Friday, September 30, 2011

What If You Lived At Ikea?

Off topic? A little...

But it's good to take a comedy break in your day.

There's a blog called Ikea Hackers, a site where people can share how they modified or re-purposed Ikea furniture. There are some really creative people out there!

A photographer and his 2 friends decided to not just hack an Ikea product, they moved in.

CLICK HERE to check out Christian Gideon's 
"What If You Lived At Ikea?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

e-mealz vs Relish!

My friend, fellow Army-wife and blogger, Lisa Sharp of is my guest today at Quick Fix. She is reviewing both e-mealz and Relish! - both meal planning plans.

One of my biggest budget categories is food. One of my biggest household challenges is what to feed my family every day. I am not a creature of habit, am a decent cook and can find my way around both a kitchen and a grocery store.
So, for Christmas 2009, I requested a Relish! subscription. Relish! was my first foray into menu planning online and I was quite impressed. Each Thursday, I get an e-mail reminding me to log-in and plan a menu for the coming weeks. It is highly customizable, allowing me to choose from a wide range of options including (but not limited to!) Low-Carb, crock pot, freezer meals, gluten-free, budget- and kid-friendly options for dinner, dessert, lunch and breakfast!  
It does not match to sales at grocery store chains but ... (for more pros and cons on Relish!, visit
E-Mealz promises to bring back the family dinner for only $5 a month. Their system is much more regimented and inflexible but does link to several major national store chains including Aldi and Wal-Mart and align with sales at those chains (none near me) to keep the cost to approximately $75 per week depending on the option you choose. You can select certain dietary preferences: G-free, Portion Controlled (formerly Points),  Low-Carb, and Vegetarian. There is no control over whether it’s a crockpot meal, freezer meal, etc. It is a point to and click the link, download and print the menu, shop, cook and eat system. 
I have not been horribly disappointed with variety of menus ... (visit for the rest of her e-mealz review!)

Lisa's reviews are detailed - the good, the bad, and the downright ugly! She lays it all out there. You must visit her site if you are considering a meal planning program! I never knew some of these programs link up to grocery chain store sales and product coupons! 
Would you consider subscribing to this kind of service? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scrambling For Breakfast

I found this idea at Pennies and Blessings:

Oven Scrambled Eggs

It's the perfect recipe for cooking (baking) a large quantity of eggs to feed the sleepy masses. But here is where I plan to use the recipe: 

freeze individual servings for breakfast on the go

-- in a burrito, on an English muffin, or just with some melted cheese on top. It could be that handy source of protein to get you going in the morning.

Fake It Gourmet
Stir in small pieces of cream cheese before baking. What, you've never heard of cream cheese in scrambled eggs before? I promise you, you'll never want eggs any other way.

Review to Follow
I will be following up with a review of the thawing process and how the taste and texture holds up. Is this an idea you would try?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: e-mealz

Here's my friend, Mary Jo, sharing her experience with e-mealz. This coming week I will have another review of e-mealz, as well as a review of a different meal planning program, Relish!  If anyone has done 30 Day Gourmet or a similar freezer menu plan, please contact me! I am putting together a chart of the pros and cons of each program.
Hello Quick Fix Readers!
My name is Mary Jo and the following is a journal of my initial e-mealz experience. is site to which you can subscribe and receive a weekly shopping list and meal plan for a small fee of $1.25 each week,

Day 1 - Grocery Shopping and Elegant Chicken and Pasta
Day one. Armed with my "Any Store Family Meal" grocery list from e-mealz, I went to conquer purchasing groceries for week one. The trip to the grocery store was a family event. My youngest went to the Eagle's Nest (the grocery store childcare center), while my husband, older son, daughter and I took the trip around the store gathering the items on the list--outer edges of the store first, innards last.

The items on the list were grouped conveniently and the shopping clipped along nicely. By the end the troops were a bit weary, but the food items had been gathered easily. The bill was slightly higher than I had hoped for a menu of solely dinners, but in our parts Giant Eagle is known more for convenience and gas points than low prices.

Once home I had to muster up the energy to make dinner for night one. I was motivated to finish what I started and give this whole e-mealz thing a good try.

First up was to cut the chicken. I confess I didn't do this exactly as instructed. I was suppose to cut the boneless chicken breasts in half and beat them to a certain thickness. Instead I cut the chicken into medium size squares and beat them down until they seemed...flatter.

Remembering how my mom used to flour chicken, I floured the chicken on both sides as instructed and browned each side in a skillet.

(Okay, I browned the chicken in my red wok not a skillet. I enjoy cooking in my bright red wok.)

After adding the whipping cream and shredded Parmesan cheese, the chicken was fully prepared for baking. I placed the chicken in the 350 degree oven--or so I thought. My oven has gas issues (don't laugh), and after 30 minutes I found the oven was never the appropriate temperature! Into the oven again the chicken went, only to find 30 minutes later the oven was still not the appropriate temperature. Into the oven again the chicken went, and this time I could tell the oven temperature was correct.


Sometime between all the chicken baking I cooked the pasta. I set out the lettuce. I also set out bowls of almonds, mandarin oranges and dried cranberries. I opened a bottle of Italian dressing. Once baked, the chicken went over the pasta.

My kids were very kind to their mother. Even though the chicken and pasta meal was not exactly to their liking, they found nice things to say. The oranges made the salad a favorite with my children. A miracle!
So the key word of the night was persistence, without which I would have given up. The plan is
to buy a new oven as soon as possible. I liked the chicken and pasta more than the salad made with packaged lettuce. My kids preferred the salad. The boys were big fans of the canned mandarin oranges.
Mission to start e-mealz accomplished.
Day 2 - Swedish Meatballs.
Ground beef, onions, bread crumbs, All Spice, eggs, and milk--the stuff of which meatballs are made. The meatballs were pretty easy to make. If I let my mind search back I can remember my grandpa making his meatloaf in a similar fashion, but without the All Spice.

I didn't want to use the full cup of onions required because I envisioned my boys refusing to give the meatballs a try if they were chock-full of onions. So instead I used...less onions.

By mistake I poured the instant gravy package into a sauce pan instead of the instructed onion soup mix.
(Okay, I poured the gravy mix into my red wok, not a sauce pan. Did I mention I like my wok?)

I was suppose to make the sauce from the onion soup mix with milk and flour. I remembered my children didn't like the white sauce made with flour and so decided to stick with the brown gravy mix I started by mistake. I finished the brown gravy mix and used the brown gravy to pour over the meatballs.

Noodles, check. Green beans, check. Dinner buns, double check...those dinner rolls from our store's bakery were awesome!

The result? Thumbs up all from all three kiddos for Swedish meatballs and noodles with green beans and dinner rolls. Nice.

Day 3 - Cheesy Baked Fish
Today's recipe was tilapia fish topped with a bread crumb mixture including basil, nutmeg and cheese. The side potatoes were a refrigerated pre-made variety. The side asparagus was fresh and sauteed.

Reviews on this were not favorable. My youngest child's evaluation of what he liked was,"nothing." My older boy negotiated eating two pieces of fish so he would not have to eat the potatoes. My daughter liked the fish and potatoes. Her only complaint was that the asparagus had a funny aftertaste.

I thought the meal was okay. I wasn't crazy about the bread crumb topping. I think I went a little heavy on the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs were suppose to be the Italian seasoned variety, not the plain variety I used, so perhaps plain bread crumbs were too poor a substitute. I don't think I cooked the asparagus appropriately as it was a poor consistency.

The refrigerated potatoes did not cook the way I expected them to cook. (Perhaps this because I browned the potatoes in my beautiful bright red wok.)

We are looking forward to tomorrow's Baked Apple French Toast. Breakfast for dinner sounds good, especially on a Saturday.

Day 4 - Baked Apple French Toast
The Baked Apple French Toast recipe was a overnight recipe. I prepared the bread the night before, as instructed. I then realized I did not have the necessary milk to finish the task. The next day I decided put off making the Baked Apple French Toast meal until the following day. The following day I decided to put off making the Baked Apple French Toast until the day after. Thus an overnight recipe became the bump that knocked me off my e-mealz track entirely! I hope to get back on track soon!

E-mealz is an excellent and versatile tool (be sure to look over the different budget, family size and diet plans in the meal examples on the site), but the meal plans require commitment and perseverance despite plan hiccups and/or a few bad family reviews.

The main lesson I learned in my e-mealz experience so far is this: To stay on target with any meal plan I must push through all the major and minor inconveniences threatening to throw me off course.
Best wishes in your quest to better feed your families!
Off Track?
Thanks MJ! Here's a question for all of you: What derails you from following your menu, meal plan, or commitment to nightly dinner with the fam? Is it time? Ideas? Picky people? Vent it here!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'd Love to Help, But...

I came across this idea on Cleverly Inspired. It is Tracy's go-to meal when cooking a meal to take to a friend.

disposable foil pan
rough chop basic veggies
roast it
deliver with a hug and a smile

See how simple? Next time someone needs meals delivered, I'll be quick to sign up instead of pondering "What on earth would I make???"

What's your go-to recipe for delivering meals?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Secret's In The Sauce

I made fried rice for dinner the other night. It's great for using up leftover vegetables and meat. Three things I always include (4, if you count rice) -- garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Everything else is up for grabs. Vegetables? Whatever is on hand. Meat? Only if there are leftovers.

Fried rice is a family favorite that over the years seems to have gotten tastier and tastier. I think it's the sesame oil that has the most impact. Sesame oil is used for flavoring, not cooking. It's added after the dish is mostly done cooking, unlike other oils that are used as a cooking medium. You can find it in the Asian food section of your grocery store.

It got me thinking, what are other dishes I make that have that single must-have ingredient? There were a few. So here's the first installment of . . .

"The Secret's In The Sauce".

Fried Rice - sesame oil
Chicken Noodle Soup - poultry seasoning
Shepherd's Pie - steak sauce (A-1 style)

What's your secret?  Any special ingredient you're willing to share?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Step Away From The Donut

Drop the cookie. Don't even look at that piece of cake.

How many of us have time (or take time) for breakfast every morning, even if it's just a bowl of cereal? It's easy to grab the carbs, because they feel the most filling.

What, you've never eaten cake for breakfast? It's got eggs, milk, flour - sounds like breakfast to me.

Next time hunger hits, no matter what time of day it is, try some protein. It doesn't take much protein to satisfy. Besides filling the void in the stomach, it will give you energy and just make you feel better.

Try these protein snacks:
Nuts - Cashews, peanuts, pistachios -- Just a handful will stave off starvation.  (Yes, peanut M&M's will work in a pinch.)

Cheese - Cubed or sliced. Goes good with that banana you grabbed on your way out the door.

Milk - Take a few swallows with those vitamins.

Not a protein, but worth mentioning
Tea. Sort of. - Not a coffee drinker, or no time to make a pot? Add a tea bag to your water bottle. It won't be strong because the water isn't hot enough for steeping, but it will add a refreshing flavor to your water. (Thanks to my friend Leah for this inspiration!)

Comedy Break
What Bill Cosby Feeds His Kids For Breakfast

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chip Clip

Remember when those chip clips first came out?

Neat idea, but expensive if you have more than 2 bags open at the same time. I think they're still expensive, actually.

For many years now I've been using clothes pins.

Not only for chip bags, but for bread bags, too.

They are super cheap (you can find a package at the dollar store), but they are quicker to use on bread bags than twist ties or the plastic clips. Which means they are more likely to be used by the younger generation. (No guarantees implied here!)

The kind of clothespins I have found to work best is the wood ones with the spring. Not only do they hold tighter than the plastic ones, they last longer too. A package has lasted me a year or two.


Not this

Okay, but not the best.

What do you use to keep your chips and bread fresh?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ham & Potato Casserole

One of my go-to recipes for a quick fix!

Necessary Ingredients

          • box of scalloped potatoes
          • package of cubed ham (or sliced deli ham, cut up in pieces, if that's what you have on hand) 

Prepare potatoes according to package directions. Before placing in oven, stir in ham cubes (one handful, or the whole package . . . whatever works for your family).

Optional Ingredients
Add one or more of these when you add the ham:

  • chopped bell peppers
  • chopped tomatoes
  • peas
  • green beans

Add a topping before baking:
  • crushed butter crackers mixed with melted butter
  • potato chips
  • french fried onions

Sorry I don't have a photo of the dish once it came out of the oven!
It was immediately consumed by the family.

Up or Down Vote
Does your fam do the casserole thing? I know some kids (and grown ups) don't like their food touching! Vote here: