Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Plan Monday Week 5

Is it Monday again already? We had such a great week last week. Friday, we visited "The Chronicles of Narnia" Exhibit at the museum. It was so amazing! They had many of the props and costumes from the movies as well as a re-creation of C.S. Lewis' study where he did his writing. We even entered Narnia through the coats in the wardrobe just like Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is very gracious to homeschoolers and we appreciate their hospitality. Thank you, HMNS-Sugar Land!
Monday is going to be a busy day....Irish dancing and a graduating senior make for a heavy schedule so I'm going to have to break out the crockpot to make the taco soup recipe I found on another mom's meal plan Monday menu. I forgot to bookmark the blog so I can't give proper credit here for the recipe. If it's yummy, I'll look it up and thank her and share the recipe with you!

Breakfasts: Homemade pop tarts, one-egg omelets, potato, egg and cheese breakfast burritos, Malt-o-meal, homemade donuts

Lunches: I have no idea...we have run out of lunch stuff but I don't want to go shopping again so, watch out kids! Mom's putting on her thinking cap on and getting creative!

Monday: Taco soup, tortillas
Tuesday: Chicken Florentine (recipe below), white beans with tomatoes and sage
Wednesday: Beef Stroganoff, rice and glazed carrots
Thursday: Cornbread and apple stuffed pork chops (held over from the previous week...AGAIN!...I think my husband is trying to tell me something!)
Friday: Family Fun Night: Pizza, dessert fondue Movie: Night at the Museum II
Saturday: Hamburgers with carmelized onions and swiss, seasoned fries
Sunday: Roasted garlic leek soup, homemade bread

Chicken Florentine
adapted from a recipe by Giada deLaurentiis
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained

Dredge chicken breasts in flour to coat, shaking off the excess. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken in butter until browned, about 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and cover with foil to keep warm.
Melt two more tablespoons of butter in the same skillet. Add shallots and garlic, sauteeing until shallots are translucent; scraping up brown bits left from chicken. Add the wine and heat to boiling until wine reduces by half, stirring often. Whisk in the cream and continue cooking until sauce is reduced by half again, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium low. Slice chicken into 1/2 inch slices* and return to skillet with sauce.
In a separate skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add spinach and sautee until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange spinach on a plate with chicken slices on top. Serve topped with cream sauce.
Serves 9.

* Money-saving, menu-stretching tip - instead of serving each person an entire chicken breast, serve chicken breasts sliced and you will use about half to a third as many!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Think I Made Stoup!

Rachael Ray is really cute and very energetic ( I console myself by reminding myself she doesn't have kids) but I find some of the abbreviations and nicknames she has come up with for some of her dishes really annoying...sammies, stoup, EVOO, delish and my kids favorite "chicken riggies". Yeah, that makes them roll and of course they have to say it as many times as possible simply to drive me crazy. Of course, she has created words that now appear in the dictionary so I guess my opinion is not one of the masses. Unfortunately, this eating from the pantry challenge has forced me to create a dish that can be described no other way than "STOUP"! Don't get me wrong, it was really good (tasted waaaayyyy better than it looked)but it was as Rachael would say, "thinner than a stew, heartier than a soup". So, here is my recipe for Cheesy Broccoli Rice Stoup (Thanks Rach!)
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Stoup
4 cups milk
4 cups chicken broth
2 packages Knorr Rice Sides Plus - Cheddar Rice with Broccoli and Carrots
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Diced ham or smoked sausage - I used Chapel Hill Garlic Smoked Sausage

Crock Pot Direction: Add all ingredients except cheese to crock pot. Cook on low for 6 hours. Before serving add cheese and stir to melt. Serves 9 (of course!)

Stove top directions: Do everything the same as crock pot directions just don't cook for six hours! Seriously, Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until soup has thicken up and rice is done. Remove from heat and add cheese.

My daughter made the most amazing Honey White Bread to accompany it. YUM-O! (Sorry I couldn't resist!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chicken Night + Recipe!

It's only Tuesday and I'm already having to make alterations to the meal plan for the week! Rodeo is a BIG DEAL in Houston and my husband is on a committee and I had forgotten he had a meeting tonight. Compounding this, my husband really prefers not to eat chicken and pasta (at least that's the nice way of putting it...I usually make it anyway just not super-often). He's pickier than most of my children! So, in his absence, we will enjoy what he wouldn't. Hopefully you will enjoy it, too!

CAJUN CHICKEN PASTA (adapted from a recipe found on All Recipes)

1 pound of your favorite pasta (spaghetti, fettucini or linguini)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or cubed
4 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 fresh mushrooms, sliced (you can use a drained can of sliced mushrooms or leave them out all together)
1 green onion, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Place chicken and Cajun seasoning into a large plastic bag and shake to coat. In a large high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook chicken in olive oil 5-7 minutes until almost fully cooked. Add red and green bell peppers, mushrooms and green onion. Saute, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the cream, basil, lemon pepper, salt garlic powder and black pepper. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Add cooked pasta, tossing to coat and heating through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 6-8 good eaters or 5 good eaters and 4 picky children.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Culinary History or It's Never too Late to Learn

I grew up eating dinner at the table with my parents and sister every night (except for a brief break during the seventies when T.V. trays were a super cool and exciting new eating break-through!). My mother made my lunch virtually every day of my life, she almost never bought any prepared foods. Cakes, pies, cookies, casseroles, everything was homemade. She did not, however, ever conquer bread making. My mother is so amazing, I think that if there is something she can't do it's because she chooses not to do it. What an example to live up to!
During my first, brief marriage, I was told by my husband that I was no good at cooking and probably should not do it. Hence, the brief marriage.
Despite my apparent food preparation deficiency, I had this hair-brained idea that I wanted to have a catering company. I love food, throwing parties and I figured it was a business that didn't require a lot of up-front financial outlay. Plus, I have always tended to want to do things I am told I should not do. So, as a newly single mother of two little girls I had to cook.
Soon, I met God's best for me (my husband)who thought anything I wanted to do was awesome. He encouraged me, ate lots of experiments and smiled through all of it. Another thing about my husband...he's a talker. He can talk to anyone about anything. This is good and bad all at the same time. Good = he likes to brag about me so EEK! now I have a catering business and bad = EEK! now I have a catering business. Sometimes the best thing you can do is jump into something without knowing too much. This way you don't have time to get scared. At least that's the strategy that has always worked for me...
Over the course of 14 years, I have ended up becoming a self-trained professional chef, catering meals for private parties, movie sets and everything in between; teaching; and running (my favorite) a baking company specializing in sculpted cakes. Now one of my daughters is planning on going to culinary school!
I didn't really get into the kitchen and get serious until I was almost 28 years old. So, get in the kitchen, try out a new recipe, experiment, have fun. Learn a couple of simple recipes like maybe meatballs or a basic sauce and see how many ways you can make it by changing an ingredient or two. Replace a convenience food you currently buy with a home-made version. Eat around the table with your family! Who knows? You might end up having EEK! a dream come true (or even maybe just a really great dinner)!

Menu Plan Monday Week 4

We had a couple of amendments to last week's menu. Saturday ended up being a leftover night so we bumped steaks and taters to Sunday night. Yah!! I didn't feel like making the pork chops so now I can put it off another week or so.
Our shopping trip went well and would have been under budget (I spent $109.00)except for the fact that I purchased food items for a homeschool related lesson. We are reading The lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and are going to have "Tea with Mr. Tumnus". I don't know if it's more for my enjoyment or for the kids but I really have fun trying to bring books to life by visiting places or eating food out of the stories. Thus, we are having a"nice brown boiled egg...sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake." and hot tea. Fun, huh? I am not going to dress as a faun, though. So, my fun cost me an extra $9.00. I could call it an educational expense.
Anyway, here is our menu for this week...

Monday: BBQ brisket, potato salad and beans
Tuesday: Cajun chicken pasta, black eyed peas
Wednesday: Broccoli cheddar rice soup(I'm going to try to make this out of Knorr rice side dish), bread
Thursday:Taco Salad, grapefruit grenata
Friday: Family Fun Night!! Movie: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. We will be serving some meatball-related food.
Saturday: Frito Pie
Sunday: Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chops, veggies and cranberry sauce

Happy Eating!

How to Raise 7 Children in 753 Easy Steps....

Actually, I haven't really counted all of the rules and other governing guidelines we have tried (given up on, tried again, etc...) but I'm pretty sure it's nearing the thousands. We have a lot of personalities, each responding differently to our varied parenting tactics so we have learned to be flexible and creative. We do, however, have a few hard and fast rules that do not bend, pretty much no matter what....1)Use your good manners (I know I raised you better than that!); 2)Eat what I fixed for dinner or starve (it works....they will get hungry and eat it long before they pass out or die...I, however, might pass out from frustration first) and 3)wear your seatbelt (we had a very near-death head-on collision experience...a story for another post at another no one questions this one any more).
Over the years we have toyed with numerous ways to get our children to work with us as a team to achieve our housekeeping goals and their financial goals. We went many, many, manyyears without an allowance system but I think we have finally struck upon a system that is a hybrid of many others ideas that works for us. Maybe some part of it will help inspire you when you are a little short on parenting creativity.
Monday mornings (or Sunday evenings)we draw weekly chores from the chore jar (a converted oatmeal canister). These include vacuuming, dusting, trash removal, plant care, laundry helper, breakfast (or lunch or dinner)table set and clear, etc... While my husband was recuperating from a broken leg we had "Daddy's Assistant" so everyone had a chance to be Dad's special helper. Some chores never rotate. Everyone has their assigned day to help me prepare the meals and keep the kitchen clean and clean the bathroom. It works out with seven kiddos and seven days of the week...everything is divided evenly. We also have a weekly shopping helper who gets to go grocery shopping with me on Friday mornings (one on one time, breakfast at McDonald's, throw in a little learning about budgeting, fractions, weights and measures, etc...they are smarter without even realizing it).
To keep track of all of this, I made magnetized chore strips and as we draw for chores, the magnets go on our dry-erase board under the appropriate child's name. During the week, I draw a star next to each chore as it is completed. At the end of the week, when it is time to draw again, we tally up the stars. Five cents each for the younger children (ages 4, 6 and 9) and ten cents each for the 10 and 12 year olds. Our two teenagers have graduated to a flat rate of $10.00 per week as they also help little ones accomplish some of their tasks and babysit when I run an occasional errand.
We have what we call ARKs (Acts of Random Kindness)where the children get to report on each other (maybe once a week or so) about things they saw a someone do that was exceptionally sweet or above and beyond the call of sibling duty. We let the kids draw stars next to their brother's or sister's name.
Did I mention that if the kids don't do their basic chores (keeping their rooms clean, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, making their beds)they cancel all out of the stars they have earned during the week? I know this sounds really cold but in an effort to encourage joyful compliance we have one other incentive program called Daddy Dollars. We instituted Daddy Dollars because we don't think children should be payed for the basics. Instead, if they complete all of these tasks by breakfast(somewhere around 8:00 am)they receive one Daddy Dollar. These can be saved and redeemed for special things that cannot be otherwise purchased for money such as computer time, TV or movie time, forbidden treats such as a chocolate bar or a whole soda(normally they are allowed to have one it is split 2 or 3 ways). I can't take complete credit for this one. I found mention of a similar idea in a magazine article with a link () to the website where you, too can print your own family currency. It has worked pretty well and we are actually considering trying it in the evening to prevent those little spring-loaded children to stay in their beds!
Well, obviously, if I have been able to blog this long, somebody's doing something they probably shouldn't be! I had better go check.....hey kids!...what? you put what in the toilet!!??! Gotta go!!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday Week 3

" The Lord is my strength and my song..."Isaiah 12:2
Good Morning and Happy Monday!!
This week's shopping receipts came in at $90.50. A little under budget and I admit I could do better but there have been some great sale/coupon combos that I would be foolish to pass by. I did save $33.00 with coupons, however. At this rate I may just do this all year and stash the savings in an account just to see how much I can end up with. It really pays to have a competitive spirit and no one to compete with but myself...I win no matter what! Anyway, here is this weeks meal plan....

Monday: Grilled chicken and spinach fettucini alfredo and glazed carrots
Tuesday: Bacon cheddar potato soup
Wednesday: Polynesian Medley, rice
Thursday: Lasagne, salad, bread
Friday: Family Fun Night: Pizza, wings, Orange cows Movie: Shorts
Saturday: Blue cheese crusted steaks and baked potatoes
Sunday: Stuffed pork chops, peas, cranberry sauce

Check out my upcoming recipe section for some of our weekly meals and other great homemade ideas!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yah!!! It's Friday! That really doesn't mean as much as it used to when we were in school! Homeschooling has been the most difficult and the most fun thing I've ever done. The difficult part has been very pronounced this week in particular. We have been trying to introduce a new curriculum and I am soooo frustrated. I don't like to work out of a workbook...I like projects, art, variety! Check out our fun-filled unit studies on the Renaissance, the human body, C.S. Lewis & The Chronicles of Narnia and others (posting soon). Monday, I think we'll ditch the workbooks and get back to having fun!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday Week 2

Wow! Where did the week go? In our family we call this Irish time (previously known as football know 5 minutes is really an hour, etc). Several of our children are Irish dancers and we have found that anything related to dancing or competing is notoriously off-schedule or late-running. You just have to embrace it and move forward. So ahead we go! Our meal plan for this week.....

Monday: Mac and Cheese, Salad & Bread (switched from birthday Saturday when the birthday boy decided nacho fries would be a better dinner choice)
Tuesday: Steak and Cheese Burritos with Chili and Queso
Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Onion Gravy (the bad-breath special!)
Thursday: Turkey Pot Pie Surprise (Surprise! It's turkey again!)
Friday: Family Fun Night: Pizza Movie: G-Force
Saturday: Lasagna Burgers (pictured above)
Sunday: Italian Sausage and Peppers with Parmesan Risotto

I have taken the challenge to the breakfast and lunch tables as well. As long as we have flour eggs and milk I can make almost anything....pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls. So far we have recycled some banana bread into French toast and spooned pureed strawberries we found in the freezer over it. We also made oatmeal pancakes today that made good use of the wheat germ I've been trying to sneak in to my husband's diet!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eat from the Pantry Challenge


We're a little behind but we have decided to participate in this challenge. This is nothing new for us as we have done this type of "challenge" in the lean years...making a game out of how many meals we could create from the ingredients we have in the pantry and fridge.( Mmm...what can we make out of maple syrup, crackers and Spam??) It's amazing how creative you can be when you have to be! So far, we haven't had to think too hard. We have a pretty well stocked pantry and freezer (Thanks, Mom for the Omaha Steaks gift box you gave us for Christmas!). But, with a family of 9, food doesn't last long. So, we'll see how we do. Here are our rules....
1. Go to the store only once per week to replenish necessary perishables.
2. Ice cream is not a necessary perishable.
3. Spend no more than $100 per week. (I know this sounds like a lot but we buy 10
gallons of milk per week alone. I will try very hard to spend way less and I will keep
track and report our expenditures. If I can keep to the $100 budget I will be saving
approximately $600 per month)
4. Chocolate bars are not a necessary perishable....are they?
5. I'm pretty sure Starbucks is not a necessary perishable..however, it is going to be 20
degrees tomorrow and it may be a necessary survival know, to stay warm
and all.
Okay, seriously, here is our menu for the week of January 4 - 10.

Monday: Swiss Steak, rice, green beans
Tuesday: Beef Stew, home made artisan bread
Wednesday: Turkey (!) on toast with cheddar bechamel sauce, mixed vegetables
Thursday: Chili, hush puppies
Friday: Family Fun Night!! Pizza, homemade wings, brownies No movie! We were working at our dance school's feis but we did go see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakel during the day.
Saturday: Quentin's Birthday Choice!
Mac and cheese, salad, cake and ice cream (we already have some so I'm not cheating :) )
Sunday: Walkabout soup, salad, homemade bread


Welcome to the Stilish Family Table! Practically everything our family does occurs around our table...studying and learning, crafting and creating, talking and worshipping and of course...eating! Let me introduce you to the Stiles family....Dad is our fearless leader who encourages us all to stretch and grow, Mom (me) is the organizer, planner, chef and school teacher; Alexandra, our oldest is our budding pastry chef and wedding planner; Catherine is our take-charge Jill-of-all-trades who excels at anything she puts her hands to; Gillian is our third oldest and is a gifted and enthusuastic artist and writer; R.J. our oldest son, is a talented artist and a budding gentleman; Quentin is our sweet treasure-hunting son; Caroline is our princess-ballerina who can definitely hold her own amongst the boys; and William is the stereo-typical baby/clown of the family with personality to spare. Join us on our family adventures as we travel, cook, play and seek God's will for our family. At our table....the more the merrier!