Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thinking outside the typical "box" meal.

There's not one person I know that doesn't have a
fond memory of those "Helper" meals Mom made for us kids
growing up.

Good OR bad.

When I first moved in with my husband and I was pregnant
and he was newly unemployed, I switched over to the clever
budgeting that I was taught basically from birth. One of the
cheapest meals we ate was a skillet meal, pretty close to the
"Helper" meals that all the other kids I knew ate. Sure,
Mom made them for us every once and a while. She particularly
liked to make Tuna Helper, one in particular that had a sort
of cornbread-pie topping that really made you vomit in your
mouth at the look and smell. Nevermind the taste.
Mom didn't buy those ready made mixes all too often because
she knew that she could make a better tasting meal and really
make the most basic ingredients stretch to feed the kids for
a couple days.

Living with two growing boys and one husband who works.......
construction and likes to eat big, I'm thankful for that lesson
darn near every day.

Now, having two growing boys and a hungry husband does have
it's setbacks, aside from the constant empty leg syndrome.
My boys can be a little picky, especially the youngest. I LOVE
vegetables.....sadly, they do not always share the love. Which
blows. BUT, I make it work.

I'm sneaky. I hide veggies, darn near every day. I serve a
veggie side along with the meal so they can see what they're
eating and try a whole array of textures and flavors BUT
I do sneak them into meals. And lemme tell you, I think my
kids are on to me. I KNOW my husband knows the score. I will
tell you after a while, they just kind of shrug now
and just chalk it up to me being "experimental" and eat it
anyway. (A few nights of You'll Eat What I Make Or You'll
Starve works well, too. Especially on the husband, who
can't really cook anything aside from BBQ or ramen noodles.)

You can do this, too. And it's really not going to cost any
more than what you're already paying for meat and a packaged meal.
And you're family will survive, even if they complain and tell you
that you're killing them with all these vegetables and
lack of processed ingredients. (My husband especially loves
to complain about this.)Tune it out and keep on keepin' on.

I come bearing a gift today. One of my own personal skillet meals
for you to try on your family, just to see what they think. I make
the basic formula with the WW noodles, tomato sauce and meat, but
it varies every time with what veggies I have in the fridge/what
I found on sale. Experiment. If you have another kind of fresh
veg that you think would be good, chop it up and throw it in.
Nine times out of ten, you'll like what you make. And
really, so will your kids. Don't we lead by example? Anyway.....
here is one I make about......twice each a month.

1 lg onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1# extra lean ground beef (or ground chicken/turkey)
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 can (14.5 oz.) low-salt canned tomatoes, rinsed and drained
3 cans (8 oz.) low salt tomato sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. dill pickle juice
1 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
1/3 c. bacon bits (packaged or homemade)
1 1/2 c. uncooked whole wheat pasta
8 oz. lowfat sharp cheddar, shredded
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, cook together onion, garlic and meat until
browned. Drain well. Add in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Liquid
Smoke, dijon mustard, dill pickle juice, worchestershire sauce
and bacon bits. Heat through. In seperate pot, cook pasta to
box instructions. Drain well. Stir into meat mixture.
Heat through. Serve with a sprinkle of cheese.

We like this with cornbread and a platter of fresh
veggies and my Zesty Ranch Dip.

Really only pennies to make these meals and a whole lot healthier
than the "Helper" meals.

I mean, they're great. Don't get me wrong. But it's always
a little tastier homemade.

And cheaper. Isn't it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Birthday! Guess what......You're old!

I've been fretting over this new blog entry.

Only because I'm not really in a writin' mood lately.

Not a lot has changed excepting my boys are getting older.
I'm getting older. We're all getting older. And the sense
of my own mortality has kind of gripped my psyche and hasn't let go.

(I go through this every Spring. My family members all
have birthdays right after the other and it's a constant
reminder that we're all maturing. Some of us faster than others,
in the case of my adolescent husband. You think I'm being too
hard on him? Great. Then you can come for dinner one night and
witness him both farting and burping without apologies, and
encouraging my boys to clap if he's beat last dinner's record.
Then, we'll see what you have to say. But, I digress.)

We're broke as heck. Worse than before. So, that single wide
budget has shrunk down to about the size of our Subaru. I'm
trying to remain positive. This means, I get to make the
boys' birthday cake this year instead of paying $25 for a bakery
cake that has a a**ton of dyes and artificial mess that make
my boys yak all over the carpet in a array of colors. I like
to bake and my boys like to eat cake. It all works out. We've
spent all our excess "fun" money on small gifts for the boys
and I'm researching on how to make my own party decorations on
the cheap. And, we're doing a "special" dinner at home instead
of dinner out. This means the birthday boy gets to pick out
their birthday dinner.......that I get to figure out how to make on
the cheap. They've all clammored to me with suggestions, and I'm
doing my best to figure out how I can do what they wish on the cheap.

I'm determined to keep a positive attitude. Even if I don't have
a lot to say on the matter.

So, anyway.....pretty soon, it'll be Happy Birthday to Me.
And when I blow out the candles on the cake I make for myself,
I will make sure to thank Whoever for the blessings I've
been given: Each new day I'm presented with to spend time with
the people that matter to me the most. The ability to do the best
for my family I can, no matter what the budget. The ingenuity I
was shown by my parent that you can do anything you set
your mind to. The friendships I've made that get me through
the hardest times. And the state of mind that I can just open
my mouth and tell anyone about it.

So, yes. I'm older. But, I think with each passing year,
I'm more thankful.

How's that for turning a heck of a negative into a shining positive?