Easy Homemade Eggrolls

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Every time I would hear someone talk about making egg rolls at home, I’d think they were nuts. I’d only ever heard that they were such a pain and take forever to make. My mom and I decided to make them one day while we were up visiting, and it turns out if you “cheat” a bit – they’re really not so bad!

IMG_1861Still, I’m not adding this to the “quick meals” section because it does involve a fair amount of preparation, but for those of you who are much faster at prep than I am, it could definitely be a quick meal if you’ve got all the ingredients on hand.

What you’ll need:

- Egg roll wraps (found in the produce section at Walmart and Target)
- 1 bag of coleslaw mix – this is the cheat – it’s already cut up and just about ready!
- 1lb ground pork
- Ginger to taste (also in the produce section)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Teriyaki sauce, to taste

Simple, right? Six ingredients, unless you plan to deep fry, in which case you’ll want to make sure you have enough oil on hand.

So to start, fry up the pork with the ginger. Since I buy the squeeze tube of ginger, I just squeeze a bunch on. We like ginger, so if you’re not sure, put about a teaspoon in, then taste when the pork is fully cooked. You can always add more after you add the onions.

Add the onions after the pork is cooked, and continue to fry until the onions are soft.

While everything is frying, toss the coleslaw mix into a food processor. I love my Tupperware Quick Chef for this (thanks Mom!) – I spin half the bag first and then the rest, as my Quick Chef is the original and it’s not quite big enough to handle a full bag. Put the chopped up mix into a large bowl.

IMG_1858Once the fried pork and onions is done, add it to the coleslaw mix, and stir in the teriyaki sauce. I would start with 2 tablespoons, but definitely taste the mixture to see if you want more. Stir it up, and your egg roll filling is complete!

Now the fun part: making the actual egg rolls.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (or get your oil and your deep fryer ready). If you’re baking them, spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Put about 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the eggroll wrap – you’ll get a feel for how much can go in the wrap as you start to fold them.  I start by folding up the bottom corner, then folding in the sides, and then pulling the top down over everything. I keep a small bowl of water next to me so I can dip my finger in it, then get the top corner of the wrap wet, and “seal” it to the roll.

When I put the rolls on the pan, I try to put the side with the sealed corner down – this just makes me feel like it will stick together better and not dry out and come apart while baking. If you’re really worried about it, you can use a mixture of flour and water to help glue it together, but the wraps do have flour on them already so this shouldn’t be necessary.

Coat the tops with olive oil, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

The package of wraps that I bought had 21 wraps, and the mixture I made was more than enough for 21 wraps. The mixture alone is pretty tasty, but you have to like raw cabbage!

Quick meal #3: Pasta salad

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This is an absolute cheat of a meal because it’s made from a box with a few added ingredients, but it’s quick and the kids gobbled it up!

Now that the weather has gotten nicer, the vegetables at the grocery store are starting to be better quality and taste a lot better. My kids love fresh veggies, so a pasta salad is with added veggies is almost a treat for them, especially after a long winter of sub-par quality vegetables.

What you’ll need:

- 1-2 boxes of Suddenly Salad (Walmart has extra big “Value” boxes right now that are perfect for a family of 4-6)
- vegetable oil (olive oil would likely work here as well, but it does change the taste slightly)
- water
- vegetables of your choice
- breadcrumbs – plain or seasoned
- grated Parmesan cheese

This is about as simple as you can get in a recipe. Cook the pasta as directed on the box (boil for 12 minutes). While the pasta is cooking, mix the oil, water and seasoning packet according to the directions. Also, chop up your veggies. Last time I made this we had cucumbers and peppers, so I went with that – but I also like using cherry tomatoes and black olives in this salad as well.

Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water. I like to get the water as cold as I can, because we will eat this right away. Make sure the pasta is well drained, then add it to the bowl you’ve mixed up the seasoning it. Dump in the chopped veggies and stir well.

Once everything seems to be coated evenly, add in the breadcrumbs and Parmesan to taste. Beware: if you add too much of the breadcrumbs, the salad will get a bit “gummy” as it sits – so add a little bit and then if you still want more, add it to individual bowls before eating.

We’ve eaten this as a meal on its own for days when we had a heavy lunch, but it can also be a side, of course. Another way to make this a bit more rounded of a meal is to add chicken. It was a bit too hot to grill chicken when I made the salad, so we just had salad, a side of fruit and cold lemonade, and everyone was happy!

Daycare and cloth diapers

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I’ve heard a lot of people say “Oh, I’d LOVE to try cloth diapers, but our daycare won’t do them.” I actually heard that a lot before I our first was born, so I was super surprised when it was our daycare center’s director who suggested we try diapers when we were struggling to find a disposable that didn’t cause chemical burns.

Obviously, my one experience with cloth diapers and daycare doesn’t make me an expert in the matter, but I do have a few tips/suggestions for anyone who might want to bring up cloth diapers with their daycare.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

1. Research the regulations. Some daycares can’t use cloth diapers due to some kind of regulation, whether it be a state health department, or even a city health inspector’s ruling. This is getting less and less common as cloth diapering is getting more popular, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still places where you can’t. On the other hand – it’s also good to know the regulations because some daycares will just default to that as their reason for not accepting cloth diapers – it’s an easy excuse.

I found a  site that has compiled a list of states and their regulations – I don’t know how up to date it is, but it’s a good place to start.

Along the lines of regulations, see if there’s anything that is or isn’t allowed. Our daycare center was required to have a separate diaper for every diaper change, and this is a very common requirement. Seems like common sense, but if you’re set on using a hybrid system, or covers with flats/prefolds, you’re going to need to make sure you have enough covers for the number of diaper changes, because they won’t be able to swap out the flat or prefold and re-use the cover.

2. Find out what kind of cloth diapers are out there, and what’s going to be easiest for your daycare provider to use. Rows of snaps and hard-to-tuck-in inserts are going to make the diapers much more of a hassle, and your provider will dread diaper changes (even more than usual). The harder it is to get a good fit (ie, the more fiddling around you have to do when putting them on), the more likely there will be leaks.

All-in-one diapers and pocket diapers are especially good for daycares, and even better if they have velcro closures – that takes the guesswork out of the fit and makes them basically the same for putting on as a disposable. Hybrid diapers and covers aren’t the end of the world, but you’ll want to make sure you send them all set up and ready to go.

3. Be prepared for your provider to not want to deal with the poop. This may mean letting them wrap up the diaper and put it in your wet bag with all the poop still in it. Yep, it’s gross. But one of the biggest things people tend to bring up when talking about cloth diapers is dealing with the poop. As a parent who wants to cloth diaper – you signed up to deal with poop. Your daycare provider signed up to wrap it up in a diaper and throw it away (or throw it in the wet bag).

You can purchase disposable liners – thin sheets almost like tissue paper – to place in the diaper. When your baby poops, you just grab the corners of the liner, pull off and throw in the trash or the toilet (most are flushable, but not all, and sometimes septic/sewer systems can’t handle the liners).

4. Use the diapers before you bring them to daycare. There’s no other good way to find out if it’s easy to use, has a “trick” for getting a good fit, or is just a dud of a diaper. Please don’t let your daycare provider be your tester on a new diaper, especially if he/she wasn’t really enthused about the idea of cloth diapering in the first place!

5. Bring the diapers with you when you talk to your provider, and give them a demonstration. Show them how easy they are to put on and take off, and show them how to roll them up.  Many people hear the words “cloth diaper” and think birdseye prefolds (like those Gerber ones a lot of people use for burp cloths), safety pins and rubber pants. You’d be surprised – even younger providers tend to have this image in their minds, likely from descriptions their parents/grandparents gave them of cloth diapers!

Also, this might seem like common sense, but remind them that they don’t have to clean the diapers. You are doing the hard work – the washing, the rinsing, dealing with the poop, etc – all they have to do is put them on, take them off, and throw them in the wet bag instead of a garbage can!

Lastly – be prepared for them to still say no. There are no laws that state a daycare MUST allow cloth diapers. Some places you can get a “prescription” from a doctor that says your child requires them for medical reasons (rash, allergies, etc), but if you’ve been with your daycare provider for any amount of time, they’re going to know whether or not that’s true.

Good luck! If I missed any good pointers, feel free to let me know and I’ll add them!

Quick meal #2: Cheesy Quinoa

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Quinoa has become something we make just about once a week – high in protein and quick to make, it’s a great substitute for rice and even better as a side dish for those nights when you’ve forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer.

AroundTheTableRI.blogspot.com

AroundTheTableRI.blogspot.com

Recently, I came across this Cheesy Quinoa recipe on Pinterest,  and thought this might be a good recipe to try out.

While we like quinoa, the girls tend to think it’s much more fun to play with – and cleaning it off the floor is just as much of a pain as cleaning cooked rice grains off the floor! This recipe makes the grains stick together (in a very tasty way!), making it easier for the girls to eat and much less of a hassle for cleanup.

The longest parts of this recipe are cooking the quinoa and baking the final product. You can cut down on the quinoa step by having it pre-cooked – I make quite a bit when I make it so that we can use it in other things throughout the week.

However, 15 minutes isn’t a huge deal, and that time can be spent chopping up veggies, since the quinoa pretty much cooks itself.

I’ve modified the recipe from the link above a bit for our tastes, and also to reflect the veggies we had on hand. You can skip the veggies or use just about anything you have on hand. Here’s what we used:

- 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- Progresso Garlic & Herb breadcrumbs*
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (we used mexican blend)

While cooking the quinoa (here’s my “special method”), preheat the oven to 350 degrees and chop up the veggies. Lightly saute them – just enough to get them started softening.

Next, whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl large enough to hold everything. Add in the veggies, quinoa and cheese – mix until everything is coated with the eggs.

Transfer to a greased baking dish of your choice – I used a 9×13 casserole dish and it was perfect. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

This recipe took me about 45 minutes from start to pulling it out of the oven, which is pretty impressive for me!

* If you need gluten-free, you can eliminate the breadcrumbs.

My “special” quinoa recipe

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I like to call this a “special” recipe, but really it’s probably something most people with cooking skills would do anyway – but for those of you who are learning like me, I’ll share just in case!

Quinoa (with sweet potatoes)

Quinoa (with sweet potatoes)

If you’re wondering where to get quinoa, it’s getting much easier to find it. I’ve been buying ours from Costco, simply because the package is large and I don’t particularly care for grocery shopping, so I’d prefer to have enough to last me awhile.

Anyway, back to my recipe. Quinoa is made similarly to rice – the ratio of water to grains is 2:1. I like to make four cups of quinoa (cooked measurement) at a time so that I have enough for different recipes and meals. One cup of dried quinoa puffs up to four cups of cooked, so the recipe is pretty simple:

- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes*
- 1/4 cup dried onion flakes

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cover and set the timer for 15 minutes. Towards the end of the 15 minutes you may want to lift the lid to check – once the water is absorbed by the quinoa, it’s finished – and you don’t want it to burn.

*Alternately, instead of water and bouillon, you can just use 2 cups of chicken broth if you have that on hand. Some people prefer vegetable broth, and I’m sure you could use beef broth, but I like chicken the best so far. I like bouillon because it’s in a much smaller package than the carton broth that I would buy otherwise.

So, do you have to add onions and broth? Absolutely not. In fact, for some recipes (like breakfast cereals), you would just want to make it with plain water. I like to make it with the extras because it can then stand alone as a side dish if I’m feeling particularly lazy. For most dinner recipes, the extra ingredients just add to the flavor.

Quick meal #1: Ham, veggies and rolls

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This quick, simple meal that has saved us from a fast-food run several times since the birth of our son.

What you’ll need:

- Ham steak
- Pillsbury crescent rolls
- Mixed veggies (butter, salt and pepper)

With only three ingredients, you can probably see why this is so quick!

I get my ham steaks in packs of three at Costco, but they’re also at Walmart (I’ve seen two-packs there). You can get them with or without bones. My mixed veggies are usually frozen, purchased from Walmart (BirdsEye brand). We go through a lot, so I prefer the big bags, especially the ones with the zip seal. As for the crescent rolls, these can obviously be any kind of dinner roll, but we love the crescents and they’re fun for the girls to help roll up before baking. The Pillsbury 2-packs are cheaper than the GreatValue brand at Walmart.

I usually start by running hot water in the sink to thaw the ham steak. If you’re better prepared than I, you can skip this step and probably save 5 minutes or so. I then move on to preheating the oven for the rolls.

My girls love to help me roll up the crescent rolls, so while the ham steak is thawing and the oven is preheating, we’re over at the table having some fun with the rolls.

The rolls take 12-15 minutes in the oven, and while they’re baking, I get the frozen veggies cooking in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes. Once they’re done, we add about a tablespoon of butter, some salt and pepper, and let that sit, covered, for the 5-7 minutes the ham steak is in the microwave.

That’s pretty much it. If you’re not having children help you with the process, you may even be able to squeak in some time to cut up some fresh fruit!

Quick meal ideas from a slow cook

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I’m not particularly fast at cooking – part of the reason I’ve probably never really enjoyed it much. There have been many times we’ve ended up eating out or picking up fast food because I don’t plan enough in advance (apparently pork chops take 2-3 days to defrost in the fridge??) or because I have a recipe in mind, and then when I start to get everything together and really read the recipe, I see that it’s going to take 2 hours (which in my world is about 4 hours).

OverworkedSupermom.com

OverworkedSupermom.com

This is still a struggle for me, but not as much as it used to be. Having kids has forced me to  learn a bit more about cooking, and through trial and error I’ve managed to come up with some tricks to shorten preparation time, or even just some go-to quick meals that I can even involve the girls in the preparation.

I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with this, so I want to share these tips and meal ideas here to hopefully help those who want to keep on a budget and cook at home more. Be forewarned though: most, if not all, of my ideas involve *some* kind of packaged food – this  isn’t all from scratch.  I am pretty careful about what kinds of packaged foods I buy, so overall the meals should be fairly healthy.

Likely you won’t find anything new, or innovative (I’ve got a ways to go before I can be that kind of cook!), and you may even see some ideas you’ve seen elsewhere. Pinterest has been a great source for me on this (with plenty of failed experiments as well!)

To make this easier in case my list gets long (it’ll be awhile), I’ll add to this post and link to the ideas as I’m able to post them.

- Ham, veggies and rolls
- Cheesy Quinoa
- Pasta Salad w/ Veggies
- Montreal steak and veggies on the grill
- Goulash
- Mexican goulash (Taco pasta)
- Easy fried pork chops