Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow in Dixie 2014

Well, the forecasters got it wrong and we, not those south of us, got hit with ice and snow yesterday. Since only a "dusting" of snow was predicted, schools and businesses were opened as usual. But when it started snowing and the roads became icy, things got treacherous very quickly! We got 3 inches, which may not seem like much. But when ice becomes a factor, there's no way we're prepared to deal with that.
Our dog, wondering what this fluffy white stuff was
Thousands of motorists have been stranded on the highways since yesterday. But in the midst of all that, I'm hearing stories of generosity and unselfishness that warm my heart. People opening their homes to strangers seeking shelter, businesses staying open to allow people a warm place to rest, ATV owners ferrying stranded travelers to safety. It's heartwarming how communities can come together in times of crisis.

Since we homeschool and my husband works from home, we were already snug and warm at home. So thankful for that! But a flu-like virus struck on Sunday, taking down three family members, one each day. I'm the only one who's been spared, which I attribute to "mom immunity" and lots of handwashing.  The virus has lasted about 48 hours for each patient, so I've only got one "sickie" left. Hopefully by tomorrow, he'll be fever-free.

I've not gotten a thing done this week. My menu plan got changed to chicken soup for every meal. But it's okay. Because we're okay. We're safe and warm and so I'm counting my blessings.
The view from my front door

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Menu Plan January 27-February 2

The first month of the new year has flown by, hasn't it? We've had some pretty cold temps here in the Deep South, as most of the country has. School was even cancelled for a few days because of the cold (no snow) since school officials didn't want kids standing out in the chilly weather waiting for buses. But the beginning of February means that we're getting that much closer to spring, right? Right?

Of course, this week people south of us near the Gulf Coast are supposed to get some of the fluffy white stuff. Yep, snow on the beach!

Hope you stay warm this week, wherever you are!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel bread

Chicken patty sandwiches, fries

Hamburger steaks (new recipe), mashed potatoes

Easy chicken pot pie, green beans

Crockpot pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw

Crispy baked Asian salmon, broccoli and cauliflower

Savory beef roast, crockpot roasted potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Make Ahead Swedish Meatballs

I love having meals that I can make ahead and freeze for my family. This meal is actually only partially made ahead - the meatball part. The yummy spiced gravy is made at serving time, but it's really easy and only takes a few minutes.

The allspice and nutmeg are absolutely necessary for this recipe to be successful. There's just enough to give the meatballs and gravy a lovely zip. My family loves this comfort food, and I love how easy it is!

Here's what you need:

For the meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup cream (you can sub milk)
1/4 cup minced onion (dry minced onion works fine here)
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas sea salt
1 teas dried parsley
1/2 teas black pepper
1/2 teas allspice
1/4 teas nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cream, minced onion, seasonings and spices. Crumble the ground beef and ground pork over the top, then use your hands to mix well.

Pinch off a golf-ball sized portion and shape it into a ball. This will make about 16 large meatballs. If you want to serve these as appetizers, make them into ping-pong ball sized balls. You would get about 24 that way.

Place in a lightly greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for forty minutes, or until meatballs are no longer pink inside. If you make smaller meatballs, it might not take as long.

Allow to cool completely, then freeze in a gallon size Ziploc bag. If you want to serve these immediately, go ahead and prepare the gravy. Otherwise, prepare the gravy on the day you want to serve your meatballs.

For the gravy
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups beef broth
1 teas dried parsley
1/2 teas allspice
1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 teas black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and make sure there are no lumps. Cook until bubbly. Slowly whisk in the broth and stir until there are no lumps. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and allow to thicken. Stir in the seasonings. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream until completely incorporated.

If you're serving your meatballs the same day you make them, place them in a serving dish. Pour the gravy over the meatballs, making sure they're all coated. Serve warm.

If your meatballs have been made ahead, thaw them completely in the fridge. Place in a crockpot and pour the gravy over them. Heat on low for 2 hours, or until heated through. Alternately, you can place them in a saucepan, pour the gravy over them and heat on low until warmed through.

Serve over mashed potatoes, cooked noodles or rice.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Menu Plan January 20-26

After a very busy December, this month has pretty much been routine. I find comfort in the familiar, so it's been nice for me. Meal planning is one of the routine things I enjoy doing. I don't enjoy scrambling around at the last minute, wondering what to fix for dinner. It gives me a sense of security, knowing that I have the ingredients on hand to make the meals I've planned.

That said, sometimes my meals don't go as planned - we decide to invite people over and switch up the menu or we get held up doing something else and I can't fix what was scheduled for that day. Flexibility is part of the plan, though! If you're not a meal planner, try it and see how less complicated your life can be!

So, here's what I've got planned for this - subject to change, of course!

Italian sausage sandwiches, fries

Chicken chili, cornbread

Beefy Spanish rice, broccoli

Spaghetti and meatballs

Scalloped potatoes with ham, green beans

Hamburgers, creamy mac and cheese

Crockpot sesame honey chicken, rice

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

On cold winter nights, we love to eat soup and homemade bread. Potato soup has long been one of my comfort foods. This version adds ham to the soup, giving a little more yummy flavor and texture. It's quickly become one of our favorites. And it's a great way to use up leftover ham.

Here's what you need:

1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded (I use about 1 cup of matchstick carrots)
2 teas minced garlic
4-5 potatoes, peeled and diced (you can also use frozen Southern style hash browns)
1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk

In a large soup pot, saute the onions in a little butter. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for a few more minutes. Add the potatoes, ham, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the potatoes are tender. This should take about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper.

In a separate sauce pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and stir until there are no lumps. Cook until bubbly. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring constantly. Make sure it's not lumpy! Keep cooking until thick, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

Stir the milk mixture into the soup. Cook until the soup thickens to your liking. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Menu Plan January 13-19

I'm happy to report that we all survived the Cold Snap of 2014. I hope that wherever you live, you came through unscathed as well. Now we're back to normal January temperatures.

Hubby and Mr. Lego had a very eventful weekend. They went with some friends to a Lego convention in Birmingham. There were dozens of intricate Lego creations, including this re-enactment of a WWII battle scene. Click on the picture to enlarge and see the amazing detail!
Now on to this week's menu plan:

Chicken and wild rice soup with bacon (crockpot), cheesy biscuit bites

Ham and potato casserole, green beans

Chicken bacon subs, fries

Beef stew, homemade French bread

Tasty tilapia, veggie rice pilaf

Chicken and cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes

Swedish meatballs, noodles

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Homemade Hot Chocolate

We've a serious cold snap here in the Deep South. Record-breaking low temps abounded! So I fought back by making homemade hot chocolate. It puts store-bought packets of cocoa to shame! And it's so simple that even my kids can make it.

Here's what you need for 4 one-cup servings:

4 cups milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I added a little more 'cause I love chocolate!)
1 teas vanilla

That's it! Only three ingredients.

In a saucepan, slowly warm the milk to a simmer. You don't want it to boil. Now, this might take a few minutes, but you don't want to scorch your milk. Yuck! Slow and steady definitely wins here!

When the milk is simmering, stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla. Keep stirring until all the chips are melted. Pour into mugs and enjoy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Menu Plan January 6-12

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but tonight the Deep South is supposed to get hit with an arctic freeze. Call us wimps, those of you who live in the North (as I once did), but we're not used to this.

On Monday the high is supposed to be 20 degrees with a wind chill of zero. Yes, zero. This is so unusual for our area that people are freaking out! I'm trying to remember some of the cold-weather tips I grew up with - wrapping outside faucets to keep them from freezing and bursting, as well as keeping the cabinets under the sink open to let warm air flow through. Bundling up is also recommended!

So to warm us up, I've got soup on the menu this week, as well as some comfort food. Maybe I'll even whip up some homemade hot chocolate to keep us toasty. What's your week's forecast looking like? Cold and snowy/icy or balmy and warm?

Here's what I've got planned for this week:

Creamy ham and potato soup, pretzel rolls

Greek chicken in the crockpot, Greek lemon potatoes

Chicken gyros (using leftovers from yesterday's meal), Parmesan couscous

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Indian butter chicken, rice

Beef and noodles, broccoli

Crockpot chicken and wild rice soup

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

Last night as we were counting down the final minutes until the start of a new year (and as I was yawning, trying to stay awake!), my daughter told me she was going to miss 2013. When I asked her why, she responded that she'd made many good memories - our Disney trip, going with friends to the Georgia Aquarium, spending time with grandparents and cousins.

Yes, 2013 was filled with lots of fun and laughter for our family. But we've had our share of trials, too. God has shown me that He's still God in the hard times as well as the good.

So as we look ahead to this brand new year, we face an uncertain, though hopefully bright, future. We don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. But praise God, we know Who holds tomorrow. I'm so thankful He's got it covered!

From our family to yours, Happy New Year!