Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quick & Crunchy Ramen Stir-Fry

I had heard of people using Ramen noodles in their stir fry before. Occasionally, I've had a pack of Ramen laying around that I don't know what to do with. has tons of cabbage salad recipes... but I'm not really into cabbage. We do like stir-fry though (though the kids dont) My husband and I like going to a make-your-own stir-fry place called Mongo's Grill in St. Cloud, MN when we are there - its wonderful (and like $20+ for just us two). If your in the Twin Cities area and like traditional Asian food, try Kahn's Mongolian Grill - that place is yummy too... But in our small town there is nothing like that for at least an hour drive. So this is what I made. Its super fast, cheap and yummy! I'm sure there are similar recipes to this, but this is my own creation. I call it...

Quick & Crunchy Ramen Stir-Fry

Prep: 5 seconds. Cooking time: maybe 10 min.

Using some of the dry noodles in the finished stir-fry adds an almost nutty taste to this quick stir-fry. You can use what veggies/meat you have on hand, of course, but the frozen stuff is what makes this quick to make.
  • pre-cooked garlic-flavored chicken, in chunks, frozen
    ( I make up my own batches of this stuff)
  • frozen stir-fry veggies
  • Ramen noodles, oriental flavor
  • 1-2 T. olive oil (or other oil)
  • up to 1 cup water
I used a non-stick skillet for my stir fry. You aren't supposed to pre-heat those pans with nothing in them, but obviously a stir-fry needs a hot pan before you add food. So this is what I did (and saved myself some dishes):

Heat pan to almost full heat, immediately add about 1/2 cup water.
Add most of package of ramen noodles, reserving about 2-4 Tablespoons of dry noodles.
Add handful of frozen chicken.
Add some of seasoning packet.

(I made a half-batch today so please double whatever you see in the picture to match the recipe)

Let noodles cook and chicken thaw in water as the pan heats up.

When the water is mostly gone and noodles are fairly cooked(about 2-3 min) and pre-cooked chicken warmed though, add 1 "turn" of olive oil and bag of frozen stir-fry veggies, add the rest of Ramen seasoning packet. Stir to coat.

Allow to cook for about 2 minutes without stirring(I have a hard time with this, lol). Give a good stir and allow to cook another 2 minutes or so. Add some more water if pan is drying out before desired cooking is acheived.

Crumble remaining noodles into stir fry pan, stir to coat and pour into dish.
Just for fun (and to save scrubbing the pan) Deglaze pan with water to get all the yummyness out of the pan and pour over your stirfry. Make sure you do your best Julia Child impression when you say "And now we will deglaze the pan..."

Serve to hard -working hungry husband and then politely demand a few bites of this yummy stir-fry!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Box-tops/ School fundraiser organizer boxes

I know this is at the very end of the school year, but maybe this will make a fun summer project to keep the kids busy…

IMG_1024This would be a fun gift kids could make for their grandparents to support their school, too… just an idea.
I am posting a formal set of instructions on how to make the label organizers, enjoy! (My original post is here)
I used to keep various Campbell’s labels, Box Tops, poptabs, etc. in Ziploc sandwich bags in a shallow basket above my microwave. Although it worked well, it wasted space and I needed something that I could just pop the item in and not have to use both hands – and I needed it in a place the kids could help out with. This was my solution…
Note: I really expanded on the methods to make this adaptable to whatever people have on hand and make this an easy project.
Depending on where you want to put your organizer boxes and what you plan to put in them (like the milk tops are bulky, for example), and how often you want to have to empty them, you may choose a different sized box or choose to place dividers in the boxes. I have 2 full boxes (pop tabs and milk tops) and 2 with a divider in them that open on both ends (Campbell’s/BTFE and generic UPCs (2 brands)). I used generic corn bread boxes (about the size of Jiffy mixes) If you don't think using a shallow drawer like I did will work for you, consider this:
  • Standing up the boxes for deeper drawers (such as bread drawers) and use noodle boxes (bonus -you could leave the window uncovered to see how full it is!) or mac n' cheese boxes.
  • lining them up on a shelf near your kitchen, like books. "Helper" boxes might work well for this or larger noodle boxes.
Wherever you pick to store them, try to make them accessible to the kids, so they can help out. My kids never have complained about dropping them into the boxes!
I will give instructions for using a shallow drawer (3.5 inches), but adapt these for whatever application you choose to use.

Here are the instructions:
  1. Make a list of collectable items. For my area it is these items. If you aren’t sure what to collect, contact your local elementary school to find out what they collect.
    • Pop tabs for McD’s
    • Campbell's UPCs, etc
    • Box Tops for Education
    • Kemps milk lids
    • Our Family generic line UPCs
    • Food Club/Top Care/Full Circle/Paws/Top Crest generic line UPCs (from Cash Wise- UPC starts w/ 368)
    • Econo Foods receipts (I tuck these between the box and drawer front)
      ...I also collect Cash Wise general rental receipts, Land of Lakes milk tops, Coke Rewards (I redeem these on the computer right away for myself, but these can be collected by schools as well) and a few others but these don't have "homes" in the boxes because I rarely have them.
  2. Evaluate how much room you need for each of these items to be able to empty the boxes only a few times a year, ideally, based on your particular consumption.
  3. Measure how wide and tall your drawer is. Figure out how many divisions you need and bring your ruler and notepad with measurements along with you to the grocery store. Have fun measuring for the ideal box. Be sure to pick sturdy, non-crushed/damaged boxes. In addition to the types mentioned above, consider pop tart, cheese, animal cracker or Breton cracker boxes or even foil/plastic wrap type boxes (but these may not take advantage of the height of your drawer as well, and you would have to remove or tape over the sharp edge).

    label test fit
  4. Before starting, check the fit in your drawer to make sure they will fit correctly! Carefully open boxes and remove contents. Either make the contents or copy/scan/photograph the instructions and label the packages before starting!
  5. label what you needGather a glue stick (or other dry-type adhesive), scissors, duct or other tape, sharp craft knife and paper to cover your boxes with to make them all pretty.
  6. Cut rectangles out on the tops of the boxes (I used about .25 inch by 2 inches on most). You can just freehand it or completely open and flatten the b ox, measure and cut with craft knife. For the two without dividers, I simply held the open end shut for stability and cut out the rectangle. You will have to open the box completely to glue in the dividers, though, if you’re going to need to divide boxes.label cut slot
  7. You may want to re-enforce the openings you just cut with duct tape or other tape and repeat cutting a hole in that as well.
  8. Reassemble boxes if necessary.
  9. Now pick your paper you want to cover the boxes with. I chose to cover the boxes to compliment my decor. You could cover your boxes with scrapbook paper, newspaper, gift-wrap, kids' drawings, or even wallpaper or fabric. Cardstock-thickness paper might be a little hard to work with, though. Also, if your covering is thin or light-colored, you may want to completely open your box and cover the "inside" and re-assemble it inside-out.
  10. label glue paperApply glue to the top of the box with the cutouts on it. (if you are using a flattened box, do one section at a time, allowing for the folds.) Firmly press box onto the center of the wrong side of paper. Continue "wrapping" the box by gluing one side at a time label top tab detailand putting the seam on the bottom. Important! Neatly cover small side tabs on the ends of the box that will be on topIMG_0851 when the box is in place. By having those on the outside instead of the larger flaps, you will have a neater presentation when they are all lined up in your drawer. Carefully re-cut holes and cut apart flaps, and re-assemble box if necessary.
  11. IMG_0854I decided to put some nicer paper on the tops of my boxes. To do this, I used a tiny bit of glue on backside of the paper(just to hold it in place) and adhered it to the top of the box. Then, I used a pencil and let the tip of the pencil trace the outline of the slot on the inside of the box. I removed the decorative top and cut out the pencil shape on the wrong side of the decorative paper and re-adhered it to the top of the box, lining up the slots.


  12. To hold the ends closed, you can simply wrap the sides of the box with a rubber band, or paperclip the boxes together (ignoring my flap tip above). I got a little fancy and used 2 brads and a baby hair band to hold them shut the first time I made these. You could also try velcro.
  13. Try lining them up in your drawer! You may find they want to fall over. There are many ways to remedy this. You can try:
    • Putting some sort of weight in the bottoms, such as a few small stones or marbles
    • Lining the front and/or bottom of the drawer with a strip of magnet or velcro and doing the same with the boxes (or be cheap and cut up all those excess business card magnets on your fridge and use those instead)
    • Or do what I did and use an old tension curtain rod (or string and 2 small adhesive hooks) in front of the boxes to keep them up against the drawer front.
    • Of course you could tape them as well but that may gunk up your drawer.
  14. Label the boxes by each slot, adhering a picture of what goes in there if need be and let the kids fill them up. Enjoy harnessing the clutter and doing a good deed for your school!
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handmade projects

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seed Taping - how I did it

First things first, I'm going to appologize for my crappy picture placing. Still haven't figured out how people get them so nice on here!

This is a fun project. As I was doing it I was thinking of the original linked post I shared with you with that cute little girl helping out with it. Then I was thinking (because our community garden plots are close to a senior living complex here) that this would be a great project for seniors at a retirement home or something (if you can put together a puzzle, you can probably do this). I'm really not crazy about planting seeds in the garden. Your fingers get dirty, then you try to reach in those little packets, sometimes they spill. Sometimes its windy, and then its so hard to get the spacing right and get them where you want them in the trench, esp. the little guys, like carrots. (And of course, I always forget to thin them!). So seed taping is practical and convenient and I plan to never do my seeding "in the trenches" again! I'm even going to do my corn this way, lol
So here is what I did:

First, I got these things out:
  • -yardstick
  • -plate
  • -2 paintbrushes (I used a waterbrush for one, the other one is for the "glue")
  • -roll of single-ply, textured TP (but this is preference)
  • -small rubber band or hair band
  • -pen
  • -small bowl (custard dish or empty yogurt/pudding cup?)
  • -2 T of flour
  • -glass of water
  • -seeds
  • - (optional) Medicine dropper or clean condiment/travel bottle with pointed tip or even a pastry bag?
Then I sat comfortably at my chair and scooted another chair back up to me (to hang the finished tapes to dry on)

I wrapped my rubber band around the roll of TP (needs to be snug) like this.

Then the rubber band tore the paper down the middle as I unwound one side, pulling it gently towards the rubber band.
Rather than moving the rubber band I left it and had this narrow pile of streamers when I was done. Haven't thought of a use for it.... Maybe you could TP your bonsai tree? Teach your pet hamster to be domesticated? Who knows.

Since my garden is 12 feet wide I made my strips 3 feet long (made sense with the yardstick, lol)

Mix a roux of flour and water to a mustard-like consistency

Carrots: Every 2 inches I placed a small dot of flour/water mixture about a 1/3rd from the top edge of the torn TP (for closer-spaced seeds, it was easier just to run a bead of the glue).

Then I used my waterbrush (or use a wet paintbrush tip or even a chopstick or something) and dabbed a seed off my plate, and stuck it on the glob of gew. I got good at getting 3 or so seeds on the brush and rotating the brush so only one would stick to each blob, saving me some time)
Then I folded over the TP and smushed each blob into the top layer. I labeled the strip and then took my water brush and ran it along the top open edge of the strip to seal it a little better.


For larger seeds, like peas and corn: after I placed them on the "glue" dots, I dotted the tops of the seeds with more of the glue mixture before folding. From my experience, I'd recommend doubling up the paper on those as well.

Since I'm doing a modified square-foot method of gardening, I've allocated about 1 foot all along the front of my raised bed for carrots and will place about 3-4 rows of these strips in it and cover them. Depending on the plant, you may want to adjust the spacing of your seeds a little bigger to accommodate a alternating grid of seeds in your space.

Plant at the regular recommended depth.


This worked really well for me. It may not be a huge time saver as much as a convenience. The day of planting, I bound like strips together with those skinny strips left over and placed the bundles in a shoebox. It was windy the day I planted and all I had to worry about were the long strips, not individual carrot seeds blowing everywhere but where I wanted them. I didn't have to worry about spacing, loosing seeds, or anything. Just had to worry how deep to plant the strip. IN FACT I found another bonus of this method - I had "planted" some seeds in the wrong spot. With the regular method, you'd be stuck with them there, but since I hadn't watered my garden yet, I could gently pull up the strip and put it in another place! Yep, I'm doing this every year for now on!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm lovin!

Ok, I know I sound like an infomercial, but this website I found is awesome! I revised my garden plan from the previous post and added a few other plants that the kids and hubby wanted... and a sunflower "house"... Anyway, I came across this part of the website which is really helpful because I hate trying to keep all the seed packet planting info straight! Now if only my garden would dry out I could start planting!

Vegetable Planting Guide - Graphic

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Bean - PoleDelMay 15
CantaloupeDelMay 15
CarrotDelApril 15
CauliflowerDelApril 17May 15
CeleryDelMarch 16May 15
CornDelMay 15
CucumberDelMay 15
EggplantDelMarch 20May 15
GourdDelApril 24May 15
Leaf LettuceDelApril 5
LeekDelMarch 26
OnionDelFebruary 24March 16
PeaDelMarch 16
PepperDelMarch 13May 25
PotatoDelApril 24
PumpkinDelApril 24May 15
Summer SquashDelApril 24May 15
TomatoDelMarch 20May 15
WatermelonDelMay 25
RhubarbDelMarch 20May 15
BroccoliDelApril 5May 15
Start Indoors Start Indoors
Start Outdoors Start or Transplant Outdoors