Category Archives: kitchen

My New Breakfast of Champions

 

Experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

A healthy breakfast starts the day out right and prevents that mid-morning slump. Since 1933, General Mills has promised that eating a healthy  breakfast can make you a Champion.  Their slogan inspires and sells.

As parents, we’ve repeated this expert opinion and bought those cereals. We’ve given the breakfast lecture repeatedly and freely advise how to make this a lifestyle commitment.

 

    • Get up early enough to allow time to eat.
    • Keep breakfast food on hand so you’re prepared.
    • Choose simple breakfast options so you’ll follow through.

 

We need to set a good example.  We need to fill up in the morning so we have the energy and ability to carry on until noon. A hungry mommy can be a crabby mommy.  Along with traditional healthy breakfast options, I keep my pantry stocked with dried fruits and nuts. I’ve tried a variety of breakfast casseroles, quick breads and instant options. There’s always a quest to make a healthy breakfast faster.

 

 

After friends visited Colombia and brought me a present, I have my new favorite ethnic breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast of Champions

 

This is MY favorite Breakfast of Champions, what’s yours?

The Ol’ Bag Lady Has Dinner in the Bag

 

New readers may not know that I am fondly called The Ol’ Bag Lady” by my husband.  Sometimes, he shortens it to just “Ol’ Bag.”  He may or may not be referring to my attitude, but certainly he is referring to my love for bags to organize my life.

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For years (OK, I have to admit, I should use the term decades here), I’ve sewn drawstring bags to organize toys at home, in the car and to use as gift bags for toys I give away.

 

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An organizing series I wrote a few years back was called Flying Frantic, which describes the lives of most women.  We have more people, projects and personal goals than we know what to do with.  The post on using tote bags to organize your life according to commitments was popular. I have one bag for church, one bag for homeschool coop and one bag of special things for my daughter in the car.

This Ol’ Bag Lady has found one more way to organize using bags – this time in the kitchen.

There are amazing women  who cook a month of meals at a time and throw them in the freezer.  Sounds like a great idea, but my family is not particularly fond of food that has been frozen.

“The noodles are mushy.”

“The hamburger tastes funny.”

And those were just my complaints.   I know, picky, picky, but there is nothing like a freshly cooked meal.  It’s just another thing to fit in a busy life. It’s easier to dream than do.

There are other amazing women who plan a week of meals and shop according to their meal plan.  I stand in awe.

Then, there are women like me.  I shop with a list and still forget items. The week I plan the entire menu is the week my husband ends up traveling out of town.  I grocery shop, but am too tired to cook dinner. I am embarrassed to admit how many days 4pm rolls around, or 5pm, and I’m slapping my forehead thinking, “UGH! Why do people in this house need to eat dinner every. single. night?”

We have a few standby crock-pot recipes, but it never fails, I run to the pantry and find I am short one item. Or I discover somebody put the spice jar back in the drawer, but it was empty. GGRRReat!

That’s when I had my Light bulb moment.

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Yep, I have children.  My stapler never works correctly.  And I was lucky to find the black Sharpie in my junk drawer without stabbing myself with a rusty nail or box cutter.  Not Pinterest pretty, but Got ‘Er Dun pretty.

White Chicken Chili Bag

The ingredients for one meal were bagged with the recipe, the ingredients to be added highlighted in case anybody else wanted to make dinner. Anybody? Anybody?

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The only ingredients purchased and added to the stuff in the bag.

Mindy’s White Chicken Chili

Sauté until soft, about 5 min:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium green pepper, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped

Add and sauté another minute:

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Add and simmer:

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 limes, juiced

Add:

  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans(drain, mash one slightly)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, remove skin and shred meat

Although this is called “chili” it is more of a chicken and bean soup.  It is quick, easy and filling on a cold, rainy day, which is nearly every day during the winter in the Pacific Northwest. We serve with sour cream and grated cheese.

The other recipe  I bagged up for the pantry is the Southwest Roast.

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It’s one of the few recipes I have blogged, I’m not really a recipe kinda’ girl.

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The Southwest Roast with the Special Ingredient was another popular post because the recipe is simple and delicious.  You start is 24 hours ahead of time, so when you’re cleaning up dinner one night, you throw the ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner in the crock and go to bed. 

If you get a little organized with your family’s  favorite recipes, you can have dinner in the bag.

Making your home sing Mondays               WHWButton#2

MOM! What’s for breakfast?

Why is it that kids always wake up earlier and hungrier than their parental units? 

It never seemed right that the most energy buzzed in the people with the least amount of responsibility.

I used to get up early and make a nutritional breakfast for my kids every morning.

Used to.

Somewhere between babies #5 and #6 and three bouts of thyroid cancer, it wasn’t easy anymore.  Yep, the kids had to eat, but it wasn’t going to be homemade waffles, muffins or pancakes.

We ate a lot of cold cereal, instant oatmeal, cold cereal, fresh fruit, cold cereal and whole wheat toast.

Sometimes mommas gotta’ do what mommas gotta’ do.

Of course, getting my kids in the kitchen greatly improved our culinary fare. One of the recipes that got us through many mornings was Baked Oatmeal.

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I blogged about having Kids in the Kitchen a few years ago.  It’s true.  Kids make a mess.  But, if you don’t let them mess up the kitchen, they can’t learn to cook for you.  Simple as that.

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Beka and I wanted to be ready for school this year, so decided to make those cool jars people are always making and pinningimage and giving away for gifts.

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All the dry ingredients were placed in the jar.  We’re “git’ ‘er dun” kinda’ people, not “perfectionist you can pin me now” kinda’ people.  The layers aren’t perfect, the lids don’t match, but hey, Beka finished this quickly.

I also learned the hard way, the more you demand perfection from non-perfectionist people, the less they wanna’ work with you. You can either allow the children to do a project and accept how they do it, or you can do it yourself and have it perfect.

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We  substitute the butter in the original recipe with applesauce, so one small organic (did that impress you?) no-sugar added cup of applesauce is placed on the top of the jar.

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Since I can never find my tape, why yes, I have blogged about that, thank you for asking, you can read that blog here,so my son, who just got his drivers license and will go anywhere if I hand him the car keys, drove to three different stores looking for blue tape.

I have just enough residual OCD that this look was really, really bothering me.

Yes, I know the jars will be in the cupboard.  I know nobody will see them. But, they were buggin’ me.

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I had these….

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leftover from these quart milk bottles I’d decorated for our writers conference last May. The decorative fabric was slipped off and put in a scrap drawer.  The bottles are being decorated anew for an October wedding.

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Slipped them over the top, added the tag with the wet ingredients to add and we were dun.

D.U.N. dun.

We make a smaller batch now that so many kids have flown the coop, so this recipe fills an 8×8 pan.

Beka’s Baked Oatmeal

Place the following in the jar:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oatmeal (we use quick or old fashioned

Tape to the top:

  • 1 – 4ounce unsweetened applesauce

Wet ingredients to add:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Bake 350° for 30 minutes in a greased 8×8 pan.  You may add any combination of nuts, fresh fruit,  or dried fruit to this. 

I love putting almonds and dried cranberries in one corner just for me.  The kids think it is yucky, so I let them eat theirs plain.  You can serve it in a bowl with milk or on a plate as a piece of breakfast cake.  Yea, tell ‘em it’s cake for breakfast.  It can also be topped with warmed applesauce as frosting. 

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Baked Oatmeal.

It’s what’s for breakfast.

 

 

Help Yourself Hospitality–Hot Drinks

I come from a big family.

My husband comes from a big family.

We had a big family.

When family isn’t around and we’re lonely,
we invite friends over to fill up the house.

In other words,
there can be many people in my house at any given time.

We love having people around,
and enjoy making them feel at home enough to

Help Themselves.

During the winter holidays,
hot drinks are made available on my kitchen counter,
ready for expected and unexpected company.

I like drop-in kinda’ company.
It’s a Midwest thing we love.
It says they like the real me enough to be
willing to throw things off the couch to sit down.

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I start with jars of mini-marshmallows and red-hots.

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I add festive tubs of hot chocolate and hot cider mixes.

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I add one pretty hot pot.

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Mixed all together on a metal tray,
and you have a

Help Yourself Hospitality Center for Hot Drinks.

We normally don’t drink hot chocolate and apple cider
or give my kids marshmallows to eat,
but at the holidays,
there are some rules that are meant to be broken.

Of course, the coffee pot is always on.

Regular coffee is brewed until supper, then we switch to decaff.

The evening meal is called supper if you are from farm country,
because lunch is called dinner,
and lunch is the meal you bring to the farmers in the fields
between dinner and supper.
Lunch can also be a snack between breakfast and lunch,
if ya’ got up really early to work in the fields.

So, if you followed that little rabbit trail,
the order of meals for Midwest farmers goes
breakfast, lunch, dinner, lunch, supper.
Got it?

(See, another trick in hospitality. 
If you invite someone for dinner,
you better know where they’re from.
We had a friend who didn’t know this
and invited someone to dinner.
She was surprised when they showed up at noon.)

Anyhoo…

My good ol’ Norwegian relatives drink a lot of black coffee.

Nothing is added to the coffee,
no milk and no sugar,
we drink it black,
because they dunk their cookies in it.
That’s where the sugar comes from.

My Mom calls cookies and coffee,
"A Norwegian Breakfast."

I love being Norwegian.

The generations that have lived through the Depression make
their coffee so weak, you can see the bottom of the cup through the coffee.

My brothers call this "Lutheran Church Basement Coffee."

Norwegians who know the Depression is over
make their coffee strong.

My brothers says it will grow hair on their chest.

Depending on who made the coffee in the morning,
I either add a little hot water to dilute
or  drink a few extra cups to wake up.

In the mornings,
I feel no pressure to get up and rush out to the kitchen,
because I have established the ability for my guests to

Help Yourself.

I don’t have to wake up,
until I smell the coffee.

Help Yourself Hospitality–Breakfast

A lot of women get up and make delicious breakfasts for their company.

I get up.

Years of living with cancer has changed my view on life
and my definition of hospitality.
I’ve learned to accept my limitations.

If my guests haven’t stayed overnight in my home before,
I casually let them know that if I haven’t slept well,
I won’t be up early.
(Sometimes, I need to sleep until 8 or 9am)

They’re shown where everything is in the kitchen,
the bathroom and the linen closet,
so if I can’t meet their needs,
they can

Help Themselves.

Mornings come too quickly.

Especially during the holidays.

Especially if you’ve been up talking with relatives,
drinking decaf,
watching holiday movies,
wrapping presents,
or reading a good book.

It’s hard to be up-and-at-’em early in the morning,
with a house full of early-rising old,
I mean experienced, people.

I like to have things out and ready, so if I’m not out in the kitchen,
my guests feel comfortable

Helping Themselves.

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I start with one jar of regular rolled oats, for those healthy on-a-diet kinda’ guests.

Add one jar of Trader Joe’s low-fat vanilla and almond granola.

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Add one tub of instant oatmeal packets of various flavors.

I try to find ones that are low in sugar,
but it can be a challenge.

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Take jars from your craft room, wash, and fill in with healthy mix-ins for the cereals.

(L to R) I have dried cranberries, dried apricots, raisins and slivered almonds.

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Display on a tray with a doily and you’re almost ready for breakfast.

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These three jars are always on my counter filled with cold cereal.

I was tired of having so many opened boxes in the pantry,
spilling and getting stale,
so this was a pleasing solution for all of us.

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This is another standard on my kitchen counter.

In our early years of marriage,
someone wisely advised it’s cheaper to eat healthy,
than to pay for a doctor.

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The bread basket is another company staple.

I fill it with good breads, bagels and English muffins,
so my company has a lot of options for

Helping Themselves

in the morning.

Cancer has taken much from me,
but I won’t allow it to take hospitality.

I’m healthier and stronger today
and have learned to PACE not PUSH.

But, there are three meals in a day,
I know I can’t give them each100%,
so I choose where to put my energy.

I help myself
by allowing my guests to

Help Themselves to Breakfast.

I Served Cold Cereal for Our Company Holiday Party

 

A strange American holiday tradition is Chex Mix.

It’s not enough that we eat cold cereal for breakfast, 160 bowls  or 101 pounds per year per person, according to Cerealizing America.

We coat it with butter, Season-All salt and Worcestershire Sauce (how DO you say that anyway?) and it’s a snack.

We mix it with butter and melted marshmallows, squish it in a pan with our bare, buttered hands,  and it’s a desert.

Crumble it up and throw it on a casserole and it’s dinner. 

String it on yarn and it’s an edible craft.

We Americans love us some cold cereal.

We also love us some Chex Mix. 

It’s a salty tradition that balances out all the sugar we devour during the holidays.  And it’s healthy, right? Right?

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We go big or go home, as Jon,  my teenage son, would say. It’s easier to dump everything into lotsa bowls, then just crank the batches through the microwave. 

Since you just need 10 cups of stuff, I don’t always follow the recipe.  I love adding Bugles and Goldfish Crackers.  This year I added tiny Triscuits and little rye crackers. I use mixed nuts, cashews, or dry roasted peanuts, depending on sales.

We make enough for drop-by company or impromptu movie nights and store it in Ziplocs in fridge or freezer.

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This recipe came in a little cellophane wrapper in a box of Chex cereal, and is almost as old as my marriage.  We’re all still happily together. The online recipe is a bit different, although they claim it’s the original.

Plastic Chex Bowl 40th Anniversary with Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

I saved box-tops and sent for this treasure in 1990, a microwave safe bowl designed in honor of Peanuts’ 40th Anniversary.  I used it every year until I burned a hole right through the bottom. I found this beautiful memory  in Tracy’s Etsy shop, Upscale Yard Sale.

When my sister-in-law, Nita, gave me the turquoise Pyrex bowl in the first picture above,  a new tradition was born.

This year I needed a new tradition for serving my salty cold cereal for a holiday work party hosted in my home. I’ve used mini take-out boxes in the past, but I wanted something reusable.

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I guess I’ve been buying these things for awhile. The flatter ones are Sandbakkel molds, a Norwegian cookie I should make, but never have, and some are mini Jello molds.

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Those of you that like rusty, chippy things are drooling with jealousy now.

Those of you that don’t like rusty, chippy things are saying, “EEWWW!  Why didn’t she just throw that garbage out?”

Rabbit Trail Alert — I’m thinking those little flowers on the upper left would look great nailed onto something, or added to knitting needle stems or….what would YOU do with them?

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I was gunna’ be all impressive and use my Geometry skillz to perfectly cut holes on each side of the tin cups.  But, I discovered a lined index card with a black line worked just fine.

The tiny green wire garland was bought to make something for my daughter’s dollhouse a few years ago, but obviously, I never got around to it. I had to climb up into the scary attic and find it in the Christmas stuff, because I’m crazy like that when I have a project burning a hole in my pocket.

They need to change Murphy’s Law to Mindy’s Law.  Of course, I had to hit my head on a nail in the attic.  Why did they use nails six inches too long to pound the roof on?  It’s like a torture chamber up there.

Then, after drilling 50 holes with my trusty Makita drill, I realized little bits of metal were still clinging around the edges.  I didn’t want my company to eat metal, so I took a small paring knife and cleaned out each hole.  I was glad I remembered to wash them, because I bought them all at the thrift store and garage sales. 

Then, I discovered the green trim was shedding little bits of stuff after I cut the ends.  I had to de-fluff the green stuff by running it through my fingers and shaking the stuff on the floor for the kids to clean up.

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I used festive cupcake papers, ya’ know the kind I don’t usually spend the money on because I’m so cheap frugal, and turned them inside out to line the tins.

They really needed something added for a decoration, but I was out of time.

What would you add?

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They were served in an old, rusty cast iron muffin pan.  ‘Cuz, when you invite your husband’s boss and team over for a party, you really wanna’ serve them in rusty, vintage stuff.

It’s a tradition as American as Chex Mix.

What’s For Dinner?

The same  question haunts me daily.

No matter how many loads of laundry I’ve washed,
how many weeds I’ve pulled,
how many errands I’ve done,
it’s never enough.
There’s always demand for one more task in my day.

I could swim the seven seas,
scale Mountwashmore,
and cross off 29 things on my To-Do List.

Still the question buzzes in my ear
like a Kamikaze mosquito who comes out of hiding
after the bedroom light is extinguished.

Sometimes,the demands of life are so great,
I actually get annoyed when this
survival-of-the-fittest question is asked.

Remember, I’m the one who wishes the Wonka pill was real?

You can read about it here.

As if breakfast and lunch weren’t enough,
even though the kids often make their own,
they always gotta’ ask
“What’s for dinner?”

It’s not that I don’t wanna’ feed my kids,
it’s not that we are poverty-stricken and
need to beg for food from the starving kids in Africa.

Most of the time I just can’t come up with any idears.

Nothing sounds good,
nothing sounds easy.

Then one day I heard giggling in the kitchen.

Like handwriting on the wall,
I received my answer.

She looks so delicious,
 we might have to make this again.

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(Please don’t panic.
No children were hurt or abused
in the writing of this blog.
A mommy trying to carry an adorably chubby baby
and a large gleaming kettle upstairs at the same time,
merely simplified her life.)

(Blue words are links to past blogs,
just in case you were too busy trying to figger’
out what to make for dinner to notice.