Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I love and (still) recommend e-mealz....

Many of you know that I have highly recommended in the past. And some of you took my advice and tried it...and didn't like it. Now, I completely understand that e-mealz is NOT for everyone. But, in thrashing it about in my brain I began thinking..."Why doesn't it work for everyone?" Well, I have come to the conclusion that in order to enjoy e-mealz like I do, you may have to...gasp...lower your standards! Yep, there I said it. I have low standards! :) Well, at least when it comes to menu planning and complete strangers planning it for me. If someone is going to hand me a week worth of meals and yet they have never met me, then I can assume that not all seven meals are going to suit my family's taste. I mean, come on, even the menus I plan don't suit all of my family! You have to see e-mealz as a GUIDE. It offers you suggestions, ideas, a framework from which to launch a menu. You have to be able to look at the ingredients for a meal and say, this works for me, and this doesn't and here is how I can make it work. OR...if there is nothing about the meal that works...I don't make it! You get two weeks at once when you sign up so you get 14 meals to plan 7 from. For me, I am not necessarily looking for 7 meals in a week to plan. I figure at least one meal a week may be frozen pizza or nuggets from Wendy's. Or I might have a standard meal of my own I want to chili or soup night. SO, I typically hope to find 5 meals I like out of 7 (or 14 that first week.) Overall, you have to be able to tweak it to suit your family (like omitting mixed veggies from a casserole, or changing peas to carrots, or putting in whole wheat pasta for regular...). And you have to accept that not every meal will work. AND...if a menu is disappointing for more than two weeks...change plans. I found I like the WalMart regular menu and the Weight Watchers Wal Mart plan. Though e-mealz says you can only change once in a three month period, I have actually changed twice before without trouble.

It is also necessary to assess your goals. For me, I felt that for $5 a month, it was WELL worth the investment to come away with some new meal ideas. I mean, again, low standards served me well here. You figure in three months you will get about 90 meals. I merely hoped to come away with 15-20 recipes from that that I would make again. To me, those are good odds. And indeed, that has been pretty much right on. I love having a plan each night, even if I don't ever want to make that meal again. Dinner for that night was served. Move on. Try the next thing. Eventually something comes up a HUGE success and I highlight that one to have again...and again. According to Dave Ramsey (financial guru) e-mealz is a good budgeting idea. It plans meals for you meaning you can grocery shop once for all you will need without running back and forth to the store. And here is another reason some may not like is based on economical meal planning. If you are a gourmet cook who uses organic menus you may not like e-mealz. They plan most meals based on time and money considerations. The average mother of a family uses soup and pasta and hamburger a lot. It is economical. Expect to find that in e-mealz. There is a good variety every week...but it is not gourmet! Sorry.

So, having said are a few of my favorite recipes from e-mealz. I don't feel it is enough to hurt their business but rather hopefully enough to pique your interest and if nothing else, give you some dinner ideas that have been a hit here!

Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)

Combine 1T minced garlic, 2T brown sugar, and 2tsp Montreal steak seasoning (you can find this in spice section). Cut 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin into 1" slices and dredge in mixture. Heat 1 1/2T light margarine in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat. Add pork, cook 5-6 minutes each side or until 160 degrees inside. Remove pork and add 1/3 cup red cooking wine(marsala or sherry works well) and 1 1/2T light margarine to skillet. Simmer one minute and pour over pork slices. DELISH!

Apples and Onion Chicken Bake (6 servings at 6 points each) try is awesome.

Saute 3 medium thinly sliced apples (I used granny smith) and 2 large yellow onions, also thinly sliced in 2T light margarine 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a 9x13 sprayed baking dish. Combine 1/4t salt, 1/8t pepper, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs, and 1t dried thyme. Pound thin 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast. Then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Lay the chicken on top of the apples and onion. I sprinkle any remaining topping over the chicken. Drizzle 2T melted light margarine over chicken. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is done.

Chicken Parmesan (6 servings at 5 points each)

Combine 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs and 1/2tsp salt in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you have pounded thin into 3 beaten egg whites (or I used egg beaters) and then into breadcrumb mixture. Heat 2tsp olive oil in a SPRAYED skillet and add chicken. Cook until browned but it doesn't have to be cooked all the way through...just most of the way. It will finish cooking in the oven and you don't want to dry it out. Place chicken in baking dish and cover with 14 ounce can of tomato sauce (or I used diced fire roasted tomatoes that I pureed). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 1/2T parmesan cheese. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (Since we didn't saute chicken all the way until cooked, cut open a breast and make sure it is white all the way through. Mine was plenty done in 25 minutes.) I put this atop 2 oz cooked whole grain angel hair pasta with a little garlic powder and light margarine. DELISH!

Almond Crusted Tilapia (6 servings @ 6 points each)

Process 1/4 cup almonds in a processor until finely chopped. Combine with 1/3 cup flour and 1/2tsp salt. Dredge 6 tilapia filets into flour mixture. Heat 2T olive oil and 3Tlight margarine in large skillet on MEDIUM heat. Cook filets for 4 minutes on each side. Remove filets from skillet. Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds to skillet and toast for one minute and sprinkle over fish. (I would have added a little garlic powder to this or minced garlic I think though it was good without it.) I served this with long grain rice.

Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes (6 servings at 7 points each)

Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 3T brown sugar, 1T baking powder, 1/2tsp salt. (I also added pumpkin pie spice...maybe 1-2 tsp to give it more flavor). Combine 1 3/4 cups skim milk, 3 eggs beaten, 3/4 cup canned pumpkin , and 2T oil. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Make pancakes (I assume you know how!). Sprinkle with 6t chopped walnuts if you desire...we did NOT desire! Serve with sugar-free or light syrup.

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Pancakes (6 servings at 4 points each)

Prepare 6 servings of Aunt Jemima Original Pancake mix (I used a recipe from my cookbook, used whole wheat flour and omitted the white sugar.) Stir in 1tsp cinnamon and 4T brown sugar. Prepare pancakes!

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (6 servings at 4 points each)

Combine 1tsp pepper, 1T olive oil, 1tsp onion powder, 2T worcestershire sauce and 1T minced garlic and rub over 2lb pork tenderloin. Place in sprayed baking dish and COVER. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until 160 degrees inside. HELLO EASY!

Beef Pie ( not a WW menu meal)

In a skillet, brown 1 lb. ground beef and 1/4 cup chopped onions. Drain. Add 1 can mixed veggies , drained(I omitted this) and one can diced potatoes, drained and 8 oz Velveeta, cut into chunks. Mix well and pour into 2qt baking dish. In a skillet melt 2T butter. Add 2T flour and 1/2tsp salt. Stir with a whisk until blended, cook until bubbly. Gradually add 1 cup water and stir constantly. Cook until thickened. Pour over meat mixture. Press a can of crescent rolls together (or buy the new sheet thingys) and cover meat mixture with rolls. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

SO there you have 8 meals! That should get you started and convince you that e-mealz does have something to offer. I mean, if all I got were these 8 meals (and there are more) then I'd be thrilled to have paid the $15 for it! my soap box now. Seriously, hope you try and like the recipes! Love, M.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beware...LONG post ahead...pull up a chair.

So I have pretty much determined that there is no good in me. No wisdom. Nothing to offer in and of myself. That God decides to use me is amazing to me. Sadly, as a younger woman I wouldn't have thought that. I would have thought, "I have A LOT to offer" (well, at least something to offer.) Maybe I would have thought I could offer advice on child rearing, homeschooling, house keeping or being a wife. I mean, come on, I am good at those things, right? Well, I am okay at those things...most of the time, right? But as I have gotten older...I see the wisdom in keeping my mouth shut. :) Because just when I open my mouth to be "wise" not long after...I stumble and stick my foot right in it! Then, I clam up and resolve I shall NEVER offer advice or wisdom again. In fact, I shall never offer anything of myself EVER again with the fearful thought that I might hurt someone or offend with my words. Abstinence seems safest right? So God got me alone on this point...still is in fact. I don't have anything to offer...but He does have something to offer...through me. And sometimes I am sinful if I am quiet and withdrawn. Frankly though, I'd rather err on the side of being quiet. I want God to make me a meek and gentle small order I might add.

SO...when a friend asked me to offer her some mentoring...I felt humbled, blessed, honored, a little sick to my stomach...but you get the point. I don't know a lot but so far I have been married nearly 17 years, have been a mom for 13 and have six sons to prove it! I know a little something...but mostly I know God has been with me through it and has stripped me bare at times of any "good" I might have possessed. Nothing has made me uglier than being a mom...and no, I don't mean physically, though my jiggly belly begs to differ. :) Anyway, after she and I talked yesterday I got to thinking and re-thinking things she and I discussed. And at first when she asked me things I swear all I could say was, "Yeah, I felt that way..sometimes still do." I even told her at one point that I'd have to answer her question when MY mentor got back to ME because I STILL don't know the answer! You see, I have not arrived. I am still a box of puzzle (or puzzled) pieces waiting to fall into place. But upon rethinking some things I thought, "You know, I DO have some ideas for that problem..." So, this blog entry is borne from that. I figured if she found something helpful..someone else might too.
DISCIPLINE: Oh how I dread that word. It stands for everything I should be and everything I should be training my kids to be. But a lot of times, it gets all mixed up with how I love them and how I want to extend them grace and a second chance. See, no one can ever tell you back when you are that judgemental non-owner of a child how LOVE screws up all the neat little control issues you have. "I'll NEVER let my child act like that in public." Well, they don't know that you as a parent see that child's heart and you know how they have been sick, or needing a nap, or how you know they aren't being disobedient but rather they are being two...or however old they are. Or maybe they ARE being disobedient but rather than spank the tar out of them right'll address it privately. "I'd NEVER let my child dress like that." Well, little do they know how you spared yourself a battle because your little darling wanted to wear his cowboy boots and shorts and fire hat to the mall. Who cares, he is dressed and happy, right? Or maybe he learned to dress himself and you're just so derned proud you don't even care his shirt is on backwards and his black pants don't match his blue shirt. There is just so much more to discipline than spanking or timeouts. And unfortunately, tired moms fail to deliver consistent discipline when they ought to. But, I'd bet that every mom gets confronted with the consequences of this and shores up her resolve and gets back at it eventually. I do believe there is the nugget of consistent but extend grace when you can. See their heart. See the fatigue, the frustration, the help they need when they are acting out. Address that first. DISTRACT them whenever possible. If you know that leaving a fun play date is hard....give several warnings the time is approaching to leave. Plan an a treat that will be given in the car. And if all else fails, drag that poor little screaming child out of there to the restroom or the car and assert some physical pain in the appropriate place. But...I am all for distracting or averting the trouble to begin with. I know that strict disciplinarians would disagree but...I am not one of those. Sorry. I SO want to be one of those a lot of days...but doesn't appear to be happening. Nonetheless, I have pretty obedient boys if I say so myself. Yes, they throw fits and yell NO. But overall, they obey. I am good with that. And I have the benefit of having older boys who are showing me that the lessons Keith and I are teaching are getting through. Praise God for measurable results along the way.

HOUSEKEEPING: People think I am a neat freak or a perfectionist when they see my house. Nope I am not. I won't let you label me that. Yes, my house is clean most any time. My brain just functions that way. I cannot operate well in a mess. My brain thinks efficiently. I have learned that not everyone else's does. When I was a server at a retirement home in high school I was a GREAT server (humility, I know). I wrote up tickets neatly and I was able to serve people very quickly and orderly. I see that same quality in me now. An example? As I walk towards the stairs to go upstairs, I scan the area for anything that needs to go up. I might have a basket of laundry in my hands and as I go I throw Legos and toys into it that go upstairs. Or visa versa...when I am upstairs I throw down shoes and laundry and toys that belong down there. I organize my areas. My laundry room has shelves for the shoes. Therefore, the shoes go on the shelf! We have hooks for bags and jackets. I have a school cabinet with a lock on it. This keeps my little boys out of my supplies. When I do laundry (which is every day) I fold it on my bed and my boys come get their pile and put it away. Grant can fold laundry, especially towels but I am not ready to hand him the chore of laundry entirely...probably never will. I will train him to do his own but the day I hand my sons mine or Keith's clothes to wash..I will probably be bed ridden. The boys unload the dishwasher (including the two year old who loves to empty the silverware), they take out the trash (including the two year old who loves to dump trash and drag bags outside), they clean their own rooms, they clean other people's rooms (like dusting and vacuuming Keith's and my room), they vacuum, dust, do windows, clean the cars, help their dad with projects, and they can spot clean the bathrooms. Which is also a helpful tip. Buy Clorox or Lysol wipes. Have them above the commode or in a cabinet. In between deep cleanings (once a week usually for me) the boys or I wipe the counter first and then the commode and around it ( I have boys you know...they pee a little off center sometimes!) This keeps the bathrooms looking and smelling clean for a lot longer than without it. It is a great help when people drop by to send a kid in to quickly wipe up. My boys do yard work and other things as needed. Right now Grant is steam cleaning the floors and Garrett is vacuuming. But, here is the thing about me...I have older kids. When my boys were little I did most of it myself. And here is another thing...I STILL do a lot of it myself. I do not always have my boys do it. I ENJOY housekeeping. I am quick and efficient and usually don't mind it. But, when I ask- my boys jump to. They don't argue or complain....usually. They know their jobs and they do them. My big boys keep a clean bedroom. I will pick up laundry...I don't mind that mostly. Sometimes I ask them to do it. They should do it...I just don't always make them. The little boys' room is a big disaster of toys most of the time. I like it that way...that means they are being playful and imaginative. If the Legos are spread about and Hot Wheels are lined up and dart guns are everywhere...they have been enjoying each other. I will post a pic of what it looks like most of the time. And then the next pic shows what it looks like clean. Here is the thing: my boys can clean their own messes because I have Rubbermaid containers labeled with what goes in there. I have three-drawer carts labeled and I have shelves organized in a way they can follow. While I may not make them always put it all away, I know that when I finally want it clean, they can do it well. And occasionally, I DO IT! Yep, while they play I clean it up. This helps me know if the containers are still properly organized. Sometimes they get lazy and put Legos in with Hot Wheels or whatever and I can sort them back out. If I do that periodically then it stays organized. The old adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place" is the truth! If there is no place for will never get put away. SO, to sum that up...I'd say that my boys are good workers but I don't always make them do it all. I see the home as my job. They are learning to work and this is their home too so they should help. But I do not ask my boys to do my work. If I had daughters I'd train them to work with me more. They need to be skilled that way....sorry, I am old fashioned in my roles. Daughters should fix dinner and do laundry and keep house as much as they are able. Sons should mow lawns and make repairs with dad and take out the trash, etc. I make my boy do domestic things because they should know how and because I need their help...but you won't find me sitting on my chair while they do my work. I want them to see me modeling what a wife and mother does. I want to do it well to the glory of God and to the glory of Keith.

Well, that is enough. That is MORE than enough. Sorry. It just came spilling out. Maybe more will come to mind to share later. I am not sharing this because you all need this. I am sharing this in case you need it. Take what applies and pitch the rest! Love to you! M.

(I think I will make the pictures a separate post because it frustrates me to figure this all out.)