Sunday, May 04, 2008

3 Moms ~ 3 Kitchens ~ 31 Days: Day 4

My adventures in the kitchen were rather tame today. We had the wonderful breakfast cookies that I made yesterday for breakfast. Here is Gracie, enjoying her cookies. She loves them just as much as the rest of us. I love to serve them because they are not made with white sugar or white flour. I have been striving the past few years to switch our family over to eating more healthfully. For us, this means more whole foods (whole grains, unprocessed sugars, etc.), more fruits and vegetables, and no processed foods. We buy organic when possible. However, we are still far from where I would like us to be. I still rely far too heavily on white flour and white sugar. That is why I really appreciate the breakfast cookies, as well as a lot of the other recipes at Heavenly Homemakers.

One of the last holdouts of packaged, processed foods in our house is lunchtime meals. The culprits? Boxed macaroni and cheese and Spaghetti-O's. I suppose I could chalk this up to a latent lack of creativity for lunch meals, or the convenience these foods provide on busy days. I'm just not happy with those excuses though. I am always on the lookout for new lunch ideas that I could work into my menu plan seamlessly. I know the easy scratch-made alternatives for these two meals, I just never seem to do it. And sometimes, a $.70 box of macaroni and cheese is a nice budget stretcher. (Even as I type that I am not buying that excuse, but that hasn't been enough motivation to push me to action yet.)

With that foreshadowing in mind, can you guess what we had for lunch today? Yep, boxed macaroni and cheese. And strawberries, we DID have strawberries too! That's got to count for something, right?

We had taco salad for dinner, which I prepped while we were eating lunch. I love to add black olives to taco salad but I never use the whole can. I knew this when I made out my menu plan for the month so I included another meal where I could use black olives. (And if I had had enough foresight, I would have opened the can yesterday because there were enough olives that I could have included some in our pizza pockets too.) We like to have taco roll-ups for lunch and I use black olives in those, so I added that to the menu as well. I also made those while prepping the taco salad.

These roll-ups are not very healthy (although I'm sure they're better for you then boxed mac & cheese), but they really are good. I believe this recipe originated as an appetizer so it makes a fun lunch, and also could work as a snack too. Here is the recipe:

Taco Roll-Ups
5 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 - 1 c. shredded cheese
2 t. chili powder
1 T. cumin
2 t. garlic salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
olives, green pepper, red pepper, green onions (or any combination thereof)

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread on a room temperature tortilla. (I only added the black olives today because I am not ready to cut into one of my peppers, and there were no other meals in my menu plan that called for green onions.)

Tightly roll-up tortilla, making sure to wipe off any filling that pushes out of the seams. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing. Slice each roll-up into sections. You can do thin slices for an appetizer, or thicker slices like I've done for a lunch or snack.

While I was preparing these, I had the "substance" of our taco salad simmering on the stove. I like to serve an easy mix of beans and ground beef with a can of diced tomatoes and chili powder, cumin, garlic salt and cayenne pepper. I cook it until most of the liquid is absorbed. I'm also not picky about what beans I include. Tonight's salad had beans from my catch-all bean jar, where I add any extras from a bag of dried beans that either won't fit into their own jar, or that are left-overs in a jar. Here is what I'm talking about.) In this jar today there were kidney beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans. This was a delicious combination in the salad.

I realized today that I have not been including our snacks or desserts in my past few posts. Neither one of these eat into our budget much, but if you were in my kitchen for the day, you'd see them being served. So, I should share those too, since Toni, Joy and myself have all invited you into our kitchens for the 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days series. Eric and I really do not eat snacks. The children do have one everyday at 4 pm. Their snack options are usually crackers, cheese slices, pretzels and peanut butter, or fruits or veggies. I do also like to have homemade snack options on hand as often as possible, and tend to push them towards the homemade choices. This is another area where I'd like to see phase out processed foods. Some of the homemade snacks I like to have on hand are cookies, breads, muffins, crackers (I've found some great homemade crackers lately), and hot pretzels. Today's snack was graham crackers.

We all eat dessert every night, although it's not as bad as it sounds. Usually our dessert is ice cream. This means the youngest 3 will have 1/4 c. or less, given to them, and Isabelle will have just a bit more. Eric and I have a bit more than that though. I also like to have homemade brownies, strawberry jam bars, lemon bars, or some kind of cake on hand. (I am the one with the sweet tooth unfortunately.)

Thank you for being a part of our adventures during the month of May and 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days. Toni, Joy, and myself are really enjoying having you in our kitchens! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I will be addressing some of the questions I have gotten as comments as a post in the next few days. I have learned so much from Joy and Toni in the past few days, and I'm sure you will too!


Anonymous,  11:10 PM  

Hi Kate,
I have so enjoyed your blog. I cook clean healthy foods. When you have time stop by for visit. I think you might find some recipes there you would enjoy.I look forward to reading your blog everyday.

DeAnn 1:15 AM  

Hi Kate-
I'm new to your blog. It's nice. :)
I saw you said that macaroni and cheese and spaghettios were your holdouts for processed foods. You know you can both those in organic versions, right?? Annie's makes organic macaroni and cheese and they also make an organic psghetto's (I think they spell it that way, it's a funny spelling). I bought a huge box of the organic mac-n-cheese at Costco and the "spaghetti-o's I bought at Target and they weren't that expensive. Target also had an organic ravioli from Annie's. I live in a state where it's easy to find organic things, maybe you don't, but keep your eyes open..they might be easier to find than you think. :)
Good luck and great job!

Sonshine 12:04 PM  

I am loving the 3/3/3 series on your blog along with the other 2!!

I see that you say you struggle with lunch variety. I did a post just last week about lunch variety. Read here for some ideas!! :)

I am looking forward to reading the 3/3/3 series this month! :)

Nancy 2:14 PM  

Hey, you were ahead of schedule with the Cinco de Mayo celebration! We're having taco salad tonight. Have you tried the Annie's organic mac & cheese. We've had it and no one could tell it didn't come from the blue box! If you buy Annie's be sure to read the box...mine had a address to send a note for a free "be green" sticker. I received the sticker plus 2 coupons - 1 for a free box and another for 50 cents off.

Laura 7:08 PM  

Your taco rolls ups sound AWESOME and I can't WAIT to try them!!! Maybe we'll have those tomorrow instead of the quesadillas I'd planned. YUMMMMMMM!

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