Thursday, May 17, 2012

Turkey-Cheddar Meatloaf (week 3)

I decided to try ground turkey for meatloaf this week, and it was a good decision.  The texture was perfect; the flavor was fantastic.

Cost: $12 (not purchasing new bottles of sauce and but accounting for using what you already have)

2 lb ground turkey
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup ketchup
2 eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup A1
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 F.  In large mixing bowl, combine sauces, using only 1/8 cup ketchup, green pepper and eggs.  You can use any various combinations of the liquid ingredients/sauces, to equal about 3/4 cup. Mix in ground turkey. Add breadcrumbs, onion soup mix, and cumin;  mix into turkey well. Mix in shredded cheese.

Spoon mixture into loaf pan.  Yes, I use a spoon even for mixing - I know some believe in doing this with hands only, but I don't feel that using a spoon makes it any less tasty.  I used a 4-mini loaf pan which makes smaller loaves, allowing more edges.  It also doesn't usually take as long to bake as a loaf pan.

Cover loaf  (or each loaf) with remaining ketchup, thickly covering the top to coat.  You could also use BBQ sauce instead for a spicier flavor.

Bake for an hour (may need to be longer in one loaf pan.  Make sure temp reaches 170 degrees.

Remove from oven and serve in slices.  The cheese inside keeps the moisture and adds flavor, without it being greasy. Delicious!  And the leftovers taste good, heated in the microwave or on a sandwich.

Serve with mashed potatoes or cheesy fries.

Cheesy Fries (week 3)

This week I have 2 new dishes: one of which is a side dish.  These cheesy fries look very much like the appetizer one might find at Chili's.  It's a delicious party dish or side dish to BBQ, chili or Turkey and cheddar meatloaf (my new meal this week).

Cost: about $9, if you have the seasonings on hand already

4-6 potatoes
2 cups shredded cheddar
5 slices cooked bacon
1 green onion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp olive oil

Seasoning mix:
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp each: chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
salt - dash
pepper - to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut potatoes into 1/4" slices.  I used a wavy cutter to give it the true "fry" look and also helps with keeping the oil and seasonings on the potato.

Put slices into 1 gallon Ziploc bag and pour in olive oil.  Close bag and work potatoes slices to coat evenly.  Next, add the seasoning mix to the bag, close and work potatoes to coat.  This is a great task for the kids to help with.

Place potato slices in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet(s) and bake about 25 min. until tender. If they need to crisp some more, turn on the broiler for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Combine into one dish (9x13 works well), if you had to use two.  Remove foil from pans.  Cover with shredded cheese; sprinkle with bacon pieces, jalapenos and onion slices.

Place back in oven to bake (350 or 400 - not broiler) for about 10 min, until cheese is melty. Serve immediately with ranch dressing for a dip, if desired.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Medieval Party

My daughter had taken a field trip to the Medieval Times dinner show, and really enjoyed it, so she wanted to carry that theme onto her birthday party.  She drew up her own invitations, which I replicated on the computer and printed.


We thought about what types of food they had during the medieval period and tried to stay with that for the meal.  We included chicken, rolls, grapes, etc.

For the cake, she wanted a dragon cake.  I found the idea on the Family Fun website, and it worked wonderfully.  It's made with two round cakes, then cut into pieces and put together to make the shape of the dragon.  Some candy is used to add the wings and other features. I used fruit roll-ups for the wings, butterfinger pieces for the toes, chocolate graham crackers cut into triangles for the scales, marshmallows cut in half and a chocolate chip for the eyes, fruit roll-up strips for the fire.

She and I made our own banners to hang around the room.  I looked up a few family crests, and the rest came from her imagination.  We bought felt at the craft store, then cut out shapes and glued them on larger felt pieces.  We found long sticks to hang them on.

We bought jewels at the craft store and circle glue dots, then picked up plastic goblets from the dollar store and each of the guests decorated their own royal goblet.

Hawaiian Luau Party

My daughter asked for a Hawaiian Luau for her 8th birthday.  We had fun planning the meal, thinking back to any Polynesian-type meal we'd experienced in the past, including inspiration from Disney's "Spirit of Aloha" dinner.

For the food, I made a teriyaki chicken, with vegetables and mashed potatoes (not Hawaiian, but my daughter's favorite side dish).  We had pineapple and other fruit, a salad with Polynesian dressing (home-made), and coconut milk shakes (with paper umbrellas).

The cake was a palm tree - I used cupcakes to form the shape, then iced them (second layer) together, so that the design was unified and didn't look too much like separate pieces.  Once the second icing layer was on, I took green decorating icing and drew the palm leaves.
I used paper lanterns in various places (above kitchen counters, where food was served, above the party room, above the entryway).  I put an island scene on the wall behind the birthday table, and had lots of bright-colored flowers and ribbons on the tables to match the plates I bought.  I borrowed some silk trees to help give the room and more "outdoor" feel.

I also ordered this luau-girl poster from Birthday Express, where the face is cut out, and each guest holds it up to his face.  They had fun doing that.

I found several Hawaiian-themed serving trays and bowls at the dollar store.

For party favors, each guest received a flower bracelet, flower flip-flop clips, a lei, and some candy. I found coconut cups with straws and grass skirts at the dollar store, and had one for each guest to take home, as well.

We played Hawaiian music and had a limbo contest.  Everyone was dressed for a luau.

Pirate Party

My son's 6th Birthday party was a Pirate party.  We all had a lot of fun getting ready for this.  I used some ideas from Pinterest and modified some to fit what we had to work with, and our budget.

My favorite thing from the party decorations was the Pirate Ship, made from a pumpkin.  Since his birthday is in the fall, this was the perfect time to find a very barnicle-clad pumpkin/gourd in the right shape.

I cut the top and hollowed it out.  I cut three squares into the sides for the cannons.  Taking pieces of the pumpkin that was cut out, I created the cannons to fit inside the squares, and used an apple corer to hollow out the cannonballs that are placed inside.  I used bamboo skewers for the mast heads and large leaves for the sails, tying them together with yarn.

I added a Lego skeleton to the front of the ship.  The Lego pirates came from the Pirates of the Caribbean kit that he was getting or his birthday.

I used popsicle sticks to form a plank and the inside floor of the ship, then added the rest of the Lego pirates.

Other decorations included some old wooden crates we had and a few empty dark glass bottles, which I attempted to stuff with the treasure map. I bought some brown netting from the craft store.  At the dollar store I found a bag of gold chocolate coins (for the kids table), and some gold doubloons for decoration.

For favors, I bought some pirate bandanas (skulls, crossbones, swords, etc.), pirate bouncy balls, eyepatches, pirate tattoos, pirate silly bands and mini-telescopes.

I made a treasure map out of a paper grocery bag - taken apart at the seams and used the inside to draw one.  I crumpled it up to add some age to it.

The location was at a park, which already had a wooden bridge, a rope bridge, part of a ship (front), climbing wall, and other items that played well into the theme and the treasure hunt.  I had my daughter hide gold coins throughout the park and take the kids on the treasure hunt, based on the map we created.

I designed the invitations myself and printed them from my color printer, then rolled them into scrolls to hand out.  The kids liked helping with that.

I made the cake myself, taking a few ideas I'd seen online and pulling it together into something my son envisioned.  I bought some fondant at Walmart to cut out the pirate hat, skull and crossbones.

For fun snacks, I made blue jello in clear cups with Swedish fish inside.  I also made caramel apples.

An old Shirt Turns into a Drawstring Knapsack

My daughter saw this idea in a Family Fun magazine (Sept 2010) and decided to make this drawstring knapsack out of an old shirt that no longer fit.  She was able to do most of it all on her own (she's 10).

1. Make sure the hem of your shirt will accommodate a large safety pin or plastic needle and the rope you intend to use. When cutting a small slit in the hem to test this, cut it in between the side seams.  The ends of the rope will need to come out in the middle, so the side seam of the shirt fall to each side, when completed. Don't feed the rope through yet, just make sure the hem is large enough.

2. Turn the shirt inside-out, and sew a line (to close it) from right under the arm seam to the other side.  This is going to be the bottom.

3. Once you've sewn across the shirt, cut above the stitching to remove the sleeves and neck.

4. We used a kids jump rope, but any type of rope, clothesline cord, etc. would work. Attach rope to your needle or safety pin.  I used a large safety pin through the middle of the rope end, then taped it to the pin, to keep it from fraying while working it through the hem.

Insert the pin into the slit that was cut on the hem of the shirt, and work it through the entire hem to come out on the other side, gently pulling the fabric around the rope.

5. Turn the shirt back the right way. Next, you'll need 7/16" eyelets (or grommet) kit.  Be sure to pick up both the eyelets and the tool (setter and anvil).  Both were about $4 each at Wal-mart in the fabric section. In the bottom corners, you'll cut a small hole the same size of the inside of the eyelet.  Be sure to cut a tiny hole to begin with - you can always make it larger.  Then follow the instructions of the eyelet kit to attach the eyelet to each hole. It took a good bit of hammering for this to set.

6. Once the eyelets are in place, take the ends of the rope and tie knots to each eyelet.  I also used some hot glue in the middle of the knot to help secure it.

7. Ready to use!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Casa de Quesadilla

One of my staple family meals that I really enjoy making is quesadillas.  I love making them for the kids; I love making them for friends and family.  Even customizing to individual tastes, quesadillas are easy to please the crowd.

Cost to feed 5 ppl: $15
Cost for Guacamole: $6.50

Ingredients for Quesadillas:
1 bag flour tortillas
1 block Mont Jack cheese (or colby-jack or pepper jack)
1 can black beans
1-2 lbs chicken (you can cook your own or use the pre-cooked/frozen strips)
1 onion
1 green pepper
tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, sour cream

Making Quesadillas

Slice onion and green pepper.  Add to hot skillet with a few Tbsp butter. Cook until tender or crispy (to liking). Shred cheese; cut tomatoes/lettuce; open can of black beans and drain.  Have cooked chicken ready to use.

Heat griddle to med-low heat, until butter melts.  Swipe pan with butter to coat.  Lay down 1 tortilla, sprinkle entire tortilla with cheese, then add chicken, black beans, peppers/onions, jalapenos to only half the tortilla.  Once cheese begins to melt, use spatula to flip over (think omelet) the half with cheese-only to be the "lid" to the other half.  Let sides melt together.  Gently flip entire half-circle to opposite side, until light brown and a bit of a crisp texture. Each side cooks quickly - don't take your eyes off it.

Remove from griddle and onto the plate. Allow to rest about 3-4 minutes.  Using pizza slicer, cut into wedges (3 or 4, depending on size of tortilla).  Serve with lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream, guacamole (and margaritas).

Ingredients for KA-Guacamole:
2-3 ripe avocados (they should look black and be pushable, not firm)
1 lime
1-2 cloves garlic
red onion
cucumber (optional)

Cut avocados length-wise and scoop out into small bowl. Begin mashing until smooth.  Add a 1/2 tsp salt, and squeeze one half of lime juice in.  Press 1 clove garlic and mix in. Finely chop red onion (only need about 1/3 of the onion) and add. Finely chop tomatoes, cucumbers and add to bowl.  Chop cilantro (half bunch) and add.  Taste.  The red onion will grow stronger in flavor as will the garlic. If needed, add more lime juice or salt.  Continue adding more of the other ingredients to meet your taste.  Serve with quesadillas and chips.