We Plan Wednesday: NYE Party Prep

We Plan Wednesday

In a few hours, our guests will arrive for our family’s annual New Year’s Eve Fiesta.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is where we go all out; in many ways, I consider this an extension of Christmas, a late Christmas gift to our guests.

Muffin is especially going to enjoy this party because he has friends coming.  But in the midst of all the party preparation, I was taking a bath a few nights ago when Muffin first screamed.

Now, he had screamed before.  He had squealed in laughter, screamed when Daisy stole some food from him, screamed when he fell.

This was a scream that was shrill…and went on…and on.

He ran to me dripping blood from his foot.  Not really thinking beyond I need to get it cleaned off so that I can see where to bandage, I switched places with him, placing him into the bath tub…where his blood began to paint the bottom of the tub crime scene red.

Eventually, we got the bleeding stopped and bandaged.

And all was well until the next night when he stubbed his toe against the ground, reopening the scary wound on the underside of one toe that stretched to between that toe and another toe.  While I was attempting (and epic-ally failing) at making macarons, Josh swabbed, put pressure on, and rebandaged Muffin’s toe.

In planning the party, the good thing of keeping virtually the same menu is that things tend to have the same set up year after year.  I know that our “bar” area will be home to mains and sides.  The side opposite next to the sink will be home to plates, napkins, cutlery, straws, and the drinks station.  The one change I am making this year is the treat tray will move from the right side of the stove to the left.  The ice cream sundae bar will move from beside the toaster and the fridge to the right of the stove (where the treat trays were last year).

I’m sure everyone remembers this oft placed image from last year’s party.

…or how about this one?

The recipe that I’m proudest of this year comes from Mom on Timeout.  Slow cooker refried beans!  I may never be able to eat canned again.  I did change the method, though, of course.

Slow Cooker Refried Beans

Source:  Mom on Timeout

1 pound pinto beans, rinsed and drained


1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced very finely (While I removed the seeds, I kept a bit of membrane for a kick!)

1 onion, peeled and quartered (The website says a yellow onion, but I had red ones out chopping for the fajita vegetation, so a red one went in.  I also halved each quarter and divided out the “leaves” of the onion.)

3 cloves garlic, minced (I used closer to five because a few of them were small)

2 teaspoons pepper (freshly ground, dontcha know?)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

6 cups water

4 chicken bouillon cubes

The morning before the day you plan to serve, pour rinsed and drained beans into a large bowl.  Cover by a couple of inches with fresh water.  Cover the bowl and allow the beans to absorb the water for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, drain the beans again.  Add the beans and the remaining ingredients to the crock of your slow cooker.  Make sure that the water covers the beans by a bit (1-2 inches).  Set on Low.  When you wake up in the morning (twelve or so hours later), turn the slow cooker off.  The pinto pattern should be off of the beans by now making them into that pinky-brown color that make them so yummy.

Taste a bean for texture.  Resist the urge to eat the entire crock full.  Once the contents of the crock have cooled a bit, separate the solids from the mixture.  (I used a slotted spoon.  Don’t use a sieve…yet!)  Pour the liquids into a large Pyrex measuring cup.

You’ll notice that the liquids separate with a beany sludge on the bottom.  That, my friends, is liquid gold.

Pour the solids into your trusty food processor.  I used the blender bowl of my Ninja.  Pulse until the solids are the consistency of refried beans.  They actually end up pretty thick.  Hold off on adding the liquid.  My Ninja left some whole and mostly whole, just as canned beans do.  Turn the mixture out in a bowl.  Now…strain the mixture using a sieve.  Add the captured “sludge” in the sieve to the bowl of refried beans.   Fold the liquidy sludge in.  Refrigerate extra liquid until almost ready to serve.  Cover the beans and refrigerate those as well.

When ready to serve (party style):  add the contents to the crock of your slow cooker.  Set heat to LOW.  Stir in enough of the reserved liquid to be desired consistency.  Remember “runny beans” are those that are restaurant-style.  Thicker beans are best for burritos.  Serve when hot.  If it will be a while before serving and the mixture gets hot, set the slow cooker setting to WARM.

If you are serving some for a family serving, add reserved liquid to be desired consistency.  Reheat in a bowl in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.

Muffin, the great bean eater, loves these.

*I haven’t tried freezing them yet, but I have a feeling they will freeze well.  Most slow cooker homemade refried beans are supposed to freeze well…and the recipe makes a ton.  For freezing, I would scoop out 2 cup servings (for family servings) or half-cup servings (for individual sizes).  I would add a bit more liquid when freezing to be of the desired consistency when thawing and reheating.

Muffin Approved

What is your favorite way to serve refried beans?

Tip Tuesday: Kitchen Keeper Kabinet

Tip Tuesday

You know those days when you come home just exhausted…and you didn’t get all of your weekend meal prep done…and you kept (haha!) thinking that maybe…just maybe…you would have the energy on Monday to prep the meals for later in the week?

Yah…for me those are usually Thursdays.  Thursdays, if any day of the week (I promise, if I charted this, that this maxim would prove true), are the day of the week when the meal plan goes awry the most.  And worse?  If the plan veers off course during the first part of the week, it is simply nonexistent come Thursday.

But, in tandem with some of my resolutions, I offer you an idea list that I first found a few days ago on the Dinner:  A Love Story blog.  The author offers up an idea of cabinet-worthy meals, those that you can whip up with ingredients you usually have on hand, with very little thought or effort.  In other words, when your brain is fried and the huge casserole that you meant to prep in advance just totally didn’t happen or the planned leftovers were eaten at the first sitting (or as a midnight snack), these are the meals that you can find tacked hidden away (unless you are like me and for some reason leave the cabinet doors open…I know…scary, right?) on a kitchen cabinet door as a sanity-restoring reminder.

Not all of these are perfectly healthy, but when you consider that you can add veg or fruit (or that in the meals throughout the day everyone should have had a balanced meal at some point), it should (fingers crossed) balance out…I hope.

And I’m the first to admit that sometimes the meal plan does not work out the way I planned (a few certain slow cooker meatloaves come to mind) and that you can save your pocketbook and your sanity by whipping up a few of these choices.

Of course…this involves having a fairly well-stocked pantry and fridge (one moldy apple and questionable green furry meat in the fridge and a grain or two of rice in the pantry are not going to cut it).

I know I’m going to make some of the whole foods parents angry with me with this list, but there are a few things that get dinner on the table…and…well…to bring out my inner redneck…git ‘er done.

  1.  Hot Dogs:  If you have a bit of remaining ingenuity, you could whip up an impromptu mini-hot dog bar.  I’m not talking of Canada Day/Fourth of July standards, but when you get to the point of serving hot dogs accidentally on a weekly basis, they get old REALLY quickly.  Not like I know from personal experience (but let’s just say:  if Bar-S gave out points like Coke does, I could probably purchase a diamond-studded tiara…for the population of China).  Yes, I know, that makes me bad mommy…right up there with McNuggets at every meal.  But I’m blessed with a child who filled up most of his Christmas dinner plate with cruditees sans dip and ate pretty much only that (except for the scary things he did with that slice of turkey).

  2.  Quesadillas:  If your fridge is sans hot dogs (yes, this happened over the holidays) and you really need a lunch really really REALLY fast…quesadillas fit the bill.  Dress them up or down as much as possible…but cheese between two tortillas dipped in sour cream and salsa fits the bill.  Think of it as a slightly healthier (okay…I can delude myself here) grilled cheese sandwich.  This is probably the fastest hot meal I can think of.  Cheese and tortillas are necessary fridge and pantry staples here.

  3.  Canned soups:  Yes, I know, lots of sodium.  Barring this…freeze large batches of soups in family-size portions (instead of eating my mom’s hamburger vegetable soup for breakfast for a week solid…ummm…yeah…guilty).  Have a soup buffet on a blustery or rainy day.  My sister did this one evening when we were all visiting.  It was one of my favorite meals at her house…and several of her meals have been memorable.

  4.  Canned other things that are reminiscent of childhood:  Two words…Chef Boyardee.  Yup.  I went there.

  5.  Baked potato bar:  If you can’t wait the hour for them to bake and you don’t have an aversion to microwave baked potatoes (meaning, you aren’t my husband), you can skip the long cooking time.  This is the time to pull out all the (soon to go bad) leftovers:  that dab of taco meat or chili that’s not enough for even one person to eat, leftover bacon (Is there such a thing?), bits and pieces of other meat (including lunch meats), cheeses, cooked veg, raw veg that you can quickly cook, and sauces all have a place in the baked potato bar.  This is great for Thursdays because by Thursday you might have some toppings that are in need of using up (and that leaves you free to enjoy pizza on Friday).  Potatoes are the only mandatory here (although you can do the same thing with frozen potatoes, like fries).

  6.  Pizza:  Speaking of pizza, you can use leftover pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, jarred marinara, or kicked up canned tomato sauce and any sort of cheese (and any sort of toppings) to top slices of toast (or french bread, if you have it) or tortillas (Mexican pizza, anyone) or refrigerated biscuits (or leftover biscuits) to spend some time in the oven becoming bubbly and cheesy.  Also, remember, if you will, the pizza grilled cheese.

  7.  Burritos:  Yes.  This is the second of many Tex-Mex offerings that can make the list.  Leftover meats, cheese, beans, and rice can find a place here.  If the ingredients are not Tex-Mexy, you can always call it a wrap.

  8.  Sandwiches:  Of any kind, variety, or name.  Roast beef debris with leftover roast.  Luncheon roast beef slices kicked up a bit with a dunking in flavorful beef broth and called au jus.  Leftover meatballs and sauce becoming a meatball sub.  Cheese and dill pickle, anyone?

  9.  Macaroni and cheese.  It can be out of the blue box or made very quickly and passed through the oven for a few minutes topped with shredded cheese.  Meat and veg can be added or not.  Many types of pasta, including macaroni, are constantly in our pantry so that pasta dishes are only a bit away.

  10.  Pasta and sauce.  This is pretty much a repeat of #9.  If you have leftover meat bits or frozen meatballs, you can add them in.  If you only have one slice of meatloaf and three people staring at it hungrily, you can even chop it up to add to the sauce.  Frozen sauce, jarred sauce, or leftover sauce can be used here.  You can even go the aglio olio or carbonara method and do “non-sauces.”

  11.  Fried rice:  Leftover rice, meat bits, and veg (along with a scrambled egg or so and a bit of bacon fried and crumbled) are given new life in a dish worthy of chopsticks.

  12.  Breakfast:  Speaking of bacon and eggs, breakfast for supper is an always sure-fire winner.  Biscuits, toast, pancakes, or waffles (or even muffins) can be served alongside a breakfast meat and/or eggs.  Hearty omelets are not out of place here.  This also comes under the bowl of cereal theory of meal planning.  If you keep a tummy from going to bed growling, there is nothing to be ashamed of…every once in a while.  This also covers the 2-Minute Frenchy Toasty Bread Pudding in a Mug.

  13.  Nachos.  Chips and cheese (or other toppings can be added to make them more healthy and meal-like).

  14.  Snacky meal:  Think a bloated Lunchable or ploughman’s lunch simplified.

  15.  Clean out the fridge smorgasbord:  I’ve seen this done but haven’t followed through with rules and figuring out who goes first, etc.  I’ve read on other blogs that these can get very involved (such as youngest to oldest choosing order).  Basically, all of those bits that wouldn’t make a meal on their own are mashed together to make enough meals for the family.  Think a buffet of tids and bits.

  16.  A family meal “shopping” from the fridge and pantry.  Think about it as a form of Chopped.  Each person gathers an armful of ingredients from the fridge and pantry.  Then the family comes together to create a meal experience together.  I’ve never actually tried this one…but I think it would be interesting to see what we could come up with.


There are many many more (and many within each category).  What are your favorite go-to recipes?

Meal Plan Monday: You’re Kidding, Right?

Meal Plan Monday

This week is all about leftovers.  Well…mostly.  This is the last week of the much-bustling holiday season.  I refuse to cook anything this week other than for New Year’s Eve (which is enough in itself) or my contribution for the New Year’s Day meal, hot water cornbread.

So, when my mom mentioned Saturday night that she was DONE with Christmas leftovers, I was shocked.  As in, do you really want to cook Monday and Tuesday?

She said that we could take a plate, however.

What happened to my five-days-of-holiday-leftovers mother?

So, I put together two plates to tide us over to Wednesday (where I will force leftovers on my mom).  Turnabout is fair play, after all.

And there is a limit to how much fajita meat a person can consume over a week.

Here’s the plan:

Saturday:  leftover Christmas dinner

Sunday:  spaghetti and meatballs at my mom’s (My contributions are a replenished treat tray and artisan bread.)

Monday:  leftovers that I took from my mom’s

Tuesday:  ditto

Wednesday:  fajitas, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, treat tray, ice cream sundae bar, Cranberry Punch, tea, etc.

Thursday:  pork loin, cole slaw, hot water cornbread

Friday:  leftovers

Saturday, Sunday (and hopefully all of next week): leftovers in some form

I hope to link up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday:

Is your meal plan as generic this week?

Cent-Saving Saturday (The Late Edition): Shopping for ‘Da NYE Fiesta!

Cent Saving Saturday

Yup.  I know.  I’ve done the unforgiven.  I’ve jumped the shark.  I’ve stayed too long at the party.  Er.  Well…the fact of the matter is…my notebook with my shopping list was underneath a ton of stuff in the front seat of the car (to be distinguished from the ton of stuff in the back end of the car).  So, I didn’t quite have it handy when I wrote my gushing CSS post about the Frozen soundtrack.  Oopsie.

And…while watching one of my gift card purchases from iTunes (Gigi with Leslie Caron…one of my faves)…I remembered that I had finally unearthed my notebook…my lifeline for this holiday season with recipes and lists and reminders and more lists…and more reminders.  Seriously.  When I’ve…umm…misplaced it a few times in the last few weeks…there was some cause for SERIOUS panic.  It also has the deals for the week, which luckily (for us), seem to have a vaguely Tex-Mex theme at the end of December.  Yay!  No paying $3 for one avocado when I need three to make guacamole.

So, without further ado…here is la list (Items needed for the partay are denoted with an *):


Avocados 88 cents (and they promise large ones)*

Buns (of the hot dog and hamburger variety) 10/$10* (for the boys if they don’t want fajitas)

Coke/Pepsi 2 L $1 each wyb 6

Skirt Steak (the proper steak for fajitas) $4.99/pound*

Milk/orange juice…gallon $3.49

Sour cream, 16 ounce, 4/$5*

Kroger cream cheese 10/$10

Cheese, 8 ounces $1.99*


Wolf brand chili 88 cents each (limit 4) (Friday-Sunday)

Cantaloupe 99 cents each

Half pork loin $1.99/pound (for the meat factory bee-sheen)

Niagara water, 24 pack, $1.99

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts $1.68/pound*

Super 1

Green cabbage 4 pounds/$1

John Morell smoked sausage 97 cents


Bar-S meat franks 89 cents* (see above about the buns)

Frank’s Hot Sauce 5 ounces 89 cents (We had to get a rain check on the first day of the sale–Friday–for this)

Mission 20 count flour tortillas 2/$4*

In addition, I have to manage to procure 3 red onions, balsamic vinegar, oranges, 4 green peppers, possibly stewed tomatoes (I need two cans and think I only have one), waffle ice cream bowls, vanilla ice cream, limes from Brookshire’s (huge and 33 cents each), diced tomatoes, and cilantro.

I may cut out the waffle bowls and the vanilla ice cream if I can’t find ones I want to procure.  We have other ice cream flavors already.

Cent-Saving Saturday (The Early Edition): Huge Sale at Google Play!

Cent Saving Saturday

Did anyone notice how Google Play trumped iTunes again?  Google Play is presently having a huge end-of-the-year sale (for people, like me, who received gift cards, I guess).  Tons of books, movies, and music are on sale.  And I snagged the free-est of most awesome freebies (pardon me while I enjoy this frugal high!):  for right now…right this instant…I’m not sure how long this is going to last…they have the Frozen soundtrack…FOR FREE!  Sorry to be totally giddy…but I was vacillating whether to use my Google Play gift card or my iTunes gift card to purchase the album…and it’s free!

Other Frozen merchandise is on sale, as well.  Seriously.  You might want to scope this out.  I’ve already used part of my gift card to purchase a $5 subscription to All Recipes magazine.

Note:  (I posted this as a comment to the wrong post…Oopsie!) On iTunes, the soundtrack is $6.99.  I was going to pay $6.99 for it…and I purchased it for free!

25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 26: The Roundup

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!  I’ve already hit up the post-holiday clearance at Walmart and Target (I was, in fact, one of the first 10 customers inside of Target this morning at 7 a.m.) and am gearing up for the next round of holiday goodies:  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  And then I’ll take a very deep breath.  And start planning for Valentine’s Day 2K15.

I have already begun planning the posts for next year’s 25 Days of Holiday Goodies posts and am very excited about some of the upcoming ones that I couldn’t quite squeeze in to this year’s series.  And, in making my list for next year (and checking it twice 😉 ), I realize that I will have to have a third year of it…and a fourth.

Muffin had a very happy Christmas.  We felt especially blessed by the gifts we received and the time spent with my parents during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and even earlier (as I prepped package decorations).  Several of the items that were featured in the 25 Days of Holiday Goodies posts found a place on the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day dinner tables (or both!) or under the tree.  My dad, in particular, really liked his Christmas present:  the full-size loaf of fruitcake.  Neighbors and friends received the mini loaves.

But…here’s the round-up with the links!

Day 1:  Yams Richard

Day 2:  Sparkling Apple Cider

Day 3:  Apple Cider

Day 4:  Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Ermine Frosting

Day 5:  Spanish Rice

Day 6:  Kiddie Champagne (Sparkling White Grape Juice)

Day 7:  BBQ Sausages and Cream Cheese and Pepper Jelly (for Crackers)

Day 8:  Frogs

Day 9:  Koek

Day 10:  Boeterkoek

Day 11:  White Bread Stuffing

Day 12:  Cornbread Dressing

Day 13:  Pralines

Day 14:  Chocolate-Dipped Licorice (Muffin’s new favorite; he calls these “lollipops”)

Day 15:  Green Bean Casserole

Day 16:  Sweet and Spicy Pecans

Day 17:  Candy Cane Cookies

Day 18:  Sugar Cookies

Day 19:  Cranberry-Pistachio Bark

Day 20:  Pecan Pie Bars (newly updated with a pic!)

Day 21:  Chile ‘n’ Cheese Spirals

Day 22:  Fruitcake

Day 23:  “Special” Hot Chocolate

Day 24:  Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

Day 25:  Mom’s Potato Salad

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series as much as I have.  And…since we are still in the midst of the holiday season (encompassing, in our family, Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween, U.S. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, plus several family birthdays)…happy holidays!

25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 25: Mom’s Potato Salad

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

Merry Christmas!  I have a special Christmas gift for you on the culminating day of the 25 Days of Holiday Goodies.  I made my mom dictate her potato salad recipe!

One of Josh’s favorite dishes that my mom makes is potato salad.  For him, it was love at first bite.  I have never attempted her potato salad.  Just as with my family-famous beans, her potato salad recipe is not written down…until today!  They always have to be served in the “potato bowl,” an avocado oval Corning dish from the 70s.  Yes, for those of you familiar with a certain Corner Gas episode of the same name, the potato bowl is THAT important.

Mom’s Potato Salad

4-5 potatoes


1/2-1 yellow onion, diced

3 heaping tablespoons sweet pickle relish (she uses Vlassic currently because we buy the gallon jar of it at Sam’s and split it)

1-2 eggs, boiled, peeled, and mashed

1/4-1/3 cup mayonnaise (she uses Kraft)

1 tablespoon mustard

pepper to taste

a bit of paprika, sprinkled over the top

Peel and dice the potatoes.  Boil them in salted water until fork tender (just before mashing consistency is how it has always tasted).  Drain the potatoes and put them in the “potato bowl.”  (See above)  Gently stir in the remaining ingredients, making sure to leave the potatoes mostly intact.  Check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.  Refrigerate several hours until serving.

Most recently, we had this dish last night at the Christmas Eve present opening at my parents’ house.


Mom's Potato Salad

Potato salad isn’t exactly Muffin Approved.  I think it has something to do with the onion.  He likes everything else in the mix.