Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Apology to My Foodie Self

For my other "Gossip Girl" watching buddies, I am going to say "Where has she been? (Lea-Ann)!" 
I am sure you thought I have dropped off the blogging planet...and trust me, it feels like I have.  In a deployment you face a lot of ups and downs; in any aspect of your life. There's been a season of trsnsitions and a lot of just instability in the routine that the kids and I have had, so I have had to cut back on the Deployment Dinners.  I have also lost my foodie mojo. I am hoping to refresh it when my husband comes home for his midtour leave...he after all, is my biggest source of cooking inspiration and appreciation. I will be just simply highlighting some good, "Mommy" recipes very soon. What is a Mommy recipe? I think its just any recipe that can get food on the table in a timely manner.  Stay tuned for that, and also for a giveaway coming up in the next few weeks. Thanks for standing by....I appreciate you all. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stuck in A Food Rut {Meet Me on Pinterest and Get Me Out}

                           Pinned Image

Seriously...can I please have that dream job?

So, I did not want to admit this...but...I think I have blogger's block?  I am currently having a battle with food, I am stuck in a rut.  I do not want to try new recipes, or cook much of anything these days.  If you have read any of my "Confessions" than you know how frequently I will fall back on the old standby, chicken nuggets for the kids. Tonight, my friends who usually frequent my "Deployment Kitchen" at least twice a week brought over pizza...that was such a nice change of pace.  Just to be able to sit and talk, to enjoy a laugh and only have to worry about a take and bake pizza, well, and the dishes too...but those will wait until tomorrow. 

So, to get out of the rut I am in, I think I need some new recipes.  Have you seen anything on Pinterest?  That is my "go to" inspiration station.  Can you help me out of my rut?  Come on over to Pinterest, follow me and then tag me in some of the recipes that you are finding!  All you have to do is follow me on there, then write @Lea-Ann @ Deployment Kitchen 365 in your pin description and it should pop up for me to see (**I do not know if that is working, so try tagging me in the comments on Pinterest).  I will then repin to the Board "Kitchen Rut: Recipes to Help Me Climb Out!"

I will try some of them out, and let you know how I do! :)  If I don't repin your recipe, shoot me a comment on here or Facebook and I can add you as a contributor to the board. Woohoo!!

OOOOOoooohhhhh, this will be fun. See you over there!!
You can join me at on Pinterest....let's start pinning!!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

AND THE WINNER IS!! {My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software}

Hi everyone!! Thank you so very much for entering the contest to win the My Memories Suite digital scrapbooking software.

Using Randomorg List Randomizer.  The winner is Jennifer Kona!! (There was just a Jennifer and an email address so I went with that. LOL) If this is you, I will be notifying you through email in the next few days with your very own code to download your free software!! SO EXCITED for you to begin creating amazing scrapbook pages, photobooks, and lots more creations.

For those of you who entered, or even if you didn't here is a special gift for you. 

EVERYONE CAN BE A WINNER: You can use coupon code STMMMS51417 to receive $10 off the My MemoriesSuite v.3 digital scrapbooking software.  When you order you will also receive an additional code for a $10 off coupon for downloads. An amazing gift for my amazing readers!!  $20 in savings.    


Friday, March 9, 2012

My Memories: {Digital Scrapbooking Software Review and GIVEAWAY!!}

**update contest will go through Friday March 16th!!**
I have never been good at creating traditional scrapbooks; in fact, I cannot stand the cutting, pasting, journaling, stickering, photo cropping, and embellishing that goes along with traditional paper scrapbooks.  So, when "My Memories" approached me and asked me to do a product review of their digital scrapbooking software and also get the opportunity to give away ONE FREE software upload to my readers as well as a $10 off coupon code for my readers, I couldn't pass up the WIN, WIN, WIN situation!!

The great things about My Memories Scrapbook software:
  • You can easily just add my digital photos into a premade scrapbook design, type in what you want to journal, click and add embellishments, and you are done in a jiff!
  • You can add music, video, and you can share your albums with loved ones (deployed soldiers, grandparents, family members and friends).  
  • You can preserve memories in photobooks, calendars or pages, and not just in a folder on your computer.
  • My Memories Suite is always updating scrapbook designs and add-ons
  • They have a ton of free designs and some you can purchase for a few bucks.  
  • The price point is right!
  • No mess, no scrapbook supply storage needed
  • My Memories is a top rated scrapbooking software
  • It's fun!!
  • AND...
  • YOU can WIN one of your very own!!

I was working on a sample album for Deployment Kitchen 365. I loved this pre-made layout. The colors were fun and the designs were cute!

Here is a cute little page I made with some of the food pictures I have taken recently. The options are endless with this software!

I made this 4x6 fill in the blank recipe card for myself using the MyMemories Suite v.3 digital scrapbooking software
 My creativity was sparked using this software!  I made the above recipe card, I thought of making party invites, place cards for dinner parties, menus, food cards for buffet tables, labels for food bins, really if you think outside of the box, the options are endless. 

  • Go to My Memories website, take a look at their scrapbook designs on their home page and then come back and leave me a comment (just click on the little blue comment link at the bottom of the post) and tell me which scrapbook paper, or design is your favorite!! *PLEASE leave me at least your first name and email address in your comment to be entered* (only entries with email addresses will be entered).  Random drawing will take place Wednesday March 14th 2012.  
EVERYONE CAN BE A WINNER: You can use coupon code STMMMS51417 to receive $10 off the My MemoriesSuite v.3 digital scrapbooking software.  When you order you will also receive an additional code for a $10 off coupon for downloads. An amazing gift for my amazing readers!!  


Monday, March 5, 2012

Points of Pinterest {Crafty, Tasty, & Cool Things I Love From Pinterest}

Welcome to "Points of Pinterest;" a place for me to share anything crafty, tasty or cool that I have come across through Pinterest.  For those of you who haven't jumped on the Pinterest band wagon yet, it is a virtual pin board where you can pin things you love that you find on the internet (sort of like a virtual cork board).  Instead of sticking every interesting article in my "favorites" file I now "pin" them on to boards and share them with my friends.  You can follow me on Pinterest here

{A Bit About Pinterest}
My notes on "Pinterest Etiquette".  When you click on a pin, a proper pin should take you right to the source of the project, recipe, cool thing, etc.  If it does not than do not repin it.  I always verify that a link takes me to the correct place prior to pinning so that I can give credit where credit is due.  I don't want to take part in plagiarism of ideas so to speak.  If you are new to Pinterest, click on the picture of the pin or the link that is the upper right hand corner.  It should take you right to the site. 

 You can also install a "Pin It" button right onto your tool bar so you can pin anything you like directly to Pinterest from your favorite sites.  More information on that can be found at the "About" section under "Pin It Button".  Pinterest is by request or invite only, but people are joining everyday so find a friend to send you an invite or request one and wait a little bit to start pinning.  It is so much fun!!

{Points of Pinterest}
You can click the first link to take you to my pin on Pinterest.  Then you can click the button or the link to take you right to the original blog post where the information came from.  People are so clever!! Check them out!!

(most of the pictures of the projects are from the original pin/blog post and do not belong to DK365, unless specified, and therefore belong to the original blogger, if you share the pictures please site back to their blogs. Thank you)

{The Crafty}
Here are a couple of my favorite crafty pins...

Over the Big Moon Button png 1 Buttons

I hung these in my kitchen above my cabinets and I just love them!! The colors are great, and I love a play on words. 

This is so clever, and on my to do list!! I don't have a pantry and I *love* this idea for that dead space next to the fridge.  Win, win!! Let's break out the power tools!

{The Tasty}
Here are some of the tasty food pins I like...

Click the buttonPhotobucket

I am obsessed with these taquitos!! I absolutely love the texture of the baked flour tortilla, the filling is delicious and I seriously crave these at least once a month if not more.  I made them three times in the first month I tried them.  I discovered that it is delicious to dip these in sour cream mixed with some of the extra green sauce! Yum-O!!

I made these with my friends one night, and she snapped this picture with her smart phone.  We were eating them faster than we could make them, they were SO delicious.  They were simple, and not too sweet.  They were way too easy to just keep popping in my mouth, but I am a HUGE supporter of dessert stuffed fruit.  These don't disappoint in that genre. 

{The Cool}
Just a couple of cool things I pinned...

I have blogged about menu planning, and I usually end up just hand writing my own list, but this is super cute!! If you want to save on paper and ink you could slip it inside of a clear plastic document protector and make it like a wipe board, or better yet stick it under glass in a picture frame and do the same!

I have go to get my hands on some of these!  I can't wait to dress up my mixer.  FUN!!

I hope you enjoyed these "Points of Pinterest."  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Posting {Hart to Heart}

Hi everyone!! Today I am proud to be guest posting over at "Hart to Heart."   Hart to Heart is written by my sister Army wife friend, Leigh Anne.  I love that we share a version of the same name and have had enjoyed some interesting conversations about the burden involved with having two names combined to make one!!

Her blog is as cute as she is.  She blogs about crafts, recipes, fashion tips and fitness amongst other things.
Hart to Heart

I am sharing a little recipe love over at her blog so please go check it out and leave her a comment and let her know I sent you.  :) Thanks a bunch!! And thanks Leigh Anne for hosting me. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

And the Winner is...{Dancing in the Kitchen Vol. 1 Cookbook Giveaway!}



Using random list feature...



Congratulation's Amy!! Thank you to everyone who entered to win, and to Carla at Dancing in the Kitchen for donating a copy of her cookbook and for teaching me a bit about Twitter.  You can now find me on Twitter Deployment Kitchen 365 and Carla Thomas and her #kitchenchat and #dancinginthekitchen Here at Carlas Ranch they have a lot of fun there!! Come on over and follow us. 

Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for another exciting giveaway!!



Thursday, February 16, 2012

{Butter Cake Donuts with Chocolate Glaze} Quick and Easy

Have you been eyeing those lovely little heart shaped donuts on the banner above?  Well...better late than never, here is the recipe for these lovely Butter Cake Donuts. They are so easy, because I used a boxed cake mix and a can of frosting.  My little taste testers thought they were super delicious and they loved the sprinkles. They actually didn't just lick the sprinkles off either, they actually ate the whole thing. 

I bet you right now you can find these heart shaped donut pans on clearance after Valentine's Day...I found mine at Target. 

{Butter Cake Donuts with Chocolate Glaze}

One box of Butter Cake Mix (the kind you add butter to, I happened to have it on hand so I gave it a try).
You will need all the ingredients to make the cake, plus one extra egg.
One cup of flour (there were a couple of flour lumps but have no fear, just pour in a little at a time)
One can of chocolate frosting
2 Tbsp or more milk

Make the cake mix according to the package directions, add in one extra egg (my package called for three, so I put in four) and then one cup of flour into the mix, a little at a time, and mix well.  Grease your donut pan, I used real butter to grease my pan.  And I made sure to grease the portion that was going to make the "hole" in the donut.  Fill your donut pan like you would a cupcake pan. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.  Turn out of the pan and cool on a baking rack.

For the Glaze:
Empty the can of frosting into a bowl, add the 2 Tbsp of milk and stir until thinned, should be about the consistency of glue.  Dip your cooled donuts down into the glaze, tap, turn over, lift up and place them back on your cooling rack and add sprinkles if you like.  The glaze will harden a bit (like when you buy them from the shop) as they sit out for about 30 minutes...if you can wait that long!!

My pan made about 2 dozen of these little guys.  I stored mine in an air tight container in the refrigerator because of the milk in the glaze but I liked them better at room temperature.  My kiddos loved them!  I mean donuts at home?  They were thrilled!!

I brought this to the party here:

It's a Blog Party

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Linguini Pescatore and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries {A Valentines Day Menu}

I am posting this Valentine dinner idea right now so you won't miss out on going out and gathering up all the ingredients you need for it this weekend.  Although, I cannot share this dinner with my sweet soldier this year I did share it with a couple of friends in celebration of a first wedding anniversary.  We thoroughly enjoyed making it together and eating it together as well.  I hope you do too.

The Linguini Pescatore is just a fancy Italian way of saying "Seafood Pasta" (in this case prawns and scallops) and really don't let it scare you, although there are multiple steps in the process the actual cooking part is a cinch and I will walk you through it. 

Sorry I am limited on pictures but most of my meals are made and photographed in "real life time" and that includes hungry dinner guests, hungry children and a hungry, overweight Beagle so I do what I can to get the best pictures in a jiff so we can get to eating!! 

The original recipe has been made by my mother for many years, and it is a family favorite, reserved for special occasions.  Here you go...

Linguini Pescatore

1 lb Linguini
1lb of medium to large prawns (big ol' shrimps) cleaned, peeled and deveined (clean the "poop" out)
1/2 lb bay scallops
1/2 cup of flour
1 leek julienned (have no fear I will explain this to you...what's a leek?  How do you julienne one?)
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup frozen baby peas
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup of dry white wine
olive oil
salt and pepper

The Process:

Choose your Wine:  A nice Chardonnay is usually what I use for this recipe.  If you are not afraid to splurge on a wine that is probably the best choice for this dish, but I have used a more wallet friendly Chardonnay. "Gallo Family" Chardonnay from California is not pricey and it works nicely for the dish, but I like to spend a little bit more on a bottle if I plan on drinking some too.  After all this is a special occasion dish. 

Prep the Prawns (shrimp): Start cleaning your prawns first, you will want to purchase uncooked prawns (the ones that are grey not pink) it is up to you whether or not you want to pay extra for the market to clean than for you but they are not as expensive if you do it yourself. Pinch the tails off the prawns and pull it off, then run your thumb along the inside curve, breaking the legs off of the shell and slide the shell off, rinse and make a slight slit with a paring knife into the top side of the shrimp to remove the gritty, sandy "poop" vein from them which is actually their digestive tract. No thank you!!  Just run under cold water to rinse away or scrape with the knife to loosen it. This is just the way I peel and clean my prawns, there are many techniques and Google has a ton of links.  Once clean pat dry with paper towel.

Prep the Leek: What is a leek?  Well you know those things in the produce department that look like GIANT green onions...yep, that is a leek.  It has a mild, onion flavor and is so delicious in this recipe.  You will want to rinse them under cold water, then fill a pot with cold water, cut off the roots portion but keep the white and green whole for now. Place them in the pot of cold water dark green side down, to loosen up any sand that might be inside.  They are grown in sandy dirt and if you do not do this you will be eating it later.  Give them a good swish, swish around in there.  Leave them there for a bit while you prep some other things.  This is really just an added step I take.  Remove from the water, cut the darkest green portion off of the leek and remove the first outer layer.  You will have a light green, to yellow section and then the white part of the leek intact.  Cut that portion lengthwise, leaving two long will see all the layers, run that under cold water while keeping it in tact to be sure you have removed all sand.  Now, julienne the leek by placing the cut side down and you will slice lengthwise right with the natural lines of the leek, making thin, long slices (a julienne) you can view the process as seen in this video 

For the Scallops:  Rinse them and pat them dry with paper towel.

Dust the prawns and scallops in flour with salt and pepper.  I usually just put the flour in a 13x9 pan and coat them, keep the prawns and scallops separate as you will need to cook them at different times.  If you do not pat them dry the flour will not dust but rather get gluey. If this happens, proceed it will be fine! 

Start cooking:
Start your water for the pasta as this comes together quickly. Put on a salted pot of water to boil for your linguini.

Run a couple of drizzles of olive oil around a large skillet and allow it to warm up slightly.  Add in your leeks, peas, prawns and garlic and cook until the leeks become softer. Add your prawns to the pan until they turn pink in color, flipping them part way through.  Add the scallops.  Add wine, butter and simmer gently for about ten minutes.  Drain your pasta and toss all together.  Add in salt and pepper, as always I say to taste but you need to add salt and pepper along the steps of the cooking process, and don't forget to taste it before you serve can't fail. The hardest parts are in the prep.
Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

A line from my favorite food movie "Ratatouille" "Anyone CAN cook!!" And I know you can too.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
(and pretzels...or anything else worthy of dipping into chocolate which in my book is EVERYTHING!)

1 lb large strawberries with stems
Rinse and pat the berries dry, water will ruin your chocolate
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening

Put the chocolate in a double boiler and melt almost completely, add in the shortening and stir until melted and smooth.  Do not bring your water to a boil under your double boiler.  If you do not have a double boiler than a glass Pyrex bowl or metal bowl will work over the top of a pan filled with about 1.5 inch of water on a low heat.  If you are careful and use a low setting on your microwave you can do this in the microwave too.  Just stir often. 
Place a toothpick up by the stem of the strawberry, dip into the chocolate to coat.  Lift gently and give the strawberry a swirl to gently drizzle off excess chocolate and then sprinkle them with pretty sprinkles or drizzle them later with white chocolate.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet to set up.  We put ours in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process.

We repeated with some square pretzels, using a fork place a pretzel on the tines of the fork. Dip, lift and tap the bottom of the fork on the edge of the pan to get off excess chocolate. Gently lay the pretzel onto a parchment lined baking sheet to set up.

You will no doubt WOW your honey, friends, guests, whomever with this Valentine Menu.  I guarantee it.  Who needs that new Olive Garden they opened up in Anchorage anyway??? Pppssttt...three hour wait time. WHATev!!  Do it yourself. I know you can!!

I brought this to the party here:

  It's a Blog Party Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cookbook GIVEAWAY {Dancing in the Kitchen by Carla Thomas}

Hooray, it is the time for Deployment Kitchen 365's *FIRST* giveaway!!

**UPDATE: Give away extended through Friday February 17th. Winner announced on Saturday the 18th at noon Alaska time!**

**UPDATE:  Winner has been announced! Congratulations to Amy!!

Dancing in the Kitchen: Volume 1 by Carla Thomas.  A cookbook written and self published by the mother of one of my dearest Army wife friends I met while stationed at Fort Irwin, California. 

Carla Thomas was born in Jacksonville Florida, her Father was stationed there with the Navy. He later cross trained into the Air Force and retired in California after several tours abroad. Carla has collected recipes from the many places she has traveled and from family and friends . She met her husband Richard Thomas while going to junior high and high school in California (They have known each other since the 7 th grade) Seven years after graduating they were married. They now reside in California and have been married 26 years and have seven grandchildren. Two of her daughter's have husbands in the military; one in the Army and one in the Navy. They are stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland and Jacksonville Florida. The military has taken her family full circle.
Here is Carla in her California kitchen

*Details of the Giveaway*
Go and follow Carla at her Dancing in the Kitchen Facebook page and leave a comment on her wall that says "Deployment Kitchen 365 sent me!" and you will be entered for a chance to win. 


Go to the Deployment Kitchen 365 blog and sign up to "follow" the blog through Google Friend Connect and then leave a comment on this blog post, write "Ready to win Dancing in the Kitchen Volume 1"  or tell me "Carla sent me!" if you are coming over from Carla's facebook or twitter.  If you are already a Google Friend Connect follower than leave me the comment on this post and that will count for your chance to win!! You must "follow" and comment for an entry :)  

**Open to US and APO addresses only** (Have no fear future giveaways will include my overseas readers!)

If you do both you get TWO chances to win!! The winner will be chosen at random and will be announced next Friday the 17th!

-Best of Luck!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Baked Spaghetti Throw Down {Meet the W Family}

AND...a birthday!!

When my friend Brittney was having her birthday I asked her if I could make her anything special for a birthday dinner. She requested a family favorite recipe of "baked sketti" as she called it. 

I have *never* in my life made a baked spaghetti. Baked ziti, sure...lasagna, oh yeah...stuffed shells, manicotti, all been done before.  But spaghetti?  No, hadn't experienced that one before.  So I decided to have a Baked Spaghetti Throw Down, Bobby Flay style.  She gave me the recipe for her "sketti" and I decided to make up my own version too.

There is no shortage of meat,carbs or half naked cute babies in this blog post.

*Meet the W Family*  Brittney, Daniel and sweet baby L. They are expecting "baby W" number two this Summer!  This is deployment number two for Daniel but it is Brittney's first full deployment.  Daniel has been in the Army for four years.

Brittney is sweet, and kind, she says "ya'll" and "girl" and I love it!! She was a Georgia transplant from Michigan so she doesn't mind the cold here in Alaska or collard greens and fried chicken.  We first met at the "Newcomers Brief" back in July when we first arrived to Alaska. Baby L was just a teeny tiny thing. We met again when the wives of the squadron were asked to jump out of a 40 foot tower, drive a Humvee and shoot a M16.  So, I think that made us pretty quick, and very awesome friends!  She is a bright light, a positive and trustworthy friend, someone you want beside you during a deployment and the girl likes to eat and I like to cook so we work well together!  She thinks she should just move in with me so I can feed her and the belly all the time.  I wouldn't mind that *one little bit*.  
Photograph by: Amotherseye Photography (Visit the Facebook page here)
*What are your proudest Army moments?
B:  "Knowing my husband is known as a hero." 
Brittney and Baby L. Photograph by: Lea-Ann

*Absolute favorite thing ever eaten in a restaurant:
B:  "chicken, mashed potatoes and collards"
 *What restaurant?
B:  "Sun Dial in downtown Atlanta. 
(Seriously, that restaurant looks amazing!)

*What helps you through a deployment?
B:  "Friends! And strength... faith in God..."

Brittney on her birthday. Photograph by: Lea-Ann

*If you could share a meal with anyone dead or alive who would it be and why?
B:  "Kids who are less fortunate, kids who struggle and are in a children's home. I would love to foster kids but I know that's not possible.
(Brittney, if anyone could take in foster children it would be you.  You have a huge heart and are a wonderful mother.  Maybe one day that will be in God's plans for your family.)

On to the details of the sketti versus spaghetti throw down....

Yes, you are seeing clearly, Brittney's baked sketti recipe which comes from her mother in law has bacon, chunks of cheese, ground beef and bell pepper in it.  It is one of her husband's favorites.  It was a pretty simple dish to put together, and would work nicely for a large crowd.  Certainly what her expectant belly was craving on her birthday and I was happy to oblige.  The chunks of cheese were a happy surprise in my mouth.  This comfort food made enough to feed an Army, but instead of an Army of people to devour all this pasta we had this type of Army....

A Meatball Army!!
I made these little guys to go into my baked spaghetti recipe.  So delicious, a mixture of ground turkey and Italian sausage, herbs and red chili flakes.  I made them smaller than my typical meatball because I thought they would be a nice size for the baked dish.  I used my smallest cookie dough scoop to make these in a snap, I just scoop, roll and plop on a parchment lined baking sheet.
And here is my baked spaghetti, a little bit more of a traditional take on spaghetti but the meatballs and mozzarella cheese made this dish.  

So if you like meat, meat, cheese, cheese, pasta, pasta than really any or both of these dishes would be for you.  I was partial to my meatball baked spaghetti and Brittney was partial to her baked sketti.  We should have asked for some guest judges to do an anonymous tasting for us. can be the judges now...

Brittney's Baked "Sketti" with Bacon

1 box of spaghetti noodles
1 small can tomato paste
2 cans of diced tomatoes  (we used the ones with the Italian seasoning in them)
1 block of colby cheese cut into cubes
1 package of bacon, cut up and cooked (reserve four pieces and a small amount of the grease)
1 pound ground beef
1 bell pepper, chopped
salt and pepper

Boil the spaghetti in water with a splash of olive oil.  Cook the bacon and chop it, reserving four uncooked pieces to top the dish.  Cut up the colby cheese into cubes.  Brown the hamburger meat with the bell pepper, add salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the fat from the hamburger.  Drain your pasta and combine all ingredients, including the small amount of bacon grease into a large baking dish.  Top with the remaining four pieces of bacon and cook at 350 degrees until the bacon is cooked, about 30 minutes. 

DK365's Baked Spaghetti with Meatballs

For the Meatballs:
1 lb package of ground turkey
1 package of bulk, mild Italian sausage
1/2 Tbsp. dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried red chili flakes
1 cup plain, dry bread crumbs
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 egg
salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp of each

Mush all ingredients together.  I use a small cookie dough scoop and scoop out small meatballs (about a tsp size) and roll them by hand and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until cooked through. 

For the Spaghetti
1 package of spaghetti
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 16 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce

Cook the onion and bell pepper until softened.  Boil your spaghetti in salted water until al dente (this will keep the noodles from getting too mushy in the oven).  Drain the pasta well.
Stir in all of your ingredients into a large baking dish, adding the meatballs last and gently fold them into the spaghetti so they don't break. 
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted. 

Mangia, Mangia!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

When Life Gives You Winter {Make Lemonade!}

 My dear friend from my home state of California sent me some delicious, fragrant little pieces of sunshine in the mail last week.  Meyer Lemons straight from the tree in her own backyard.  They were delivered to me on an 11 below zero kind of Alaskan day so when I retrieved them from the mail box they were frozen solid.  The box smelled like a warm summer day when I opened it, and how could I not smile when all these beautiful yellow citrus fruits were so bright and happy!   

I debated on what to make with them; lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, lemon bars?  I couldn't decide, and I was also awaiting my new Canon Rebel T3i camera in the mail in hopes that I could photograph these babies before they rotted away.  All my hopes and dreams came true and so not only did I get happy, shiny, citrus fruits but I got the Rebel a few days later too.  And when life gave me Winter I made lemonade!! Not just any lemonade...strawberry lemonade in honor of my daughter's 7th birthday. 

Food pictures excite me, and it is even more exciting since I now have the MOST amazing camera!! Eeeeekkk...I literally did a happy dance when it came, and I am still learning but I love this camera. 

I did a little lemon squeezing with my girls.  Here they are, all squeezed out.  It was a bit messy, and we had some spills.  But we managed to get what we needed out of them.  And because I don't have a juicer I just use this handy dandy squeezer/juicer thingy (a very technical term as you can tell).  So bust out some lemons, and whatever device you have to start extracting juice from them.

Get about a cup or more of fresh lemon juice.  And a bag of frozen strawberries, some sugar and some water...and you have the makings of some sunshine in a cup!!

I made some simple syrup on the stove top, just some sugar and water and brought it to a boil to dissolve the sugar.  Then I let that cool down. 

I added the lemon juice, syrup and water, I mixed it up and then added in the bag of strawberries, and stuck the pitcher in the fridge, allowing the strawberries a chance to defrost a bit and get mushed in there. 

{Strawberry Lemonade}
8 cups of water
1 3/4 cups of white sugar
1 cup (or a bit more) fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 12oz bag of frozen strawberries

Combine 1 cup of the water, and the sugar in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil.  Boil just a few minutes until sugar is fully dissolved, stir and turn off and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.  Add in the lemon juice, syrup and 7 cups of remaining cold water.  Stir.  Add in frozen strawberries, stir and refrigerate.  Once berries have softened slightly, mash them and stir them a bit to incorporate.  Adjust sweetness to your liking by adding in more white sugar if you so choose, but I recommend a taste first. 

*You could use fresh berries, but since this is Alaska and it is the dead of Winter the frozen berries were a more cost effective and handy solution for this time of year*


Monday, January 16, 2012

{Menu Planning} Save Time, Money and Eat Well

One of my dearest friends sent me a text message telling me that she was considering following my lead on something I have done for years now: menu planning.  I thought that I would share exactly what and how I go about with my menu planning.  There has been a recent popularity in couponing, menu planning, and frugal living; and they are all so very useful to military families and ALL families.  Why wouldn't you want to save or stretch a dollar, right?

Every two weeks I make one big grocery trip.  I make a menu, and it saves me time, money, stress and really satisfies my Type A personality...I just really like the ease of knowing what I am going to feed my family every night.

{Goals to Achieve with Menu Planning}
  • save money
  • cut back on food waste
  • save yourself time and stress
  • improve nutrition
Getting Started
If menu planning is new to you, try starting with a one week menu; just seven dinners and build from there.  I usually only plan for dinners, and then I purchase breakfast and lunch items my family enjoys but I have considered adding in all three meals to the menu plan.

The Process

1)  Scope out the Recipes...
I sit down and I grab my recipe box, recipe binder and a pile of cookbooks or open up to my favorite recipe finding sites online. 

I like All Recipes, Food Network, The Pioneer Woman and also this new one I have found Food Buzz (an entire network of Foodies and Food Bloggers...I am in heaven!).  I cannot leave out another new favorite site Pinterest a virtual pin board for things all over the web, including recipes and food blogs.   

My recipe collection binder, magazine articles and printed out recipes inside document protectors.  I have one for savory and one for sweets.

2)  Make the Meal Calendar... 
I jot down every day of the week with dates on a piece of paper.  And I start writing down things we want to eat, I don't really care if come Tuesday the 23rd we don't want to eat spaghetti because I can switch it for Thursday the 25th when we are eating chicken and who is going to know that I didn't "follow the menu" to a 't' right?  It is really a guide for me to make sure I have enough meals for every day between this payday and the next.  I have considered a computer print out for this but every time I make one, I end up going right back the handwritten list.   

You can see I just make notes, use arrows, and my blank spaces are so we can have a treat night and go out one time during the two weeks.

3)  Find the Deals... 
I blaze through the coupon sites, but I use a rule...don't clip a coupon just because it is there and I *could* save money on something that I wouldn't normally buy otherwise.  You can easily fall into the trap of clipping coupons and end up with a much larger grocery bill if you are not careful, I speak from experience. 

But have you seen the Extreme Couponers? Seriously...scary, and *amazing* all at the same time.  I can't seem to dedicate myself to doing that extreme level of clipping so I just go forth and save a few bucks.  For now I frequent a few coupon sites (check out "Smart Money" Magazines list of the 5 best couponing sites), and I go directly to all the local grocery stores websites to check the ads for the week.  I also pay attention to prices, and I keep a book of average prices of staples like meat, milk, cheese, bread, eggs, coffee, etc.  So that if something does go on sale at another grocery store I know right away I need to make an extra stop somewhere else.

If my husband were not deployed he would make a really awesome spread sheet for this, but I like spiral notebooks still.

If you have a smart phone and you frequent a grocery store check to see if they have a mobile app.  Often the mobile apps will load coupons right to your savings card for a particular store.  My favorite ones are the ones where I can spend money, use a digital coupon on my card and then save money at their gas station.  Fred Meyer has a mobile app under Kroger (same company) and I load coupons all the time through it.  Safeway (Carrs or Vonns) also has the same deal, you can load coupons online from their site to your savings card.   

Another one (not grocery related) JoAnns craft store has a mobile app and you can take your coupon on your phone to the counter and they will scan it right off your phone, same goes for Kohls, sign up through email for coupon codes and they will scan from your phone too!!   

4)  Adapt Where the Money Can Be Saved... 
I adapt the recipe choices for the two weeks according to what I can get on sale by checking the food ads online or in the newspaper.  Whole chicken on sale at Carrs?  Then I add that to the menu or swap it out for something else and so on.  Don't forget that most stores will give you rain checks for items that they advertise on sale but are out of stock on.   

5)  Take Inventory... 
I go through my cupboards and refrigerator and check to see if I have the ingredients for any of my recipes, then I add what I need to avoid buying what I already have.  

6)  Prep Food Now, to Save Later...
After going to the stores, I will freeze any of the meat that I do not need in the first couple of days.  Any produce that I know will not last more than a couple of days gets used first and I prep things like herbs or cilantro by wrapping them in paper towel and sealing them in bags.  Things like carrots, potatoes, winter squash, celery, and onion; those things can last longer and I can wait to use those later in the menu.  We have lived in some interesting locations where fresh produce isn't always at the best quality because it has to be trucked in, and I have to use it right away or switch to something flash frozen.  This is really not a bad alternative and can be just as healthy for you.  Things like Lima beans, corn, and broccoli can maintain many of their nutrients when frozen.  Got to do what you got to do right?

7)  Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose Leftovers...
I make plans for leftover nights, which can save you money as well.  But if you aren't much of a leftover person than try to reuse your leftovers in creative ways.  Roasted chicken can be turned into chicken tacos or chicken salad, leftover steak into steak quesadillas or fajitas, leftover steamed broccoli to top baked potatoes, or leftover white rice for fried rice.  Since we are short one adult eating in the house right now if I make a pot of spaghetti sauce I freeze half of it for another time, same goes for soups, and casseroles as well. 

I usually have to make a run for milk, eggs or bread sometime between shopping trips and I try to avoid picking up anything extra.  Often, I will run to a bulk store and buy items like butter, string cheese, bread, and frozen fruits and veggies and freeze them.  I can find better deals on butter and cheese at my local Costco so once a month I add a trip there to the shopping list.  Share a membership fee with a friend, or go in halves on large food items if you both have smaller families.  I like being able to go to my deep freeze and pull out a pack of butter when I need to make cookies for care packages instead of running to the store last minute.     

8)  Pat Yourself on the Back...

Following these guidelines I have decreased our grocery bill by at least a hundred dollars or more every two weeks.  If you can stick closely to a list than you a more likely to save your family money in the long run, make healthier choices in food, and are less likely to make the drive-thru run or call the local pizza delivery boy later.  Give it a try, you might be surprised how taking an hour for menu planning and creating a list can save you a ton in both time and money later.