Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chewy Granola Bars - Egg Free!

I have been making homemade granola bars for about 2 years now. There are a ton of recipes out there - some more crunchy and crumbly and some more chewy and cake-like. This recipe yields a chewy granola bar that is texturally like a bar cookie or brownie. So decadent! The original recipe used one egg. While planning a trip with a friend whose daughter has a severe egg allergy, I tried using applesauce instead. I prefer that way and will not use egg in these again. I hope you enjoy!

Chewy Granola Bars:
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (homemade or all natural)
  • 3 T honey
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a 9x13 pan by spraying the bottom and sides with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar
  3. Add in the applesauce, vanilla, and honey and blend until smooth
  4. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and then add to mixture. Mix just until incorporated.
  5. Add in the cereal, oats, and chocolate chips. Use a large spoon or spatula to mix everything together. The blades on a mixer will crush the cereal.
  6. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 25-27 minutes or unitl lightly brown on edges.
  7. Cool completely in pan, cut into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container up to a week.
This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Enjoy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

31 Days to Build a Better Home - Days 9-31

I haven't totally forgotten about the 31 Days to Build a Better Home series over at Today's Housewife - honest! It has been a fun month in our house and I have been richly blessed to participate. I will be totally honest and admit that I have not done the suggested task every day, and some tasks I have done out of order. I find that it's not so much about following every single guideline with blog challenges - it's about gleaning ideas and inspiration to improve your life. And that, dear friends, I have done! A few highlights:

Day 30 - Start a Bucket List:
There are so many things I'd like to put on my list, most of them dealing with travel. A few places I'd like to visit with my amazing family - the Pacific NW, Colorado, the New England coastline.

Day 29 - Count Your Blessings:
I try to take a moment every day to thank God for my amazing family, our dear friends, and for the life we live. We are richly blessed and I never want to get complacent in that.

Day 19 - Start a New Book:BoldI am currently reading "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper - WOW!! And, in preparing for our final vacation of the year, I have reserved several books at the local library.

Day 15 - Try a New Recipe:
One of my goals is to try at least one new recipe a week. It may not be something totally new - I often take a recipe we enjoyed and will tweak it the 2nd or 3rd time I prepare it.

Thank you to the team at Today's Housewife for inspiring me! What a great way to wrap up the summer and refocus on our home and our family.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Menu Plan - Month of September

Is it really the last week of August? Oh my! We have had a wonderful summer traveling and spending time with family and friends. It's time to get back into a more consistent routing with eating, cooking, and cleaning though. Ten weeks of fun has taken a toll on our home and our freezer. I am going to start slowly restocking our freezer to help with not only dinner madness, but mornings too. Little man starts back to school soon, soccer practice starts back, Wednesday night church activities begin again, and on and on and on ... I need the order that comes from having tasty, healthy food on hand.

Dinners (* denotes a slow cooker recipe):

Baking, Breakfast, Freezer:
What's cooking in your house this month?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saving Money on Vacation Food

We have been blessed to be able to travel frequently this summer. My parents have several timeshare weeks and we have made full use of them this season. One HUGE benefit to timeshare accommodations are that each unit has a full kitchen. A full size stove, microwave, and refrigerator are standard in most units; they also supply a basic amount of dishes, flatware, cutlery, and assorted mixing bowls, etc. I was spending some time this afternoon preparing for another trip and thought I'd share how we handle the exorbitant expense of food while traveling.
  1. Take as much as possible from home with you. Whenever we drive, we always take a large cooler with cheese, lunch meat, butter, cream cheese, beer, wine, sour cream, yogurt, fresh fruit and veggies. We often make potato salad or pasta salad too for the week. Yes, the towns we travel too all have grocery stores. But, if I've shopped wisely in the weeks leading up to a vacation, I can take items purchased for pennies instead of spending full price once arriving.
  2. Do research on your destination and check out their local grocery ad online. Next week, we are traveling south to a locale with a Bi-Lo grocery store. We don't have a Bi-Lo local, but I have checked the ad and know what's on sale. If you go to a certain spot regularly, sign up for that store's rewards card. We've had a Bi-Lo card for several years and use it every time we travel.
  3. Now that you've checked out what's on sale where you are headed, you can plan a menu - just like at home. I am all for eating out a few times and treating yourself and your family. However, if you have a unit with a full kitchen, access to a grocery, and a bit of time each day - cook! Especially if your goal is to have fun, but not break the bank on a vacation.
  4. Logistics - make sure to take a large cooler with you for taking things and bringing them home. We have often come home with more than we left with. How? An amazing Farmer's Market and Fishmonger near one of our fave vacation spots. I have toted home a cooler full or corn, melon, and fish before (all separately and tightly wrapped, thank you very much!).
How does this work in real life? Let me share ... this is our laundry basket full 'o goodies for next week's beach trip:

In the basket - cereal, cereal bars, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, cooking spray, peanut butter, jelly, taco seasoning mix, dry ingredients to make chocolate cupcakes, laundry soap, dish soap and dishwasher tabs, dryer sheets, a variety of plastic bags, our cups and water bottles, aluminum foil, ketchup, mayo, mustard, a sturdy kitchen knife, extra kitchen towels and washcloth ... so far!! I'll post a photo of the cooler and it's contents later.

There is no need to spend all of your vacation budget on food. Particularly when you are driving. Make a list, shop the deals, make a menu, and go - ENJOY - your vacation!!

This post is linked to : Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Menu Plan - Week of August 16

Summer is quickly drawing to a close here ... sniff, sniff! We are still planning, Lord willing, two more trips to the beach and then it's back into the Autumn and Winter routines full swing. I have thoroughly enjoyed this season and the extra time with little man at home. But, I can say with confidence it's been way too hot for my liking and I am eagerly anticipating the milder temperatures that Autumn brings. I am certainly hoping temperatures will be milder by the time late September arrives. I am participating in a 5K race - a first for me - at the end of September. We have 2 fun play dates planned this week with litte man's best buddies. There will definitely be a few batches of Sour Gummies made this week!

Sunday, August 15:
B - Blueberry Fritters with bacon
L - Leftover pork roast and potato salad from a BBQ on Saturday
D - Rotisserie Chicken, green beans, baked potatoes

Weeknight Dinners:
  • Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta with a green salad
  • Ranch and mushroom pork chops, green beans (recipe coming later this week)
  • Egg rolls with crunchy Asian slaw (recipe coming later this week)
  • Grilled fish, saffron rice, green salad
Baking, Freezer Cooking, Etc.:
One of my goals this year is to get away from packaged spice mixes and make our own. We have a wonderful fajita seasoning in the pantry now and I want to try to make a few more this week.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Creative - and Frugal - Gift Bag

Does anyone else have a boatload of stickers from their days of scrapbooking? A few years back, I was obsessed with stickers and bought just about every cute one I found. I have since discovered several creative uses for my stockpile. One of those uses is decorating gift bags.

It's no secret that a cute, decorated gift bag can range from $2.50 - $6.00. A plain colored bag can be found at most any Dollar Tree for $1.00. Add your own stickers, maybe some detail with a permanent marker or paint pen, and enjoy the recipient's smile at a unique presentation!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Days 5-8 - 31 Days to Build a Better Home

Have you joined in the 31 Days to Build A Better Home Challenge? It's not to late to jump in!

Day 5: Get Rid of Some Paper Clutter
~ While cleaning off the back stairs on Day 4, I generated quite a lot of paper that needed to be shredded. Tonight is the night our trash goes out, so all those itty bitty pieces of info are heading out!

Day 6: Plan Some Family Game Time for the Weekend
~ DH and little man are big gamers in our home - they love the Wii and all games associated with the Lego product line. Occasionally, I will convince them to put away their games in favor of a sports game that I enjoy. We had a blazing HOT weekend here, so some indoor time was a must. We enjoyed bowling, Frisbee golf, and regular golf.

Day 7: Flirt with Your Husband All Day Long
~ Done! And oodles of fun, by the way :)

Day 8: Bless Your Parents and Your In Laws
~ We are very blessed to live close to our parents. My parents live less than 10 minutes away and DH's parents are about an hour. It's a Monday night tradition that little man and I eat dinner with my parents while DH has band practice at church. Today, I cut up some fresh peaches and added a bit of brown sugar. I plan to take those and some angel food cake tomorrow night as a healthy(ish) dessert for all of us.

GO visit the ladies at Today's Housewife and join in!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Days 3 & 4 - 31 Days to Build a Better Home

I am absolutely loving this challenge over at Today's Housewife! A few moments a day really is all it takes to get something done. The challenge for day 3 was to teach your child(ren) to help in a new way. This is not exactly a totally new thing for us, but it's always a struggle - donating toys! We spent some time yesterday sorting and he did pretty well:The carton above will go to his new preschool in a few weeks. I am hoping to add much more to it before school starts.

The challenge for day 4 - today - is to clean a spot that no one sees. For us, it's our stairs leading up to the bonus room. Very few people see this spot - including me since there's a door I usually keep closed. It's far too easy to let things pile up on the stairs thinking "I'll take that up next time I go."

Well, I haven't been up there in several days. And on my last few trips, I have simply walked right past the piles. So, today was the day! And it only took 20 minutes - sheesh!! Why did I wait so long?It's not too late to join in!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 2 - 31 Days to Build a Better Home

I spent the most wonderful day today down at the coast visiting with a dear friend from high school. Her son is just a few months older than our little man and the boys have such fun digging in the sand, chasing waves, playing in the ocean, and attempting to boogie board. This trip has been planned for several weeks - we try to get together once a month or so.

Imagine my delight when I came home and checked in over at Today's Housewife to see that today's task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Home challenge is to "catch up with an old friend." Not a problem for me - today was full of laughter and fellowship.

Two days down, 29 to go - we're off to a great start here!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 1 - 31 Days to Build a Better Home

Today's challenge is to plan a menu for the week. You all know that I love doing that anyway, so today is a nice way to ease into the 31 Day Challenge for me! Little man starts back to preschool this week, we have a day trip planning to visit friends, and I am trying to minimize our grocery expense this week.

Roasted Chicken, mashed potatoes, and Honey Ginger Carrots

Prep for Week - make banana pudding, Hummus, and put chicken carcass into slow cooker overnight to make stock

Weeknight Meals:
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup with Buttery Breadsticks
  • Spaghetti with homemade sauce, green salad, and remaining breadsticks
  • Taco salad with lettuce, garden tomatoes, homemade pico de gallo, and homemade chips
  • Parmesan Chicken Sticks, mac & cheese, green beans
Grocery list for the week:
  • Lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Red onion
  • Vanilla pudding mix
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Coffee creamer
  • Green beans (farm stand)
  • Tomatoes & jalapenos (mom & dad's garden)
Visit Today's Housewife to join in the 31 Day Challenge and to be inspired this month!