Saturday, February 26, 2011

Soup Nights - It Worked for Us

All winter long, we have been enjoying a weekly soup night!  It has been a welcomed changed in our household.  The benefits we saw of having a weekly soup night were:
  • Able to use up most leftovers in a soup
  • Fast and easy meal on busy nights
  • Tried many, new soup recipes that are now family favorites
  • Soups are cheap to make and can do some without meat
Even my typical "meat and potato" husband enjoyed the soup nights.  He has become our resident expert in making soup for dinner!  It is definitely not difficult to make soup and it is hard to mess it up.  The ingredients are flexible and so are the amounts you add to make your soup delicious!

Want to sample some of the "new" soups we enjoyed this past winter?  Here are some of our favorite recipes!

Tomato Pasta Soup
Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup
Sausage Potato Soup
Hearty Beef Barley Soup
Creamy Turkey Rice Soup
Chicken Cheese Rice Soup

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of Feb 21st

Well officially it is the last full week of February!  We had an amazing three days of warmth this past week that were a welcomed change.  The boys got to ride their new scooters, the dogs got to take a few walks, and the snow has all melted.  Unfortunately it is back in the 30's now, but the 50-60 degree days are much appreciated this time of year.  I hope that spring is just around the corner, but I will not get my hopes up just yet!  I hope you have a productive week!

Monday - Meat Manicotti (recipe to follow)
Tuesday - Chicken Noodle Soup
Wednesday - Beef Stroganoff
Thursday - Chopped Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken and Texas Cheese Toast
Friday - Take Out Night
Saturday - Date Night
Sunday - Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

This post is linked at MPM at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Free Purex & Gain Dryer Sheets

This week you can score some free laundry detergent and free dryer sheets!

Through Feb 23rd, Giant Eagle has Purex on sale for B1G1.  Buy one Purex with Zout @ $2.99 and use the $3 off coupon from the 2/20 RP = FREE!

Marc's has Gain dryer sheets for less than $3.  Use the $3/1 coupon from the 2/13 RP = FREE!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tomato Pasta Soup

This soup was super easy, super fast, and super delicious!  We are on a roll with our weekly soup night.  It has been wildly successful in our house and we have got to try so many new recipes!

15 oz can of diced tomatoes
15 oz can of recipe ready diced tomatoes with oregano, basil, and garlic
28 oz of chicken broth
1 cup rotini pasta (or similar pasta)
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

Add tomatoes with juice and chicken broth in large pot and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook about 8 minutes until tender.  Stir in beans, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in parsley.  Serve alongside cheesy garlic bread!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of Feb 14th - With Love!

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope you have a wonderful day with your sweeties (hubby and kids) and maybe receive a surprise gift??  Okay wishful thinking on my part.  We celebrated last night and took the kids out to dinner and an evening of bowling.  We all had a blast, which is what is important!  Here is how our menu is lining up this week!

Monday - Tomato Pasta Soup with Garlic Rolls
Tuesday - Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Wednesday - Taco Night
Thursday - Shake n Bake Pork Chops
Friday - Basil Pesto Pizza
Saturday - Eat Out
Sunday - Crock Pot Roast and Mashed Potatoes

This post is linked at MPM over at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

1 box of rigatoni
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup American cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp butter

Boil noodles as directed on packaged.  In a sauce pan melt 3 tbsp butter and then add flour.  Once combined add milk and whisk until hot.  Add cheese until melted and then add spices.

In a separate bowl, melt additional 1 tbsp of butter and add to panko bread crumbs.  Drain macaroni noodles and then add to cheese sauce and milk until combined.  Pour into a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with cooking spray (I use an aluminum pan for easy clean-up).  Top with extra shredded cheese and panko crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preparing for Kindergarten

I have a found some great resources online for my 5 year old to practice skills needs for pre-school and kindergarten. These also make great rainy day activities! Here are some of the sites:

Practice with Scissors – Allows you to design worksheets to practice cutting!

Writing Letters – The Crayola site has all kinds of worksheets

Tracing Letters – You can type in what you want the worksheet to say to practice tracing letters! I typed my son’s full name.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

$10 Cold Stone Card for $5 on Groupon - Strongsville, OH Only

Get a $10 gift card for only $5 for the Cold Stone Creamery (Strongsville, OH) today on Groupon!  There is a limit of 2.  I can taste the cake batter ice cream!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Frugal Tips - Ways to Improve Fuel Economy

So the current national average for gasoline is $3.113 for regular.  Yikes - how does it get so high?  Unfortunately, gas where I live is at the $3.13/gallon, above the national average.  I know it is difficult to control how much you spend on gas, especially when the majority of your fuel is for commuting to and from work.  However, here are some tips to increase your fuel economy!

1.  Set your cruise control to 55 mph - The faster you drive, the more aerodynamic drag increases and fuel economy decreases.

2.  Drive off promptly to prevent wasting fuel - Don't let your car "warm" up.

3.  Use your gears wisely - using the highest gear is the most efficient.

4.  Fill up with a lower-octane gasoline - premium gasoline won't help your fuel economy.

5.  Keep your tank above one third full - this insures a steady stream of gas making your engine more efficient.

6.  Tires effect fuel efficiency - worn out tires decrease fuel economy.

7.  Replace air filters - if filters are clogged it causes your engine to work harder.

8.  Plan your trips more wisely - don't run and do 1 errand at a time, combine them.

9.  Tighten up that gas cap - this will ensure gasoline vapors cannot escape.

10.  When  you can walk or bike!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

$100 ProFlowers Giveaway

Saving in Akron is giving away a $100 ProFlowers gift certificate.  Think of all the cool gifts you could get your sweetie with that, or yourself.  They have some really tempting chocolate covered strawberries.  Hop on over here to enter!

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup

1 32-oz bag of frozen southern style hashrbowns, thawed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 cans chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
8 oz bag of shredded cheddar (I used the Kraft Triple Cheddar!)
bacon pieces
4 chopped green onions

Combine potatoes, onion, celery, broth, and water in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  In small bowl mix flour and milk and then stir into crock pot.  Increase setting to high and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Pour into bowls and top with extra cheese, bacon and onions.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sausage Potato Soup

So this is the 2nd time making this recipe, and it has become my absolute favorite soup recipe!  We have been having soup night once a week in our house.  It is a great change for us from our normal menu and allows us to try some new recipes.  It is also simple and easy and I serve it with some rolls or garlic bread!

1/2# smoked kielbasa, diced
6 medium potatoes diced
1/2 cup of carrots, diced
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups chicken broth
1 celery stick, diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup shredded cheddar
1 tsp parsley

In a large sauce pan, brown sausage and drain and set aside.  In the same pan, combine potatoes, corn, broth, celery, carrot, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add milk, cheese, parsley, and sausage.  Cook and stir over low heat until cheese is melted and soup is heated through. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of Feb 7, 2011

So last week we got hit with snow and the ice storm. This was after we had all been recovering from colds, coughs, bronchitis, and an ear infection.  So the menu got a little jumbled last week.  My preschooler also had his first snow day, which occurred on the day that he was suppose to have his first ever Preschool Concert and Art Show.  We were very disappointed it was cancelled, but it had been rescheduled this week!  I also have to go out of town for 2 days this week, which leave Dad in charge!

Monday - Sausage Potato Soup
Tuesday - Breaded Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Wednesday - Beef Stew
Thursday - Dad's in Charge
Friday - Dad's in Charge
Saturday - Eat Out
Sunday - Beef Stroganoff

This post is linked at MPM at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

$19.99 Valentine's Dinner for Two at Bob Evans

  • Valid 2/12 - 2/14
  • Choose 2 dinner entrees (Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, Potato Crusted Flounder, Open Faced Roast Beef, Memphis Spice Rubbed Chicken, or Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad
  • Choose 1 dessert (Cherry Cobbler a la Mode or Chocolate Temptation Cake)
  • Kids under 12 get a free Mini Twinkle Pop!
Check to see if your Bob Evans is participating!

Free Flavor Friday is Tomorrow at 12 EST!

Free Flavor Friday is February 4th!

The countdown to Free Flavor Friday is on. Starting at 9am PST, they're giving away 100,000 coupons for a free bottle of COFFEE-MATE® to try any delicious flavor!

Go here for more info!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"My Stay-at-Home Husband Isn't a Loser"

Great article by Tara Gentile on Daily Worth!  She talks about the prejudices people have about her husband staying home with the kids.  Check out the article here

If you read my blog, you know that my husband voluntarily quit his job last September to stay home with our 2 boys ages 2 and 5. We have also encountered people who do not understand our situation and believe that I should stay home. However I am on a fast track program at my job and have been very successful! I do not want to stay home, I love my career. Having my husband stay home has been amazing and it is a lot less stress for me and our family. I wouldn't change a thing! The dual careers wasn't working for us and we really did not need the income. It felt like we were being selfish and choosing money over our kids. Our kids, my husband, and I are much happier than we were a year ago!

How We Organize Our Month!

Yep -  this is the "hub" of our whole household!

May sound simple, but this dry erase board that hangs on our refrigerator keeps us organized!

It looks pretty empty right now, but by the end of the month it is normally covered with writing on it!  This is how my husband and I stay on task and on the same page.  It is in a perfect location, one we look at a thousand times a day! 

Things that get written on our calendar:
  • Birthdays and Anniversaries
  • Kids' activities (swimming, karate, storytime, Little Gym, school concert, etc)
  • Doctor's and Dentist appointments
  • Parties and Events
  • Mom's Night Out
  • Date Night
  • Work Travel Schedules
  • and course, THE DINNER MENU!
I put what is for dinner in the bottom of every block!  I usually plan a week in advance.  Putting what is for dinner makes it easy for my husband to have dinner prepared and eliminates the need for eating out "just because".  So this less than $10 dry erase board investments, saves us hundreds of dollars every year!

Kindergarten Decisions

So my oldest son has officially turned 5!  That means that kindergarten is just around the corner for him.  I never knew it would be such a difficult decision for my husband and I on what school he should attend.  Currently he is attending preschool at a private Catholic school, but how did we want to proceed with kindergarten?

I had the amazing privilege of attending 12 years at a Catholic elementary school and high school.  My parents had a strong belief in a religious education and thus sent all three of their daughters to Catholic schools.  My husband on the other hand at 12 years of a public education.  We are both very successful and both hold Master's degrees.

In the back of my mind when we had children, I always thought that I would send them to Catholic schools.  I felt it was the only choice for me and my children.  Well our household has changed a bit (and so has our income) since we decided that my husband should stay at home with our boys.  Now came into the picture, could we afford a private school education?

We seriously began to consider public schools.  We live in an amazing school district, which consistently scores high on state standards.  The thoughts of sending my son to public school were vibrant in my mind, but I still felt uneasy about that decision. 

We decided to attend a kindergarten open house at the Catholic school in our city.  I loved the morals the school portrayed, the uniform policy, and the high academic standards.  It almost brought me to tears when I heard the principal talk about the first time the kindergartners attended Mass with the whole school.

Well apparently, my husband saw how I reacted to that open house.  He commented on how he saw me smiling and so intent on what the principal was saying.  He was sold (and I already was).  We have to send our son to Catholic school, there is no other decision for us.  We will make the sacrifices many families make and give our children the kind of education that we want for them.

I now feel a calm in my heart.  Sometimes the best decisions we make are with our hearts and not with our heads!