Creating a Dinner Menu

The good news is that I finally found a job!  Bad news is that I have to get back into a routine and with the little one back to school in a few days there is lots to do to prepare for all the coming changes.  School supplies are purchased and the backpack is ready to go.  Back to school clothes are all set, and since we are not morning people, clothes are selected in advance, usually the night before.  My thoughts have now turned to the Dinner Menu.

With going back to work, after-school activities, food allergies and other assorted challenges, this is an area I’ve been thinking about a lot.  On those really hectic days, eating out is not really an option.  We have too many food allergies and we just don’t have the budget for it.  So, I’m considering putting together a weekly or, let’s get really crazy, monthly menu plan.  I already purchase groceries in bulk (helps to capitalize on sales), so having the supplies (?)  shouldn’t be a problem.  Sticking to the plan might be.  But I figure if I go with a loose monthly plan, I can swap in and out where I need to.  The key will be actually getting it in writing (posted on the fridge?) So, some sample menu items are:

  • Scrambled eggs with turkey sausage is a fav in our house
  • Scrambled eggs thrown into a tortilla with meat and cheese is another
  • Meatballs (turkey) and rice (my hubby makes a fantastic dish that tastes sooo good)
  • Chili
  • Cowboy Beans (great recipe – made with turkey sausage – kinda like beans and cornbread or a white bean chili)
  • Quesadillas- (a suggestion from my friend, Jen)
  • Nachos – homemade refried beans, sometimes ground turkey, tomatoes, cheese, etc. over tortilla chips
  • Baked Potato Bar – yummy!
  • Hotdogs – the nitrate free kind of course.
  • Sandwiches – you name it, lunchmeat, pb and j, tuna
  • Spaghetti – killer recipe and my daughter’s favorite
  • Tuna casserole- made on the stove top; good hot or cold
  • Pancakes and bacon
  • Lentil bean Sloppy Joes – these are awesome, easy to make and meat free
  • Chicken stir-fry
  • Mac n Cheese and ham

I’m looking for more ideas to fill out a whole month’s worth with no repeats.  The goal here is quick, easy and nutritious.  We can work in more elaborate dinners when time and health allow.  But for now, I’m going for what can I do quickly when I get home from work.  We are an allergy household, so I also need to consider recipe modifications.   The largest majority of cooking at our place is from scratch – a must with the allergies, so some of these are healthier than they look.

So, two questions:

1)  got any other ideas?

2)  would you like me to expand on any of these to show you how we make them allergy free?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.



Check out the other blogs I participate in through their blog parties, here.   Lots of great ideas can be found.


Easy Woodwork Refresh

Woodwork Refresh, Door

My sad, worn, woodwork

I’ve always gotten a lot of wonderful comments on the woodwork in my home.   I favor the natural (or stained) look versus the painted variety and most of the comments center around the how really  nice it always looks.  I came to appreciate that when I moved into the new house.  The woodwork was scratched, marked and lacking a finish in spots.   Worn and scratched woodwork can make your home look old and outdated.  And that is an easy enough fix.

First, give the trim or doors a good wash-down.  I don’t use anything special, just a mild soap and water solution.  Next, you want to remove any paint goofs, marker or scuff marks.  To do this, I use good old fashioned nail polish remover.  Yup.  The kind you can pick up at the dollar store.  Use a Q-Tip or a cotton ball and wipe those marks away just like you would if you were removing nail polish.   It really is that easy and inexpensive.

Woodwork Refresh Tools-1

Use nail polish remover

Woodwork Refresh - Scratch removal

Remove the scuffs and such

Now comes the refresh part. I have a lot of left-over stain from various projects so it is fairly easy for me to match up the color of the stain on my wood.  Since you are only working in small patches, you can usually get away with “close-enough.”  Don’t have left-over stain?  A small can is easy enough to purchase, or for really small or touch up jobs, they now make these wonderful stain pens.  Find them in the stain aisle.  They come in all kinds of colors.  They work like a marker.

Woodwork Refresh - Stain tips

Supplies, dip the rag, wipe on, wipe off

I wear a pair of vinyl gloves and depending on the size of the imperfection, dip a q-tip or a rag into the stain and then wipe it on the imperfection.  A quick wipe off with a clean rag and you are done.   This works great on most scratches or light wear-off.  Got a little deeper scratch that the stain isn’t getting?  I’ve used colored marker.  I get the more expensive marker that you find in the craft store in the artist aisles.  I tend to go with a shade lighter as the match up is not as easy.  I know they make the colored wax, but I’ve never had good results with them.

I do this whenever needed, but it is a simple fix when going to sell the house, or moving out of the rental (think the trade of $10 or your deposit).

And there you have it — a woodwork refresh that can be done for under $10.   I’m not sure the picture does it justice, but here are the results…

GLI Woodword Results

The end result

See how the trim looks much better?  And the door doesn’t have the scratch or the fading finish?




Have you checked out the sites in the blog hop party I participate in?  You can click on this “party” link here and see some other great ideas.

DIY Dishwasher Tablets

DIY Dishwasher Tablets

DIY Dishwasher Tablets

Those who know me well are well aware of the diy dishwasher tablet follies in my kitchen this year as I’ve tested several recipes.

Some have been quite funny – I’m talking the complete with suds coming out of the dishwasher and all over the floor kind of funny!   As I told the hubby who just stood there with that look on his face (if you’ve been married any length of time you know the look I mean) — “hey, at least the floor got mopped.”

As I neared the end of the last batch – which cleaned very well, but clumped badly, I was off to exploring again.  There is just something about me and stabbing a knife into a little jar that doesn’t seem right or safe.  I could have you in tears laughing about the results of me and ice on the roof, not just once, but twice.  But I digress.

Instead of tweaking the recipe, yet again, I decided to see what Pinterest had to offer on the subject.  Or, more accurately, to see if there was anything new in the last several months.  I also looked at a few blog links as I was searching.  The recipe I used is on a few different websites, in the exact same version, with the exact same photo and no “it really belongs to xxxx person” credit.  So, the best I can do is own up to the fact that it isn’t a Green Leaf Inspirations original.

The original recipe calls for:  1 Cup Borax,   1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda),  1/2 cup Epsom Salt,  3/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Now, I didn’t want to make a full recipe (that says somewhere in the 22 tablet range) — I just wanted to try it.  So I thought I’d cut the recipe in half.

When I did that, it came out kinda soupy, so I wound up adding another 1/4 cup each of borax, washing soda and salt to get the tablets to form without being mushy.  I just used one tablet in my dishwasher and I LOVE  it.  No film on my glassware, none on my plastic (yes, I have some) and all but 2 items came clean.  This is a major win for the first time round.  I have really hard water and my dishwasher is, um, challenged.  It doesn’t understand it is supposed to actually clean the dishes.  In it’s defense, the one dish was pretty dirty.

This performance is better than Cascade or any of the other detergents I’ve used.  And the cost?  Well, the one site estimated it at .03 each — so another major win in the budget saving department.  I’m so excited.   So, then, here is how it goes:

DIY Dishwasher Tablets

1 Cup Borax  (you could use plain ‘ole baking soda if you have an issue with borax)

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)

1/2 cup Epsom Salt

3/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice.  It will fizz so the kids will think it is fun.   I used a tablespoon and went for what looked like a 1 and a half to 2Tbs clump.  I dropped it on a cookie sheet and I then formed it into a shape that looked like it would fit the washer dispenser.  Once it got a little harder I transferred them to a cookie tray for  better air circulation.  Now that they are hard, in a jar for storage they go.

Dishwasher Tablets

Drying on a tray for better air

The only other thing I can add is that I noticed that the whole tablet did not dissolve.  So I might need to either just place it in the bottom of the dishwasher to start or make the tablet a little smaller or thinner.

End result.  I’m very happy.  The recipe took less than 5 minutes to make and cost mere pennies.  Much greener, less cost, easy to make:  sounds like a winning combo to me.

Green Leaf DIY Dishwasher Tablets

All ready to go.

Check out the blog link party I participate in here.