The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, III

This week, I want to talk grilled cheese. Slapping cheese onto bread and frying it all up is a really old idea. Most people have heard of it and most lactose-tolerant people have eaten it.


All those reasons do not make it any less of a good idea, especially when dinner time has rolled around and you’re out of time. In fact, I consider my usual pairing of it with tomato soup to bring the meal up to restaurant-by-the-road standards.

Two things completely save my bacon any time as a dinner-making parent: adding just a little something to traditional recipes, and ensuring that I have staples of most common meals on hand. In the case of grilled cheese sandwiches, the former means a few tweaks and the latter means stocking bread and cheese.

In terms of ‘adding a little something,’ here are my two secrets:

For the sandwiches, I spread butter on the inside and a little mustard on one half.


In the soup, I mix Italian diced tomatoes with canned tomato soup instead of the recommended can of milk or water.


As I said, on-hand stock of bread and cheese is a must for me. I highly recommend purchasing cheese and freezing it in grated form. Freezing works better if it’s a pre-grated mix, though I know that can be more expensive. I use my frozen grated cheese for sandwiches, soups, Mexican dishes, and snacks. It’s a huge time-saver and money-saver.


We cut all the sandwiches in half after they’re done and use the soup for dipping. My kids really don’t eat the soup, but I’m totally okay with that. I serve another veggie on the side and they’ve got their vitamins.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup



Bread: Enough slices to make a sandwich or more for each person eating
Grated cheddar cheese (or, your family favorite as a substitute)

Tomato Soup

1 Can tomato soup. This works well for about 4 people.
1 Can Italian diced tomatoes OR 1 Can diced tomatoes and Italian seasoning


Griddle or fry pan
Small soup pot
Can opener


  1. Follow directions for warming the tomato soup printed on the can, but replace the milk or water with the can of diced tomatoes.
  2. Heat the griddle or fry pan.
  3. Put a small amount of butter on the pan surface, or spread it on the outsides of the bread slices.
  4. Spread some butter on the inside of one slice of bread. Add some mustard to the butter-spread slice, to taste.
  5. Set one slice of bread on the butter on the griddle with the mustard side up. Top with a handful of grated cheese, then top both with another slice of bread.
    Repeat steps 3-5 for the number of sandwiches you wish to make.
  6. Once the cheese inside has melted and the side of the sandwich on the griddle is lightly browned, use the spatula to flip the sandwich. Turn every sandwich in this manner.
  7. After both sides are evenly browned, remove the sandwiches.
  8. Cut in half and serve with tomato soup.


As I said earlier, this recipe is perfect for simple tweaks or substitutions to mix things up. We’ve done cheddar with mozzarella at our wildest, because the kids can be picky eaters.

I like that this is a cheap meal, a quick meal, and an easy meal that even the kids can make on their own.


Check out the other recipes I’ve listed: German Pancakes and French Toast

We Aim to Please

I am a mother of four boys. And I have a husband.

I really like boys. They’re honest, scientific, obvious, succinct, and often more fun.

Still; I hadn’t realized, when the pregnancies kept turning out to be male, how much the smell of urine would come to dominate my bathrooms.


Cognitive Creation


Dr. Baerkaler cleared his throat professionally. “I said,” he repeated slowly, “That is a common side effect when you’ve lost some parts of your brain.”

I felt dizzy, and tired. I felt like I’d just given birth, for Pete’s sake. The doctor wasn’t making much sense. I’d lost some parts of my brain?

I looked down at the snoozing head of my newborn son. “Could you explain what you just said in more detail?” I managed. Surely, this would have been a chapter in that What to Expect book.

The doctor settled onto a guest chair and assumed his cheerful, patient, bedside manner tone. “You’ve just given birth,” He began. He met my gaze, so I nodded. Smiling, he went on, “It’s a major strain on the mother’s body to make and deliver a healthy baby.” Dr. Baerkaler paused, obviously so that I could process such a long sentence. I nodded again.

“As the baby develops inside of you, your nervous systems -pieces of your processing abilities and memory storing capacities- are used up by this process.” He looked at me cheerfully, despite my now-blank face.

“What?!” I managed, again.

Searching the ceiling briefly for inspiration, he looked back at me and slowly summarized, “You lose normal brain functions and forget things when your body is making a baby.”

I blinked. “Seriously?”

“Why, yes,” Dr. Baerkaler answered immediately. He sounded surprised that I wouldn’t know this. “And, now that you’ve delivered, a sizeable amount of functionality is gone.” He laughed a bit, in commiseration. “Surely, you’ve noticed it’s been draining out, so to speak, over the last eight months.”

I shook my head gently, in shock. “No, I hadn’t.” I said, nearly crying.

“Oh,” he supplied. “I suppose that would make sense, too.” He stood, and offered a slight, inadequately comforting squeeze to my shoulder. Bringing his medical tablet to his chest, he turned to leave.

“Is it permanent?” I timidly asked his back.

Pausing at the beige hanging curtain, he looked over his shoulder at me. I felt small, helpless, and dumb; a disheveled, ignorant mother swaddled untidily amidst thin hospital blankets.

Perhaps sensing my distress, Dr. Baerkaler smiled a reassuring doctor smile.

“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “You won’t be needing your brain for a while anyway.”

HTC Desire 20151206 008

Originally posted at

The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, II


If you tuned in last week, you may be wondering why I’m introducing another breakfast item for dinner. Short answer: Thursday night I’m on my own after an entire evening of three children’s sports practices and games …and breakfast just works.

I suppose that wasn’t a very short answer.

The point is that I don’t care, because food. And this food is another short-notice, quick-to-make classic. In my childhood home we called these German Pancakes. Besides Tuna on Toast, Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches, and Macaroni and Cheese with Hot Dogs; our go-to on a late night were these puppies -er, pancakes.

German Pancakes


1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar, or more according to preference
Dash of vanilla extract, if desired

Powdered sugar for topping


Blender or mixer
Mixing bowl, if not using a blender
9×13 pan


  1. Set the oven to 425º. Place the 4 Tbsp butter in the 9×13 pan and set the pan in the heating oven.
  2. Meanwhile, place all other ingredients (except the powdered sugar) in the blender. Run the blender on whatever setting works to thoroughly mix everything.
  3. Remove the pan from the oven once the butter is all melted.
  4. Pour the egg mixture from the blender into the melted butter in the pan.
  5. Quickly return the pan to the oven.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pancakes are puffy and the edges are lightly-browned.

    This picture is after it’s deflated and cooled.
  7. Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on individual pieces. Other toppings include syrup, jam, and fruit.

I found a few recipes for these online, but this is pretty much the version our family makes. This may, in fact, be the first time our version has been officially typed.

Maybe your family makes them. Maybe you know them as Pop-up Pancakes or Dutch Baby Pancake or even German Pfannkuchen. Any way you say it; they’re quick, easy, cheap, and tasty.

Thank Heaven for Other Moms

After a morning of dragging, begging, threatening, feeding, packing, and shoeing (and shooing), I thank heaven for other moms.

My slowest child FINALLY made it out the door to school carpool this morning; a plush toy under each arm, a backpack upon his back, and dress up boots on his feet. My friend who drives them said, “Good morning, bears. Are you going to school today?”


After a day of cleaning (and cleaning!), budgeting, planning, calling, exercising, showering, dressing, and napping (though, not me), I thank heaven for other moms.

My preschooler successfully put his clothes away and ‘helped’ me wash dishes and tailed me around the house and asked me every hour, “Can I play?” I texted his friend’s mother. She wrote back: Of course! Send him right over!


After an evening of schooling, homeworking, martial artsing, erranding, and driving driving driving, I thank heaven for other moms.

Four children manned novelty shopping carts around a grocery store in a frenzy not unlike a demolition derby. As I collected various bruised boys beneath each arm and wrestled my way through the checkout line, an older woman touched my shoulder and smiled. “You’re doing a great job, Mom.”