First Snow Chili

 

Fist Snow Chili

 

We have a tradition in our house.

Apparently, it is an unwritten, and unspoken tradition.

The other day we had snow flurries. Just flurries. Nothing stuck. The boys came home from school and asked where the chili was.

“What Chili?”, I replied.

“Mom, you always make chili on the first day it snows.”

And so I do. But, truth be told, I make chili on first snow days because I am lazy, and a terrible procrastinator. I am such a procrastinator that it takes actual snow flakes to fall from the sky to get me to organize our winter gear. This would be a perfectly acceptable practice if we lived in, say, Georgia. However, as my moniker alludes to, Dakota Pam lives in North Dakota. In case you are not sure where our little state is, look to the middle of Canada, then look slightly south. There we are! We get no hurricanes (yay!), but we are guaranteed winter weather. North Dakotans cannot escape winter. And yet, it takes snowflakes to get to to match up last years gloves and figure out if we have enough snow pants and boots.

Seriously.

So, usually, after a day of panicked matching, sorting, and inevitably shopping, I’m pooped. Too pooped to cook. And I’ve usually forgotten to plan ahead, so I have no real dinner options. Except Chili.

My “First Snow Chili” is no gourmet creation. The hardest thing for me  to do is opening all of the cans (thanks to the tendonitis brought on by hauling twin carseats for 18 months I now have an electric can opener. Yay me!).  I’m not going to win any chili cook-offs with this chili, and I doubt you will either. . .but if you do, slip me an email, my ego would LOVE that!

No, my friends, the best part of First Snow Chili, is that it takes about 10 minutes to whip up and only requires one pot.

I declared today our first snow day. It shouldn’t count, we have no measurable snowfall (yay), only flurries. BUT, I’m signed  up to bring dinner for the elementary school teachers today so they can snatch a bite between parent/teacher conferences. Plus, the boys have been BEGGING for chili and declaring every flurry a snowfall.

So, my friends, here is my lazy, snowy day gift to you.

First Snow Chili

This chili may not be fancy, but it is easy and tasty!

  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) chili beans
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) dark red kidney beans
  • 1 small can RoTel tomatoes

Brown the ground beef. Drain off grease.

Open all of the cans. Rinse and drain the kidney beans. Dump everything into your pot. Stir. Simmer for as long as you need.

Chime in! Do you have any First Snow Day traditions? What is YOUR go-to lazy mom meal? You know I’d love to hear from you!

The Once a Week Lunchbox

Once aweek lunchbox

 

Once  aweek lunchbox

Once upon a time, when I had just one or two children, I was a big fan of Once a Month Cooking. Now that I have six kids, I should be a bigger fan, but to be honest, it is the daily and weekly meal planning that helps keep me sane. I love to cook dinner, so I actually did not enjoy having that task removed.

What I hate making is lunches! I don’t like feeding lunch for my kids during the summer. I’m not a huge fan of coming up with lunch ideas for the babies. I’m glad that the Rev. likes to pack leftovers for his lunch. (That is, when we have leftovers).

So, after the girls were born, I took a vacation from lunches. I had the boys all buy hot lunch from school. Our mornings were happy, the kids were happy. However, hot lunch expenses add up.

When I saw these great lunch ideas on 5Dinners in One Hour. (She also sells a lunch plan). I knew that this would be what would work for our family! I bought two restaurant quality bins to set on a shelf in our refrigerator, and I have one dishpan that I keep in the pantry for dry goods.

I sat the little boys down and asked them what kind of things they would want to pack in their lunches. Then I set out on Sunday night and made the food! (It took a while, probably two hours, but the kids prefer large carrot sticks to baby carrots, so that took time).

I made 18 ham and turkey subs. (I bought 18 Bollilo buns from the Bakery section of Sam’s Club for under $4. . .they are delicious!). I cut up an entire two pound bag of carrots. (I packed them in snack sized bags, one cut up carrot per bag.) I sliced apples and dipped in lemon juice. Half an apple per bag. I also have small portion cups with caramel sauce for dipping. (about a teaspoon). In the pantry bin there are pretzels (with peanut butter for dipping), Cheerios with raisins (one of Ethan’s favorite snacks), granola bars, and dried fruit strips.

In the morning the boys pick out what they want in their lunch and pack it themselves and top it off with a water bottle!

They are happy, I am happy, and we are saving money!

 

Chime in! What are some of your time saving lunch tips? What are your kids’ healthy favorites? You know I’d love to hear from you!

Frugal Meals for a Crowd


It has happened. It used to be that I could prepare a meal for the Rev. and I and we could stretch it out over two or three days, without any effort on my part. Our kids ate way less than any human serving size and we could serve them off of our plates without going hungry ourselves. The times, they are a changing!

Now, when I prepare a meal, I am preparing a meal for six people. With the appetites of my healthy, growing boys, I am preparing meals for the equivalent of 6 very hungry sumo wrestlers. And if one of the boys from down the street is over, sweet talking me with gratuitous compliments about the aromas of my food, or my creative expertise in the kitchen…I may have even more hungry sumo wrestlers to feed! (The funny thing is if you were to look at a picture of all of these hearty eaters together…counting ribs…you would wonder if I ever feed them!)

Anyone who has spoken to me for more than about five minutes knows that I am frugal. Really frugal. Borderline cheapskate. But I also have another side of me, that does not seem to mesh with my frugality. I am a foodie. I am not just any foodie, I’m a food snob on a health food kick with a secret, or not so secret, love for Coca Cola. I detest, despise, and abhor fake food (unless we are talking gummy bears or kettle cooked jalepeno chips). I want my food to be healthy, high quality, tasty, genuine, and cheap. I’m probably the worst kind of foodie.

I have spoiled kids too. They have eaten, and enjoyed Eggo waffles. Then, I bought a waffle maker, and Saturday morning became waffle day. And I found that I could sneak wheat germ into the waffles with only the Rev. noticing and complaining (which is against the Thompson family dinner rules…more on those later). Now, my waffles dominate over Eggo. My oldest will turn up his nose over the boxed up variety. And my version is cheaper. Go figure.

You see, when you are feeding oodles of hungry people, it really cannot pay to eat prepackaged food. A box of 10 corn syrup laced pre-made, frozen waffles, does not even begin to satisfy my crowd. We would need at least two boxes, which even with coupons and on sale would cost us well over $4… which is not terrible…but considering the amount of fake stuff present in the food, is a bit like selling my family out. Some flour and milk and eggs and a few tablespoons of oil along with my wheat germ spike costs me about $2, and fills up the hungry hordes, and earns me gratuitous compliments as well, placing me back on top of the family pecking order (right under the Rev. of course).

These cheap-o cutbacks that I make on using fresh ingredients and not using many pre-made mixes (though any cookies that come out of my oven are strictly place and bake…Dakotapam does not bake!) allow me to splurge on some of my foodie indulgences, like really good spices for making my food taste good, cans of artichoke hearts, tropical fruits bought out of season to remind me that it is summer somewhere…

I’ll share more on this in the future. I’d like to hear how some other large families eat healthy, and cheaply!

Chicken Stew

I made an awesome meal tonight. It is from my favorite healthy mom cook book, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers This book is part book, part cookbook. It is full of the reasons why we need to feed our families healthier food, and ways to get our families to eat such food.

Now, my good friend Esther over at Mommy Diaries has a different approach, she follows the Sneaky Chef school of thought, and she knows that I don’t. I’m a meaner mom, and that is OK. I figure I want my kids to know that they are eating their self proclaimed “yucky stuff” and that they either can eventually grow to like it, or at least respect it. The Moms’ Guide authors are not against drowning food in ketchup if needed, at least it has lycopene.

So anyway, I was pondering dinner tonight and I had some boneless skinless chicken breasts to make something with. The problem is that I made garlic and herb marinated baked chicken last night, and I needed tonight’s meal to seem different somehow. I went to my favorite cooking website, allrecipes and found no inspiration. So, as I often do when I need new inspiration, I turned to my gigantic stack of cookbooks. Some of my cookbooks are more well-loved than others, this particular book has survived a coffee spill and more than one tomato sauce splatter. I paged through and found this gem of a recipe, a take on Chicken Fricasee. This is healthier than it’s traditional counterpart because carrots and mushrooms are added for vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts and I fried them in a moderate amount of healthy olive oil, and I added very little salt.

Chicken Stew with Baby Carrots

  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each cut into three pieces
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 10 oz package presliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp bottled crushed garlic
  • 1.5 cups all natural chicken broth (I use Kitchen Basics)
  • 1 16 oz bag baby carrots
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce (I was out, so I left it out...tasted great anyway)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives coarsely chopped, or 1 2.25 ounce can sliced olives, drained, optional
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Salt and Pepper

Place Chicken and flour into a bowl and toss to coat chicken evenly. Shake off excess flour.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on all sides, about three minutes.

Add the mushrooms, garlic and a few tablespoons of the broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. If the chicken sticks to the pan, add additional broth, loosening brown bits from the bottom.

Stir in the carrots, the remaining broth, the tomato sauce, olives and Italian seasoning. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat ans simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer until the carrots are tender and the stew thickens, an additional 10-15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serve with Polenta or Pasta (we had wagon wheels!).