Sunday, March 31, 2013

Menu Plan April 1-7

The first week of April is here! Can you believe it? I hope y'all had a fantastic Easter weekend. We spent some family time together and with our church family. It was a blessing, for sure.

For Easter dinner, we had a delicious ham. And now for the best part - leftovers! Scroll down to the end of this post for some ideas on how to use up ham.

Here's what is on the menu this week:

Baked egg rolls, garlic and sesame noodles

Ham and white bean soup

Chicken shawarma, yellow rice

Herb crusted tilapia, broccoli

Rigatoni, garlic bread

Oven baked tacos

Crockpot lasagna, homemade bread

Click here for some recipes using up leftover ham.

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade Chili Mac

Back in the day, I bought a lot of Hamburger Helper. I figured it was quick, cheap and easy. Then I started taking an interest in what we were really eating - all the processed stuff. And the list of ingredients on a box of HH was as long as my arm, it seemed. So out went the boxed dinners.

This version of Chili Mac - one of our favorite HH varieties - is just as quick and easy as the boxed stuff. It's pretty inexpensive, too. Since I almost always have the ingredients on hand, it's a go-to meal for lunch or dinner.

Here's what you need:

2 cups dry elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 TBSP taco seasoning
1-2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package and drain. Meanwhile, cook the ground beef and onion together until the meat is no longer pink. Drain.

Stir in the cooked macaroni into the skillet with the beef. Then add the tomato sauce, sour cream, taco seasoning and half the shredded cheese. Stir until well blended. Heat on low until warmed through.

Top the chili mac with the remaining cheese and allow to melt a little.
Homemade chili mac beats the boxed stuff all to pieces!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Menu Plan March 25-31

March came in like a lion - stormy and cold. I think we've had maybe 5 days of 70 degree weather. Highly unusual for this time of year. So will this month go out like a lamb, as the old weather saying goes? I sure hope so! I'm ready for some steady, warm temperatures and sunny days.

Now on to this week's menu:

Chili mac (new recipe), broccoli

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Grilled burgers, mac n' cheese

Fish tacos, corn

Beef stroganoff (crockpot), green beans

Sausage and veggie calzones

Easter ham, twice baked potatoes
For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday over at Organizing Junkie. While you're there, link up your own menu plan for the week!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Melt in Your Mouth Chicken

We eat a lot of chicken around here, so I'm always on the lookout for new recipes. When I saw this recipe posted at Tablespoon, I knew I had to try it. The only change I made was to add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika. I bought some wonderful smoked paprika last week on our Smoky Mountain trip, so I've been adding to almost everything I've cooked this week!

Here's what you need:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (6 oz) container plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas seasoned salt
1/2 teas smoked paprika, optional
1/4 teas pepper

Place the chicken breasts on a greased baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Spread the mixture on the chicken. This will be pretty thick.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
The yogurt and cheese blend nicely to give a moist topping to the chicken. I loved the crispier parts myself!

This was an easy dish to prepare with a lot of flavor. I will definitely be adding it to our dinner line-up!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Menu Plan March 18-24

After a fun-filled weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains, it's time to get back into the swing of things and plan my family's meals. I'm keeping this week simple and hoping to spend some extra time preparing some food for the freezer.

So here's what is coming up:

Philly cheesesteaks, fries

Beef and bean taco bake, corn

Melt in your mouth chicken, twice-baked potatoes

Baked ravioli, garlic bread

Fish tacos, salsa and chips

Grilled hamburgers, grilled veggies

Pot roast, crockpot roasted potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie. You'll find tons of other meal plans to browse through. And while you're there, add your own meal plan for the week!

A Fun-Filled Birthday Weekend

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I knew exactly what I wanted - a weekend away with him.We have so little time, just the two of us, so it's very special to me.

 He took me to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains. We had gorgeous weather and tons of fun as we explored the arts community of Gatlinburg, picking up a few unique craft and food items along the way.

When we go away from home, we try to eat at places we can't get at  home. This trip we ate at the Bullfish Grill. I had some juicy, tender prime rib with cheese grits.
We also enjoyed a dinner show at the Lumberjack Feud. I highly recommend the food and the entertainment.

We also set sail on Titanic attraction in Pigeon Forge.
Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures inside. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing actual artifacts from the Titanic, as well as learning more about the personal stories of passengers and crew.

When we entered, we were given boarding passes. Each one bore the name of a passenger or crew member. Personal information such as age, homeland, and occupation was listed. At the end of the experience, you find out if your "person" survived the tragedy. I was a third-class passenger from Sweden who survived only because I happened to be on deck with two of my small children. Women with children were off-loaded into lifeboats first.

Charles ended up not surviving. He was a second-class passenger, also from Sweden, returning to America after a visit to his homeland. I highly recommend this attraction if you're in the area. It's an amazing experience.

And what would a birthday be without cake? We found a cute little cupcake shop and indulged a little.
Today we came home to the kids and reality. We missed them terribly, of course. And now I have to cook for myself and the family again.

But I'll carry the sweet memories we made and private little jokes just between us. I sure enjoy spending time with my love!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chicken Bacon Subs

I'm not much of a sandwich eater, as in peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese. But give me a big sub sandwich stuffed with meat and cheese, and I'm all over it! Maybe it's the crusty sandwich buns over regular bread that I really enjoy. Whatever it is, these yummy sub sandwiches will satisfy your family's hunger! And you'll be happy to have a quick, easy-to-prepare meal that's on the table in less than 20 minutes!

Here's what you need:
(adapted from Life as Mom)

2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup chopped cooked bacon
1 TBSP ranch dressing mix, scroll down through this post to find my easy recipe
2-3 TBSP chicken broth (add just enough to keep the filling moist but not too drippy)
salt and pepper to taste
sliced mozzarella or provolone cheese (you could shredded if you want)
4-6 sub sandwich buns

In a bowl, combine the chicken, bacon, ranch dressing mix, chicken broth, salt and pepper.
You don't have to do this, but I always line the sub bun with cheese. You could just layer the cheese on top. But I like my sandwiches really cheesy.
Stuff the bun with the chicken mixture, then layer some more cheese on top.
Place on a baking sheet and pop into a 375 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melty and the filling is warmed through.
I love how the bun gets just a little crusty from being in the oven but it's not so dry you can't eat it. The combination of chicken, bacon and cheese is yummy, with the ranch dressing mix adding some great flavor too.

Alternative crockpot cooking method: Place 2-3 chicken breasts in the crockpot. Sprinkle ranch dressing mix and bacon over the top. Add a little chicken broth if you want to. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until chicken shreds easily. If the chicken is too dry, add a little more broth. Serve on buns as directed above.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Disney Journal Finally Complete!

And it's only been 13 months since our last trip to Disney World!

I've done scrapbook pages and even photo books in the past, but this time I wanted to incorporate some of the memorabilia and receipts we collected.

I started out with drawers full of stuff! Disney stickers, maps, scrapbooking papers and die cuts, you name it!
Not to mention Ziploc bags stuffed with papers and junk!
The above pictures were taken after I was finished, so there was tons more when I started!
I first thought of buying a travel journal and using that for pictures and stories. But then I realized I'd need a book that I could add pages to. So I purchased a regular photo album with rings at Target. I think it was on clearance, too. It already had all the photo page protectors I would need.
I cut my own strips for captions out of cardstock I had on hand instead of using the flimsy paper ones that came with the photo album.

I made cardstock divider pages for each section of the book, using tabs I already had.
Maps, stamps, stickers - it all got used!
I divided my book into sections - On Our Way (to document our road trip), Downtown Disney, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Our Resort, Restaurants, Special Moments, and Characters.

I think if I do a journal like this again, I'll divide it into Day One, Day Two, etc. Sometimes we went to two different parks on the same day, so I'd like to document that.

On each of the park divider pages, I made a pocket and included a park map. It's so handy to pull the maps out as we plan for our next trip!
I included leftover Fast Passes, our Key to the World cards (park tickets, room key, dining privilege and charge card all in one!), receipts, and even a special birthday card Mr. Lego received from the princesses at the Akershus restaurant.

 The dining plan is a big part the expenses for our Disney trips. I kept a brochure outlining what restaurants participated in the dining plan. And then I recorded where we ate, and in some cases how much it cost. See, we got the dining plan for free, and I wanted to keep track of how much we would have spent on sit-down meals.

Looks like we ate a lot in Epcot!
And of course I took pictures of the food!
Here are some other pages from the journal:

My advice if you want to make a journal commemorating a Disney trip (or any other trip, for that matter) is to keep everything - ticket stubs, brochures, maps, anything! And most of those items are free, so get several. You might want to cut them up later, like I did with the maps! If you have more than one of them, you can let your creativity flow and not worry about ruining a memento.

Also, take a little notebook and jot things down that you want to remember - cute things the kids said or funny things that happened. Believe me, after 13 months, those things will be hard to recall!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Menu Plan March 11-17

I've been looking forward to this week for a while! See, it's my birthday on Saturday, and hubby and I are going away for the weekend! Do you know how long it's been since we went anywhere - just the two of us? Well, it's been years. So I'm really looking forward to some together time for us.

So my menu this week is a little short since I won't be cooking for three days! Here's what I've got for the time we will be here:

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Chicken shawarma, rice

Savory roast in the crockpot, mashed potatoes

Parmesan crusted tilapia, broccoli

Friday - Sunday
Getaway with hubby!

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie. You can share your own meal plans, too!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy Tomato Soup

The past few weeks have been cold and breezy here in the Deep South. In fact, our weatherman said last night that temps have been 20-25 degrees below normal for this time of year!

On days like those, I like to serve my family warm, nourishing lunches. Comfort food, if you will. And what could be more comfort-like than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches?

This quick, easy soup can be ready in just a few minutes. I like to let it simmer for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors blend, but really all you have to do is combine the ingredients and heat them up. Lunch is served!

Here's what you'll need:

1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups chicken broth
2 teas dried basil
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas onion powder
1 teas dried oregano
1 teas sea salt
1/2 teas black pepper
1 cup milk or cream

In a sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, broth and seasonings. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour about half the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Repeat with the rest of the soup. Be careful, though. Hot stuff in a blender can erupt like a volcano.

 Stir in the milk or cream. Serve!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Menu Plan March 4-10

March has come in like a lion here in the Deep South. We've had below average temps - as in 20-30 degrees below normal for this time of year - for the past few days. And even a little snow flurry or two. Crazy! Here's hoping the weather warms and March goes out like a lamb.

Last week was a cold, busy week. I just couldn't seem to get ahead. I couldn't even stay on top of things. One day of a stomach virus and I was wiped out! Thankfully no one else succumbed to it. But I'm back on my feet and meal planning like usual.

Here's what I've got planned for this week:

Meatloaf, broccoli and cauliflower

Lentil and rice burritos, salsa and chips

Chicken bacon subs, creamy mac 'n cheese

Tasty tilapia, quinoa with veggies

Crockpot roast, mashed potatoes

Grilled chicken and veggies

Crockpot Chicken and Barley Stew

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.