Thursday, February 26, 2015

Meal plans for Apt 17A

I spent last weekend with one of my dear friends Liz in Chicago!  She and Dave and Chris were so hospitable and fabulous and their place is dope and they took me to brunch and I saw all the things and went all the places and Pizza and hotdogs!  Im aware I sound like a crazy person. Crazy about Liz!  Whaaaat!

So, Liz is a hardworkin' city girl, and the pull of Chipotle is strong, so she was interested in cooking at home more.  Her (super attainable and reasonable) goal is to spend way less money eating out (lunches included) and to try and cook at home 4 nights a week.  I'm treating each meal like it's for a family of 4 so they'll have lunches or be able to share a little, etc.

Thats where I come in- I love meal planning and making lists!  This is week 1 of a series of weeks of meal planning meant for only the coolest of people, efficiently, inexpensively and easily.

Chicken layered enchiladas with lots of leftovers
Chicken taco salads
Chicken nachos
Chicken taco soup

Shopping list:  In order of where I think things should be if you start in produce and end up in frozen foods.

2 tomatoes
enough lettuce for a few salads

2 cans black beans
2 can kidney beans
2 cans corn
2 cans ro-tel
1 can green enchilada sauce
2 cans red enchilada sauce
1 12oz can chicken broth
1 box chicken broth (like 36 oz? I have no idea. the bigger one.)
1 packet taco seasoning
Salad dressing for taco salads, whatever you like. (I usually get catalina for them)
(If you don't have them!)some tupperware-type-bins.  Target sells knock-off glad ware, thats good for a few uses but won't make you cry if you lose or throw one away.
Crokpot liners (I think they say slow cooker liners. The box is small and blue, with the trash bags and baggies)
Big ziploc freezer bags (like, 10+" tall)
a big foil casserole pan
Really big bag of corn chips.

about 8 chicken breasts

Cold / frozen:
the biggest bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese you can find, like 10 oz
sour cream or plain greek yogurt, if you like it, If not thats OK its not required

My estimate based on Colorado groceries is $70 but I have no idea how much things cost in Chicago.  I usually get my groceries at super target, and I buy the off-brand whenever possible.  This is, in theory, about 20 servings of food so thats like $3.50 a plate.

UPDATE!  Liz posted a pic of the food she bought:
And she said $53 before tax!  I was close!

Day 1: Week prep and meal #1
I recommend you do this on a Sunday, maybe go shopping on Saturday or Sunday early.
Put 2 crokpot liners in, layered one right on top of the other. (wasteful, yes, but one always rips and that makes it useless.) Put ALLL the chicken in a crokpot. Add 1 can RED enchilada sauce, 1 can GREEN enchilada sauce, 1 packet taco seasoning, 2 cans of ro-tel and 1 12oz can of chicken broth.  Start as early as you can manage, the longer it can cook on low the better! Im talking 12 hours if you can!

When the chicken is just falling apart, add 2 can black beans, 2 can pinto beans, and 2 can corn. shred all the chicken and mix it all up. ( know thats a TON of food, you may have to do it in 2 batches, with another big bowl.  This is the hardest part of the whole week.)

Put 1/4 of the mixture each into 3 big baggies. (total being bagged, 3/4) Put one in the freezer, and 2 in the fridge.
You should be left with 1/4 of the mixture to cook with today.

Layered Enchiladas:
Get out the flour tortillas, cheese, the 2nd can of red enchilada sauce, and the big foil pan-spray it with Pam (or butter it a little, or use a little oil, whatever you have handy.)
a little enchilada sauce
flour tortillas
chicken mixture
a little more enchilada sauce
flour tortillas
chicken mixture
a little more enchilada sauce

Bake for about 25min, or until it looks done in a 350* oven.
Eat, enjoy, and put your leftovers into the little tupperware bins.   Cleanup should be almost nothing, since you used crokpot liners and a foil pan you can throw away.

Meal #2:
Taco salads
Lettuce, chicken mixture bag #2 (ok cold or heated, its up to you)
Crunched up chips
sour cream/greek yogurt if you want
dice up one of those tomatoes

Meal #3:
Chicken nachos 
I would recommend layering foil over a cookie sheet for easy clean up!
Layer chips, chicken bag 3(fridge), cheese, diced tomatoes, whatever you want.
bake at 400* until its nachoey looking!

Meal #4
Chicken taco soup
this one is the easiest by far!
Take bag#4 out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw, that morning or the night before.
Dump it in a big pot with the big box of chicken broth
Heat it until its super hot, and eat it with cheese and chips on top.
Leftovers you can freeze for future lunches, too!

You're going to be super sick of chicken taco stuff by the end of the week, but you've hopefully spent less $$$ and ate better than usual.  I'll do another week for ya soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

White elephant: Nobody wants something weird

Mike and Ali throw a white elephant party each year, and the group of participants KNOW how to do a white elephant exchange-  we have had years of practice.  Usually the parties have a theme, which I always love of course!

Some key lessons over the years have been learned, for instance:  Don't wait too long to begin the exchange, or you'll be yelling over drunks and it'll be total chaos.  Let it be known that if you are super late, you just aren't participating.  But the most important of all: Bring a good gift.  Let it be funny, or something people WANT, or at the very least, let it be alcohol.  Basically, don't bring something you would be pissed to end up bringing home yourself.

You may be saying, but wait, me and this other group get together and give each other weird and terrible things every year and its just a HOOT! That's super, and I know that those types of exchanges occur, but if you aren't 100% sure its THAT kind of W.E. exchange, maybe check with the hostess first and ask, before you bring a box full of cotton balls or something.  If theres a $20 limit, shoot for $20, not $5.  We usually do a $25 suggested value, so the gifts below are around that.

That said, here are some ideas for you, if you're into being the bad-ass that brought something cool that people "steal" from each other.   Some of these ideas came directly from past parties, because my friends are geniuses.

 Cat-centric gifts are always a winner, especially when 35% of your attendees call themselves the "justice league of cat ladies".
This is my cousin Rob winning a "crazy cat lady starter kit" last year.  That I stole.

 Men with cats calendar, cat socks...
and the actual proud winner of the often-traded cat scratcher. 
You can dazzle your friends and buy it at urban outfitters for $40

and last year, making this little beauty cost me about $25:

Hipster starter kit

Here are some other things that you might think don't suck:

And were you aware that for $10 you can be the proud owner of this many 80's Garbage Pail Kids cards? Carefully arranged in a binder, these would be the radder gift ever.

May the White Elephant odds be EVER in your favor!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kirby costume made by Laura the best mom ever- guest post

Guest Post- Laura is the best mom ever, a good friend of mine for many years, likes to run and do interesting things, has rescued me on many occasions, is a total bad-ass professional and hates Wal-Mart.
I am so lucky to have such crafty friends who are willing to allow me to exploit them as guest on my blog.  Not only did Laura send me Pictures, but she basically wrote the post with detailed explanations.  I am super impressed, and I'm sure you will be too!

From Laura:

Kayla wanted to be Kirby, but the costume isn't something you can buy in a store.

I searched for how to guides and found the easiest way was to use a 35" balloon, then use paper mâché. 
Kayla would have none of that. She wanted a metal frame. 

I wanted something easier, so I found some 36" nylon Chinese lanterns that would make a perfect shell. 

36" Irregular Ribbed White Nylon Lantern

These are the colors of felt I used. 
I needed 
3 sheets of red (one per shoe)
1 sheet of black
1 sheet of white
1 sheet of bright blue
1 sheet of pink

I started with making a shell for the feet. 

I made a basic shell around her shoes, sewed the sides and cut out the hole for her foot.
She is a size 12-13 shoe so it only took one 8 1/2 x 11" of red felt per shoe. 

For the face, 
I made the shapes free hand on paper. It took a little trial and error. 
I cut out the paper shapes and pinned them to the felt to cut them out.

 I made the stencil for the cheeks using paper and the pink felt. 

Then a semi triangular shape for the mouth in red and a pink tongue. 
We bought  4 yards of pink fabric. I tried to make a shell with the fabric by hand stitching the whole thing. 

 The problem is, it didn't work. The fabric was too heavy and made the Chinese lantern collapse. 

So we went for plan B. We went to Lowe's and bought pink spray paint. We took our pink fabric with us and found This Valspar brand was the perfect color. 

In case you want to make it yourself, here is the part number and the name of the color- "Glossy Frosty Berry"

The Chinese lantern came with a metal insert. I reshaped it and hung the costume/lantern from our tire swing and began to spray paint. 

NOTE: it took 2 bottles of spray paint to paint the whole costume.

I used the pink fleece fabric we bought from the evil place (aka. Walmart) to make Kirby's little arms.  

I used an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper to make the shape, cut out the fabric with a 1/2 inch seam and sewed it with pink thread. 

This is the color thread I used. 
I used the cheapest stuffing I could find at the evil place. It was around $5.

I pinned the arms to the body to make sure it looked even, it took a few tries to get it right. 

Pinned everything on and had my daughter out in the costume, because we still needed arm holes. 

We figured out where to put the holes. I made a circle out of paper and checked that it was big enough for my daughter's hands and arms to fit through. I put the stencil on the costume.Then with my daughter in the costume used the fabric glue to glue on the felt eyes, cheeks and mouth. It was helpful to have her in it because she could push out on the fabric and make sure the pieces have a strong bond to the lantern.

So after complaining about the head hole being uncomfortable, I used the felt fabric to make a fabric ring around the head hole to make the costume more comfortable for my daughter. 

I used the fabric glue to adhere it to the costume. 

Note: the Chinese lantern holes were too small for my kid to fit into. I had to cut the fabric and the metal cage to make it work.  I had to use pliers for that part. 

If you're going to try this, make sure you have good scissors. I bought a cheap pair from the evil place and regretted it. They wouldn't cut through the fleece fabric.  Get better scissors. 

You have to find a way to hold up/suspend this costume. I used a pool noodle and a chair for most of it and the rope from my kid's tire swing to paint the costume. 

So, Laura wins this year for:  Best mom ever, subcategory: time consuming and impressive costume creation from scratch. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sorry for all the mean things I said about you, camping.

So, we have been camping- which is something I never thought I would have any interest in-  I used to be like, "If I wanted to sleep outdoors I'd be homeless!  I work hard to pay bills in order to avoid that!"
But then this happened:
Jon bought a camper and we made it all cute.
So now I'm all about camping.  I bought cute boots, a headlamp, and I go on websites like and 
Turns out camping involves things I love:
-planning and making lists in preparation

-eating (hobo food!  See below)
-drinking cocktails
-not using the internet/interacting with people I love instead of computers

-fire pit conversation
-bike riding

-hiking around
-and usually, waterfalls and woodland creatures

(this is J Mar, our friend Cody's dog. He's super nice.)

The things I don't love are:
-Being cold (which I correct by wearing adorable coats and hats)
-Bears (cute but scary)
-Not showering  (I am only up to one night trips because of this. I'll get over it eventually.)

So, camping is great and I was wrong. AND the best part?
You can cook meals in foil, and they are seriously tasty- and easy.

I did this at home- double layers of nonstick foil filled with the following:
-cut-up potatoes
-frozen long green beans
-diced onions
-sliced beef kielbasa
-olive oil, salt and pepper

But 1st, a fire needed to be made.   Just the thing for a 14 year old with lots of energy, and general interest in using a hatchet. 

then we just put the bundles in the fire to cook,  about half an hour.  we repositioned them occasionally.
and waited excitedly...



I made an attempt to make cinnamon rolls on another trip the same way but the results were questionable- we let them cook way too long thinking they would take a long time so the bottoms were burnt.  So, lesson learned.

I'm learning to be a pretty good hobo cook- If I come up with any more good meals I'll be sure to share!