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Tammy's Kitchen

Weekly menu plan (November 28 - December 4, 2011)

Here's my menu for the week ahead!


Chicken a la King (using leftover turkey), steamed broccoli, maple rosemary bean salad (leftover from Saturday)


Smoky Salmon Chowder (leftover from Sunday -- Joshua made this and it's delicious!), green beans, mixed fruit


Mexican Black Bean Burgers, seasoned baked potato wedges, cooked peas and carrots


Turkey Sausage Kale Soup, homemade kefir biscuits, cooked carrots


Biscuit Crust Pizza, green beans


Cooked pinto beans (in slow cooker), served with cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce


Not sure yet, but I'd like to try a new recipe for something! :) I printed most of my bookmarked recipes last week, so I have lots to choose from... on a day when I'm feeling more motivated. (Right now I'm tired!)

Breakfast pizza
This was the breakfast pizza from last week's menu; it was okay, but not amazing.
I'll probably play with the recipe a bit... :)

This week's breakfasts:

Oatmeal and scrambled eggs (x2)
Cold cereal (x2)
Fruit smoothies (homemade kefir, bananas, and frozen fruit) (x3)

This week's lunches:

Leftovers or peanut butter and honey sandwiches (I'll pack leftovers or cooked pinto beans in Joshua's lunches)

Homemade cards

On Saturday, we had some friends over for dinner and then I had a little card-making party in the kitchen with the girls. I love making (and sending!) homemade cards. It's so relaxing. :)

I've also taken the approach of trying to make several similar cards at the same time, since it takes me a while to figure out a good design. I wrote more about that here, along with a quick tutorial of one of my simplest thank-you card designs. Winter is the perfect time for me to enjoy this indoor hobby, and with a new baby due next Spring, I'm hoping to replenish my stack of homemade cards before then. :)

Visit Organizing Junkie for more menu plans! :)

Easy old-fashioned: Chicken a la King (new recipe)

My mom made this Chicken a la King during my growing-up years. It's easy, simple, and yet very tasty!

Chicken a la King was one of the meals I requested when we were in Ohio visiting my family back in May. I hadn't eaten it in years, but it was just as good as I remembered.

It seems impossible that so few ingredients could produce such a perfect, warm, comfort food!! This is definitely one of the easiest and fastest from-scratch recipes in my box.

(On a humorous note, my brothers would call this "Chicken a la Cat-food"...)

Chicken a la King is a great use for leftover oven-roasted chicken, and because I freeze bell pepper halves, it's easy to slice off a little red bell pepper for this recipe and return the rest to the freezer. (If you don't have bell pepper halves in your freezer, you should! They're so handy for topping homemade pizza, or recipes like this that just call for a little.)

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving! We spent the day with family and friends, and today we're hanging out at home. :) The sun is shining, which might be it's first appearance here this month! ;) I just pulled lunch out of the oven... time to go eat! :)


Easy-to-chew Biscuit Crust Pizza (new recipe)

While waiting at the orthodontist's office, Joshua flipped through a cook book especially for braces-wearers. The pizza recipe they suggested had a biscuit-like crust rather than a yeast-based crust. Of course! A biscuit pizza crust would be much more tender and easier to chew.

I rarely make anything but yeast-based pizza crusts. My Matza Pizza has no yeast and the crust is not what I would consider "easy to chew". ;) Oh, and I did try making "kefir bread" for pizza crust, which is basically kefir and flour made into a dough. It "rose" about as much as my Matza Pizza, which is to say not at all. :)

My yeast pizza crusts are easy and delicious so that's remained my go-to for pizza... until now.

For this Biscuit Crust Pizza, I used my mom's biscuit recipe which is from a Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Breads cook book. It's a really good staple biscuit recipe!

Making the biscuit crust pizza dough

Ruth (3) got to help make the biscuit dough. It came together so fast. I use my bread machine for yeast pizza crusts and always considered it to be fairly quick, but this biscuit crust seemed really quick.

I wasn't sure how well the crust would do without being pre-baked a little before the toppings were added. But biscuits do bake quickly, and I didn't want a too-dark crust. So, I layered the toppings right over the flat biscuit dough and popped it in the oven.

Seventeen minutes later, the crust was perfect and the top looked pretty good too! We all really enjoyed the biscuit crust. I expected it to fall short of my normal pizza crusts, but it was very good!

I can foresee a lot of Biscuit Crust Pizza in our future. Joshua's teeth haven't really hurt, but they also don't come together right for chewing. Even foods that can be cut small and are soft aren't easy to chew when... you can't really chew. And it probably won't improve for 6 months or so. (We'll see! There's a lot of moving for his teeth to do, but they said we'll start seeing big changes in 6 months.)

Me? I'm just glad we won't have to give up pizza. I probably miss it the most in our family. Not only do I love pizza (I do have 20 different pizza recipes on here, after all!) but it's an easy no-brainer meal to add to the week's menu plan! :)

Have you ever made pizza with a non-yeast crust?

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to clean and remove smells from a ceramic crock pot

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Even though I'm picky about which foods I like from a slow cooker, I really do love the crock pot I have and use it at least once a week (for beans).

I wash the crock pot with hot soapy water and a plastic brush. When I'm finished scrubbing and washing, it looks like this. All shiny and clean, right?

Clean crock pot?

Wrong. When it dries, it looks cloudy and doesn't feel smooth on the cloudy parts. (I find this especially after cooking beef stew or beans.)

Clean crock pot

I've tried re-washing with the hottest water possible, and scrubbing lots with my plastic brush. It still looks cloudy when it dries.

Not only that, but the cloudy parts have a smell, like herbs (from my roast beef) and beans. The smell is all right if I'm only going to cook beef or beans in it. I've told myself that it's basically clean despite looking cloudy!

But last week I wanted to cook apples in my crock pot, and I didn't want the apples to smell like beef or beans. My solution for getting the smell off of my crock pot?

Clean crock pot

With a wet washcloth, gently rub the spots with baking soda (I used about 1/4 cup). It washed away the smell and the "clouds"!

...and my apples didn't taste like beans. :)

See also: Heather's tip about removing stains from her white crock pot!

Because I never get around to doing a separate post about this stuff, here is some off-topic cuteness from my kitchen helpers:

Eliyahu and Moshe filling the pepper grinder

I asked Eliyahu (5) to fill the pepper grinder for me. Moshe (1) "helped" him and they were so cute together as they intently worked on the special task! And yes, Eliyahu does have more than 1 shirt; that one happens to be his favorite right now and he tries to wear it as often as possible! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Freezing homemade stock (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
2. Pressure cooker info (The Local Cook)
3. Stocking up on Thanksgiving specials (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Recipe book tips (Christy at One Little Word She Knew)
5. Tip for using whole cloves (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
6. Making sweet potato puree (SnoWhite at Finding Joy in My Kitchen)

Easy old-fashioned: Homemade Egg Nog (new recipe)

I know I've said in the past that I am not an egg nog fan, because I think it just tastes like uncooked pumpkin pie filling. But this recipe has completely changed my mind!

I've made this homemade egg nog several times over the past month, and everyone who has tried it is amazed by the creaminess and delicious flavor!

This recipe should earn me a few points with "real foodies", too. ;) The ingredients are all natural, "real" foods. Of course, this egg nog is a sweet dessert beverage... but it's sweetened with maple syrup! Does that sound odd to you? Well, it tastes amazing! Erica was my recipe inspiration.

Since I was never an egg nog fan (until now), I have to rely on input from others. My friend Jamie came over last week and I served her some of my homemade egg nog. Jamie has been to chef school, worked at restaurants, and loves to experiment in the kitchen. I like to ask her for ideas and help when I'm doing something new, since she's worked with a lot of different foods and ingredients.

I poured a large glass of egg nog for Jamie and when I handed it to her she said, "Wow, is this all for me?!"

Okay, so 2 cups is a huge serving. But when she tried it, she exclaimed about how good it was... and didn't have a problem drinking the whole glass full! (Her 2-year-old son had seconds and asked for thirds!)

Jamie said that when I told her how I made the egg nog, she thought maple syrup in egg nog sounded a little odd. But, she agreed that it did give a great flavor! The homemade egg nog isn't as yellow as egg nog from the store (though that could be fixed with food coloring if desired). It's also not quite as thick.

I do recommend using a thermometer when making this egg nog. A candy thermometer or meat thermometer should work fine; you just need to get the milk and egg mixture heated up to about 160-165 degrees.

Eggs boil at 180 degrees, so you want to stay below that at all costs or your egg nog will be chunky, no matter how much you whisk it, both during and after heating. I've tried to make my recipe instructions really clear so you can get the perfect homemade egg nog on your first try! :)

Despite needing to accurately gauge the temperature when heating, this egg nog really is an easy recipe and will have your family and friends raving about it! :)

See also: Eggless "egg nog", a blended drink that uses an instant vanilla pudding mix for additional flavor and thickening. Joshua really liked that recipe too, but I prefer the simpler flavors of the 100% homemade recipe I've been making.

Weekly menu plan (November 21-27, 2011)

Like last week, this week's menu plan is mostly soft foods. Joshua got his braces on Thursday, and he says his mouth doesn't really hurt, but it's very hard to chew (back molars not coming all the way together).

I'm actually having fun getting to make some of the less-healthy meals that I haven't made for a while. ;) Cheese, eggs, pasta, butter, or cream are all things we've been really limiting for the past 10 months or so. That took out most of my favorite casseroles!

This week's breakfasts:

Easy Baked Apple Oatmeal with whipped cream (x2)
Regular oatmeal (x2)
Fruit smoothies (homemade kefir, bananas, and frozen fruit) (x3)

Cooked pinto beans
Cooked pinto beans, with my favorite toppings

This week's lunches:

Slow-cooked pinto beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce (I will pack this in Joshua's lunches too); applesauce; bananas

This week's dinners:


Veggie Bean Soup with Spinach (leftover from last week), Broccoli Rice Casserole (recipe coming!), apple crisp (new recipe I'm trying!)


Enchiladas w/ground beef (still deciding on a new recipe to try; want to recommend one?)


Macaroni and Cheese Pizza (recipe coming!), green bean casserole


A potluck that still needs to be completely planned (my fault!); green bean casserole and cranberry sauce are the two I know I'll be making so far...


Biscuit-Crusted Breakfast Pizza (recipe coming!), cooked peas and carrots


Not yet planned, aside from homemade bread; we're having company for dinner and the meal needs to be dairy-free. :)


Smoky Salmon Chowder, cooked peas and carrots

Visit Organizing Junkie for more menu plans! :)

Eat Well, Spend Less: How to have an affordable, beautiful, and delicious Thanksgiving Dinner

Eat Well, Spend Less series

I'm grateful to be a part of the Eat Well, Spend Less team of bloggers. Throughout this year, we've tackled quite a few topics that are passions of mine. Like shopping at Costco. ;)

This month? How to have an affordable, beautiful, delicious Thanksgiving Dinner without breaking the budget!

Setting an Elegant Table on the Cheap :: Carrie at Denver Bargains

Tips for a Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner :: Jessica at Life As Mom 

Allergen-Free Dishes for Thanksgiving Dinner :: Mandi at Life... Your Way

Frugal Holiday Desserts :: Shaina at Food For My Family

Do Your Holidays Focus on Family, Food, or Fighting? :: Katie at Kitchen Stewardship

One Turkey, Four Meals :: Aimee at Simple Bites

Recipes for Leftover Turkey: Reducing Thanksgiving Waste :: Katie at Goodlife Eats

10 Recipes to Make the Most of Turkey Leftovers :: Amy at Kingdom First Mom

...and my own post: Tips for a Homemade Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner

From desperation to delight: Hearty Beef and Lentil Chili (new recipe)

Chili was on the menu for dinner. I busily went about my day, helping children with homeschooling. I folded clean laundry from the weekend (I wash everything on Sunday, minus diapers and wet bedsheets), and tried once again to clear off the kitchen counters. During Moshe's nap, Ruth and I napped in the living room (being pregnant is a great excuse to get plenty of sleep!).

I got back up a few hours before dinner time. "For once," I thought, "I'll have dinner just simmering on the stove, waiting to be eaten on time, rather than rushing around at the last minute like usual."

I started browning some meat for chili, and rummaged through the freezer for some cooked beans. Surely there was at least one container left in there! But I came up empty, after going through both the small freezer and our chest freezer.

I decided to check the pantry cupboard to see if there was a stray can of beans... any kind of beans... lurking in the back. There were no cans of beans. (A pressure cooker was the only way I could have made fresh beans in time for the chili, but I don't have a pressure cooker.)

Then I thought of... lentils! I've heard of lentil chili. Lentils cook fast enough to be ready in time for dinner. But... would we like lentils in our chili?

I debated just making beef chili. After all, when you're only serving 3 things, the main dish should be something that's good, not a flopped experiment due poor planning. But the beef chili in my pot just wasn't very much. Enough for 1 meal for us? Maybe. But still, one of the best things about chili is that the beans help stretch the meal into 2 or 3!

I decided to make the chili with lentils. When Joshua came home, he said "Hmmm, this chili looks different from normal." So of course I said,

"Oh, well, it's a new recipe. Lentil Chili. Haven't you heard of lentil chili before?" ;)

Cornbread recipe
Eliyahu (5) helped me make the cornbread

Much to my delight, the whole family loved my lentil chili! The lentils had a nice texture, it didn't taste lentil-y, and it was easy to eat. I was amazed by how well we liked it! Joshua had thirds. Moshe (the 1-year-old) had seconds!

Okay, so, it was dinner after all, and thankfully a very successful one. We've had lentil chili several times since, and I made sure to measure all the spices so it could be shared. ;)

The only way to improve this lentil chili? Have some fresh cilantro on hand to sprinkle on top... :)

Kids' Toothbrushing Solution (aka why my bathroom is no longer smeared with toothpaste)

Kitchen counter tooth-brushing setup

Tooth brushing. With 4 kids, ages 7 and under, tooth brushing is a real ordeal around here. It's also something really important to Joshua and me, since we want our children to have good dental health and good hygiene habits from a very young age.

Our goal is for tooth brushing to happen twice a day, and flossing (with one of those handy plastic flossers) before bed. Now, I never feel like brushing 10 sets of teeth each day (4 kids + my own teeth, 2 times a day is a lot of brushing, even if Joshua does some of it!). So, I let the older ones (ages 3, 5, and 7) brush their own teeth in the morning, and just help with the bedtime brushing and flossing.

And somehow, almost magically, our bathroom was never clean. Toothpaste was being smeared in the strangest places. I'd find toothpaste smudged on the door, the mirror, the wall, and of course -- the bathroom counter. And the tube of toothpaste was emptying way too quickly.

We tried putting the toothpaste in a high bathroom cupboard, to be dispensed only by Mom in the morning. But I couldn't seem to make it back there to help dispense toothpaste, as having it "up and out of the way" made it even more inconvenient to remember and do all the brushing.

Joshua came up with a solution that has been working brilliantly for a few months now. We put the toothbrushes and toothpaste in the kitchen. I use a little cup on my window sill, so the toothbrushes can air dry and stay clean, while still being out of the way and easily accessible.

Kitchen counter tooth-brushing setup

In the morning when we're done with breakfast and taking our dishes to the sink, the toothbrushes are right there, waiting for me to put toothpaste on them. I usually send the kids back to the bathroom one at a time to brush and then bring their toothbrush back to me (so it doesn't end up on the bathroom floor or who knows where else!). And the baby (1 year old) gets his teeth brushed right at the kitchen sink.

This setup has helped our toothpaste last a LOT longer. :) (Read more frugal tips at Frugal Fridays!)

I've found the best prices on children's' toothbrushes at places like Big Lots, dollar stores, or Wal-Mart. I try to find a package with at least 2 toothbrushes in it for around $1. If I'm not sure of the quality of the toothbrushes, I just buy one package to see how nice they are. I've been surprised that the more expensive toothbrushes are not always the better ones!

I also give the kids a new toothbrush whenever theirs is getting worn and frayed. This seems to be every 2-3 months. A new toothbrush really works a lot better than an old one, so this is an area where I do not try to "save" by making-do with an old toothbrush, for both us and the children.


Here is a post I wrote about using xylitol to improve dental health, and a delicious affordable alternative to purchasing flavored xylitol mints:

Xylitol: Promoting dental health naturally and frugally

I've not been 100% consistent in using xylitol (life gets in the way sometimes!), but my teeth are so much cleaner when I do use it! :)

Would you mind sharing an update regarding how you like(ed?) using this system? We're considering trying it in our family. Thanks! :)


Do I still follow Dr. Ellie's dental system for cleaning my teeth? Yes -- partially. :) Originally (3-4 years ago) I had to add a WaterPik to my routine because of a tooth that was breaking/broken and needed to be kept really clean. (I also didn't chew on that side of my mouth. Do you know how much better food tastes when you're chewing with your whole mouth and tongue?!)

At the end of last year, I finally got that tooth fixed. I had been able to keep away infection and be pain-free for over 3 years with Dr. Ellie's system, but the tooth was much too decayed to remineralize or heal.

After all my research, I did go with a root canal and crown, as I felt my risk factors for the root canal were low (no infection present, very skilled dentist who only does root canals, the "safest" packing material for the root canal, etc.) and I was comfortable getting it fixed in that way. :)

All that to say, I no longer need to use the WaterPik, but I still do use and like it! I also floss once a day, which is not part of Dr. Ellie's "system". If I remember right, she "allows" something like a WaterPik or flossing to be added to "the system" without a problem.

The parts of her system I do use are the toothpaste (Crest Original Paste) and rinses (Listerine and Act), in "her" order. The toothpaste really does seem to work the best for us all around. I use small amounts for the children who can spit. I have tried fluoride-free toothpaste and even with good brushing habits, our teeth had plaque build-up.

I think there is room for differences in dental care, and you should definitely find and use what you're comfortable with! I'm very thankful that through all the reading I've done and since finding and using Dr. Ellie's system, our family's dental health has improved. (Having dental insurance now helps too.) :)

Got any tips for tooth brushing with kids? Tell me in the comments! :)

Can-free: Homemade condensed cream of celery soup (new recipe)

I've had so many requests for this recipe, I can't believe it's taken me so long to share it! But, better late than never, right? :)

Ten years ago, I would head to the dollar store to stock up on cheap canned cream soups -- cream of chicken and cream of celery.

We also happened to have quite a few new friends in the area where we had just moved (SW Missouri) who were health-conscious, and to them, the idea of making a recipe that used a can of cream soup was sacrilegious. ;)

I wasn't ready to ditch some of my favorite recipes -- like cheesy potatoes -- just because they called for a can of soup. Instead, I created my own condensed cream of chicken soup recipe, which I've been making and successfully substituting in recipes ever since! (And, it's one of my more popular recipes, with 23 reviews!)

I usually use the cream of chicken recipe, but sometimes cream of celery is more appropriate. (And I like variety.) Here, finally, is my recipe for a homemade condensed cream of celery soup!

This recipe takes me about 20 minutes to make and makes about 2 cans' worth. No, you won't be saving lots of dollars per hour making this soup, but if you love high-quality homemade ingredients and enjoy cooking, this is a fun one to do.

And, it freezes well, so you can make a bigger batch, freeze in 1 1/2-cup portions, and just thaw to use as needed... since sometimes dinner prep needs to be cut short due to the clingy baby or toddler (not that I would know anything about that...). ;)

Do you make your own canned cream-of soup substitutes, or would you rather just pay the 50 cents for a can from the store? (Are they still 50 cents?) :)