Menu Plan Monday



As I mentioned, I made two big batches of soup this weekend to get me through this week with minimal effort so I can concentrate on Spring Cleaning.

Monday - Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Tuesday - Spaghetti, salad
Wednesday - Chicken Tortilla Soup
Thursday - Black Bean Burritos
Friday - Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Chicken Tortilla Soup

{Edited: Thursday - we were invited to Paul's Aunt and Uncle's house for dinner, since his cousin is in town, so Thursday will now be a delightful surprise, we will move Black Bean Burritos to Saturday and I'll use up leftovers next Monday}

Black Bean Burritos are a great way to use up extra veggies that are about to go bad.

Black Bean Burritos


Ingredients

Tortillas
Black Beans
Veggies (Onion, Squash, Zucchini, Bell Peppers, Spinach, Celery, Avocado, Tomatoes, etc)
Seasoning (Southwest, Taco, Fajita, whatever you have on hand)
Toppings, all optional

Salsa
Cheese
Sour Cream
Directions

Throw all the veggies in a pan and saute until tender and light brown (if using tomatoes, avocado or other soft-fleshed fruits or veggies, add with black beans instead)
Add black beans to the pan with 1/4 cup water and seasoning (or follow directions on packet), simmer until liquid reduced
Pile generously into tortillas
Top with whatever you want
Enjoy!


Mmmmm Soup

I spent this afternoon making 2 soups, similar bases, a few different additions, 2 totally different soups. Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods, it always reminds me of being taken care of, especially when I was sick. Only now I'm the one doing the nurturing, and it's myself I'm nurturing.

Chicken Tortilla Soup:
Chicken Tortilla Soup

The two big batches of soup will supplement my dinners for the next couple of weeks so I have less cooking to do and can spend more time on the Spring Cleaning. One is a brothy Chicken Tortilla Soup, the other is a creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Both of these soups start with 2 lbs sauteed chicken, 1 cup sauteed onions and celery, and a lot (approx 64 oz) of chicken stock.

To the Chicken Tortilla Soup I add 1 can tomato sauce, 2 cans diced tomatoes, 2 cans diced green chiles, 1 can black beans, and a few liberal shakes of a Southwest seasoning blend. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. I like to top this with tortilla chips, a little shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.

To the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup I add 1 qt half & half, 1 1/2 cup wild rice, 3 cups water, 1/2 cup of flour. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. I like to top this with a little crumbled bacon.

Need I mention, the house smells absolutely yummy right now!!!


Quote {1} - Mendelson

"I am a working woman with a secret life: I keep house."
- Cheryl Mendelson


Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

This may sound weird, but I LOVE Spring Cleaning. After being cooped up in the house all winter, there is something so invigorating about cleaning everything top to bottom and having the house smell fresh and clean. It's still too cold outside to open all the windows and air out the house, but hopefully by the time I'm done we'll have a few warmer days. Doing one room at a time, it'll take me about 3-4 weeks doing 2 hours each evening to do everything, but it's so worth it.

Even though I don't have an apartment, I love Apartment Therapy and all of their ideas for small spaces. Every year they do an 8-week cure, and this time around I'm getting in on TheKitchn Cure. About a month ago I went through and organized half the kitchen, and I have about half left to go. Of course I did the easy half first. I have 6 cabinets left, plus a top to bottom cleaning of the refrigerator and the freezer to finish the organization, I'm hoping to get that done today.

Organizing Junkie does something called Menu Plan Monday, so I'll start posting my menu plans for the week each Monday. The more I have planned out in advance the cheaper the groceries and the easier it is to get everything else done I have planned for the evening. Want to join me in The Kitchen Cure?

First, this is not the time to completely rearrange every cabinet in your kitchen. Save that until after the cabinets have been cleaned and gone through one at a time. You don't want to pull everything out at once, since it may take a few days to get through the entire kitchen. Corral items with their like items as you go through the cabinets, that will make it easier to find everything and also easier to see how much you really have and if you maybe need a better place for it. Ok, on to the cleaning.

It helps to have your counters cleared off and clean, so start there. Then, one cabinet at a time:
Pull everything out
Wipe it off with a warm damp cloth as you go
Throw away anything that is broken or unusable, put anything that is functional but no longer needed aside to donate or sell. In food cabinets, toss anything that is expired and consider donating anything that is unopened and still good that you won't eat.
Once the cabinet is empty, wipe down the entire cabinet, inside and out
If you use shelf liner and they need replacing, now is the time to do it
Put everything back into the cabinet, consider adding baskets or containers to contain any smaller items.
Put everything back in keeping like items together
This is a good time to add labels if needed
Move on to the next cabinet

Things I do to make my life easier in the kitchen:
I keep extras on a top shelf and also in a small cellar/pantry in my basement. So I'll mark items with a red dot from a Sharpie to let me know I have more elsewhere. That way I know when I'm on my last can/bag/box and that it needs to be added to the grocery list.
I use small containers to corral smaller items, all my mix packets, yeast packets, gelatin packets, etc are in a small plastic basket. Open bags of baking chips and nuts are in a basket that I check first when I'm baking.
All my leftovers are on one shelf in the refrigerator and I check that shelf first when packing my lunch and planning dinner.
I use the same red Sharpie to mark dates on perishables in the fridge, so I never have to guess how long I've had something.

What do you do in your kitchen that helps make managing it easier?

Peppermint Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookies, crisp outside, chewy inside. I just love the way the peppermint bits melt through the sugar cookie dough. They are perfect for Christmas, but I love them any time of year. You could probably sub out the peppermint candies with a fruity cremesaver without a problem, and skip the peppermint oil in the frosting.



Peppermint Cookies



Ingredients

2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
7 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
3/8 cup milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups crushed peppermints
Extra sugar for tops

Frosting:
White frosting
2 drops red food coloring
2 drops peppermint oil
Water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream butter until fluffy.
Combine sugar and cream into butter until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.
Mix flour, salt and baking powder together.
Mix together milk and vanilla extract.
Alternate adding flour and milk to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
At this point the dough is very thick, you may need to finish mixing by hand.
Mix in the crushed peppermints.
Form into 1" balls and place on cookie sheet (these will not spread, but don't put them too close or you can't get them off).
Flatten to about 1/4'' thickness with a smooth bottomed glass dipped in sugar (Dip in water the first time to get the sugar to stick to the glass).

Cook in 350 F oven for 12 minutes (edges should be very lightly browned).
Cool on pan for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Frosting:
Separate frosting into 2 bowls (1/2 each).
Add 2-4 Tbsp water to each and whisk until drizzling consistency.
Add peppermint oil and food coloring to one bowl and whisk until light pink throughout.
Drizzle the white frosting and then the pink frosting over each of the cookies. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to containers.
To keep frosting pretty, put risers and a sturdy layer between each layer of cookies.

Makes: 6 1/2 dozen

Lavosh or Cracker Bread

I use a larger rectangular baking stone so I can bake 2 of the smaller rounds at a time. If you use a stone it will take less time as the stone gets hotter, so start checking it after the first 4 or 5 minutes. These can really puff up, if you don't want them to puff too much, watch them and push them down a bit with an oven mitt after 1-2 minutes, while they are still soft. Make sure they are completely cool before storing if you aren't going to use it all at once, or they'll get soft.

Lavosh/Cracker Bread
INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1 egg white
2 tablespoons butter, melted

OPTIONAL
herbs/spices
egg wash (1 egg white, 1 Tbsp water, whisked together)
poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, etc

DIRECTIONS
If using a baking stone, place it in the oven to preheat at the same time.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt.
Add water, egg white and melted butter; mix well to make a stiff dough.
Knead until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes.
To make approx 8" rounds divide dough into 10 balls.
For larger pizza sized lavosh divide dough into 4 balls.
Roll each ball on lightly floured surface until paper thin. If it is too thick it will be crisp with a softer, chewy middle.
Place on ungreased baking sheet or a baking stone.

If you are going to top it like a pizza, bake as is, but if you are making just cracker bread to go with dips:
You can work herbs into the bread - or - just brush with a bit of egg wash and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds or other topping of your choice

Bake one or two at a time in preheated oven until browned, watch it carefully, depending on thickness approx 8 to 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Once completely cool, keep in an air tight container until ready to serve.

Friday, I'm In Love {1}

This Moose named Meese is just darling, and I absolutely adore the patches on the antlers. You can find him and a few friends by the Etsy seller Little Bit Funky. She also has cards, hair pins, and cute little button bouquets that would be so cute in a nursery for a little girl.
Meese the handmade stuffed Moose

Pear Vanilla Oatmeal Soap, mmmmmmmm, with the exception of the Soap part it sounds good enough to eat. 4th Ave Soap Co has a variety of handmade soaps that look gorgeous.
Pear Vanilla Oatmeal Soap

This gorgeous wooden Rabbit Pull Toy would be a perfect baby shower gift or birthday for either a lucky boy or girl. I'm always keeping my eye open for great handmade toys for little ones, and I'm loving all the wooden toys at Stump Pond Woodworks.


Dreams

DreamLines is such a neat site. Plug in some keywords and it draws you a dream. Granted it simply pulls one of the top images from a google search, but it's still neat.

This was my dream when I typed in poppies