Cookbook Giveaway: Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites

cookbookcoverWhen I read about the opportunity to review a new cookbook from the Once-A-Month Cooking (OAMC) gals – I was REALLY excited.  While I do love to cook, I do NOT enjoy the daily cleanup.  I wanted to see what tips & tricks – as well as recipes – the Family Favorites cookbook had to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I immediately dug into the Introduction section, and found the tips and recommendations to be DO-able!  I was glad to see that I wasn’t being told to invest in a lot of containers and new products that required more storage space – but instead was advised to use good freezer bags and my regular freezer to store everything.  Yay!

My favorite part of the cookbook, as I was reading it page by page, was the layout.  Broken down into One-month cycles with coordinating pantry list, freezing supplies, shopping list, and preparation order – I could see how simple preparing a month’s worth of meals could really be.  And there are 2 One-month cycles, as well as several Two-week cycles.  One of the recommendations in the Intro section is to cook with a friend, so for someone like me with a small prep space, that idea is very workable!

authorphotoThe authors of the OAMC books, Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg, have much experience with cooking, and have developed a very friendly system for meal planning, in my opinion! The coordinating recipes for each month’s cycle contained many recipes that my family would actually eat and enjoy.  No bizarre recipes or unusual ingredients.  Recipes like:

  • Creamy Chicken Enchiladas – p. 36
  • Chicken Broccoli Casserole – p. 32
  • Macaroni – p. 118

Not only that, but I was actually intrigued by many of the fish dishes since I don’t cook fish.  However, I’m considering the Tilapia Fillets (p. 134) because we want to eat more fish, more often, and this recipe seems very simple.

Since the cookbook also offers several Two-week cycles (which appeals to me as I’m usually buying groceries every two weeks, and would be more manageable to prepare ahead in my own kitchen), I’m going to start with one of them and see how it goes.  The Two-week cycles include a Gluten-Free plan, a Summer Two-week plan, and even a Gourmet plan!

I’m so thankful for my free copy of this cookbook – it’s one I’m really excited about not just reading but applying to help with meal planning, and planning ahead for my family!

Giveaway!

So here’s the fun part!  Not only did I get a free copy to review, but I got one copy to give away to one of my readers!  If you enjoy cooking, the recipes are very friendly – and if you’re looking for a Do-able plan for freezer meals and menu planning, this could be a great tool in your kitchen!

How to Enter:

Required: Leave a comment telling me if you’ve ever tried Once-A-Month cooking – how it has worked or not worked for you – and/or how you handle meal planning for yourself or your family now. Make sure your email address is included in your comment entry.  (If you don’t leave a comment for this, you won’t be entered.)

Extra Entries:

1. Twitter about this giveaway once daily thru 10/15/09 – leave your twitter id/link for each entry. (1 xtra entry per  Tweet).

2. Link to this post on your blog. (1 xtra entry)

3. Share on Facebook and leave me a comment with your FB link. (1 xtra entry)

***Contest ends Thursday, 10/15/09 at 11:59 pm.  Winner will be contacted via email and announced on Friday, 10/16/09.***

You can read my disclosure policy here.



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Complete Randomness…

I LOVE FALL. I don’t know about any of you, but Fall actually energizes me and makes me happy!  I love the cooler weather, the changing leaves, the crunch of them underneath my foot – even the rain.  How do you feel about Fall? I don’t see it as a precursor to Winter, so much as an end to (hot, humid) Summer – so that’s where I’m coming from!

Speaking of Fall, one reason I enjoy the season is that I love to COOK with Fall ingredients, and I really enjoy making soups & stews and baking breads!  I’m planning to share some recipes (some of my own – and some of my friends!) over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

Don’t forget about the Moms Online Bible Study with Jean StockdaleHigh Stepping in Heavenly Places.  (Look how cute the cover of the workbook is – SO totally like my girls!)

Speaking of Bible Study – the Lies Women Believe study I’m in is REALLY impactful!  It really nails some deeply rooted stuff that so many women (not just me) live with.   If you can’t get into a study with someone else, I highly recommend getting the book and the workbook to journal through it yourself!

So, more announcements are coming, but I’ll keep it short & sweet today…

Have a Blessed Day!

Ta-Da Tuesday – Moms Rock!

Curly’s older cousin, Moe, gave her a Tshirt recently that is bright yellow with a hot pink graphic on the front that reads, “My Mom Rocks!” (I’d post a pic, but it’s in the dirty laundry at the moment…) I read it to her the first time she wore it, and now every time she puts it on, she says proudly “My Mom Rocks!” and does a little happy dance. I don’t even pay her to do that – somehow she just knows!

One great thing about moms – among the myriad of great things about moms – is how most of us are on the lookout for the best deal, the best product, the best program, the best idea for our families.  That is not to say that dads don’t – but I think moms (or at least the moms I know) are always looking to get the most of something for the least (time, money, effort, etc) !  Call it opportunistic, call it clever – Moms are very resourceful and the world wide web certainly showcases their skills!

Since most moms are looking for ways to save money and time, there are a plethora of websites (I love the word Plethora) offering advice and help to meet this growing need.  It just so happens that several of these sites are organized by one or two or several moms who put their heads together and came up with some amazing ideas:

oam-logoOnce a Month MomThis blog is designed to teach anyone how to cook only ONCE each month!  Can you imagine?  The idea is to get with a friend and spend one day cooking meals together that will last for a month.  With pre-made menu plans, recipes, and shopping lists – these two moms really make it sound possible!  I’ve copied some of their recipes to try because they sound so yummy – and they even offer recipes for making baby food.  Not only that, but they have a lot of posts linking to online coupons and savings for your shopping needs!  Because meals are already prepped, it’s easy to just pull one from the freezer to thaw for dinner, and the idea is that you’re less likely to spontaneously splurge on dinner out (which can cost so much more than cooking at home!)  I am starting off slowly – partially because I have a fairly small freezer, but I am looking to move to cooking only twice a month on a regular basis in the next few months.


coupon-graphicDo you Coupon?  My mom is a serious Coupon Queen!  I have been slower to get on that bandwagon, but I’ve been signing up with several free coupon vendors lately and finding some great coupons on things I normally buy.  Most of these coupon sites have been linked from great Mommy Blogs focusing on saving money, living frugal and being thrifty!  Some of these coupons are available to print from online, some offer coupons for groceries and other items, and at some you can find coupons and you can enter your shopping card information (e.g. Kroger Plus Card) for special coupons & savings at your favorite stores.  Then, there are communities (Like the Consumer Queen Message Boards or the Coupon Cupboard Coupon Forum) where members share their expertise in finding the best deals and savings (seriously – one gal bought over 100 boxes of cereal for only $10!!!) and share links to great coupon finds.  There are coupon sites like Coupon Suzy (free registration) and The Grocery Game (small membership fee) that also offer tons of savings!  Are YOU a coupon expert?  Feel free to share great coupon websites or blogs in the comment section!


yggbanner_tinyFor all of you gardening types – this website has really inspired me.  You Grow Girl is just BEAUTIFUL – and if you need advice or tips for gardening (of any kind) this is a great resource to have.  Urban and back yard gardening is making a serious comeback as people are looking to eat better and save money.  If you need any help getting started (or expanding your garden) , this site has a lot to offer!


localharvest_logo_tiny

Are you interested in locally grown produce but don’t know how to find it?  Check  out Local Harvest.  After searching on their website, I was thrilled to discover several small family-owned farms nearby that I was only vaguely familiar with (in that – “oh look, they have a farm” kind of way).  Not just for fresh, organic produce, but also for eggs, dairy, meat, and more – if you want to save money and support local business, plug in your info and see what you can find.  (If you’re looking for heirloom seeds for your garden, they have some recommendations there, as well!)

momsbudget150Moms Budget.  This is a site I visited recently for some printables – that I bookmarked to spend more time with later.  Tips to manage cooking, cleaning, bills & expenses, as well as health & beauty, recipes, and more, this is a site loaded with information to help any mom with just about any thing.


5m4m-120x120-15 Minutes for Mom.  This site by and for moms, which recently featured the Ultimate Blog Party 2009, has so much to offer you really have to visit it yourself.  Giveaways, contests, a blog directory, practical tips for just about everything you can think of and several different newsletters – it’s a website worth visiting and subscribing to for a number of reasons.  Janice & Susan, twin WAH Moms, built this website to showcase and support moms of all kinds.  Resources for working at home, parenting tips, links to mom-owned stores – seriously, I couldn’t list everything they have to offer.  So hop on over and check it out for yourself!


foodstoragebuttonFood Storage Made Easy.  So you’ve done your shopping with coupons, bought local produce, tried some new recipes, and you just want to do more?  This is a blog by 2 moms who are attempting to store a full year’s worth of food as part of an emergency preparedness plan.  This takes some serious thought!  While I’m not sure I could manage a full year’s supply, for us even an extra month’s supply could be helpful.  I don’t think it’s entirely out of the question that in times like these, we should think about being prepared for any kind of emergency, and having even a few weeks’ supply of food stored would be beneficial.  This site is FULL of information that can guide you into having a plan for an unexpected event.  You can sign up for their newsletter, which delivers a series of “Baby Steps” guiding you into the process of storing food long term.  They are also having a giveaway these steps in a new All-in-One Binder – you can enter by clicking on the logo below:

food-storage-giveaway1

Hopefully you can find something useful at one or more of these sites.  If you’re looking for something specific and can’t find it – feel free to leave a comment or contact me and I will see what I can find.

Until next time,

have-a-blessed-day


A Home Keeper? Who ME???

So, I’ve personally seen a mini-tranformation in myself over the past month.  Incorporating a “planner” to guide my days has really had an effect on my attitude, my energy level, and my purpose.   WHO KNEW???

Not only that, but I’ve rediscovered my LOVE for baking.  And now I CAN’T STOP!!!  (But it’s okay – Roy & I just bought new walking shoes and we are going to start walking with the girls…)

Last week I made Banana Sour Cream bread. YUMMO!  I also mixed up my first batch of Amish Friendship Starter and Sweet Sourdough Starter.

I also tried a new recipe, Cheeseburger Meatloaf – and we loved it!  I did not use chili sauce (don’t care for it).  I didn’t have quite a full pound of ground beef, so I added in about 1/2 cup of diced ham.  I thought about wrapping it in bacon, but our bacon was not usable (bummer!) so I skipped that part!

Over the weekend I mixed up a batch of Amish Sugar Cookies (with a few modifications) from my Mom’s Favorite Recipes book.  DEE-lightful.  (Recipe below.) And my first batch of Sweet Sourdough Bread is rising in the oven.  So I’ll be a Baking Mama this afternoon and I’m looking forward to it.

Our problem is we LOVE baked goods far too much, but I already have a plan to give some away.  We do not need all the calories – and it’s a nice way to say “Thank you” or “I’m thinking of you” and HOPEFULLY everything turns out well so we CAN give it away. LOL

AMISH SUGAR COOKIES

cups sugar*
1 cup shortening*
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
5 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

Cream sugar, shortening, and eggs; add sour cream and vanilla. Gradually blend in remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly with the bottom of a sugar coated glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes; cool completely on wire racks. Frost if desired.        Makes about 4 dozen.

* I used just less than 2 cups sugar – it seemed like a lot.  I just didn’t fill the measuring cup full.  I also used 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup margarine, and 1/4 cup solid coconut oil for the shortening.  I used 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla cuz I love it…  Don’t plan to use a sugar coated glass, either – just drop by teaspoonfuls…

I will be baking my first Friendship bread recipe this week, and will share that recipe later.  We are taking a family mini-vacation to southern Kentucky to visit Roy’s family (grandma, aunts, cousins) for a few days, and I hope to take some goodies with us.

If they last that long…  =)

Until next time…

have-a-blessed-day

Interview with Queen Martha – Tips, Suggestions and More Recipes!

Due to a variety of schedule changes at home (including an unexpected but necessary 3 hour nap) yesterday, I was not able to get to the computer and post my interview with Queen Martha. So, today, I will share with you the ideas, tips, & suggestions she has for helping you keep your holiday preparations from taking over your life!

**Update 12/18:  Postings through the end of the year may be sporadic.  If we don’t touch base sooner – may you and your loved ones enjoy a SAFE, HEALTHY, and HOLY Merry Christmas!!!**

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?

I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.
I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer – I have many – but one I have marked “Holidays”.  I keep my favorite recipes there so I don’t have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite.  I also use small photo albums (you know – the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain.  I have one marked “Cookies” that I refer to often. Others are ‘desserts’  ‘9″ X 13″ pan desserts’   ‘snacks and appetizers’, etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I’m looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year – that way I can make changes in addresses when needed ( I include the year of change also), and I keep track of to whom I send to, and receive from.  Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen ‘goodies’ I share with them and don’t repeat – unless it’s one of their favorites, which I record, also.

Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference.  I try to make every minute count – get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I can think of what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I’m working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things.  It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.

Sometimes, we just have to prioritize.  I do that often during this very busy month.  And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first – usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’….I always record comments on new recipes – ‘excellent’….’rubbery’ (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =)  If the recipe isn’t in a book, and I’m not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying new ones.


Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

White Christmas Mix is a really yummy, easy, pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is ‘fun.’

Pretzel Pretties are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

(Recipes listed below and added to the **Holiday Recipes** page…)

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year – candles, books, calendars, Avon, Melaleuca products, and have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything ‘fitting’ for the person I desire it for.  And I always have something edible made up – even if it’s in the freezer.

**RECIPES**

WHITE CHRISTMAS MIX

1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)

Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:

3 cups Rice Chex

3 cups Corn Chex

(or combined – 6 cups crispix)

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups mini pretzels

2 cups peanuts

1 lg. bag of M & M’s – plain or peanut (optional)

(We love using the holiday mix)

Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.

PRETZEL PRETTIES

13 oz bag Rolos  (or 6-7 rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M’s – we like to use holiday colored ones

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.
Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, smashing down rolo. Let
cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour.  This is so great because you can make few or many at a time.  A cookie sheetful

will make 70-90 treats.  May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M’s.

FRUITED OATMEAL MIX

6 cups quick cooking oats

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or

any dried diced fruit

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches – each

makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:

For each serving:

1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix

3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly.  let stand for 1 – 2 minutes.

A healthy gift – I used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!




Introduction to Queen Martha

As promised (although much later in the day than intended), this post begins a weekly series of interviews with my mom, Queen Martha.  Growing up in our house, the holidays came and went with only an occasional mess or even disturbance.  Picture Ralphie & A Christmas Story – and that’s how I remember most Christmases growing up.  How my mom pulled it all off was always a mystery to me – and to others.Martha is well-known for her cooking & baking skills.  She has a way with food – and there are only a handful of dishes -ever-that failed to turn out right.  She would claim otherwise I’m sure, but she managed to keep us all heartily fed and was always creative in the kitchen.

Now, with her kids grown and having their own families – she has more time to pursue broader interests.  She has found her recipes in published cookbooks, articles included in Christian stories, and is becoming a popular speaker at ladies events in her area.

1)      I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of ‘hats’ in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats.  What a privilege to be given those special places of honor.  When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen.  I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared.  It’s just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian MiraclesAmazing stories of God’s Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile – a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally – for butternut squash bake in 2006.  That, plus 4 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007.  I’ve publicly shared our life’s ‘God-story’ a few times, and have spoken for Mother’s Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas./span>

I love to say “I’m not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker”.

2)  What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories?  What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn’t a Santa.  My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn’t had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them.  I was probably 10 or 11.)  Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I’ve always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed…since we were military and lived far from home.  We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough – I loved them all.  Having my children help as we ‘worked’ together doing the decorating was always so much fun.   The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we’d already made….those are all my favorites.

3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season?  How do you prepare for them?  What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking – trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods.  I begin stocking up on baking items – chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they’re on sale – probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don’t run short at the last minute.  Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi’s, Big Lots, or Sam’s Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once….I have a running grocery list…I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I’m almost out.  I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I’ve used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it’s already been used…just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I’m doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently.  It’s where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines.  And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop…sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

Queen Martha, thanks for taking the time to answer my intro questions.  Next week we will get more detailed about how you manage your goody-making or baking times in preparation for the holidays, what are your favorite gift-giving ideas to make, and any shorcuts, tips, and tricks you’ve learned throughout the years.  Maybe you’ll even share some of your favorite recipes with us!!!

In the weeks to follow, we will be sharing favorite holiday recipes, simple gift-giving ideas, and more as we all prepare for the holiday season and celebrating the Birth of Christ with our family and friends!  Feel free to post questions or comments as we go along!