Menu Planning for April

So as I mentioned in my last menu planning post, I have been focusing on meals that can be prepared in advance of dinnertime. And I have to say: it's working so well! We are all so much happier and very well-fed. It helps with my sanity, makes for a much more fun and free afternoon and enables us all to eat together. The Buffalo Chicken Lasagna that I made last month was fabulous and so was the Baked Spaghetti (the latter is going to be a repeat for April). The Farmhouse Chicken was a huge hit - you should make it, your family will thank you!

The only "problem" is that I have had to be more creative and organized with my recipes and I don't really mind that one bit! Right now I'm working on a way to compile all the "winners" into a notebook or some other other printable format so that I can access the hard copies easily and I'm going to try to plan one month's worth of recipes at a time, taking a cue from Simple Mom's recent post on this topic (love this blog!). I didn't really use any of her recipes but I used her idea to plan a theme for each day.

M0ndays - pasta
Tuesdays - soup, salad, and/or sandwiches
Wednesdays - stir fry
Thursdays - crock pot or casserole
Sunday - easy

So today, I printed off a blank calendar for the month of April and started filling it in. I used the cookbook Southern Living Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites as my main source for this month and found more than enough recipes to fill in every spot! Unfortunately, most of these recipes are not online but if they pass the test, I'm going to add them to my file. And if you're nice, I might just figure out a way to upload the finished product to this blog! My own cookbook of sorts...fun!

So here is a sampling of what's on the menu -

Cheddar-Bacon twice baked potatoes (can be frozen!), salad
Mexican Chicken Soup (didn't get around to making it last month but it sounds fabulous!)
Chicken Spaghetti Bake
Sloppy Joe Squares, roasted carrots
Butternut Squash & Bacon Soup
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Ham & Swiss Muffins (double the recipe, freeze half), fruit
Cheeseburger meatloaf, asparagus
Asian Chicken Stirfry
Cauliflower Soup (I made this last month and forgot to mention it...it was a huge hit. Elliot loved it and so did the friends we shared it with!)

To make things easier, I sometimes make the dish vegetarian and omit the meat. Like tonight I made a delicious taco casserole (from the same cookbook) and used black beans instead of ground beef and honestly, you couldn't even tell! Ryan loved it and didn't even notice that the meat was missing. Charlie thought it was too spicy but Elliot ate more it than I did. Anyway, you really can do this on dishes like this where meat is just one ingredient. I always add a bit of olive oil, though, just to add some yummy fat.

I also never measure spices. I just add some and taste, add some and taste. That saves a lot of time and means less mess to clean up. I've never had a problem doing this.

For all of the recipes above, the prep work will be done in advance and just baked or warmed at dinnertime.



Politcs, The Environment & Such

As I mentioned in this post a few weeks ago, I'm really curious about why non-black Christians would vote for Obama. Seriously, I've been wanting to know. And I've been trying to find out. I've come across some black Obama supporters and honestly, I think that they have a different perspective. Their excitement over his rise to power, at least in the cases of the folks I've talked to, really did overpower any other reasons. And I'm fine with that (or at least mostly fine with it...as fine as I can be, I guess...). At least it's a reason. Anyway, here is an excerpt from the online exchange I had recently with an avid Obama supporter:

THEM: In terms of liking Obama....Well first I have to say that race never entered into it for me. I only mention that because you asked why a "white Christian" would vote for him. The color of his skin wasn't an issue for me either way, BUT once he was elected, I allowed my kids to stay home from school to watch his inauguration because I felt like it was so significant historically to watch a non-white become President.I have been impressed with Obama (his blunder last night aside) from the first time I saw him speak, I think it was in 2004. I agree with his position and ideas on the environment. I LOVE his stance on disabilities (http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/DisabilityPlanFactSheet.pdf). I am comfortable with his plan to get us out of the Iraq tar-baby that Bush-Cheney got us into, not to mention the end of Guantanamo. The big question most people have is about abortion. Honestly, I do NOT think most so-called pro-life politicians are going to do a thing to lower abortion rates. It hasn't happened yet, and frankly, if they did overturn Roe v Wade, they would have nothing to campaign on. I think they know that, and I think they will never really act to turn back that clock. I feel like a better anti-abortion strategy is to work toward incentives to NOT need an abortion. Sex education. Adoption credits. Things like that. So basically, abortion is a non-issue for me politically. Anyway, that's a brief synopsis of my thoughts on it! :)

ME: Thanks for enlightening me as to your position. I don't care either way about the race issue either, I only mentioned it because it was def. a factor in this election. And the only Christians that I heard give a reason for their choice happened to be black and honestly, I thought their perspective was skewed.I am def. impressed with him...speakers and leaders like him do not come around very often. So I agree with you on that for sure.I most disagree with his socialist philosophy and economic plans. This is what really scares me more than anything else, honestly. What he says and does is so contrary to the ideals on which our country was founded and looking at history, socialism does not work. People are not motivated by their own innate goodness and any philosophies or way of life that depends on humans consistently doing the right thing just for the right things' sake will undoubtedly fail. And my experience with socialized medicine (military health care) has just proved that all the more in my mind.I do agree with you about the abortion thing and it is really a card that people like to throw down as a mandate to vote Republican BUT that being said, he does seem to me to be on a campaign against the sanctity of life in general: ending stem cell ban, lifting the ban on overseas funding of abortion, and trying to void the Health Workers' 'Conscience' Rule, just to name a few (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/27/AR2009022701104.html, http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/healthday/2009/03/07/obama-to-end-stem-cell-ban-monday.html, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/2009/01/23/obama-lift-ban-overseas-abortion-funding/). I could never support anyone who did those things, ever...and that's also why I can't really be a Libertarian. :) And just for fun, I say the same thing about Democrats and the environment that you say about Republicans and abortion. I think the environment is the Democrat's abortion and I don't see either party really making a difference. As an aside, I do care about the environment and really try to do my part...

What do I say to that argument? Weak. Basically, she was overpowered by his charisma. That's how I take it anyway.

So I'm still on my quest for answers but this proves to me even more that people just fell in love with Obama and voted for him. Amazing.

Anyway, the environment. I do care about it and we in the Moody house are trying to do our part...

My kids are really messy eaters. Both of them. So in lieu of giving baths after every meal or using an entire package of wipes or 15 paper towels, I use one washcloth per day, per kid. I have a special set of washcloths that are used for this purpose and they aren't used for anything else. This is quite a major waste savings and I'm proud of it! I just tossed the old washcloths into the rag bin in the garage and bought new ones today. This is only my second set of kitchen washcloths since becoming a mother so I think I'm doing pretty good. And this is really an easy way to reduce and reuse...

More on this later.

ps: I don't think everyone who voted for Obama is off their rocker, I promise. If someone told me that they voted for Obama because they wanted "change" I would accept that answer. I don't agree, but I would accept it as legit. Just FYI.


Charlie is 3?

Dear Charlie,

Are you really THREE YEARS OLD? I just can't believe how quickly the time has passed. But I also can't really remember my life before you joined it. I have loved watching you grow and change and I am so thankful for every single day that I get to spend with you!

In honor of this your third birthday, I want you to know my three favorite things about you:

1. I just love how big your heart is. You love me, Elliot and your Daddy so much. "Mommy, I love you all your heart" is something I am privileged to hear quite often and don't worry, I know what you mean. :) It melts my heart each and every time I hear it. You get so excited to see Daddy and you constantly ask me where he is and what he is doing, even though I know that you already know the answers. And Elliot: wow, you have sure opened your heart to him and have done such an amazing job of sharing your parents. We are so proud of you!

Just a quick story: one day a few weeks ago, when I was writing thank-you notes for Elliot's birthday presents, you picked up a card and pretended to dictate a letter. It went like this: "Dear Mommy and Daddy, I love you 22. Love, Charlie" That was precious!

2. I love how much you talk. You make us laugh so hard by saying the most hilarious things! Too bad I didn't take everyone's advice and write them down to include here...that would have been a real treat. Anyway, you also say some words in a really funny way, "thank you" ("tang tu") is a great example. We hope that you never stop saying it.

3. I love having you as my constant companion. I am rarely lonely now that you are a little person. You love reading and learning with me, and we always have lots to talk about it. You also notice the things I do around the house and are always very curious about and appreciative of anything I sew or make. Thank you for that.
You really enjoy life and that is what makes you so special and such a pleasure so share experiences with (remember the night we went to the circus--picture is below--and before I could stop you, right there in Mellow Mushroom, you drew a "clown nose" on your face with my red pen). The smallest of things puts a huge grin on your face and your appreciation for life is contagious. You have a real gift.

So precious boy, on this your third birthday, we hope you know how deeply you are loved. We are so privileged to be your parents!



Have you heard about this deal with Swagbucks? Basically it's a way to earn $$ by searching online. You download a toolbar and use it to search instead of google. It's very simple to sign up (less than a minute!) and there are no fees, and no credit card, phone number or address is required. Just for signing up, you are credited 3 points and as you search online, you earn more points. After only 45 points earned, you can get a free Amazon gift card. Or at 50 points, you can get a Starbucks gift card. There are lots of other prizes too.

Now, you might be thinking, "What's the big deal if I only earn a $5 gift card every month?" And you're right: $5 isn't that exciting. You really start earning as you refer other people. Tell them about Swagbucks, send them your referral link, and you'll instantly earn more points when they sign up and additional points for the searching they do online.

Sign up here!

Obama to End Stem Cell Ban Monday


I'm not a single-issue voter, I promise...

...but I would really be interested to hear from Christians who voted for Obama...inquiring minds want to know: why? how? What about him and his agenda does not violate your conscience? I just don't understand.

As if I needed one more reason to be confused by the Christian Obama supporters...

Health Workers' 'Conscience' Rule Set to Be Voided
By Rob Stein

Washington Post Staff WriterSaturday, February 28, 2009; A01

The Obama administration's move to rescind broad new job protections for health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable triggered an immediate political storm yesterday, underscoring the difficulties the president faces in his effort to find common ground on anything related to the explosive issue of abortion.
The administration's plans, revealed quietly with a terse posting on a federal Web site, unleashed a flood of heated reaction, with supporters praising the proposal as a crucial victory for women's health and reproductive rights, and opponents condemning it as a devastating setback for freedom of religion.
Perhaps most tellingly, the move drew deep disappointment from some conservatives who have been hopeful about working with the administration to try to defuse the debate on abortion, long one of the most divisive political issues.
"This is going to be a political hit for the administration," said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., whom Obama recently named to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. "This will be one of those things that kind of says, 'I knew it. They talk about common ground, but really what they want is their own way.' "
Administration officials stressed that the proposal will be subject to 30 days of public comment, which could result in a compromise. They said they remain committed to seeking a middle ground but acknowledged that will not always be possible.
"We recognize we are not going to be able to agree on every issue," said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the process has just begun. "But there remains a substantive area of common ground, and we continue to believe we can make progress and will make progress."
The announcement capped a week when anger among conservatives was already running high because of the ambitious progressive agenda outlined in the administration's proposed $3.6 trillion budget.
The debate centers on a Bush administration regulation, enacted in December, that cuts off federal funding for thousands of state and local governments, hospitals, health plans, clinics and other entities if they do not accommodate doctors, nurses, pharmacists or other employees who refuse to participate in care they feel violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs.
The rule was sought by conservative groups that argued that workers were increasingly being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways for trying to exercise their "right of conscience."
Women's health advocates, family-planning proponents, abortion rights activists and others condemned the regulation, saying it created a major obstacle to providing many health services, including family planning and infertility treatment, and possibly a wide range of scientific research. After reviewing the regulation, newly appointed officials at the Health and Human Services Department agreed.
"We've been concerned that the way the Bush rule is written, it could make it harder for women to get the care they need," said an HHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for the same reason. "It is worded so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family-planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care."
An array of family-planning groups and others praised the move.
"The Obama administration is taking the right step forward to rescind this misguided rule," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who has introduced legislation to overturn the regulation.
But the Family Research Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others condemned it.
"It is open season to again discriminate against health-care professionals," said David Stevens, head of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "Our Founding Fathers, who bled and died to guarantee our religious freedom, are turning over in their graves."
The announcement -- which follows an administration decision to lift restrictions on federal funding of international family-planning groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information -- was also disappointing to some who have been working more closely with the administration on reducing the number of abortions.
"I think what was in place was as good as one could find in terms of seeking and securing common ground," said the Rev. Frank Page, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and another member of Obama's faith council. "It's a matter of respect. I felt like what was in place was that middle ground of common respect."
Administration officials stressed that the president remains committed to protecting the rights of health-care workers who do not want to participate in abortions; such rights have been guaranteed for decades by several federal laws.
"We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions. We want to ensure that current law protects them," the HHS official said. "But the Bush rule goes beyond current law and seems to have upset the balance."
The administration is open to a new rule that would be more focused on abortion, the official said, adding, "We believe that this is a complex issue that requires a thoughtful process where all voices are heard."
Some predicted that the administration will produce a narrower regulation that protects workers who object to abortion but ensures access to other types of care.
"If the president kept in place the conscience clause in regard to abortion but reversed it in regard to birth control, most Americans would agree that's common ground," said Rachel Laser of the group Third Way, which is working to find compromise approaches to a number of contentious issues.
But Page noted that some health-care workers consider certain forms of birth control, such as the morning-after emergency contraception pill, to be the moral equivalent of abortion.
"If they choose not to be part of the distribution of that, that should be their conscience and their right," Page said.While some family-planning groups acknowledged privately that they might consider a compromise, others said they are doubtful that any regulation is needed.
"Our general feeling is this was an area that does not cry out for further clarification," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "I would be skeptical."


Menu Planning

Yep, I'm doing this again. Everyone keeps asking me about this, I think it's really the only reason why anyone ever reads my blog. Hah!

But now I have a new goal in menu planning: cook things that can be almost completely prepared before 3pm. Cooking dinner at dinner time just isn't working for me anymore. It's just too chaotic and everyone is grumpy. And Elliot is into *everything* now which makes it all the worse. So for the past few weeks, I've been gathering recipes and trying new things, trying to perfect this new strategy. And I might add that a rice cooker, a crockpot and a freezer full of lean, organic frozen veggies meat helps a lot!

So far I've made:
Tacos / taco salad - I prepared the meat, beans and rice around lunchtime

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna - (my favorite crockpotting lady was on Good Morning America!) I used a little less wing sauce because I wanted the kids to eat it too and I omitted the peppers (Ryan hates them)

Poppyseed Chicken (our family recipe)

Sweet Potato Enchiladas - I turned this into casserole, layering the tortillas instead of rolling them up like traditional tortillas

Baked Spaghetti - YUM

And I'm planning to make the following in the next few weeks:
Mexican Chicken Soup
Farmhouse Chicken
Mexican Lasagna
Crockpot Layered Dinner - This will make Ryan happy
Lasagna - I want to try adding the eggs and all the veggies like she did

I'm telling you: this really, REALLY works. I have been a much happier person since implementing this new strategy and as a result, everyone else is happier too. And very well-fed, I might add.

Oh, and ps: Elliot is walking! He started taking steps here and there a few weeks ago but in the past few days, he started walking more than crawling and walks first when he wants to get somewhere. It's so weird! Don't have any pictures to prove it yet, but here are a couple more recent shots...and I made the shirts!

pss - No snow in Savannah and I was quite happy. Living in Charlottesville for 3 years cured me of ever wanting to be around snow again. Really