Category Archives: Recipes

Fast, Frugal, Family Comfort Food Any Time!

Who else feels like the first month or so of school each year is just crazy? I’d love to say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!” and throw up a well-manicured hand. But this is my circus, and those are my monkeys! (And I haven’t had a manicure in almost eighteen years – LOL!) So, as in the wild, show no fear, no stress. Then, when the whole family is at home for supper, or possibly even awake at the same time for breakfast (gasp!) gather ’round for some comfort food.
I tease my son about being physically attached to his phone (he sleeps with it in his hand, like his brother before him) but maybe I should keep mine closer and download a few more apps. Meijer’s mPerks app, for example.

I knew it would find me coupons, so I waited until I’d found everything before I pulled out my phone. Here are the awesome coupons I found:

  • $0.75 off 1 Hungry Jack pancake & waffle mix
  • $0.75 off 1 Jif Flavored Spread
  • $0.75 off 1 Hungry Jack syrup

v2mperksBut waiting until I was in the store and had already shopped to download the app cost me about fifteen minutes and a lot of muttered curses. Why? I downloaded the wrong coupon for pancake mic, because I was buying the Hungry Jack Complete version. “Just add water” – that’s my kind of recipe! And I couldn’t find the peanut butter aisle! The mPerks app pulls it up in a hot second. But why is it in aisle 13?
I consider Jif Peanut Butter to be essential to life. It should be on that endcap at the front of the store where they have eggs, milk, and bread. If the Zombie Apocalypse is coming I’m stockpiling peanut butter. If I have to go too far into the store odds are I’m going to get bitten. But perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse has already started and I didn’t notice because they don’t want people, they want peanut butter! This could be a serious problem! It’s a good thing Meijer has placed their Jif products on the end of the aisle!#thingsIworryabout But the peanut powder – it’s even better. I can add some to my morning coffee so it’s coffee with protein (8 mg for 3 TBSP).

OK, so three entire tablespoons made a sort of pudding in the bottom of the cup, but once I poured in cup number two (that’s my limit) it was all good. And I was 8 grams further toward my 60 gram goal for the day than I would normally have been on a busy morning! But on those relaxed mornings the peanut powder goes into the Hungry Jack Pancake Mix. For each tablespoon of peanut butter you add, add that much water, so the pancakes stay nice and fluffy.
mix reg and peanut butter
Now we’ve all seen the profiles of celebrities done as pancakes, but I suspect those people have way too much free time. First thing to remember: Do everything in mirror image.
mirror image J
These are all on an electric skillet set at 325 and covered with melted butter. Wait about 20-30 seconds (until fully set) to add second layer if you’re doing pancake art. When you see bubbles everywhere on the surface but the edges have not yet started to brown . . . FLIP!
ready to flip
This will only take about 30 seconds, and it’s fine to lift up an edge to check browning. Then, after you lift them off,everyone can get creative.
Since I was a little girl my Dad always had his pancakes with peanut butter in between and syrup on top. That’s been my favorite way until now! If I have peanut butter in the pancakes (and one tablespoon will lightly flavor about six pancakes) then why not have something wonderful in-between them? With the help of my fellow peanut-butter-and-jelly lover, John, I selected strawberry preserves and Hungry Jack Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Flavored Syrup for our peanut butter pancakes. It was fabulous! John, being a teen, couldn’t even wait to get to the table to try his. He was a blur of pancake theft!
teen sneaking pancakes
Once our tummies were full my husband started playing around, being artistic with the batter. Here’s his version of a face:
john lennon pancake
and his favorite band’s logo:
rush pancake
Leftovers tasted wonderful whether microwaved or toasted, and it wasn’t 48 hours until we were all ready for pancakes again! This time we teamed them with my husband’s fabulous scrambled eggs (mine are always overdone). And each of us had a laugh when we first saw the happy pour-spout of the microwavable syrup. And later, when it was time for my son to go to work, I found him layering the Jif Spread generously over a pancake, rolling it up like a crepe, and running out the door.
smiley syrup lid
Truly, how much better could a day start? Or end? Now let’s do a little review: Download the mPerks app, snag some coupons, and organize your grocery list by aisle (this makes my OCD tendencies so happy!). Make sure you have included Hungry Jack pancake mix and syrup on your list, and take your time choosing. Every single one looks scrumptious!
mix and syrup
See, that view looks simple. Now try this one:
v2pancake-aisle-floorYes, just stand on the square and make your selection. Why don’t other companies do this? “Look at your feet for meal suggestions”, “Let your toes do the shopping!” OK, maybe not in the produce aisle – that would be gross.

No go make your own creation! Will you try Hungry Jack Complete Extra Light and Fluffy with Jif Cinnamon Spread and Hungry Jack Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Syrup, like we did? (Imagine a huge, moist Snickerdoodle!) What are you going to create?

Staying Cool

I know there are places more uncomfortable than the Ohio Valley in the summertime, but most of them are tourist destinations in the spring and fall and everyone goes somewhere else for August. The heat, humidity, and allergens would make a saint grumpy.

I started having hot flashes many years ago, but my OB/GYN insisted it was just stress. She worked at the same hospital I did and heard my name paged overhead 24/7. Once the hot flashes finally ended I had gastric sleeve surgery, and the rapid weight loss put my hormones into a tizzy and I ended up with teenage acne and hot flashes at the same time. SO unfair!

A woman having a hot flash using a fan to cool off.

I will be fifty later this year, so I didn’t have air-conditioning at home until I got married. I had air conditioning in middle school and high school, but only in about 2/3 of my college classrooms and none of my dorms.

I have multiple chronic spinal issues, and chronic inflammation should always be treated with COLD, not heat, no matter the time of year. So I’m a bit of an expert. Here are my tips on keeping cool:

Evaporation. Don’t dry off after your shower (unless there is a teen in the house who would need therapy after seeing his mother naked). And for the love of God don’t blow-dry or heat-style your hair. Put in some leave-in product and let it go.

Layers of cotton or “wicking” fabric. All loose, and in light colors. You may hate your upper arms when you start yard-saleing at 8 a.m., but you really won’t care by 10, and your bra will be in the back seat by noon.

Box fans. There’s a reason they still sell these – they work! In fact, they work much better than the high-tech, expensive fans. Buy several.
box fan
Alcohol-based cold packs. I like to combine rubbing alcohol and floral gel beads for an eight-hour cold-pack (no kidding). No matter how many ziplocks or other bags you put it in it’s going to leak eventually, though.

Gel-packs. These don’t stay cold as long, but they freeze back faster, remain flexible, and don’t leak. Great for errands with no AC in the car.

Hair away from the face, neck, and back. You can wear it down and styled when it gets cooler. Right now sweaty hair stuck to your face just makes you look more like a hot mess.
No makeup. Waterproof mascara if you feel the need, but anything else is just going to get sweated off. But wear some sunscreen, even if it’s overcast.

Cold food. Frozen grapes and bananas, chilled watermelon and cantaloupe, iced coffee, and gazpacho or other cold soups. Stick with plain water unless you’re really sweating like a pig. Then, alternate water with Gatorade or something else with electrolytes. Drink like it’s your job.
Ice water and hand towel. Not in the office or on your way to a job interview, obviously. But if you are working outside fill a small cooler with ice, add water, and soak a hand-towel in it. Wrap it around your neck, wipe your face, wet down your hair. Rinse, repeat. Once the ice has melted take a break and start over.

Take breaks. Make the timer on your phone your friend. I can’t sit, stand, or walk for more than 15 minutes on the best of days without expecting to pay a large price the next couple of days, so my timer is always set for 15 minutes. When it goes off, I go lie down (with water, in front of a box fan) until I feel like getting up again. It may be 15 minutes later, or it may be a couple of hours later. Listen to your body.

There were a lot of great prompts over at Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop this week. Go check them out (Tue post) and link up (Thur post)!

High Protein Tuna Salad


What’s the hardest thing after having gastric sleeve surgery? Getting enough protein. Yep, it’s not a problem keeping portion size small – that’s a mistake I’ve only made on rare occasions. Full + one bite = miserable.  I have three small meals a day. But I’m trying to pack 60 grams of protein into a day, and that’s incredibly hard to do. Yes, there are shakes I can drink, but I’m lactose intolerant and I like to chew my food. After a month on liquids postop I literally begged my doctor for celery. She told me I was the bright spot in her day 🙂 Clearly she didn’t realize that if she’d said no I was probably going to take a bite out of her arm.

Thankfully, she freed me up to advance to solid foods. In the months since my idea of a “healthy meal” has changed dramatically. I was raised on the old “food pyramid” most of you may remember – the one with grains at the bottom and oils at the top. I was a cardiac nurse for my entire career, so it was all about fat grams. If you eat less than ten grams of fat a day you’re doing great! (Yeah, not so much.) I love my fresh veggies, and I’ll even break my only-three-meals-a-day rule for garden-fresh tomatoes, asparagus in season, or when broccoli calls to me. But if I don’t get enough protein I will start losing my hair, and that’s pretty motivational.

So without further delay here’s the tuna salad that’s flying out of my fridge faster than Michael and I can make it!

2 cans tuna, drained
4 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
avocado (on the side for the picky eaters)

I seriously can’t even call this a recipe. You don’t need to write it down or print it out. BET: beans, eggs, tuna. Those are the essentials, and anything you add after that is up to you. It can go on a sandwich, in a pita, on a plate with fresh tomatoes. Mayo is not needed to hold this together!

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