A Thanksgiving Staple

My first time hosting Thanksgiving was about 10 years ago.  My parents were going to be out of town but I still wanted to get my siblings together and celebrate with all the fixings.  This was back when my idea of making dinner involved taking a frozen pizza out of it’s packaging or dumping a can of cream-of-something soup over some chicken breasts so a full on Thanksgiving dinner may have been overreaching.  In fact, after serving a frozen green bean casserole (my mom could have told me she used canned green beans and not frozen!!) and starting the kitchen on fire making this recipe, I’m surprised my family ever let me host another holiday.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten much better in the kitchen.  But every time I make this dish I have a little chuckle at myself because really…who starts their kitchen on fire making jello?!? (This girl.)  And I make this dish almost every year (unless my sister makes it) because it’s not Thanksgiving without my Grandma’s cranberry/jello salad.  
Here’s what you need:
(And a tip:  remove the boiling water from the heat source before you add your jello.  Trust me.)
1 cup cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 small package raspberry jello 
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup seedless red grapes (halved) 
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped) – optional
Here’s what you are going to do:
– Put cranberries in food processor until well chopped.  Mix with 1 cup sugar.  Set aside.
– Prepare jello according to package directions substituting pineapple juice for cold water.
– Add crushed pineapple, grapes, walnuts.
– Let sit overnight. (I’ve tried to make this the morning of and it just NEVER sets.)
* * * *
One bag of cranberries make a double batch so I ALWAYS just plan on doubling it.  I’m never going to find a use for a half bag of cranberries and it leaves enough for breakfast – my sister and I often just plop the bowl down with spoons.

Homemade Vapor Rub

One of my childhood memories is getting out of a really hot shower and having my mom rub Vicks all over my chest before wrapping a big fluffy towel around my middle and sticking me in footie pajamas straight from the dryer. I don’t remember how sick I was, or how old I was, but I remember feeling loved, cherished, and less miserable.

And up until recently, my recipe for a nasty cough, a case of the sniffles, or just a general ugh was a hot shower, that blue jar, and pajamas. But then I started learning about essential oils and how easy it was to use them. And more importantly how I could make my own vapor rub without petroleum products. I made my first batch following this recipe in February and have since made it a few more times tweaking it toward our own family “tastes”.

With cold and flu season just around the corner, I knew it was time to make some more and I posted a very messy picture of my kitchen on instagram. A few of my friends had questions, so I thought I’d share my recipe here.

You’ll need:

A double boiler or (like me) a glass pyrex in a larger pan
1/2 cup {organic} sweet almond oil oil (coconut oil gives it a thicker consistency in the tin but melts down on application so we use that if I don’t have almond oil)
2 Tablespoons Beeswax (either grate some up or use pastilles)
Essential oils (eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lavender)
Containers (I use these tins in either the 2oz or 4oz size and lip balm tubes for baby foot applications but a jelly jar would work great)

Directions

Melt your beeswax and oil in the double boiler.
Remove from heat.

Add essential oils:

Full strength:
Add 25 drops eucalyptus
Add 20 drops peppermint
Add 10 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Baby strength:
Add 10 drops eucalyptus
Add 5 drops peppermint
Add 5 drops rosemary
Add 10 drops lavender

Pour into containers, let set. Cover. Store in a cool, dry place. Rub on chest or feet when necessary.

Another perk: I feel a lot less greasy the next morning than when I used the store bought stuff.

As for which oils I use: As you can see I have both Young Living and Mountain Rose Herbs bottles on my {messy} counter. I started ordering from Young Living a little over a year ago and I’m quite happy with them but I’m also happy with Mountain Rose Herbs – I get my beeswax and a few of my oils from them in addition to containers. I have some friends who are huge fans of DoTerra and while I haven’t tried them, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid of recommending them. I’m a little skittish of purchasing essential oils off the shelf at a grocery store, but if you have a brand that you use and trust, I say give it a try.

**I am not a doctor and am not qualified to treat illness or prescribe medications. Please see your doctor for any medical questions.**

How to Treat a Summer Cold

I hate summer colds.

The weather is perfect and I’m walking around with a head full of snot and a nasty cough. Even worse is now my son has it too! So here’s what we are doing to make sure that we’ll be down and out for the shortest amount of time possible.

Rest. Yesterday, I sorted through my bookcases pulling a few books three boxes to donate. Today, we are curling up with movies and books and coloring books and crayons. Anything to keep it low key.

Neti pot. The first time someone told me to try one, I scoffed. The second time, I sneered. The third, I just out and out said how disgusting I thought it would be. And then I ended up with the most horrendous sinus infection of all time and was willing to try anything. A little distilled water heated to body temperature (test it on your wrist like you would a bottle), a pre-mixed packet, and it’s like magic. Instantly feeling a little a better. I usually do this two times a day (once in the morning and once before bed).

Thieves – I like to use it for a sore throat (I just put a drop on my tongue) and diffusing at night really seems to help the duration of the cold. I’m not a doctor and I’m not making any medical claims, I just really like the stuff.

Homemade Vapor Rub – I’ve been the biggest fan of Vick’s VapoRub ever since I was a little kid. Nothing like getting out of a steamy shower to have your mom rub in on your chest and wrapping you up in a fluffy towel. Since we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of petroleum products we use as a family, I was so glad to find this alternative. This recipe smells amazing, helps me breathe, and because it is made with coconut oil and beeswax it doesn’t feel as greasy as Vicks.

Massage oil – I don’t think there is anything worse than sinus pressure and since my colds almost always turn into sinus infections, I like to try and help clear them as much as possible. I’ve made a massage oil to rub around my nose, ears, and over my cheekbones for relief.

I put 10 ml carrier oil (v-6, olive oil, almond oil) in a glass jar and add:
-2 drops eucalyptus
-2 drops peppermint
-3 drops rosemary
-1 drop tea tree

Grilled cheese – Because it just is good.

How do you help treat a cold?

DIY Laundry

I’ve got two laundry DIY’s to share with you. A super, easy laundry soap and so your dryer doesn’t feel left out – felted dryer balls.

You can search the internet and find hundreds (if not thousands) of laundry detergent recipes. I’ve tried a few different powdered versions, but have ultimately settled on the following recipe as what works best for us.

1 – 5.5oz bar Fels Naptha
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda (NOT baking soda)

I grate the Fels Naptha using a cheese grater and that has worked for me. I know some people like to grate it and then pulse it a few times in the food processor to make sure they get it nice and fine so it breaks down faster in the wash.

Mix all the ingredients really well in your chosen container.

I add two tablespoons directly to the drum (not in the detergent space) of my front loading washer and then load my clothes. I’ve found it’s not as sudsy as many commercial detergents, but works just as well.

A few other laundry hints:
For stains around the collar, I make a paste of water and borax and scrub lightly with an old toothbrush, they come right out. For dirty knees, food stains, etc (I have kids), I wet my bar of Fels Naptha and lightly rub it over the stain. Super quick and easy and I don’t need to buy a special stain remover.

Last fall, I went out and bought some yarn to make felted slippers. After a few months, I realized I wasn’t all that interested in making the slippers but I still had the yarn so I decided to make dryer balls with them. Dryer balls help cut down on dry time and also limit your need for fabric softener/dryer sheets. I add few drops of lavender essential oil to them once a week (about every 15 washes) and our laundry comes out beautifully and smells great. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

-yarn for felting (100% wool is always a good choice for this. You’ll want to stay away from anything labeled washable or superwash)
-scissors
-a yarn needle or crochet hook
-an old pair of nylons

First, you’ll want to wrap your yarn around your fingers 10 or so times like this:

Then you’ll want remove the yarn from your fingers and wrap it around the middle:

Once you’ve done that, you’ll just keep wrapping the yarn around until it’s about the size of a baseball. Then you’ll want to take the tail, and tuck it in. I found the easiest way to do that is either tuck it through a few layers using either a yarn needle or crochet hook and then cut off any extra.

After you’ve made your ball, you’ll want to push it down into the toe of a cut off nylon leg. You can then either knot it off or tie it using some acrylic yarn (not the wool you’ve used, or that will felt and you won’t be able to get it untied). I do about five or six balls per nylon.

After you have them all knotted, you’ll want to wash them in hot water with a cold rinse cycle and then dry them at the hottest setting. (I make them on the days I wash towels since I’m already doing multiple loads in those temperatures). I usually run them through the wash/dryer twice before untying them, cutting them out of the nylons.

When you’re done they’ll look like this:

You’ll be able to use them over and over again and they’ll just continue to get more and more felted.

Happy laundry day!

Day 30:: Not Tot’s Chili

My dad’s chili is legendary.  It really truly is – he’s won cook-offs and everything. This recipe is not for my dad’s chili (because he doesn’t write one down) But now that I live 2-1/2 hours away, I had to learn how to make my own.

 

The Recipe

1 lb ground pork sausage (I either use spicy or mild, depending on my audience)
1 lb ground beef
8-12 cloves garlic minced (I like garlic, we use closer to that 12 number)
2 chopped onions
2 chopped green peppers
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded if you’re a wimp like me)
2 T chili powder (don’t be shy, heap it in there)
2 T brown sugar (packed in tight)
1 T ground cumin
3 T tomato paste (a little more than a half a little can)
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
2 bay leaves
2 (28oz) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
2 (15oz) cans dark kidney beans, drained

1- Heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add in the ground sausage (remove casings if necessary) and beef and set them to browning for a minute or two.
2- Add in the garlic, onions, and peppers. Let that cook until the meat is well browned and the peppers/onions are soft. Stir it all up.
3- Add everything from the chili powder-bay leaves and cook for a minute or two getting it all well and stirred in.
4- Add the tomatoes (the best way I’ve found to coarsely chop those bad boys is make your three year old wash his hands REALLY well and then set him to town squashing) and beans.
5- Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes before serving. Remove bay leaves (or if you are like us and a bay leaf in your dish means you doing dishes – add them to the Misters bowl) and serve with grated cheese, saltines, and/or sour cream.

Leftovers are AWESOME.

And I know some people put noodles in their chili but that just makes it goulash, so I don’t. If you’re one of those weirdo’s you can certainly do that with this recipe, just don’t tell me about it.

The Discussion

What is your favorite thing to have for dinner? (This one does double duty as research!!)

The Daily Tip

Family dinners are a great time to practice gratitude and thankfulness. In our family, we have a prayer board and each week we offer up a different prayer of thanksgiving. If you are interested in doing this, all you need is a google search to get some suggestions. If prayer isn’t something you’re comfortable with, just go around the table and share some daily blessings.

Day 20:: Ranch-Pesto Chicken

Easy and good. The chicken absolutely falls apart after a day in the crockpot. I serve it up over roasted spaghetti squash and it’s my favorite dinner. EVER.

The Recipe

– 1 lb chicken breast
– 1 T ranch dressing mix
– 6 oz jarred pesto (or homemade)

1. Add chicken, ranch dressing and pesto to crockpot.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

The Discussion

Should the school principal be allowed to randomly search lockers/backpacks?

The Daily Tip

I’ve recently started collecting cookbooks but not knowing where to begin, I asked everyone I knew for good ideas. Here are some of my favorites {and my favorite recipe}:

Stop and Smell the Rosemary {Oregano Shrimp}

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier {Whiskey Glazed Carrots}

Time for Dinner {Creamy Chicken with Shallots}

Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead & Freeze Cookbook {Bacon & Spinach Quiche}

If you’re a person strapped for time, but want healthy and economical meals, I can’t recommend NYM’s freezer cookbook enough. Lots and lots of good things and brilliant meal plan/shopping list help.

Day 19:: French Toast Casserole

I’m a breakfast lover. Sweet, savory – I don’t discriminate. But this sweet french toast casserole is an absolute favorite. I love to make it up the night before and serve to guests (I look so talented in a kitchen) but I’ve certainly been known to whip it up the morning of just for a family treat. Topped with melty butter and warm maple syrup, it’s an absolutely decadent way to enjoy morning.

The Recipe

Butter, For Greasing
1 loaf Crusty French Bread
8 whole Eggs
2 1/2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

Topping

1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 stick Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
Warm Syrup, For Serving
1 cup fresh berries (raspberries are my favorite), For Serving

To do:

-For the French toast: Grease the baking pan with butter. Tear the bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store in the fridge until needed (overnight preferably). Or you can make it and bake it right away—delicious no matter what!

-For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and some nutmeg in a separate bowl. Stir together using a fork. Add the butter and with a pastry cutter, and mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

-When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture or for 1 hour-plus or more for a firmer, crisper texture (my favorite).

Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with warm pancake syrup and sprinkle with berries.

Recipe found adapted from The Pioneer Woman

The Discussion

If you had to spend all weekend (both day and night) in any store – which store would it be?

The Daily Tip

When I really started to get into cooking, I realized just how many great blogs out there have to do with food and I’ve definitely cultivated a few favorites (this recipe is from one of them) and I thought I would share them with you. I’m always looking for new food blog recommendations, so please don’t hesitate to share yours with me as well.

The Pioneer Woman
Iowa Girl Eats
A Thought for Food
Smitten Kitchen
Life as Mom (recent find, but oh, how I love her)

Day 18:: Shrimp & Black Bean “Salad”

Shrimp is quick, full of lean protein, and yummy. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to throw this together (minus the cilantro – if anyone has tips on keeping cilantro good when you get it home from the store, I’m all ears – but that’s a two second stop at the grocery store) and my kids love it mixed up with rice so I can stretch it even further.

The Recipe

-1 Tbsp chili powder
-1/2 tsp garlic salt
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking spray
-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, divided (optional-if I have one, I use it – if I don’t , it’s not the end of the world)
-1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
-3/4 cup bottled salsa
-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

To do:
-Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
-Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp; toss to coat.
-Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice.
-Remove shrimp from pan. Add corn to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in salsa, cilantro, and beans; cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Serve shrimp over bean mixture.

Recipe modified from Cooking Light

The Discussion

Name an imaginary creature or extinct animal you would bring to life if you could.

The Daily Tip

Music is one of my favorite ways to set the mood in our house and dinner time is no exception. Because it can be a little crazy – the Mister just getting home from work, everyone wanting to talk at once, getting the food on on the table – I tend to lean toward more mellow and relaxed music. I know I’m a late adopter, but Pandora has been great for this – I use Mumford & Sons, City & Colour, Iron & Wine, or The Civil Wars as my “station” – if it gets too hectic, I do turn it off, simply because I tend to get “sound claustrophobic” but most of the time I find it helps mellow us out. And I just bought this speaker for the Mister – and I can’t imagine life without it (makes a great Christmas gift).

Day 17:: Chinese Chicken Salad

Back when the Mister and I first got together we ate out. A lot. Like every night for three months (which may have had something to do with the ridiculous twenty pound gain that happened after I met him) and Applebee’s was a favorite. Specifically this salad which is crazy tasty.

This make at home version is definitely not the exact same thing – but it has a similar taste and it’s quick to throw together – especially if you plan ahead. I often do the chopping and dressing making the night before and just leave it in the fridge until it’s time to make dinner the next day. Then I marinade the chicken, cook it up, add the chow mein noodles, and drizzle on the dressing. Yum.

The Recipe

-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-3 Tbsp soy sauce
-2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
-salt and pepper
-1 head Romaine lettuce, shredded
-4 cups shredded red cabbage
-2 cups snow peas
-1 cup shredded carrot (I use a box grater and love it)
-1/2 cup chow mein noodles
-1/4 cup sliced almonds

DRESSING:
-1/4 cup olive oil
-3 Tbsp honey
-2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (I use jarred, minced that I found natural food section because we use ginger often and it can be a pain to grate.)
-1 Tbsp soy sauce
-1 clove garlic minced

To do:

– Combine chicken breasts, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar in a ziplock bag and let marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade, and season with salt and paper. Then slice into small pieces

– While chicken is marinating, mix all the dressing ingredients together until combined. You will probably want to shake to mix again before serving, as it does tend to separate.

– Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until done. Remove and let rest.

– While chicken is cooking, toss together Romaine, cabbage, peas, carrots chow mein noodles and almonds until combined.

– Add chicken and toss with desire amount of dressing until combined.

Recipe modified from Gimme Some Oven

The Discussion

What do you think is the proper etiquette for cell phone usage – at home, with friends, at a restaurant, in other public places?

The Daily Tip

The Recipe Binder is certainly not a new idea and after all my talk of Paprika you’d think I didn’t have one. But I do. Last year I went through all the handwritten recipes in my box and organized them into a binder with page inserts. This keeps them “splatter free” when I’m using them. Eventually I’ll enter them all into Paprika, pack away a few treasures (the one for my Grandma’s cranberry salad), and toss the rest, but for now a 3 ring binder, removable double sided tape, and cardstock are one of my favorite cookbooks ever.

Day 16:: Ritz Casserole

Writing a blog is kind of like ruling your own little universe, you go away for a week but you can certainly make it seem like you weren’t gone at all through the magic of scheduling. I’m hoping to be caught up before November 1st kicks in, but as I said, I’m focusing on the things that are most important right now and that’s studying and playing and knitting like a crazy woman for my baby new nephew that I can’t wait to meet!

Speaking of babies: this is my go to bring-a-meal-to-a-new-mom casserole. It’s buttery and cheesy and and the best kind of comfort food. And it has broccoli – so it’s totally health food.

The Recipe

-1 lb. fresh broccoli broken in small pieces and steamed for 2 minutes.
-3 cups cooked chicken breasts – Break up in small pieces
-3 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese divided
-2 tubes Ritz Crackers
-1/2 stick melted butter
-1 tablespoon poppy seeds

SAUCE:
-1/3 cup Butter- melted
-1/4 cups Cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup COLD Water
-1/3 cup Chicken Broth
-1/4 tsp. Salt
-1/4 tsp Pepper
-2 Cups Milk
-1 1/2 cups of the above Cheddar Cheese

To do:

-In greased 13×9 pan, layer the broccoli and chicken, then set aside. In saucepan over medium heat you’ll make your sauce: combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk. Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with 1- 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

-Melt 1/2 stick of butter, and add the poppy seeds, and stir well. Crush Ritz crackers (not too small!) in a medium sized bowl and pour butter/poppy seed mixture over mixing gently. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot & bubbly.

Recipe modified from Get Off Your Butt and Bake

The Discussion

If you could speak an animal language for one day which animal would you choose?

The Daily Tip

I shocked the Mister last week when he saw the price tag of our organic, pastured chicken and I don’t blame him. It’s not cheap. But a Sunday dinner went into this casserole, chicken noodle soup, and was also used to make chicken stock so I stretched that money and felt good about the sustainable meat we’ve consumed. Also knowing that my kids quite often refuse to eat leftovers but will eat a “re-imagined” dish, cooking one main meat on Sunday and utilizing it throughout the week makes good use of our food dollars and my time in the kitchen.

Day 15:: Taco Tuesday {Round-Up}

Our family is a traditional beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese on a shell family. Having five Tuesdays in the month of October and having Taco Tuesday as a theme is bad planning on my part. I could, of course, stretch our horizons to something besides the traditional taco, but it’s the meal the Mister makes and I’m not quite ready to give up the night off from the kitchen. I thought the best way to solve this problem was to give you some variability without having to give me any – here’s a roundup of taco recipes I would try if I was the one in the kitchen on a Tuesday.

The Recipe(s)

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Taco Cup(cakes)

Grilled Chicken & Lime for Tacos

White Bean & Spinach Tacos

Kalua Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Fish Tacos

Crockpot Chicken Taco Bowls

The Discussion

Name one virtue and one limitation you have

The Daily Tip

With our kids at six and four, table manners are starting to be something we work on pretty consistently. One fun way that we incorporate “fancy” manners is to have a “fancy” dinner every once and awhile. The dinner itself doesn’t need to be anything special, but using the “good” fabric napkins, drinking water from wine glasses, and eating in the dining room all set the scene and make our kids feel special. And we aren’t above a little bribery challenge/reward…good behavior at a “fancy” meal at home has been known to lead to a “fancy” meal out.

Day 14:: Beans & Toast

Whenever I mention I’m going to make this, I get eyebrows. I’ve even had one friend ask me if I run a prison. And I guess I can see why – it certainly isn’t a five course meal – but that’s the appeal. It’s tasty and hearty and simple.

I also have no picture because I had an absolutely horrible weekend that involved me wallowing, making this for dinner, taking a Xanax stashed for just such days, and pulling the covers back up over my head. (Every one is okay, I’m healthy, just some stuff that happens from time to time). My family devoured it so I couldn’t even take a picture of cold leftovers for blog land. As sales pitches go, that should go further than any badly lighted iPhone picture I’d share anyway.

The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-a loaf of crusty bread (I use a french loaf)
-olive oil
-garlic
-a few sage leaves
-1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
-1 15-oz can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
-salt & pepper to taste

Here’s what to do:

For toast:
-preheat oven to 350°
-warm olive oil and a 2 minced cloves of garlic oil over low heat until fragrant
-brush over slices of toast
-toast until crusty and golden

For topping:
-heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add 2 cloves minced garlic and sage until garlic begins to brown
-add tomatoes, beans, salt & pepper and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.

Serve.

The Discussion

If you could take a vacation anywhere – where would you want to go? What would you like to do?

The Daily Tip

Making your own beans is extremely simple, very affordable, and limits the amount of BPA that you’d otherwise be subject to using canned beans. Here’s how I prepare a pot of beans:

1. Sort & rinse your beans making sure to remove any small stones or debris. 2. Soak your beans in water and a generous pinch of baking soda overnight. 3. Cover them with water (by a few inches) in a medium pan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute. 4. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for one hour.

Day 13:: Roasted Chicken

I love Sunday style dinners and a roast chicken is amazingly easy to do and it leaves options for great leftover meals. I say spend the extra money and buy an organic, pastured chicken and make stock to really stretch your dollar.


The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-Whole roasting chicken
-1 Bay leaf
-Lemon
-Olive oil or butter

Here’s what to do:

-Preheat the oven to 325°
-Rinse out the inside of the chicken (I know recent convention says not to do this, but I just have to) and then pat dry.
-Place 1/2 lemon and bay leaf inside the body cavity.
-Brush melted butter or olive oil over the chicken.
-Roast until meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 165°

Serve.

The Discussion

What is something we could do as a family to make the world a little better?

The Daily Tip

My husband is the one who introduced me to the concept of meat thermometer and I shake my head at how many years I went cooking without one. It’s a less than $10 purchase that keeps my pork from being overdone and my fears of salmonella at bay. Every well stocked kitchen needs one.

Day 12:: Frittata

If you’re looking for a mix and match recipe – this is good stuff. I’ve made it with sundried tomatoes and bacon, asparagus instead of spinach – just whatever I happen to have around. It isn’t the Mister’s favorite (he’s not a fan of any kind of “egg bake”) but the kids eat it up and I love that I have an easy 20 minute dinner that’s healthy and tasty.

The Recipe

Here’s what you need:

-1 medium onion (I used yellow because that’s what I had)
-minced garlic to taste (I used four cloves – my family likes garlic)
-2 Tablespoons butter
-1 package of mushrooms sliced (I used portabella)
-A couple heavy handfuls of baby spinach ripped/slice into pieces (I used 3/4 of a bag)
-8 eggs – beaten
-salt
-pepper
-shredded cheese (I used parmesan)

Here’s what to do:

In an oven safe skillet add butter, onion, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until onion is translucent – not browned.

While those are cooking, beat eggs in a medium bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When onions are translucent, add mushrooms and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Then add baby spinach and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.

Pour egg mixture over everything and stir until well mixed. Let sit until eggs are just about set.

Sprinkle cheese on top. Put rack on second highest setting and broil until cheese is melted and egg has finished cooking.

Serve.

The Discussion

What is the best part of being an adult? A kid?

The Daily Tip

I don’t know about you but my kiddos used to come home FAMISHED after school and ready to eat the whole house down but then they’d barely touch their dinner. To protect against this, I have a snack in the car at pick up time – usually a handful of crackers and a cheese stick or a little container of dried fruit with sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Then they aren’t so hungry when they get home and I can keep them from filling up on snacks before dinner. (And this is probably common sense to 90% of parents out there, but if you’re like me most of parenting is hand/forehead so I’m looking out for you too!!)

Day 11:: The Day When Your Plans Go to Hell

I started off so well. I had posts scheduled and planned and I loved that each day had it’s own little theme…Then the Mister got sick and the kiddos got sick and I had the weirdest random episode that had me on a combination of medicines that kept me awake but made me sleepy and crabby.

Add a giant recipe/cooking fail for today with no backup plan and we’ve had a couple of nights picking up food, making sandwiches, and just accepting that life isn’t ever going to go as planned which means I don’t have a meal made especially for this post. I DO however have a recipe for a great seafood dipping sauce that is a holiday staple in my husband’s family. (No pretty picture though) It’s especially wonderful with oysters or shrimp.

The Recipe

Calvary Sauce (two ways):

Version One:
Start with a high quality, ready-made cocktail sauce
Add miracle whip until rich pink color
Stir in fresh lemon juice

Version Two:
Start with ketchup, adding in a generous amount of horseradish
Add miracle whip
Fresh lemon juice

Note: I am not at all a fan of miracle whip or horseradish or even cocktail sauce but something about them all together is so good. I LOVE this dipping sauce. Don’t hesitate to play with the amounts to get it to your taste.

**I am not being compensated for my links to Silver Springs in anyway, but these are the products I use**

The Discussion

If you could invite anyone to dinner (alive or dead) who would you choose? What would you want to talk to them about?

The Daily Tip

When it comes to meal planning, I (obviously) don’t have it all figured out. But one thing that really does work for me is the planning notebook. It’s just a small little notebook that I can easily throw in my purse but in it: I have the list of foods to always buy organic, smart and sustainable fish choices for my area, as well as the week’s meal plan and the items I need to make those meals. I don’t ever write out a full grocery list because I’m lazy and I like to pick up things (like fruit) when it looks good and it’s on sale. It’s a less than a dollar purchase that has made my life so much easier because I’m not scrounging for a loose piece of paper floating around in my bag or worrying about whether or not I should spend the extra money on organic berries (yes, I should) or onions (not necessarily). I highly recommend one.

Day 10: BLT Sandwiches

These are a great follow up to the taco because they use up any leftover lettuce or tomato we may have and they’re quick. We often have them before a soccer practice evening or when we have lots to do. I stand at the stove, the Mister mans the toast station, and the kids can add their own lettuce and tomato. Granted we aren’t all “sitting down together” because they don’t all get done at the same time and they are best when the bacon is hot (in my opinion) but we’re still all talking and hanging out which is nice to do before a busy night.

The Recipe

-large leaf lettuce (we always have iceberg on hand after tacos, otherwise I like a butter lettuce)
-tomato slices
-bacon – we use ones minus nitrates (if you can find it by the slab and cut it off yourself even better)

I think you can probably figure these on your own but here’s how we do them one at time:
1. Slice tomato, wash and remove leaves of lettuce
2. Fry enough bacon for one sandwich while making toast
3. Put it all together and add butter, mayo, or miracle whip to your taste. I eat mine “dry” and love it.
4. Expect requests for seconds.

The Discussion

Share something of which you’re afraid.

The Daily Tip

Growing up, both of my parents worked outside the home but that didn’t mean we were going out to eat or picking up take out. Some of my favorite dinners were quick & simple fair – fried egg sandwiches (I try and weasel one out of my dad every time I go home to visit), crackers & cheese served with a side of carrot and celery sticks, chips and cheese and a side of salsa. Low key nights at our house were awesome – especially when they landed on my dish night. I try to keep that in mind when I don’t have the energy or time to do a “big” meal.

Day 9:: Mix’n Match Pot Pie

Pot pie is my favorite, favorite, favorite comfort food ever. And let’s be honest – those freezer versions will do in a pinch but nothing hits the spot like one you made yourself. I love this recipe, because depending on what leftover meat you have around you can build a pot pie to fit your needs.

The Recipe

-1 cup chopped onion or leeks
-1 cup sliced celery, sliced fresh mushrooms or chopped trimmed and cored fennel bulb
-1 cup chopped sweet red, green or yellow sweet pepper
-2 tablespoons butter or margarine
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, oregano, rosemary or basil, crushed, or 1 teaspoon curry powder or poultry seasoning
-1/4 teaspoon salt or garlic salt
-1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, white pepper or cayenne
-1 cup chicken, beef or vegetable broth
-3/4 cup milk, half-and-half, light cream or whole milk
-2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken, turkey, beef, pork, ham or potatoes
-1 cup frozen peas, frozen baby sweet peas, frozen peas and carrots, frozen mixed vegetables or frozen whole kernel corn
-1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, cook onion, celery, and sweet pepper in hot butter over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the flour, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add chicken broth and milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in cooked chicken, frozen peas and, if you like, parsley.

2. Pour mixture into a deep-dish (such as a 11x7x2-inch baking dish [2-quart rectangular], an 8x8x2-inch baking dish [2-quart square], a 2-quart souffle dish or casserole) or six single-serving dishes (such as six 10- to 14-ounce au gratin dishes, individual ramekins, casserole dishes or 5-3/4-inch disposable foil pot pie pans).

3. Immediately place crust over filling – cutting slits to release steam.

4. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes for deep-dish (20 to 25 minutes for single-serving dishes) or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 20 minutes for deep-dish (10 minutes for single-serving dishes) before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Hint: I can’t make a pie crust to save my life but I can buy one with the best of them. I’m also not afraid to use fresh carrots or peas if that’s what I have on hand. Make it with what you have on hand, that’s the benefit of this meal.

The Discussion

Name three things you’d like to have on a deserted island. (Remember – there’s no electricity for charging things on a deserted island!!)

The Daily Tip

Cooking multiple meals at once is a great way to prepare for busy nights and this meal is super easy to double. Make one right away and let the other cool in the fridge then wrap tightly and place in the freezer. Take it out to thaw the day before and you’ve a go to meal. You can find lots of other great freezer meals here or just do a pinterest or google search.

Day 8:: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadilla

While we celebrate Taco Tuesday each week, the recipe doesn’t change much and since I promised 31 recipes, I thought I’d consider it’s use of tortilla’s in the recipe a loophole and bit and share with you this easy dinner or delicious snack.

 

The Recipe

-4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
-2-3 sweet potatoes – chunked and roasted
-1 can black beans – drained & well rinsed
-1 bunch finely chopped green onions
-1 1/2 cup shredded Colby jack cheese

1. Preheat oven 425 degrees.
2. Place a tortilla on the baking sheet. Scatter the sweet potato chunks on the tortilla, and then fill the spaces between those sweet potato chunks with the black beans. Sprinkle the green onions and cheese. Top with the other piece of tortilla and press it gently. Bake for 6- 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top piece tortilla is golden brown. Cut into wedges & serve. Makes 2 quesadillas, serves 4.

Recipe adapted from here.

The Discussion

Share a favorite memory.

The Daily Tip

Sweet potato is quickly becoming one of my favorite veggies and it’s typically a “clean 15” vegetable with low pesticide content. More and more I am trying to buy organic, but at times it just isn’t the budget to buy EVERY fruit and vegetable from the organic section. Based on pesticide content here are some foods you should always buy organic: 1) celery 2) peaches 3) strawberries 4) apples 5) blueberries 6) nectarines 7) bell peppers 8) cherries 9) spinach kale & collards 10) potatoes 11) imported grapes 12) lettuce Here are the “clean 15” – conventionally grown with low pesticide usage 1) onions 2) avocados 3) sweet corn 4) pineapples 5) mangoes 6) sweet peas 7) asparagus 8) kiwi 9) cabbage 10) eggplant 11) cantaloupe 12) watermelon 13) grapefruit 14) sweet potato 15) sweet onions

Source

Day 7:: Peanut Stir-Fry

In the last couple of years I’ve really tried to start incorporating more meatless meals into my repertoire and adopting a “Meatless Monday” was a good way to force me out of my regular planning routine. I’m not strictly vegetarian (for example, I use chicken broth in this recipe) on Meatless Mondays, but you could certainly give that a try and substitute vegetable broth. (Picture note: it’s getting that time in Wisco where the sun goes down earlier and earlier. Since I’m not making these dinners at breakfast time, and I’m using my camera phone, the color quality on these will probably be less than ideal. I’m sorry, but since I’m not a food blogger and these are meals our family is eating, I’m just shrugging my shoulders and hope you will too.)

The Recipe

-2 tsp peanut oil
-2 cup(s) uncooked onion(s), chopped (about 1 large onion)
-2 cup(s) uncooked bok choy, chopped
-2 cup(s) uncooked carrot(s), chopped (about 2 medium carrots)
-1 medium green pepper(s), chopped
-1 medium sweet red pepper(s), chopped
-8 oz fresh mushroom(s), thinly sliced
-2 cup(s) uncooked broccoli, florets
-2 cup(s) uncooked asparagus, cut into 2-inch peices (about 1/2 pound asparagus)
-1/4 cup(s) low sodium soy sauce
-2 tsp cornstarch
-1/4 cup(s) canned chicken broth, reduced-sodium
-8 Tbsp peanuts, dry roasted, chopped
-4 cup(s) cooked brown rice, kept hot

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add onion, bok choy, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and asparagus; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add soy sauce and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.

Whisk cornstarch into broth in a small cup and add to pan; simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.

Spoon stir-fry onto rice on individual plates and top each serving with peanuts. Yields about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 tablespoon of peanuts and 1/2 cup of rice per serving.

Recipe found here.

The Discussion

What would a perfect day look like? What would you do? Who would spend it with?

The Daily Tip

Switching from Uncle Ben’s white boil-in-a-bag to organic brown rice took some adjusting – the whole measuring water and rice and keeping my fingers crossed that I’d have enough of one but not too much was just plain annoying. So I started boiling it like I boil pasta. I fill a pot about 3/4 full with water and when it starts to boil, I dump my rice in. I add a little water if I need to, but mostly I just leave it alone until it’s nice and soft the way we like it. If there is water left over (there usually is), I just drain it off using a fine mesh strainer. Perfect rice – every time.

Day 6:: Pork Chops & Apples

Pork chops and apples? Yes, please. Serve it up with this salad or a butternut squash soup and green beans and you’ve a perfect Sunday dinner.

The Recipe

-2 tablespoons butter
-6 pork chops
-4 apples
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a large baking dish. Slice apples and place in the bottom of the dish sprinkling cinnamon and sugar over them. In a pan, melt the butter and brown pork on both sides. Place pork chops over the apples and put in the oven until internal temperature measures 145°.

The Discussion

If you could have picked your own name, what would you have chosen?

The Daily Tip

When we first started doing regular family dinners, we’d almost always have someone jumping up to fill their water glass. Because we wanted to make dinner a special time where we could share and relax together without interruptions, we started adding a glass pitcher to the center of the table. When I have lemon or lime to add, the kids feel even more special.

Day 5:: Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats

The idea of all sitting down to breakfast during the mid-week probably seems crazy BUT with this recipe, you do the work the night before and wake up to tasty, filling, great-start to your day oatmeal. So the next time you know you’re going to be having one of those nights where sitting down at dinner is going to be next to impossible – start your day with some family time instead.

The Recipe:

Here’s what you need:

-1 cup steel cut oats
-4 cups water
-1/2 cup milk
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 tablespoon butter
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1 teaspoon cinnamon

Here’s what to do:

Spray crockpot lightly with non-stick spray, add all ingredients. Cook for 8 hours on low (or warm depending on how high powered your crock pot is). Serve with additional milk, brown sugar, and dried fruit to taste.

The Discussion

What is one of your favorite characters in a book/movie? What do you like about them?

The Daily Tip

The single biggest change I made that made family meals easier? Google. I know this is not rocket science or even news but it took me awhile to learn. Taking the 15 minutes to see what needs to be used up, doing a recipe search for those ingredients, and building a meal plan around that? Saved us money, time, and so much food waste. I am by no means great at this (I’m one day away from throwing out a bag of broccoli slaw as I write this) but even small changes add up.

Day 4:: Salmon & Cabbage Salad

My husband detests salmon. In fact, he’s not a fan of most fish unless it’s covered in Kraft tartar sauce (which is completely contrary to my definition of healthy eating) so when I made this, I figured it was a win that he ate what I put on his plate. What I never expected is that a month later he would be asking me why I never made that salmon dish again. Add to that my kids ate it without complaint (though my picky kiddo only ate the salad) and we’ve got a genuine family staple. It really is that good.

The Recipe

Dressing:
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. honey (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Salad:
1 small-medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves (about 1½-2 cups), roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated/shredded

For the Salmon:
1-1/2 lbs. boneless salmon fillets
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

To do:

1) Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2) Make the dressing: combine lime juice, oils, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic,  and cilantro in a liquid measuring cup or jar. Whisk well to blend fully. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3) Make the salad: combine the cabbage, green onions, red pepper, spinach, and carrot in a medium bowl and toss until evenly mixed. Dress with about half of the dressing, toss well, and then add more dressing to taste as desired.
4) Prepare the salmon: Lay a large piece of aluminum foil flat on a work surface and fold the edges up slightly. Lay the salmon pieces skin side down on one half of the foil. Combine the lime juice, soy sauce, garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. Sprinkle the ginger rounds over the fillets and season with salt and pepper. Fold the empty half of the foil over the salmon and fold the edges over to seal the packet completely. Transfer to the heated oven to bake. Let cook an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 160˚ F. (Cooking time will vary depending on your cooking method and the thickness of the fillets. Remove smaller fillets as needed when fully cooked through, to avoid overcooking while waiting on the larger pieces to finish.)

Serve the warm salmon over a bed of the cabbage salad.

Adapted from: Annie’s Eats

The Discussion

What is something you’d like (to start) to learn how to do in the next year?

The Daily Tip

Am I the only one who thinks figuring out fish shopping is impossible? It’s recommended that we eat three servings each week, but every where you look seems to be controversy of what kind is okay, what kind isn’t okay and each and every article seems to have differing opinions! To complicate matters, what is recommended in some areas is discouraged in others. Well, three cheers for the lovely people at Monterey Bay Aquarium who created a downloadable pocket guide depending on your area. Even better? They have an app for your phone. Never again do you have to feel a prick of conscience while enjoying fish. Unless of course, you are buying off their avoid list – in which case, shame on you!

Day 3:: Quick & Simple Chix Skillet

I love to spend the day in the kitchen putting things together but with two young kids and a household to run, I very rarely have time for a big elaborate meal. So simple, tasty fare always gets plus points in my recipe book add to the fact that this cuts down on dishes (one skillet!!) and this meal is a favorite. Add a side of brown rice or noodles and you’ve got a filling meal in no time.

The Recipe

-1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breast cut into 1″ pieces
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
-1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
-2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (or a can, drained)
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
-salt & pepper

Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place it over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken and cook until done.

Remove the chicken to a plate, covering to keep it warm. Add the garlic to the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Put the chicken back in the pan and stir. Sprinkle with the cheese just before serving.

Found here.

The Discussion

Would you give money to a homeless person if there is chance they could use it to by drugs/alcohol?

The Daily Tip

Controversial topics (like the above) at a family dinner can give your children a safe place to talk out issues and provide you an opportunity to understand their worldview and opinions. It’s always good to establish a few table rules. Here are some good examples:

1) Everyone has to listen to others’ opinions without interruption.
2) Personal attacks, insults, and rudeness are not allowed.
3) Right answers may not exist or at least may not materialize during the course of the conversation. That’s okay. We can agree to disagree.
4) The topic can be “tabled” by any member of the family if the discussion gets to heated or out of control.

These rules apply to parents too!

Day 2:: Let’s Talk Turkey

If my daughter could have one meal every night for a year, she tells me it would be this one. It isn’t the prettiest meal I’ve ever made but it’s goooooood. We serve it up over rice but I’ve used noodles in a pinch – or even just as a hearty “stew”. I love it because it’s flexible, affordable, and tasty. Throwing a few things in a crock set to low and having dinner waiting for me at the end of the day doesn’t hurt either.

The Recipe

-2 turkey thighs (remove skin & bones)
-1 bag of frozen pearl onions or 2 small onions roughly chopped
-1 can diced tomatoes with italian seasonings
-1 large can cannellini or baked beans (if cannellini, drain and rinse)
optional: 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
optional: sliced mushrooms

To do:

Put it all in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Tip: You can debone & de-skin the thighs before, but I usually do it half way through. It’s easier, but not so easy all that you end up with little pieces of bone left over. Otherwise, at the end is really easy – just make sure you get out all the little bone bits.

Another tip: If you have plain diced tomatoes – you can just add 1/2 teaspoon each (or to taste) of dried oregano, parsley, basil

The Discussion

If you could wake up tomorrow with any superpower, what would it be and why?

The Daily Tip

It’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started cooking on a regular basis and most times I still like to have a recipe in front of me. With blogs, pinterest, magazines, and my own family cookbooks it’s very easy for my recipe file to get out of control. Of course, there’s an app for that: Paprika.

It’s a little pricey – especially if you use it on multiple platforms (you have to purchase it separately for each one) – but it’s simple to use and has made my iPad the best cookbook I have in my home. I love that I can store recipes under multiple categories, rate them, and often save ones I find online with a click of a button. Other features include menu planning and a grocery list feature, but I still opt for pen and paper. I’m sure there are definitely others out there (and maybe cheaper) but having an e-recipe file has made life a LOT simpler in my kitchen.

Day 1:: Taco Tuesday

If you come to our house on any Tuesday evening, you’re going to find us sitting down to tacos. It’s usually my night off from the kitchen – though I do help with prep before the Mister gets home. When I was a kid I thought that you were either a hard shell or soft shell family, but we are both, and most nights we each having at least one of each. This recipe feeds four with plenty leftover for a taco salad for Wednesday’s lunch.

The Recipe

-soft or hard shells
-1 lb hamburger
-1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
-1 head of iceberg lettuce – shredded
-2 tomatoes – diced
-8 oz sharp cheddar cheese – grated
taco seasoning to taste

1) Brown & drain ground beef. Adding can of black beans, small amount of water, and taco seasoning. Heat through.

2) Serve up with taco staples.

3) Add guac, salsa, sour cream, (or in my kids’ case) ranch dressing to taste.

The Discussion

Tell each person at the table what you like most about them.

The Daily Tip

Finding humanely and sustainably raised meat has become very important to many people. For our beef, we purchase 1/8 of a cow from a local farmer and store it in a chest freezer. I know my beef is grass fed, grass finished, organic, and local. If you are interested in doing something similar, I recommend contacting a food co-op or CSA in your area for recommendations. Otherwise, the website Eat Wild is a good place to start.

31 Days of Family Meals

Want to lose weight?

Want to eat healthier?

Want to spend more time as a family?

It’s simple really – sit down and enjoy at least one meal a day as a family. But as simple as it is, when you start juggling activities, and the school/house/job work that needs to be done, it really doesn’t always seem that simple.

So in September, with the beginning of school, I wanted to make dinner a special time for our family where nutritious, yummy food was enjoyed with gratitude and good conversation. To make this happen, I went into complete research mode – grabbing stacks of cookbooks, scouring recipe sites, looking up healthy food options – and started planning away. While my focus was on revamping our diet toward sustainable, organic, healthy eats, I also knew that certain family comfort foods would have to stay on the menu (though with organic or local ingredients when possible).

When the Nester posted her 31-day notification, I knew exactly what I would be sharing with you.

Each day in October, I’m going to share one recipe, one conversation starter or discussion topic, and one helpful tip. You might notice a theme – Mondays will be meatless, Tuesday will be tacos (Taco Tuesday is a tradition in this house), on Wednesdays I’ll share one of our favorite comfort food recipes, Thursday’s recipes will feature quick dinners, Friday will be seafood/fish recipes, Saturday will be breakfast (because we can’t always make dinner our family meal). On Sunday, I’ll feature the traditional big Sunday spread type meals.

I hope you’ll share your family dinner traditions and favorite recipes with me too!!

This page will share the links for each day so if you want a place to bookmark – this is your spot. Posts will go live around 6am each morning!

Day 1:: Taco Tuesday

Day 2:: Turkey Ragout

Day 3:: Simple Chicken Skillet

Day 4:: Salmon with Cabbage Salad

Day 5:: Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats

Day 6:: Pork Chops & Apples

Day 7:: Peanut Stir Fry

Day 8:: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Quesadilla

Day 9:: Mix ‘n Match Pot Pie

Day 10:: BLT sandwiches

Day 11:: Calvary Sauce

Day 12:: Frittata

Day 13:: Roasted Chicken

Day 14:: Beans and Toast

Day 15:: Taco Tuesday Round-Up

Day 16:: Ritz Casserole

Day 17:: Chinese Chicken Salad

Day 18:: Shrimp & Black Bean “Salad”

Day 19:: French Toast Casserole

Day 20:: Pesto Ranch Chicken

Favorite Recipes

It’s finally starting to be summer around here and with that means packed schedules and fresh produce. Quick and easy snacks on the run are a standard this time of year, but trying to get the kids to sit down and enjoy dinner? Not as easy. With my goals of trying to eat and LIVE healthier – that means I’m cooking more at home and experimenting with recipes. I thought I’d share some of my recent favorites with you.

Also – I know I’ve mentioned the Paprika app before but it’s been an absolute life saver for me. I can meal plan, make grocery lists, and save recipes without printing or clipping. Yes, I have had to buy it across all my platforms (phone, pod, and computer) which is a pain, but I use it, so completely worth it. (And no, I’m not being compensated, I just really, really think it’s awesome).

Okay let’s talk food. Click on the picture to be taken to the source and recipe.

I made this the other day and I honestly think I could eat it every day for a month. I had some pita chips to scoop up the left over salad. Add some homemade salsa from farmer’s market tomatoes and it’s awesome on a whole new level.

I LOVE this recipe for succotash with the edamame instead of limas. Pair it up with some grilled chicken and watermelon for dessert. So good. I’ve recently heard some comments about staying away from soy and edamame so we may have to switch back to limas, but either way it’s tasty.

The first time my husband tried this he swore he would need his tartar sauce (won’t eat fish without it) but the basil sauce is so good, he never even reached for it. We’ve had this A LOT since then and tartar sauce is saved for fish sticks.

It’s not summer without caprese. I love this simple side. Serve it alongside grilled chicken. So good.

I was introduced to this snack in the last month and it’s sooo good, I eat it straight out of the bowl. I’ll spoon it onto Triscuits and have a handful of grapes if I want to make it into a lunch.

So…what are some recipes you’ve tried and loved recently? Do you have a go to blog or magazine for tasty and healthy food? I want to know!!

Summer Comfort

This chicken pasta salad is a family favorite. I don’t think we have a cook out, birthday party, random family gathering between Memorial Day and Labor Day where it isn’t made. In fact, I posted it last year about this time at the old blog. As it’s one of our summer staples, I thought I’d post it again. I love it because I get to spend time chopping (one of my favorite kitchen activities), you can’t really screw it up, and everything just gets thrown in one big bowl.

When my mom first taught me the recipe she kept saying “just put in what looks right”. As it was one of my first experiences in the kitchen, that drove me crazy. So here is what looks right to me – but feel free to add or omit so that it works for you and your family.

-A box of cooked and cooled medium shells
-6 boiled and cooled eggs – chopped
-Almost all of a bunch of celery (i use the stalks that look nice and save the rest for stock) or a couple green peppers or a mix/mash of both – chopped
-8 oz of cheese – cubed. I do half co-jack and a half sharp cheddar because that’s what Mr. G likes, but use what you like and have on hand
-1 large onion – chopped
-2 large cans of chicken breast (or 3 poached chicken breasts – chunked)
-mayo (I like mine a little dry so I just put enough to make things “stick” together)
-salt and pepper to taste.

It’s easy. It’s yummy. It’s great a day or two after making. A batch feeds a whole crew. And it goes great with Wheat Thins or Triscuits (which is another family staple). And you can bet I’ve got all the ingredients ready for our own Memorial Day weekend!

What is one of your summer comfort foods?

Recipe:: Roasted Chicken Caprese

You know those funny little recipe books at the end of the aisle at the grocery store?  They have some of the best recipes.    The one I’m going to share with you is very slightly modified from one of those books.  It’s super simple and one of my all time favorite summer recipes to make – especially with fresh basil from the farmers market.

To start, you’re going to want to marinate some chicken.

Put 4 chicken breasts in a freezer bag.  Whisk together the juice from 1 lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. ground pepper and pour that over the chicken. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  I typically do it the morning I’m going to make it so it can soak it in all day.

A little over an hour before dinner time you are going to want to roast your tomatoes.  Take 6-8 Roma tomatoes and slice them lengthwise into quarters.  Mix them in a large bowl with 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 t. kosher salt, and 1/2 t. sugar.  Lay them out on a roasting pan so they aren’t touching.

Roast those at 375° for 30 minutes.  They’ll come out looking like that amazing after picture and smell divine.  While you are roasting them – you’ll want to put together the rest of the “caprese” part of the meal.

Take one bunch basil and shred it up. And cube up 8oz of fresh mozzerella.

Doesn’t that look good?  Now you just wait – once those yummy delicious tomatoes are done you are going to add them over the top and that mozz is going to get all tasty gooey good.

Now set that aside and take the chicken out of the bag (discard the marinade) – put it on the same pan that you roasted the tomatoes on.  Cook that at 350° for 30 minutes turning once.

Once that is done plate one chicken breast with a good helping of the caprese salad and enjoy it.

Mmmm…So good!! What’s a go to summer recipe in your house?