Friday, October 28, 2011

"Yesterday's Meatloaf is today's Sloppy Joes"

Anyone remember those lyrics?  If not that's probably a good thing!  Mr. Bacon and I were taking a walk down memory lane listening to old songs we remembered on YouTube the other day.  Some he was even letting the kids listen to.  I found out that they actually do appreciate some big hair bands as well as a little Lunch Lady Land!  Mostly they just laughed at the video.  Anyway, I'm thankful to say this meatloaf will not become tomorrow's sloppy joes!  It's way too good (even as leftovers) to eat it any other way.

Last year I was looking for a good meatloaf recipe.  Meatloaf is a comfort food and is there anything better than comfort food?  It warms you up and makes you feel all cozy inside.  My friend Nancy was happy to share hers.  She said her boys would eat a whole pan at a time it was that good.  So I thought if her kids at it, surely mine would too right?  Yes indeed I was right.  Want to try it out too? Read on!

Nancy's Meatloaf:
1.5 lbs burger (beef or turkey or a mix works fine I've found)
12 saltine crackers- crushed
3/4 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP Worcester sauce
1/4 tsp each- pepper, dry mustard, sage, celery salt, garlic salt
Ketchup to top

In a bowl or 1 cup measure cup, place milk, Worcester sauce and egg. Mix well.  In a large bowl place the burger, crackers, and seasonings.  Now if you don't have all the seasoning on hand, it's ok.  I for some reason didn't have everything either.  I did have pepper and sage.  I added 1/4 tsp more garlic powder instead of garlic salt, and I added roughly 1 tsp yellow mustard from the fridge since I couldn't find my dry mustard.  And don't ask me where the celery salt went either?  Seems like the pantry monster has been hungry around here lately, or maybe playing tricks on my by hiding my spices?
Next comes the messy part, Mixing.  Dump the milk mix into the meat and spices and mix away. I do this with my hands, it's the best way I've found to make sure everything gets mixed well.  If you choose to use a spoon that's fine too. Just make sure it's mixed up really well.  Next take out a 9x13 pan and grease it well.

Spread your meat mixture in the pan and shape it into a loaf.  You can also grease muffin tins and fill them with the meat mix and have mini meat loafs too. The kids love that. My friend Nancy uses a special silicone heart pan she bought for a special, always requested valentines meatloaf dinner.  Hey have fun with it, the more creative, the more kids like it right?!
Once you have your loaf, squirt ketchup over the top of it.  Place it in a preheated 350* 
oven and let it bake for 1.5 hours. 
Here is mine all snug in the oven!  We had baked potatoes and squash with it as you can see. 
Nothing like all the mess in the oven baking while I play with the kids!
How can you say no to a slice of meatloaf?  This recipe is amazing and always comes out moist.  Thank you Nancy for sharing your recipe with me! It's a family favorite here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mystery Meat Meal?

I've told you about our mystery noodles before, well this is all about the meat! Now when I say mystery meat, I don't mean the package of stuff you pulled out of the freezer but have no clue what it is because you forgot to mark it or it's so freezer burnt it's not recognizable.  I've found stuff like that before, trust me it's just best to toss that stuff!  But have you every had a package of meat in the fridge or freezer and you're wondering what should I make out of this?  Any time I have that, I use this recipe.  Oh and the other thing I love about this recipe, it's a crock pot meal!  I love my crock pot. I dump all the stuff in it in the morning, and by dinner I have a cooked meal with very little work.   This is perfect for a busy day or one that you don't feel like cooking.  It saves us from heading out for pizza or fast food too!

Country (mystery meat) crock pot dinner:
1 package of meat- this time I used pork chops
1 can cream of something soup- I used mushroom
1 soup can of water
1/4 cup chopped onion
4-5 med peeled, cut carrots
3-4 med cut up potatoes
1 tsp season salt
1/4 tsp pepper

In medium or large crock pot place soup, water and seasoning.  Mix well.  Add in your meat.  This can be anything. This time around I used pork.  But I've made it with thin beef steaks, ground burger, chicken or even turkey.  They all work.  If I'm making chicken or turkey I use cream of chicken soup in stead of mushroom soup.

Next chop some onions and toss them into the soup and meat mix. 

Do you hate chopping onions? This one was really bad and made even Bacon Jr cry while he was sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework. But what I really hate is when my hands smell like onions for DAYS afterward.  Want to know a trick to get rid of the smell?  When you are done cutting, wash your hands with a spoon. I put some soap on my hands, grab a spoon and scrub away. Then rinse like normal.  Takes the smell away every time. This works with a lot of things, I wash my hands like this after I use peppers or garlic too. 

Cover and turn the crock pot on high.  This recipe calls to cook this on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. So adjust your time as needed.  When I'm about 2-3 hours out from when I want to eat I add the veggies.  You can add this right away if you are cooking it on low too. 

I cut my peeled carrots into little carrot coins and toss them in. 
Potatoes get chopped as well. It's up to you if you'd like to peel them, I don't since that's where all the good stuff is and the kids eat the peels and don't even know it's good for them!  You can add other veggies if you'd like, use up what ever you have so it doesn't go to waste. 
Toss them all in and give it a good mix around.  Then put the lid back on.  Let it cook until the meat and veggies are both done.
Yes sometimes I let it go long enough and everything is falling apart!   It turns it more into a stew that way.  Serve it with some fresh baked biscuits, toast or just buttered bread.  Dinner is ready!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Planning, planning, planning- success once again (and still no dog food!)

I am honestly in shock, jaw dropping shock at the amount of people who viewed and shared my dog food post about how we meal plan and grocery shop.  It has inspired me to post once again about our every other week shopping trip. Yesterday was shopping day.  Honestly I'm impressed by how well we did since it has been 3 weeks since a big shopping trip. I did manage to sneak in a gallon of milk and some bananas while picking up cold medicine last week but that was it!  Yes our house had been plagued with some virus that has overstayed it's unwelcomed visit.  Of course it would happen to be me that it decided it like the best and has been with me for over a week.  Thankfully it's leaving!  And since I was feeling better this past weekend Mr. Bacon and I sat down with a cup of joe and discussed our meal plan.

This time the kids didn't want to stick around to discuss our upcoming meal plan, I guess there was some big construction of lego garages in process in the basement!  But before they headed to put on hard hats, we asked what meals they would like in the next two weeks.  What did our charming kids request?  You might be surprised to see for once tacos didn't make our meal plan list!  However the other usual requests that made their way were pizza, pancakes, and spaghetti.  I'm ok with that!

So what is our meal plan for the next two weeks?
Here is the dinner meal plan.  This went from Sunday October  16th- October 29th (yes we didn't grocery shop until Tuesday!)
Week 1:
*homemade pizza & garlic bread
*Muffin tin meals (a kid favorite on busy nights! Mr. Bacon, Bacon Bit and I had left over Chicken cordon blue that Mr. Bacon made the other night while I worked)
*Chicken and noodles, peas
*Nancy's Meatloaf, Baked potatoes, squash and corn
*Slow cooker country pork chops (pork, potatoes, and carrots)
*Lasagna, Salad, biscuits
*Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, bread sticks

Week 2:
*Veggie beef soup and sandwiches
*Beef Stroganoff over Mashed potatoes, Mixed Veggies
*Chicken supreme and Normandy blend veggies
*Baked potato bar, Soup (leftover)
*Pancakes & Fresh fruit
*Ham and Hash brown bake, Green beans
*Spaghetti, Salad, & Garlic bread

Breakfasts standards:
muffins, eggs, pancakes, waffles, cereal, breakfast breads, toast

Lunches standards:
Leftovers, sandwiches, tuna, soup, hot dogs, homemade pizza

Snacks that I have planned:
Muffins, animal crackers (still working on that big tub we bought from Sam's Club!), homemade cookies, homemade granola bars, pudding, homemade yogurt, yogurt or pudding pops, fruit,

Sounds pretty good right?  Not too hard at all.  Like normal breakfast, lunch and snacks around here are pretty laid back.  It's more the dinner meals that I need to actually plan out.  So now that we have the food planned, it was time to make my handy list. I NEVER go shopping with out one! It would be way too dangerous if I did. Now since my last post Mr. Bacon and I have decided to increase our every two week grocery budget by $10.  That means we can spend up to $90 every 2 weeks on our everyday grocery needs.  Remember we set out $40 a month for food from Sam's Club (and shop there every 3 months, so we spend about $120). This pretty much buys our meat, pizza supplies, and frozen veggies.  So our monthly total for groceries for the 6 of us is now $220.

On to the shopping trip!

Ma Bacon's Shopping list with prices included:
Onion powder- $.50
seasoning salt-$1.68
egg noodles -$1.68
cream of chicken soup x 5-$5
cream of mushroom soup -$1
bacon -$3.98
sour cream-$1.50
shredded hash browns-$1.97
shredded cheese $4.64
spaghetti sauce-$1.33
hot dogs-$ .88
chicken deli lunch meat about 1# $5.10
1 dozen eggs-$1.68
2 packs margarine-$1.84
potatoes 10# $3.28
2# carrots-$1.12
onion x1-$.91
celery $1.28
apples- $3.68
2# bananas $1
grapes 2.5#- $4.20
squash -$3.83
milk x 2 gallons $5.34
2 loafs bread $3
1 box cereal- $2.32
2 frozen apple juice-$1.84
1 box pudding mix -$1.08
corned beef x2- $1.56
provolone sliced cheese-$3.38
almond milk $2.99
Creamer $1.99
total on list:  $76.96!

what we bought that was not on the list:
Mandarin oranges $1.66
Mini recess pieces (for granola bars) $1.88
pail of vanilla ice cream $5.98 (we are having a party for Little Miss Bacon's 6th birthday soon!)
hot dog buns $1.25

Grand Total for 2 weeks Groceries $87.73

Everything else we had in the house already for making the rest of our meals. Remember we picked up Ground beef, chicken breasts, and pork chops from Sam's Club.  And the ham for the hash brown bake I found left over from Easter yet!  Thank goodness I used my food saver, it looks as good as the day I packaged it!  I love shopping my pantry and freezer first! It saves us so much money and that food we bought actually gets used before it expires.

That wasn't a bad shopping trip. Especially since we lasted three weeks since our last one.  I think having everyone in the house sick for a week helped our budget. No one felt like eating much, but I'd rather buy groceries than have everyone sick!  I'm actually having fun doing the grocery shopping/ meal planning posts. I have a feeling they will continue more often in my future!  I will be posting some recipes from a few of the meals on the menu plan too so please check back for those!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Everything is better with Bacon

Isn't that true? When you know something has bacon in it you just have to try it right?!  I like to think of bacon as the candy of the meat world. Looking  over our meal plan last week I noticed I had breakfast on the list again.  This is fairly standard at our house. But I wanted something different than our usual pancakes or scrambled eggs.  So I opted for a brunch time favorite, the egg bake!  I hadn't made one in a while because there is some planning involved and honestly it's probably not the cheapest meal on our list, but it's delicious! I did manage to convert out the price from when I shopped so you can see just how much this meal costs. So if you want something different for your breakfast night, or just a great start to the day on the weekend this is it.  Oh and it makes for a great Christmas morning meal too.  I love to make this around the holidays or when we're entertaining, not only because of how good it is, but because it makes a lot too.

Ma Bacon's Egg Bake

1 lb breakfast sausage links, cooked and chopped ($1.50 per package)
9 eggs- beaten (at the time cost was $1.12 for 9 eggs)
3 cups milk ( About a 1/3 of a gallon- $.97)
9 slices bread (day old is perfect!) cut into cubes (about 1/2 loaf-$ .75)
2 cups shredded cheese, I use co-jack by any cheddar type is fine (Lucky to find it on sale for $2)
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled ($1.50)
Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Total cost for this meal:  $7.84
Of course this all varies depending on where you live and if you can find things on sale, but not too bad considering it makes a 9x13 pan (cut it into 15 pieces) and for the 6 of us we got both dinner and breakfast out of it.  That was with Bacon Jr. eating 3 full pieces for dinner!  Yes he's going though a growth spurt, I don't even what to know what it will be like to feed 3 teenage boys in a few years!

Back to baking... First take a 9x13 pan and grease it generously.  Next, it's time to get that bacon and sausage cooking!

I love my handy microwave bacon cooker, it saves me so much time!  Once they are cooled cut or crumble them into small pieces and set them aside.  Dig out a large mixing bowl and add your eggs, milk, salt and pepper to it, and beat it until everything is mixed.

Now it's time for the bread.  I used cheap bread for this recipe. Any works well and its a great way to use up that bread that is getting stale or the butts that no one seems to want to eat in this house.  Take the 9 slices and cut them into small cubes.  Add them to the egg mixture.

 Next add in the sausage, bacon and 1.5 cups of the cheese.  Mix this well in the bowl and then dump it into your greased 9x13 pan.  Take the remaining cheese and sprinkle it over the top.
 Now here is where your planning comes in.  The recipe calls for the egg mixture to sit 8 hours to over night in the fridge.  So you need to plan for this. Honestly, I have made this and tossed it in the fridge for 3-4 hours before baking and it turned out just fine. In fact that is what I did the day I made this.  I'm not sure the whole point of leaving it in there that long, but if you have the time to make it up the night before go for it. 
Take it out of the fridge and toss it into a cold oven. No preheating here or you might break your pan if it's glass.  Turn the oven on to 350* and bake for 60 minutes.  The egg bake should be fluffy and nice golden brown on top.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes on the counter before cutting and serving. 
 The kids when crazy for this.  At first Little boy Bacon wasn't so sure on it.  It had been a while since I had made it last, but even he had a few pieces for dinner. We served it with some toast and fresh fruit.
Made a great dinner meal, and wonderful leftovers the next morning for breakfast  I love it when I can make 2 meals at once!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is it a pancake or a muffin?

Yet another morning of the 'what are we having for breakfast' debate with the Bacon kids.  One thing I've learned is that none of my kids like cereal!  So the big question today....are we having muffins or pancakes for breakfast?  I replied... BOTH!  Yes I did get shocked and stunned faces, along with a moan (Little Boy Bacon wanted waffles, no I just can't win around here, and I'm not a short order cook!)  But when I mentioned there were chocolate chips involved everyone seemed happy with that answer. 

I found this recipe a while ago on a site I love called Bakerella.  Goodness she has some amazing, yummy looking stuff.  Much I can't make due to the fact I have 4 kids and a husband to take care of.  Many of her recipes involve a lot of detail.  Someday perhaps I'll have time to dawdle in the kitchen, but for now I have 4 hungry mouths to feed.  This recipe was one that wasn't time consuming though.  I have made it before and the muffins don't last in this house.  So give them a try, I bet your family will fall in love with them too!

Maple pancake muffins:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk (or sour milk)
1 egg
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a bowl mix in the first 5 ingredients.  I dump them all in and then take a fork to stir them around.  Set this bowl aside. Now normally I don't use two separate bowls. I'd just mix the wet ingredients and then dump in the dry.  Yes I like to save on how many dishes I need to wash!  But I have found when I make muffins that this is a needed step.  It helps keep the muffins more airy. 

In the next bowl combine the butter milk (you can make sour milk by adding 1 tbsp vinegar to 1 cup milk and letting it sit for a few minutes, it will work the same as buttermilk)  egg, syrup and melted butter.  Mix these well.  Then dump this mixture into your flour mixture.
 Stir just until everything is combined. This is another great tip when making muffins.  Don't over mix your muffin batter or anything you add to it (like chocolate chips, nuts, berries ect) will fall to the bottom and you won't get fluffy muffins.  It's ok to have lumps in the batter, they are suppose to be there! 
 Once it's just mixed, it's time to dump in these!  I think it's every kids dream to eat chocolate for breakfast!  Little Miss Bacon requests these muffins all the time for this very reason!  Gently mix the chocolate chips in the batter, a few turns of the spoon is all you need.  Again you don't want to over mix.

Next place them in your well greased mini muffin tin.
  Save some extra chocolate chips and add them to the tops!
  Bake in a pre-heated 350* oven for about 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.  Be careful not to over bake them.  Since they really are pancake batter it won't take as long to bake as normal mini muffins. 
 Here they are!  Let them cool a few minutes on a wire rack.  Enjoy the smell! Ahhhh...
And bat off little fingers trying to eat them.  They need to cool!
 Ooey, gooey, yumminess!  I like them best when they are still a bit warm and the chocolate is still melted a bit.  They taste delicious when they are all cooled too which makes them great for an after school snack too!
Don't want chocolate for breakfast? No problem!! You can leave them out. They taste like pancakes.  Oh and don't forget the syrup!
 Go ahead and bake up a batch for breakfast! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What to do with all that sauce?

Yes THIS post is going to be another pizza post. Can you tell we love our pizza around the Bacon house?  It's most requested for dinner on family fun night, and what can I say?  They give me the puppy dog face.  But I do get bored with the same ol' round pizza.  And you know I have lots of jars of that fantastic pizza sauce lined up in your cupboard right?  So what to make this time?  Pizza braids!  They are wonderful!  And quick and easy and freeze well....  So you want to make one for your family fun night too? Or just any night?  Read on!
First start with that tasty pizza dough.  Once it's all mixed up and rested, take the dough and divide it in half.
Press it out into a rectangle on a flour coated surface, I use my wood cutting board. Good tip to keep the board from slipping is to place it on a silicone hot pad or other non-stick material you have. I keep a chunk of that non-slip shelf liner in my gadget drawer just for this.
Roll out a nice rectangle.  Oh I think this one is about 15 inches long, yes I just guess I never measure much, just ask Mr. Bacon!  
Next add your favorite toppings down the center. Leave about a two inch boarder around the edge. Can you guess who likes to help here? Little Miss Bacon has been loving helping me out more in the kitchen.   

Next cut the dough about every 2 inches around the pizza only up to where the sauce is.  Do this only along both long sides, not the short ends.
Then I flip in the short ends, and bring in the cut stripes. I rotate one from the right, then the left, then back to the right. You get the picture right?!  Bacon Jr. loves to help with this step.  After all it is family fun night and which includes dinner at our house!

As for the other half of pizza dough, you can repeat all the steps above and have two pizza braids or you can go ahead and make some cheesy bread to go with it!  To make it first start with the steps above to make a large rectangle.  Then I melt some butter  (about 1/4 stick) and add some garlic bread seasoning to it.  It's from Tastefully Simple and so not thrifty, but one bottle lasts us about 6 months.  You can feel free to add in some garlic powder, Italian seasonings, Mrs. Dash garlic & herb or what ever you have on hand. Or you can just skip adding things to your butter.  After all it's suppose to be a fun relaxing night right?

Then brush your rectangle with the melted butter.  Next sprinkle on your favorite shredded cheese. We use a 3 cheese blend. 

Now it's time to braid it all up. You can see a little better the way I cross mine over, I'm not picky on this step so if it doesn't look all that pretty it's ok, I just tell people Mr. Bacon did it! 

Next toss them both on a greased baking sheet.  Yes this is a bit tricky with the transfer from the cutting board to the pan.  I just grab it at both ends and pick it up and set it on the pan.  It usually doesn't fall apart. And if it does, I just piece it back together. 

On top of the cheesy bread I brush on more of the melted garlic butter.  This is Little Boy Bacon's job.  He loves to paint dinner, and I love that everyone gets to do a part.  If you're wondering what Mr. Bacon got to help with it was sampling the pizza toppings!  Place in a 400* oven for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are nice and golden brown and the cheese is all melty.  

Now to to add just a little more cheese.  When it comes out I grate on some fresh Parmesan cheese over both the pizza and the garlic bread.  Slice then in strips and you're ready for your own family fun night!  We usually break out the board games after dinner and play many before it's time for the kids to tuck in to bed.  There is nothing better than spending time with my family and starting new traditions!  So what are you doing for family fun night?