cost this week, but I won’t have to buy ground meat for months.

Being a freezer cooker I now I have 5 lbs. browned off with onions and garlic ready to pull out to make pizzas, lettuce wraps, poor man’s stroganoff, or anything else I want.

I also used 5 lbs for taco meat, which come summer I can thaw, warm and have taco salad, skillet dinners, Mexican casserole or stir-fry on the table in no time.

I still want to make up a few bags of spaghetti sauce, pepper stuffing and some meatballs. I already have a couple of meat loaves in the freezer and well, frankly it will be too hot to cook them before too long. I do need to work up a pound or two into burgers (we like ours with bacon, onion and cheese mixed in) and then I’ll just freeze the rest for whatever I might want it for.

Since I pre-cook and freeze most Sale finds like this, it not only saves me money, I have quick meals ready to assemble all the time. Which is especially helpful during the long hot summers we have here.

If I forget to take anything out to thaw for dinner, we’ve all done than a few times. Then instead of picking up burgers or heading to some restaurant, I can pull out a bag of chicken or ground meat, throw it in a sink full of warm water or in the microwave and it’s thawed out in a few minutes… now you know one of the reasons I flatten all my bags before freezing…giggle. They stack better and take up less space too.

Which leads me to yet another subtle $$$ saver. Not only will those bags of pre-cooked meat and poultry save me time, take out $$$, but I save on my electric bill. A full freezer is cheaper to run. It doesn’t pull nearly as much energy because it stays colder.

I won’t have to turn the A/C up during the hot summer trying to cool off a house after it heated up after the stove or oven has been on for an hour or more. I can grab a bag of cooked chicken or ground meat toss it in a skillet to heat with a few veggies and have dinner on the table and the stove turned off in 15 minutes.

I roast my chickens in the fall and winter when I need the house heated anyway…giggle. Then simply pick the meat off the bones, measure out into dinner portion size, freeze in zippy bags. I take all the bones and add appropriate vegetation and make stock, why buy when homemade is better?

I also cook pork roast, brisket, ham and any other meats that likes to hang out in the oven for a nice long time, while the weather is cooler. My goal is to never turn the oven on between June and October.

Freezer sides are not as easy, when trying to stay as low carb and healthy as possible, but there are some that work well, such as stuffed squash. I can buy them in the summer when they are plentiful, gorgeous and cheaper. Do all the prep and assembly and then thaw and bake during the cooler months when nice produce is harder to find.

By cooking meat in advance and freezing in meal sized portions I don’t waste food. Left overs don’t get pushed to the back and thrown out next time you clean out your fridge.

Unlike your freezer your fridge is more efficient when there is plenty of room for air to circulate so keeping it cleaned out is important. Though mine is usually full to the brim with veggies and the food well be having that week.

All it takes is a little planning, a little effort and of course a little organization. But the results are more than worth the effort. Talk about convenience food. How much easier can it be, if I want stuffed peppers I pull out a bag of meat and pop it in the fridge to thaw. Dinner time rolls around, I cut the peppers and blanch for 5 minutes, heat the meat in the microwave. Stuff peppers top with cheese and pop under the broiler to melt the cheese ( I use the toaster over or make in the crockpot during the summer) A bag of steamed broccoli cooked in the microwave and wha-la dinners on the table in less than 20! I can’t pick up junk food that fast.

There are several ways to do freezer cooking depending on your personal preferences. Some folks do OAMC (once a month cooking). They plan a day or two to prep, assemble and/or cook meals for a whole month. I'm not that organized nor do I have that kind of energy, but it works great for some folks. I have done it for a week at a time however, that’s not only worthwhile but lots of fun too.

Some people just double or triple recipes their families really like. I do this sometimes. It’s just as easy to prep and clean up after 2 or three meatloaves as it is one. Then simply wrap and freeze two and bake off the third. You can do the same with casseroles, meatballs or soups too.

Or like me some folks do bulk cooking when they find good sales. We prep and/or cook one type of meat at one time.

How you choose to fill your freezer is really a personal preference, the important thing is to plan, organize and only cook and prep foods you know you will use.

Take advantage of sales, seasonal foods and cooler weather to get your freezer stocked before summer gets here. Believe me, you will be so so happy you did.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Making this real quick

Hi guys, no I didn't fall off the end of the earth, though to be quite honest it kind of feels like it.
Mom is home and doing wonderfully. They put her on lasix in the hospital and she has lost all the built up fluid caused by the leaky valve, the surgery and as a bonus, it's keeping the fluid off a glad in her neck she normally has to have drained ever few months!

The looked at her cat scan and did another while she was in the hospital this last time and determined that either just before, during or right after the surgery she had a small stroke and that is what has caused the left side weakness. The bad news is there isn't really anything they can do about it. The good news is that it only seems to bother her at night and early mornings. During the day she fine for the most part.

She's still on her walker but getting around on her own for the most part, I'm still on night duty because she can't seem to get out of bed without some help and night time is when she has the most trouble falling over. So I'm up all night, sleep during the day after Cindy gets home. So I'm having to figure out meals I can cook or prep at night that mom can finish off or just cook then next night. So far I'm doing pretty good. I just need to find time to post all the darn recipes...giggle
This last week we had lasagna roll ups with fresh salad, Pork chops with broccoli and squash, garlicky chicken rolls with broccoli slaw, we picked up dinner one night, we had eggs one night and stuffed pepper with broccoli. Except for the pork chops and eggs I had everything ready to be popped in the oven, reheated in the microwave or just tossed together at the last minute. Mom cooked the pork chops but I had the broccoli in the fridge ready to go.

I'll get my recipes posted as soon as I get time. I can't believe how busy I've been. But I miss you all, I hope your all doing well and for all my fellow bloggers, I'm so so sorry I'm so behind on reading and keeping up with you guys. Take care, until I get another few minutes to chat again.