Thursday, November 10, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Banana Muffins and 25 Day Menu Cycle

This week we started something new.  I always try to have a weekly menu plan and shopping list for weeknight suppers.  However, I have been struggling to provide wholesome nutritious snacks and lunches for the boys (and myself).  I usually eat salad for lunch but then wonder what to feed the boys.  Leftovers are often part of the plan but not always.  And just grabbing a box of crackers for snack time is not where I wanted to be.  But it was that or spend lots of time trying to figure out what would be good for snack times.

Enter the Montana Childcare Cycle Menu.  My mom actually gave me this printout a long time ago.  As I was organizing my new recipe book cupboard this fell out.  Maybe God's way of saying you can do better.
It's not just the menu plan for 25 days it also includes recipes (scroll to the bottom - 4 pdf downloads alphabetically).  After visiting their website last week they also have printouts you can download of just snack ideas (look under the menu planning header)!  Hooray!

For those of you that have been reading this blog for awhile you know I like a good challenge.  So, I am challenging myself to follow this meal plan for the entire 5 week cycle.  Obviously Thanksgiving week we will have to take off but I'm hoping this helps relieve some of the pressure to put food on the table during the entire run of the holiday season.  Plus, with an actual plan in hand for groceries maybe also save a little more money to use elsewhere this time of year.

Day 1 Breakfast:  Whole Grain Banana Muffin; Applesauce and Milk.

The recipes are all fairly simple but I have found myself making changes to the recipes.  Mainly to add a few more seasonings.  The recipes are healthy in nature which I love but sometimes just a few ingredients (not neccessarily sugar or salt) can improve a basic recipe.

That said - let's just say my first day I almost quit the program due to some recipe mishaps.

Whole Grain Banana Muffins (recipe source: Montana CACFP - originally sourced from

1 Cup    Enriched All Purpose White Flour
1 Cup    Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Wheat Germ
pinch      Salt (I used 1/8 t)
3 t          Baking Powder
1            Egg, large
1/2 Cup Banana, ripe - mashed (I used 1 whole banana)
1/4 Cup Apple Juice (concentrate, thawed)
1 Cup    Milk (skim)
3 t         Butter (melted)
1/4 Cup Dried Fruit (optional - I opted out this time around)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine flours, wheat germ, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, juice concentrate, milk, butter & banana. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in fruit, being careful not to over mix. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes. Can spread with peanut butter or cream cheese.

They turned out looking fabulous!  In fact, I don't think I've ever had muffins put on such nice perfect tops.

However, when putting the grocery list together I only read Apple Juice (not concentrate).  My gut instinct told me to add in some sugar along with the apple juice I had but I didn't.  The muffins were a little on the non-sweet side.  After showing the boys how to dip and spread their applesauce on the muffins they ate them right down!

At snack time I made the Taco Chex Mix.  Again, should have gone with my gut instinct.  I know that my homemade taco seasoning has more punch than the store bought variety.  I was going to reduce the amount of taco seasoning but didn't.  It was a very SPICY snack.  Grant is my guy who doesn't like things overly spicy and yet he ate the Chex Mix and loved it (and I had my tongue burning) so who knows.

The best part of the whole week has been ALL of my meals and snacks have been pre-planned and I have all the ingredients needed and on hand.  Having a plan helps me have more time to accomplish other things throughout the day.  The boys love the variety and I love knowing they are getting their dietary requirements met. 

Without the plan on Monday we probably would have resorted to PB&J sandwiches and carrot sticks since I spent 2 hours in the doctor's office that morning.  The banister attacked me on Sunday night and gave me a nasty splinter deep under the nail on my right index finger - bleah!  There was no way I was getting it out and I couldn't take the pain on Monday so off the doctor for some numbing action.  It's amazing how much you take things for granted until you lose them.  Who knew how much you use an index finger?  Meal prep with a numb index finger added a whole new challenge.  Typing was also a problem on Monday and Tuesday (finally got full feeling back Tuesday afternoon - just in time to finish decorating cake and cookies).

Even if you don't want to follow the complete menu plan if you're looking for some easy recipes and snack ideas the links above to the Montana CACFP have some really great things.  They even have guides to help you build your own menu plans.

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