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A friend on RichmondMommies recently asked where to find cheap chicken so she could prepare it in advance and put it on her salads for lunch at work.

She’s a smart cookie! Buying salads every day, while healthy and good for your hips, can become expensive especially if they are from a charge-by-the-weight-salad-bar. Substantial food items such as chicken add to the weight and drive the price up.

If you want to take your own salad, here’s an easy way to add some chicken to the mix.

After purchasing your chicken, go ahead and cut it into thin slices — the size you’d like to have on your salad. Season groups of the cut chicken as you’d like; a batch of Italian, a batch of Mexican spices, a batch of curry, etc. Cook each group either by baking in the oven or stovetop in a skillet. Once the chicken has cooled, put a single serving size in one of those handy, dandy Ziplock “snack bags”. The snack bags are smaller than the regular sandwich size baggie and it’s perfect for individual serving sizes. Write on the bags with a Sharpie so you know which seasoning you have in the bag, then toss them all in the freezer.

On your way out the door in the morning, grab a baggie of chicken from the freezer and stick it in your lunch bag with the rest of your salad fixings. By the time lunch rolls around, the chicken should be thawed, but still chilled, and ready to be added to your salad.

Save some money, trim your hips and thighs, and have a yummy salad with exactly the flavors you want!

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Growing up, pulling a jug of frozen milk out of the deep freeze was a fairly regular occurrence. My grandparents lived on a farm and only went grocery shopping once a month or so. When the hit the grocery store, they stocked up! My grandmother always stored her milk in the deep freeze.

Imagine my great surprise when I mentioned this on my mommy board and very few people had any idea what I was talking about! Freeze milk? And cheese? Shocking!! Shocking, I say!

It seems that every time freezing milk is mentioned, someone asks about it — how do you do it, what happens, does the milk go bad faster, etc.

So here’s the skinny!

  • Always open your milk and pour out 1/4c – 1/2c.
  • Close the milk.
  • Put it in your freezer.
  • Walk away.

That’s it! It’s that simple!

You alway want to pour off some of the milk because it will expand as it freezes and you need that extra room in the milk jug.

To defrost, set it on a plate in your fridge (if you’re willing to wait a few days for it to thaw out) or set it in your sink. Once it’s mostly thawed, give it a good shake — this will help break up the remaining ice and help the water and cream go back together — and stick it in the fridge.

I’m often asked if freezing milk changes the taste. My husband swears that it makes his whole milk taste watery, but I but 1% or skim for me and the kids and I haven’t noticed a difference. This is probably because of the lower fat content.

Does it make the milk spoil any faster once unfrozen? No. It will continue on it’s normal process and turn sour in the same amount of time as it would have if you hadn’t frozen it.

Any other questions? Leave a comment and I’ll find an answer for you!

  • Ants really won’t walk across an area sprayed by white vinegar (per me and my recent ant-infestation experience).
  • Nothing fights ants better than an angry man wielding a vacuum cleaner and a can of ant spray (per me and the same experience).
  • You are supposed to get your lawn mower’s blades sharpened once a year (per my Dad).
  • If you have no grass, it really doesn’t matter how often you get your lawn mower’s blades sharpened (per my husband).
  • In the summer, it only takes one day for laundry sitting in the washer to get smelly (per me, again a recent experience).
  • A long wash with color-safe bleach will take away any mildew smells your clothes may have due to sitting a day (or more) in the washer (per me).
  • Not all children’s markers are “washable.”  Make sure you read the label well before you buy a pack of markers for your 2 year old (per me – does anyone have any good tricks for getting black marker off of khakis?).
  • If you step into quicksand, it won’t suck you down. However, your movements will cause you to dig yourself deeper into it. With quicksand, the more you struggle in it the faster you will sink. If you just relax, your body will float in it because your body is less dense than the quicksand (per How Stuff Works – I just thought this was interesting and reassuring to know).

Just some things I’ve learned lately, and I thought I’d share with you!

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I’m always trying to find new, tasty and healthy snacks for my children. I was feeling inspired to experiment today and came up with these Tablespoon Tortilla Treats. The only measuring implement you’ll need is a regular kitchen tablespoon.

2 full tablespoons sugar
1 “level” tablespoon cocoa powder
1 “level” tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 small flour tortillas

Optional:
1 full tablespoon wheat germ

** Wheat germ must be kept refrigerated. If you choose to use the wheat germ (which is what makes this sack somewhat nutritious and the whole point of this exercise), either toss out any left over sprinkle mix or store it in the fridge and use it right away.

Dump all the ingredients into one of those take and toss sippy cups that has a large opening for the liquid to come out. Cover the hole with your finger and gently shake until everything is mixed.

Place a flour tortilla on a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle with the mix. Use a pizza cutter to cut the tortilla into strips.

Place on a toaster oven tray and toast!

Although he looks nonplussed, this little scoundrel scarfed down more than his fair share of these tasty treats!

I love reading women’s magazines because they are usually chock full of domestic tips and tricks. In particular, Taste of Home is a must have magazine for any domestically disabled woman.

I was flipping through Ready Made and found an interesting tip about how to deal with a broken egg mess. The author claimed that instead of making a slimy mess trying to wipe up a dropped egg, simply sprinkle salt on it, wait ten minutes and then scrape up the congealed mess.

So I decided to give it a whirl.

I cracked an egg into a small plate, liberally covered it with Kosher salt and set the timer. Then I stood there. And watched. And stared. And watched.

A watched pot never boils and I suspected that a watched and salted egg might not congeal so I headed into the living room to deal with the disaster my children left in their wake.

After ten minutes, I checked and it was still a slimy, salty mess. I pierced the yolk and let it spread, then covered the entire mess with Morton’s table salt.

Twenty minutes later, guess what I have? A big slimy mess going down the garbage disposal!

The moral of this anecdote is: Don’t believe everything you read.

And in the immortal words of my seventh grade science teacher, Mrs. Wallace, “Try it and see!”

So, if this had happened in real life, cleaning up this mess would have cost me more in salt than a few paper towels would have cost. Try the tips you read but don’t expect them all to work. But if you can get this particular tip to work, let me know!

Fruit!

My children are obsessed with graham crackers right now. It vexes me to no end that they won’t eat any other snacks (translation: healthy snacks) and insist on graham crackers. Yesterday as I spread peanut butter on a graham cracker for the umpteenth time, inspiration hit me!

When I was little, my mother made peanut butter and banana sandwiches for herself. I found the concoction to be quite odious and always turned my nose up to it. But in a desperate attempt to make my children’s snack a bit healthier, I channeled my mother and got to mashing!

1 cup peanut butter
1 very ripe banana

Mash together on a plate with a fork until the banana is pulverized. Mix together well.

I mixed up enough to last for several days and stuck it in the fridge. Because the banana is exposed to the air, the mix will darken but it’s okay to eat.

I was pretty proud of myself. My daughter has started refusing bananas lately and my son wouldn’t eat a piece of fruit even if Thomas the Tank Engine delivered it personally. Then I thought, “Why stop with a banana?” Why not try it on a few other fruits?

Once our stash of pb & banana is gone, I’m going to try it with some other fruit. But which fruit? My concern is that the real juicy fruits would turn the peanut butter into soup. I will probably start out with some freeze dried strawberries we have in the cupboard.

I am always trying to find more time in my day.  While I can typically get everything done that I need to do, it’s the things that I want to do that are hard to squeeze in during my day.  I’ve recently tried these tips for saving time, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the time I can enjoy at the end of each day.

  • Don’t procrastinate.  The dishes will only be harder to clean once the food has been sitting on them for a couple hours.  This one has been hard for me, as I’m a procrastinator by nature.  But by washing the bowls and spoons, etc., that I used to prepare our meal while the meal is cooking, I cut down on the time I spend washing dishes after dinner.  And washing the dinner dishes when we get up from the table instead of just before bedtime is fast and easy; plus I don’t spend the rest of the evening dreading the stack of dishes in the sink.
  • Put things in their proper place as soon as you are done handling it.  Don’t start a pile – you’ll only waste time looking through it if you need something, and the extra time you’ll need to sort everything out when you do put everything away you could use to read Domestic Betty!  Institute a no-pile plan: when you handle something (anything!), put it away!  Getting laundry out of the dryer?  Don’t throw it onto the loveseat and walk away.  You’ve touched it – now fold it and put everything away.  The mail?  Don’t pile it up; open everything as soon as you bring it in the house, recycle your junk mail, file what is needed, and put your bills in whatever bill paying system you use.
  • Know what you have on hand.  This will save you time and money: you won’t waste time rummaging around in your pantry or running to the store for things you already have (a money drain, too).
  • Prepare ahead of time.  This is essential if you have kids.  Don’t wait until you need to be walking out the door to stock your diaperbag or the kids’ lunches.  I’ve even started cleaning out my diaperbag when I get home from an outing – it lightens my load of anything collected through the day, and I can restock diapers or emergency snacks at that time.  Then, when we need to head out the next time, I can just grab the bag and the kids and walk out the door.
  • Set a timer.  For chores, for naptimes, for TV time, for anything!  My children’s naptimes are precious times for me… I get to do what I need or want to do in relative peace.  I typically set a timer for 15 minutes and quickly do whatever cleaning I can do in that time.  It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes!  Then I have the rest of naptime to enjoy for myself.  Otherwise, I might just putz and procrastinate while trying to clean – not really getting anything done, but not enjoying myself either.  And naps… if I lay down for a short nap, without a timer (or alarm), it could easily turn into a 2 hour nap.  While I might enjoy a 2 hour nap, I typically have things that need to get done during that time so I can enjoy myself later in the day.

These are just a couple of many different ways to squeeze a couple minutes of time here and there throughout your day so you can kick back at the end of the day and do… whatever you want.  Even slipping into bed a bit early to get a full night’s sleep! 

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I love cheese.

Love it.

Love, love, love, LOVE cheese!

When I was in high school, our Sunday night ritual was for my mom to cook up a pot of nachos on the stove and we’d sit around dipping our chips in it and wiping our noses because they were so spicy.

I love cheese!

I just finished eating about a quarter of a cube of mozzarella. MMM!

So when I started thinking about what I could snack on tonight while watching my DVR programs, can you guess what came to mind? CHEESE! GLORIOUS CHEESE!!!

I just took dinner out of the oven — taco pie — and some of the cheese leaked out of the crust and was baking in the dish. Mmmm… crispy, cooked cheese.

Inspiration!

I took out my smallest casserole dish and sprinkled a heafty portion of whatever chedder/combo pack I had in the fridge. I cooked it at 425 for 10 minutes and it was yummy crispy goodness! If you have some dried herbs or seasonings you’d like to add in, go for it! Fresh, minced garlic is a great add-in.

After letting it cool for about five minutes, put a few layers of paper towels on top to absorb as much of the oil as possible. Let it rest until cooled, then cut with a pizza cutter and enjoy!

Have you heard of The Sneaky Chef? One word — amazing. Okay, two words — amazing and brilliant! I absolutely love the idea of adding more nutrients into every day foods by adding fruit and veggie purees. I started using recipes from the Sneaky Chef cookbook in an effort to get a few nutrients into my three year-old son who is an incredibly fussy eater. Yes, my poor son was the target of all these strange orange, white, purple and other purees. At times, I’ve felt like a mad scientist, but there’s no denying that we could *all* do with more fruits and vegetables in our diets. It’s become second nature for me to add pureed carrots and yams to all my marinaras (50/50 canned marinara and orange puree!).

I’ve even started making my own Sneaky recipes, based on the principles I’ve gleaned from The Sneaky Chef. And here it is 5:30 am, I’m wide awake and I’m making Sneaky Peach Nectarine muffins for my son’s preschool class. MUHAHAHAHAAA!! Those boys in his class won’t know what hit them! I’m sure I’ll be giggling about it all day!

I grabbed the base recipe from All Recipes. It’s a serviceable recipe that I can adapt with any fruits I’d like. But I couldn’t let this opportunity pass to add more goodies into the batter!

My modifications:

50/50 white/whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
Double the fruit, roughly chopped then pulsed in the food processor to a fine dice

Because my fruit wasn’t super ripe and naturally sweet, I let the fruit macerate in the sugar instead of blending the sugar in w/ the dry ingredients.

That’s it! That’s all I did differently. But the kids are getting extra fruit, follic acid and vitamin E that wouldn’t have been in the original recipe along with extra fiber. They’ll never taste a difference but their bodies will welcome the added nutrients.

Next time, I might even get adventurous enough to replace some or all of the sugar with honey!

So, add wheat germ to your grocery list along with some whole wheat flour. Pre-mix 50/50 on the flour and store it for whenever you bake. Don’t be afraid to toss a sprinkle of wheat germ on your grilled cheese sandwich, into your casserole, or your baking. Make some purees and freeze them so you always have some ready to add into your meals.

Bottom line – don’t be afraid of your food! Nutritious meals can be fun and very yummy … but let’s keep that secret to ourselves.

Everyone at my house, except me, has a cold so it was time to pull out all that stock and raw chicken thighs and legs out of the freezer to make homemade chicken and noodles. Yum, yum, YUM!

I boiled the raw chicken, adding to my stock supply, and set the chicken aside to shred and pull off the bone to put in the pot. It was gooey work! I had much more chicken than I really needed for one batch of chicken and noodles so I put the rest of the meat into the freezer.

I had no idea my family (translation: my husband!) would eat all the chicken and noodles so fast! I started another pot of it this afternoon but my chicken was only partially thawed. And wow was that a help!

I picked up a paring knife and was able to literally slice and peel the skin off the chicken. It was so easy and, since it was still partially frozen, most of the fat came off w/ the skin. Pulling the meat from the bone was also easier to handle. The meat came off in easy chunks and went straight into the warm pot of broth.

Who would have thought you could peel a chicken!