Monday, September 29, 2014

Smoky Mountain Trip 2014

Last week we spent 4 days and 3 nights in the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. It's a place we've visited before, with kids and without kids. We like it both ways.

Our first dinner was at the Dixie Stampede. While you enjoy a meal eaten only with your hands, stunt riders put on a North-South themed show. It was so entertaining, I had to remind the kids to eat! The Princess loves horses, so she was enthralled with it. Even though it's a bit on the pricy side, we felt the experience was worth it just to see how much the kids enjoyed it. After the show, we got to see some of the show horses up close in the adjacent stable. Totally made the Princess' day!
We knew we wanted to go to Dollywood since we'd never been. We decided to get a package deal by staying in a Dollywood cabin (not at the actual park but in the general area) and purchasing a one-day park ticket. By staying in a Dollywood property, our one-day tickets became valid for our entire stay. Even though we didn't take advantage of it because we had other things to do, we thought that was a great perk. We did get preferred parking at Dollywood, though. You'd better believe we took advantage of that!

Our cabin was named Sky High. And believe me, it lived up to its name. We were at the tippy top of a mountain. And then the cabin itself kind of jutted off the side. Yeah, we were up there.

Here's a view from the top balcony of our cabin - a place where I spent NO time.
I've never been fond of heights, but this literally took my breath away. We were above the tree tops! Charles just laughed at me and asked me what I expected with a cabin called Sky High. Well, I didn't expect to be THAT high! So while I didn't enjoy the location all that much, the views were spectacular and the cabin itself was gorgeous.

This is the top floor loft. There was an air hockey table and a pool table to enjoy. Out on the balcony was a hot tub where Charles relaxed quite often. I would not have found it relaxing at all, so I enjoyed the indoor jacuzzi tub instead.
We've been to several amusement parks over the years, and we all agreed that Dollywood was our second favorite, right after Disney. The park was so clean and well-maintained. Also, the atmosphere was very family friendly. We loved the theming as well.
This was the perfect time of year to go. We walked onto every ride, waiting at times for the ride to come back through so we could get on. There were plenty of attractions for every age group and thrill level.

One of our favorite memories at Dollywood was having an old-time photo made. We had never done that before, so it was cute and fun.
On our last day, we spent some time in Gatlinburg, exploring the shops and playing indoor mini-golf. Everywhere you looked, you saw gorgeous fall decorations.

It was a wonderful vacation, but like every time we go away, we were happy to come home. Now getting back into our normal routine might be a little harder.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Menu Plan September 29-October 5

Can you believe it's almost October? I love this month. It's cooler but not cold (at least, not here in the Deep South). The leaves change color. And we celebrate our wedding anniversary. So what's not to love?

We had a fantastic family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains last week - a much needed break! If you ever have a chance to visit that area, do it! The mountain scenery is gorgeous and there is plenty to do for everyone. I will post some pictures later this week.

So now I have to cook for our family again instead of eating out. It was fun while it lasted!  Here's what I've got planned for this week:

Teriyaki chicken and veggies

Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread

Roast beef sandwiches, oven roasted potatoes

Sausage tortellini soup, crusty bread

Deep dish pizza

Crab and shrimp enchiladas, Mexican rice

Chicken and wild rice soup with bacon, cheesy biscuits

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

No Menu Plan This Week

Hey, y'all! I won't be posting a menu plan this week.

Our family is taking a short vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We'll be going to Dollywood, the Dixie Stampede, and other local attractions. To say that we're excited is an understatement!

A young man from our church will be housesitting and dogsitting for us. Our sweet dog is getting older and really hates going to the kennel when we go on trips. This way she can stay home and be comfortable, while we're assured our house will be fine.

I'll take lots of pictures so you can share in the fun, too.

Hope all of you have a great week!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mini Cheddar Meatloaves

Well, y'all, I did it! Earlier this week I posted about using what was in my pantry to save some money at the grocery store. I stayed under my goal of $60!

And believe me, it wasn't easy. I had hubby and one child with me. I tend to spend more when I'm not alone because the extra people add extra items to the cart! But I managed to stick to my list and keep the grocery bill down. Yay!

This is one of the family's favorite recipes and I usually have the ingredients already on hand. We like meatloaf and I make it often. The only thing about fixing it that I don't like is the amount of time it takes to cook. A full size meatloaf is going to take about an hour in the oven to be thoroughly cooked. Who has time for that?

These miniature meatloaves are the answer to the long cooking time. Because they're smaller, they cook up in about 25 minutes - less than half the cooking time of a full size loaf!

If you have a family favorite meatloaf recipe, it's easy to convert into mini loaves. Once you've mixed up your ingredients, divide it into four portions per each pound of meat. So a recipe that calls for one pound of ground meat will make four mini loaves. If your recipe uses 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat, then you'll get six mini meatloaves. Two pound of meat? Make eight mini loaves. Easy!

Here's what you'll need for these yummy cheddar filled mini meatloaves:

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup steak sauce or barbecue sauce, plus more for basting
1/4 cup panko crumbs
2 TBSP dried minced onion
1 teas sea salt
1/2 teas pepper
2 oz cheddar cheese, cut into little cubes (I take an 8 oz block of cheddar cheese, then cut off 1/4 of it to get 2 oz)

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg, then stir in the steak sauce, panko crumbs and seasonings. Crumble the ground beef over this mixture, then dump in the cheese cubes. Using your hands, mix together.

Shape the mixture into 4 separate loaves and place on a foil-lined pan. I try to shove any visible cheese cubes deeper into the meat so they don't melt off onto the pan, but they will leak at some point. Like this.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink in the center. About halfway through baking, brush the loaves with a little more steak sauce or barbecue sauce.
Look at that gooey, stringy cheese!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Menu Plan September 15-21

This week I'm challenging myself to use some food items I already have in my pantry and freezer. My goal is to spend only $60 or less at the grocery store. I also need to clean out my chest freezer to make room for some more meat that is coming at the end of the month. Think I can do it? I'm sure gonna try!

So here's what I've got planned:

Stovetop goulash, steamed broccoli

Homemade chicken nuggets, oven fries

Steak and potato burritos

Pretzel dogs, tater tots

Homemade pizza

Seafood chowder, homemade crusty bread

Crockpot chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Menu Plan September 8-14

Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day! Not having school on Monday threw me off all week long. I was a day behind, it seemed. Now I'm caught up, though.

I hope.

Here's what I've got on the menu for this week:

Pizza for the family, ladies' night out at church for me

Chicken parmesan casserole over linguine

Steak bites, baked potatoes

Salmon burgers, oven roasted zucchini

Chicken, rice and veggie skillet

Seafood chowder, crusty bread in a cast iron pot

Beef tips over rice

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Coffee Cake

My first pumpkin and fall-related post of the year! Oh yeah, let's hear it for fall!

I've made this cake several times for the family over the years. In the past, I've used half all-purpose flour and half white wheat flour. Recently I began using all white wheat flour. And no one noticed a difference.

The cake is sweet, but not too sweet. And so moist! Hubby like to have his with a cup of coffee, but I prefer milk. Nothing beats cake and milk together, in my humble opinion.

So here's what you'll need:

2 cups white wheat flour (you can sub out half the wheat for all purpose)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TBSP vanilla
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

For the topping:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teas cinnamon

For the glaze (if desired, the cake is fine without it):

3/4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 TBSP milk

In a mixing bowl or the bowl of an stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in the eggs, melted butter, milk, sour cream, vanilla and pumpkin. Beat on low for a minute, then beat on high for another minute. Batter will be thick. Spread the batter evenly in a lightly greased 9x13 pan

In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Drizzle over the cake butter. Using a butter knife, swirl the cinnamon mixture into the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes.

Stir together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over the cooled cake.