Monday, 22 September 2014

Menu Planning Monday, Week 16 (the pantry episode)

My pantry looks like a mini-supermarket... and that can only mean one thing:

I have over-spent the budget... W.A.Y. overspent the budget. See I mentioned last week that I wanted to try bulk-buying once a month from the supermarket, and then minimise the following weeks budget in order to try saving more money. But I didn't take into account that this would mean buying double the expensive items like soy milk, dairy products, meat etc. So by the time I got to the counter; well lets just say it wasn't pretty!

Hubby has decided to take over the money - this is a good thing, as I am just not a saver... I have been trying really hard, and am doing better than in the past; but it's just not in my DNA (or so it seems). As this is more his strength than mine, it makes sense that he looks after it - we have had this 'discussion' over and over again for the past few years; but it always ends up falling back on my shoulders. I do okay for a while, but then I relax and over-spend on something(s) (generally food related, just can't help myself), and we repeat the cycle! Maybe this time, due to all the imminent changes coming - he'll just take over once and for all! 

Despite this, and the stress it caused, I L.O.V.E a full pantry; there is just something so satisfying about it. I can't explain it, I can't describe it, and I can't even begin to understand it - but there is obviously something deep down in my core that equates a full pantry with nourishing my family. 

And trust me, I have been drooling over more food - recipes, foodie blogs and Bin Inn are my weak links *sigh*! I just want to have a couple of weeks of NO budget, and go a little bit wild! Then have a whole week - child / responsibility free, so I can try out all these amazing ideas and recipes (and a HUGE fridge / freezer where I can then store everything; so it DOES get eaten)! One of Hubby's pet peeves is how much food we waste, in particular, the children; picky eater doesn't even begin to describe my son. He went to bed hungry for the first time tonight, as we're OVER IT! This is an entire blog post in and of itself; one day...

Anyway - onto other things!

Last week the menu went like this:

Monday = Honey, Ginger and Soy Chicken
Tuesday = Mini Mince and Lentil Pies

Mini Mince and Lentil Pies
GF Pastry, much softer and nicer than last time

Wednesday = Lemon and Thyme Pasta (or noodles)
Thursday = Left-Overs
Friday = Pizza
Saturday = Scrambled Eggs and Bacon on Toast
Sunday = Sausage and Rice Stir-Fry
Monday = Hoki Pie w/Tomato and Basil 

Hoki Pie w/Tomato and Basil

The rest of this week is still rather unknown, I have run out of grocery money, but have yet to buy all the meat we need (let alone extra fresh fruit and veggies - eeeek), I have however, managed to make up a list of over 30 meals in which to choose from each night! I now need to set it up on a big sheet and pin it up in my kitchen... But we don't have a working printer, which could cause a few problems! Maybe I just need to hand-write it up *sigh*!

Always a thousand little jobs to do, and never enough hours in the day to do them... sound familiar!?!

On top of that - I want to be more snack-ready, and have pre-made things in the freezer and pantry for the kids and us; we still tend to snack on the wrong things too often and I can feel the ramifications of this around my waist lately. But finding time to do regular baking is like squeezing extra time out of the day - it just doesn't happen! But I am hopeful that I might get some free time on a Monday, at least semi-regularly, to be able to fill those empty tins more often!

My latest offerings - Muesli Slice and Apricot Bites

But once more, time is marching on; so I say farewell again!

Have a great week!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Menu Planning Monday 15

I have decided to try something a little bit different this week! It is grocery shopping week here, and as we only go fortnightly; I have decided this week that I am going to seriously stock up (hopefully still within our budget though), and buy enough for the month... I will be trying to menu plan for the whole month also, and thus the next pay we can save some of the grocery budget instead. 

I am NOT expecting to save the entire grocery budget next time, BUT I figure if I can save half the budget - this will go a long way towards our goal of moving, and buying our own place (as long as I can keep it up)! It is also the way I am thinking we can shop once we move - big shop once a month out of town, then smaller shops each week/fortnight for fresh produce etc locally.

I have not written a menu up for this week, but I will come back and share once I have had the chance to put together at least a few days; if not the whole month. However, I have been a lot better at noting what we have been eating over this past week or so, and will quickly jot them down here for you:

Wednesday 10th September = Quinoa Fritters

Thursday 11th September = Mini Meatloaves
Friday 12th September = Pizza and Homemade Burgers
Saturday 13th September = Zesty Lemon and Soy Chicken
Sunday 14th September = Panfried Fish, Salad & Hot Chips
Monday 15th September = Honey, Ginger and Soy Chicken

Nothing is decided on beforehand, so I cannot give you any indications of what we'll even be having tomorrow night! But I will get onto it this time, it has just been a busy few days here (and it's only going to get worse over the coming days/weeks, so I just need to get my butt into gear and get sorted)!

I am hoping to be able to try a few new recipes in the Ultimate Bundle of E-Books I bought last week; so exciting! I have been banned from buying any more recipes books for a while now, although have a few more on my list I'd like to purchase yet! Might just have to start saving my pocket money *grin*!!!!

Hope this finds you happy and healthy, and ready for the new week!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Have You Heard of...

Ultimate Bundles?

Probably not if you live in New Zealand, it is an American thing (of course), however it is well worth a look if you're into healthy living and green cleaning!

AND, you could have a chance to win a Vitamix and a $500 Amazon Card - simply go and visit Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom here, help spread the word about this amazing deal, and you're in the draw to WIN!

Basically what these guys do is a few times a year they put a 'Bundle of Books' out on a specific topic, for a VERY low price! The current one, of which I have purchased, is called 'The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle', and for US$29.95 you get over 70 e-books on healthy living - from Essential Oils, to Whole Food Cooking, from Yoga to Green Cleaning , from Gardening to Keeping Chooks and everything in between! You also get heaps of e-courses for free or very minimally priced, as well as actual products that are offered free (but you would need to pay postage, so I probably won't bother with these myself).

These bundles are only available for a week each time, and the week is up this Monday 15th (or Tuesday 16th our time of course); even if you're a sceptic - take a look at the link above, and check it out! I bought mine on Thursday, and within thirty minutes I had the link to download them. I then spent Thursday and Friday downloading and sorting them out, onto my Google Drive, so I can access them from anywhere. I have skimmed as many as I could this weekend - and I am seriously EXCITED!

For someone like me, who has cooking challenges within the home - this is an amazing resource, there are a whole heap of gluten-free cookbooks, as well as a whole heaps of wholefood cookbooks; all of which I will use excessively! There are also books about Picky Eaters (we need to read that here), and how to encourage your children to eat healthier - everything I personally, could ever need at this stage in my life!

For me personally, it has been well worth the money - it is covering every area that I am now interested in, as well as every area I am currently dealing with. And the convenience of having them all right at my fingertips via Goggle Drive means they will be used and read over and over again!

I am in-love, and will be keeping an eye on them for future bundles that may be of benefit to me as well (although I don't think I have convinced my hubby yet)!

Seriously - go check it out before the deal is over!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

On Me and Them and Work and Food... And This!

So much has been happening here, but there seems to be very little available time to update this space; it is already getting late, so not even sure if I will get this written up tonight!

Yet another gorgeous sunset...

So I thought I would give you a few updates on all our current situations! The first, of course, is the upcoming move and job vacancy... So, while there is still no job, the big news is that I have switched focus, and have decided to go back to my teaching roots! Roots being the operative word - you have to dig down really hard to find the last time I worked with children who are not mine! But there is a Bachelor Degree sitting on the wall in the hallway that says I have completed it with honours, and thus am (supposedly) a good teacher (at least in theory)!

Early morning picnic lunch at our house... 
so early 'lil M still has his PJ's on!

I have made all the queries, and have found out that I don't have to do any retraining (despite it being almost 15 years since working in teaching), and all I have to do is apply to be put on the Teachers Register! As long as they accept me (which I was told is a pretty much done deal as long as I have completed and sent in all the correct documentation), I come out just like a fully trained teacher straight out of University. I am what they call 'Provisionally Registered', which means I have to work full-time under a mentor for two-three years, and complete a certain amount of 'extra paperwork' and 'homework' to a certain level, and than I gain my full registration, and can work at a more senior level. All new teaching grads at any level have to do this... I have been told there are quite a few teaching positions available within the area we are moving too, and it would be much easier to get a job in teaching than in Admin / Finance, which is where I was initially looking. 

So here is too a new job soon!

The other thing I did was to ring the local Kindergarten Association, and ask them what they would be wanting to see from me if they were to employ me. I was told I would require a current reference (which of course, I don't have) and some knowledge of current theory and practise (as above)! So I have contacted Buttons Preschool and asked if I could work there 2 mornings a week voluntarily (of course this means bringing 'lil M with me)! They are very excited to have me and the boy aboard (he has wormed his way into all their hearts, and they have been begging me for ages to let him start attending *grin*), so as of next week I will be working 9am to 12pm on Wednesday and Friday mornings; much to Buttons delight!

So today I emailed my contact and asked them to start looking for teaching jobs for me, because in reality by the time I apply for a job, get an interview, and then get offered the position - we're looking at a good 2-6 weeks! My husband then has to give a months notice at his work, and then we have to move... so by the time all of that has gone through, my application will have gone through the processes, and (hopefully) I have been accepted on the Teachers Register, and I'll have had a fair few weeks of 'work experience' behind me and gained a current reference as well!

So that Degree won't have gone to waste after all...

Two of my most favourite females - my Mum and my daughter!

So that is me in a nutshell...

Now onto other matters!

Button went and saw a Paediatrician the other day, one who specialises in allergies! She has severe rhinitis (allergies to dustmites, cat / dog, grasses, pollen), and now is on regular medication for it! What a difference it is making to her sleep! So pleased with it, as I never realised how bad it was for her  - poor little one! But she now crashes as soon as her head hits the pillow, and sleeps right through the night - no waking for the toilet, no waking due to sneezing and itchy nose! Amazing (I thought she just had a bad bladder, turns out that this is not the case *grin*)!

Four of my favourite people - my parents and my children!
Notice Dad's moon-boot? 
At 74, having never broken a bone in his body, he broke his foot in TWO places! 
And at church to boot!!!!

We also now need to 'test' her every six months regarding her food allergies; because they are not severe reactions, they can be done at home and not in a controlled environment. She wanted us to start her slowly on Rolled Oats, which is gluten but not wheat (as it was wheat she had reacted to in the past, however we had ruled out all gluten), and she is so excited - she has had porridge for breakfast for two weeks now! No reactions at all... SO excited, as just rolled oats opens up a whole range of things for me with baking, and her for eating (porridge being a prime example, but also muesli bars and anzac biscuits etc)! We are also letting her have marmite on her sandwiches, but currently have left her on these alone; will need to try some wheat-based products soon!

We grabbed a date-night out while we could the other night...
Thanks Mum and Dad!

With the dairy it was suggested we try baked dairy first; so include butter and milk in my baking, make a cheese sauce as part of dinner, have pizza with a scraping of melted cheese on top! So far, so good there also - she has reacted physically to dairy once, but that was very minimal compared to what she was like. We have allowed her to have yoghurt once as well, but have kept everything to fairly small doses so far. I feel with dairy it is the build up in her system that causes problems, as she was back on dairy for a while after she turned two - she seemed fine initially, but as time went on she started to react more and more severely. So I will be watching dairy closer than gluten, as gluten tends to be a quicker and more violent reaction for her!

But apparently it is from four years onwards that children start to outgrow these allergies - so we have hope now, and so far things are looking positive!

My cat likes to hide (sleep) in boxes...

Hubby is doing better after the 'Elizabeth Elimination Diet' (or the EED); we're still not 100% sure what he does and does not react to, so while he is back on 'normal' food, it is still fairly restrictive compared to the rest of us. He is very excited about Button, and is going to give Rolled Oats a go as well, and see if he can handle those. He also tried to reintroduce dairy back into his diet, but that was a no-go; however - we can live within those boundaries, and have been doing so for quite some time now. I have stocked up on quite a bit of plain red meat for him (chops, steak, schnitzel etc), so on nights I cook something he can't handle - he can cook himself up some meat to go with the veggies / carbs we have.

Homemade Sugar-Free Blueberry Jam, a big hit all round!

As you have probably noticed - this blog is focusing more and more on food, and cooking. We are slowly changing our habits and our ways, and eating more and more wholefoods. It began out of necessity with all the allergies, but it is now something my husband and I are both very passionate about; and we will be seeing this through for the children sake, and also our future health. 

Chewy Apricot Muesli Bar by Homegrown Kitchen

I have got to the point where I am so interested I would really like to study nutrition in the future; obviously in our current situation, with me going back to work full-time, this is not possible! But one day, hopefully, when things settle back down and I get some spare time on my hands - this is where I would like to focus it. Specifically on families with allergies; I remember the complete and utter despair when  I discovered, much to my horror, that I would need to learn how to cook speciality foods, and learn fast! 

Choco Peppermint Truffles based on 

This is also, in the future, where I would like my blog to focus as well - again, I don't have enough time nor understanding to even consider it becoming a 'foodie' blog at this stage in my life; but I am hoping to revamp this and make it more up-to-date with my current interests! In time, I will quite likely start a separate food blog, with a name more appropriate to that, but for now this can stay as it is - just more up-to-date!

My baby is starting to grow up!

I have a number of recipes up my sleeve that I want to share here with you, but they will need to wait for yet another night... most of them are my own takes on other peoples recipes, so I will always link back to the original!

Kowhai Flowers in our back garden

So that is the latest from our end, I hope you're all having a wonderful week! TGIF tomorrow!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Menu Planning Monday 13 & 14

It has been a bit rough and tumble here recently -  you know, the whole 'flying by the seat of your pants' when it comes to eating! I was sick for two weeks with a throat infection, and on one of those weeks we did a 'eat what is in the pantry / fridge / freezer' week, meaning we slashed our food budget big time! Needs to be done now and then...

Healthy food choices - carrots for afternoon tea

Unfortunately I am not organised enough (story of my life) to have written down what we ate over that time - I know we ate a lot of 'quick and easy' meals, and hubby helped out. But that is about as far as my memory allows me!

Anyway - I set up a kind of menu plan for this past week, and the week to come; my parents have been here, and I had to send hubby out to do the shopping due to time restraints... yep, that was a bit scary; but he did well!

Chocolate Chip 'Surprise' Cookies
The 'surprise' being chickpeas!

So - this time, instead of setting out exactly what I was going to cook each day; I grouped recipes under headings, and am allowing myself the option of choosing what I want to cook each night, knowing I have the ingredients for all of these recipes. It is quite freeing really, although I have discovered I have a tendency towards the easy first (shouldn't really surprise me, considering I lean towards laziness)!

Double-Chocolate Seasalt Cookies

So - this is how it has looked for the past few days:

Wednesday 3rd September = Sausages, mash and veggies
Thursday 4th September = Lemon and Butter Chicken
Friday 5th September = Pizza
Saturday 6th September = Homemade Fish n Chips (roasties in this case, at hubby's request)
Sunday 7th September = Homemade Baked Beans on Toast
Monday 8th September = Devilled Sausages
Tuesday 9th September = Satay Meatballs with noodles

Homemade leftover Apricot Chicken for lunch 
With a glass of wine... mmmmm!

And the rest of the menu looks like this:

Shepherds Pie
Mini Meat Loaves

Lemon and Thyme Pasta
Chicken Fried Rice

Old Fashioned Fish Pie

Soup & Toast
Scrambled Eggs on Toast
Quinoa Fritters

Tomato & Basil Hoki Pie 

Not really sure if this is how I'm going to continue doing it or not, I still feel a little disorganised as I am still having to make decisions last minute - so might need to go back to the old way due to sanity *grin*!

Hope you all have had a great weekend!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Menu Planning Monday 12

I am sorry I have yet to get back to you about the whole self-confidence 'series' I was/is going to do! Between hubby's food misadventures, and job hunting - time has disappeared faster than I care to remember!

Hoping one day for more time, and sleeping children; so I can use that time efficiently! Last night was good, but the previous night Button was up 3x, AND the cat brought a mouse in which she proceeded to let go - so there was a mouse hunt in the middle of the night, and of course 'lil M decided that 5:30am was a good time to wake up for the day! Last night we were in bed by 8pm, yep, we were that tired!

So, the intentions are still all good, and I do plan on making it happen... one day! But right now we have more pressing matters that require attention; hubby went off the track over the weekend, and paid for it a bit today; so back on track again this week, and hopefully a little more common sense will prevail next weekend!

So, last weeks menu didn't quite go to plan, here is how it turned out (to tired to do an actual synopsis):

Monday - Meatballs and Rice
Tuesday - Devilled Sausages
Wednesday - Apricot Chicken
Thursday - Corned Beef - turned into Mince Bread Baskets, as I totally forgot to put the corned beef into the crock pot.
Friday - out with family, so sausages and hot chips
Saturday - Soup and scones - turned into Corned Beef, with little roasties and fresh veggies.
Sunday - Pizza

So, for this week:

Monday - Soup and Scones
Tuesday - Hoki Bake with Basil and Tomato Recipe found here
Wednesday - Crunchy Peanut Butter Chicken on Rice Recipe Found Here
Thursday - Savoury Mince Pie (using g-f pastry recipe I have in one of my cookbooks) basic recipe and idea found here
Friday - Pizza Night
Saturday - Homemade Sausages with Mash Recipe Found Here
Sunday - Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe Found Here 

Am hoping the children sleep better this week, and I get more time on my blog... had a great night out on Friday with my sister-in-law, attending a cooking night with Nicola Galloway! We both thoroughly enjoyed it, and have plans on attending another course run by her, probably not until next year though! 

It has been a busy, but lovely weekend... wish more were like this one! I even got a morning in the kitchen without children! What a luxury!

Anyway, it is now 10pm, and I need to head to bed - one good night does not erase months of bad nights, and I am once again getting tired!

Hopefully we can talk again soon!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Back On Track... Well Almost!

So after spending much time thinking and panicking (if truth be known) and praying desperate prayers for inspiration - I have finally come to a place of being able to help hubby, I think. I still desperately want him to see a Doctor, the 'diagnosis' of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is just a guess; as it fits his symptoms the best, however there are all sorts of other things it could be... if only he'd go and have a few tests! 

But he won't, and there is no point going on and on, as it'll only make matters worse! So I decided to give him an ultimatum (after much reading and researching), that he either goes on the 'Elizabeth Elimination Diet' and sticks to it, or he goes to the Doctor! He chose the elimination diet, and I bet by the end he'll be wishing he had just sucked it up and had gone to the Doctor. 

So, for two weeks he is going to be on minimal food - plenty of portions, just minimal variety... he won't go hungry, but he'll probably get bored with it all! AND then, I'll just reintroduce one food at a time every 3 or so days, so it'll be dull and boring for him for a while yet!

Little Snack Packs of nuts and seeds...

So yesterday I spent the day preparing and working it all out, and today I spent the day buying what appropriate foods I'd be needing, and cooking... cooking... cooking!

Pot of Creamy Quinoa bubbling away on the stove...

Huge pot of 'safe-to-eat' soup for the man (pork and veggies)!

So with all that in mind - his menu for the next two weeks goes something like this:

2x eggs and toast
GF Cornflakes and a banana

A bowl of Creamy Quinoa (coconut cream of course) with a Banana
A bowl of soup, with toast and a piece of fruit

Fresh boiled veggies
Plain white rice
A piece of fresh meat (steak, schnitzel, chicken, fish)

Fruit (he can only eat bananas, oranges, kiwifruit and manderins)
Nuts and Seeds (Sunflower, Pumpkin, Walnuts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts and Cashews).

Even his fruit and veggie intake is limited, as some of them can and do cause trouble. He had carrots, broccoli and celery last night and reacted... *sigh*, we think it was the celery, but are just not sure. So tonight it was back to the drawing board, and he only got carrots; tomorrow I will include a little bit of broccoli and see how that goes, and the following night we will add a bit of celery back in.

Over the next fortnight I will then be doing some research on what foods to start reintroducing first, and build up a plan as to how we're going to tackle it all. We will also need to have a list somewhere, where we can note what seems to be okay and what doesn't. He has had a good day today, and so far everything has gone down comfortably - whew, so that means carrots are on the good list!

Anyway - while I was doing that, I was able to scrawl out a quick menu plan for the rest of us as well:

Monday - Meatballs and Rice
Tuesday - Devilled Sausages
Wednesday - Apricot Chicken
Thursday - Corned Beef
Friday - out with family, so sausages and hot chips
Saturday - Soup and scones
Sunday - Pizza

This is what happened LAST week, which I don't think I managed to catch you up on, due to one thing or another:

Monday - Soup and fresh bread
Tuesday - Chicken Cacciatore
Wednesday - Soup and scones (ooops)
Thursday - Homemade Burgers and Hot Chips
Friday - Pancakes
Saturday - Zesty Lemon and Soy Chicken
Sunday - Mince and Noodles

Makings for the homemade burgers!

So that is the latest on our Food Misadventures! I have got so many other posts and photos whizzing around in my head, but time is just not happening (even tonight I should have really been registering for jobs on a couple of websites, and sending my CV into a couple of other places, rather than blogging *sigh*)!

On the bright side - 'lil M has got the beginning of his LAST two teeth coming through now, wahoo! So while that means a grumpy little boy at home, and short day sleeps - it also means the end is in sight! He is currently managing to sleep through the night, or at least until 5am (which is GOOD, trust me), so we are very grateful for that (that has only been happening for a week now though, so trying not to count the chickens before they hatch as such)!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Menu Planning Monday Gone Astray

It is after 10pm, and I have just spent the entire evening on the phone talking to my sister-in-law... I rang to just quickly confirm what we'll be doing on Friday night; as we'll be attending a cooking class run by Nicola Galloway of Homegrown Kitchen; excited much! But as women are want to do - we just kept talking!

It was good though; really good!

And I really don't know if I'd have had much for you anyway, hubby and I are working through some of his tummy issues at the moment; as he is REALLY struggling. So we're looking into trying him on the Fodmap Diet, and seeing if this helps - it is brutal, and I am still getting my head around it. Right now, I am still working out what he can and can't eat, and if I can realistically fit that into our everyday eating - it doesn't look good, might mean cooking two meals, something I would rather avoid if at all possible.

So, once I have an idea of what is going on, and how I am going to tackle this next challenge in our food journey - I will pop in with an update.

But right now, I need sleep.