Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blessed. Broken. Given.: Finally... Video update!

Our daughter Kayla recently updated her blog. Check it out!

Blessed. Broken. Given.: Finally... Video update!:
Here's a window into my life over the past 5 months.  I hope that it encourage...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So, WHAT’s for dinner???

It’s what my inquiring kids always want to know... When you have 6 kids, you hear this question a LOT to say the least…. But if you’re like me, you don’t always have an answer… so you let the suspense build and scramble to figure it out! BUT, on the other hand, if it happens to be Wednesday, then of course it’s a given… because on Wednesday night the middles have Awana and my 2nd to oldest has Vertical (youth group), so it’s best to make something that everyone’s always happy about and easy to clean up!

What’s that you say?...Oh you want to know WHAT IS FOR DINNER?!!! Well, for fun I will share the recipes I use on Wednesday nights…AND also have a contest for a fun GIVEAWAY at the same time, so hopefully by the time this “plan” is facilitated, I’ll have the answer to the question at the top of this blog post for many nights to come… BRILLANT!

Now, I’m no spring chicken… we are almost to our 24th wedding anniversary and I've been parenting for over 18 years… been through many seasons… and in some of my very “organized seasons” when life seemed easier and carefree with 3 or 4 kids, I even had a weekly menu taped up on the pantry to ensure that I didn’t have to answer that question. It was great when I consulted it and really freed up some of my brain cells…. which by now are all used up from chasing the littles around all day and changing too many diapers once again.... where did all that organization go?? um...I can't remember:)

Do you ever feel like you're in a rut and you make the same meals over and over again? I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some NEW recipes! Um, you see that’s where YOU come in…. this is a participation blog:)


YOU share your favorite family recipes and IF I make it and it’s a “keeper”(meaning the Sprague tribe likes it), then I will send you a $10 Starbucks gift card!! How’s that for a fun participation prize… yes, you can now thank my friend Lori Gardner… she’s the hilarious blog queen who actually does fun giveaways on her blog. Now, I can’t send a gift card to all the “keeper” recipes… so I will have my kids vote on the one they liked best from this little contest… and hopefully it will be YOU because you cared enough to take the time to share a favorite recipe with me. I will mail you the gift card in appreciation… or if I know you I’ll just take you to Starbucks and then give you a gift card too!!

Now, depending on the feedback… this could take some time, so I will let you know right away if your recipe makes it to the “ones to try” pile. Then you will at least know you are in the running for the Starbucks gift card. And to save some time… here’s a few tips for what kind of recipes we'd like... I’m more of a "from scratch" kind of cook… use real onion, garlic, and spices… so I don’t buy the cream of whatever Campbell’s soups…I do buy canned beans though for making chilli…. I’m not into MSG and hydrogenated oils…. We do like vegetables too, so the recipes don’t have to have meat in them… although we do like meat too…. Oh and in case you have one, I would love a great spaghetti sauce recipe, or stir fry, pasta recipies... like the noodle company makes...or anything easy really… the sky is the limit!

Back to what's for dinner....Wednesday is HOMEMADE PIZZA NIGHT in the Sprague home… It’s the one night of the week that I never get complaints, only cheers… oh how I love that when it comes to dinner!!! (which by the way is NOT always the case with other meals in our home because I refuse to raise picky eaters, so I say this phrase quite often to the littles, middles, and bigs, “We train our taste buds in this house and if you don’t like it, that’s okay… you CAN still EAT it!”… but no time for that bully pulpit now… was getting sidetracked…yes, yes…back to fun pizza making:)

If you have a bread machine to make the DOUGH, and you want to make it a weekly dinner, set a weekly alarm in your phone to remind you @ 2pm or so to start the dough…. that way it’s ready when you are! Here are the two pizza crust recipes I always use… perfect every time. They vary a bit, so take your pick. If you don’t have a bread machine, consult my friend Lori… she uses her kitchen aid mixer to make her dough and if you don’t have a kitchen aid… well my food processor makes good dough using the recipe in its manual… or you can just use your hands… what a concept! The reason I prefer my bread machine is because it’s the easiest! You throw in the ingredients and an hour and a half later the perfect dough is ready… and can just sit in the machine until you are ready to use it... very simple, very easy.

The following recipes come from "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger

For Basic Pizza Dough – add the following ingredients to your bread machine and select the “dough” cycle.
1 1/3 cups water
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use ultra grain)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast OR 2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast

When cycle beeps, remove dough (the dough ball will be soft), divide into desired number of portions.. I do two (but for more fun on a night you have time… the kids love making their own personal pan pizzas too).Oh wow… the recipe says to then…"Flatten each portion into a disc. Cover with a damp towel on the work surface to rest for 30 minutes until the dough has increased about 20 percent"…. But I’ve never done that… guess I never read past the ingredients part… oh well. Try it… it might be better that way… who knows:)

Or for the granola girls out there… you can try this recipe:

Whole Wheat Pizza dough- (this is the one I use most... unless it’s for guests who like the standard American fare better… both are great recipes though.)
1 1/3 cup water
¼ cup olive oil
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use ultra-grain)
1 cup whole wheat flour (not the dead stuff on the shelves, I grind mine at HyVee in their health market section… they have these big vats of Montana wheat for .88 per pound. Grind and put straight in your freezer to preserve nutrients… or if you’re super cool like my friend Lori… you own a grain mill!)
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast OR 2 ½ tsp bread machine yeast

Once the dough is ready (or actually, once I’m ready to start) I divide it into 2 balls and put it on the pizza pans. (I roll them out on my counter, but am finally beginning to try the hand stretching... no throwing in the air yet, but baby steps on getting the dough ready for the pan.) For years I used my pizza stones, but I find clean up way easier and the crust much crispier when I use the round pizza pans with the holes. I got them on sale at Kohls… $12.99 each… non-stick, 16 inch, with the holes all over the bottom. The pizza literally slides right off onto the cutting board and the pan is still CLEAN… I do wipe it with a rag, but I’m telling you… easy clean up to me is a major bonus!! Once the dough is on the pans, cover with light cotton towel and let them rest while you make the sauce.. but you can do it the way the recipe says.

The SAUCE is so simple to make… takes about 15 min. to simmer and is SOOOO worth it!! You’ll really never buy a jar again… it’s that good. It makes 2 cups, which I use every drop. I keep telling myself that I will make double or triple batch sometime and freeze some, but It’s just so easy to whip it up real quick, I haven’t done that yet…. Besides if it was frozen, I would have to set an alarm in my phone to remind me to take the pizza sauce out of the freezer!Time flies so much faster now that I have the littles, and that handy alarm in my phone is my helpful friend.

What I love most about this recipe is that I always have all the ingredients on hand since it's so if you've never made your own sauce... it's time to give it a try!

Essential Tomato-Herb Pizza Sauce
1-2 T. olive oil
¼ large yellow onion, finely chopped (I use whatever color of onion I have)
Two 8 oz cans tomato sauce (I use one normal size can… I think 15 oz)
1 clove garlic, pressed, or ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram leaves (I’ve only used oregano)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and the edges begin to brown. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil and adjust heat to low. Simmer; uncovered for 15 min. Remove from heat and cool (I never do that). The sauce will keep in the freezer up to a month (haven’t tried that yet either).

When the sauce is ready…. Spread half on each crust, add whatever toppings you want… or if your kids are like mine… just cheese on theirs. Now they do eat from ours after the cheese is all gone, but if it was their choice… they prefer cheese. Allie is my kitchen helper and she loves to help with the sauce and the cheese.

I bake the pizzas one at a time in a preheated oven of 425 for 14 min. (for crisper crust)… or at 450 for 10 min. (for less crispy). See what you like… and if you want thicker crust don’t make the pizza as large. I stretch them to the max on my pans cuz there are a lot of mouths to feed at my table. Since my new pans can’t be in heat of more than 450 and you can't cut on them because of the non-stick finish, I just put a cutting board on the table and slide the pizza off the pan and onto the board and serve from there. I always cut up fresh veggies to go with the pizza because it’s the most important part of the meal to me. What’s funny to me is that my kids eat the veggies plain, but dip their pizza in ranch.

Here is a picture of some happy campers devouring the goods this week.

Now that, my friends, is a wrap! No actually, it’s pizza, but just wanted to use some cooking show lingo. Seriously though, this is that wonderful weekly dinner where you NEVER have to tell you kids to, “eat your dinner”…. Let me know if it works that way for your family too. Enjoy!!

Oh and please don’t forget about the CONTEST/ GIVEAWAY…

Below are a few pics so you can meet the middles...A few serious members of the judges panel for this contest. One of my littles is pictured at the top of this post, but she doesn't get to be on the panel of judges because I've not really found anything she doesn't LOVE to eat since bringing her home from Ethiopia... she's a momma's dream!

*all pics taken by my iphone so excuse the poor quality...and I'm no photographer either... so that might be some of the lighting issues.