Meal Plan – October Weeks 2 & 3

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Fall is here and the crockpot is working! I always love to use my crockpot, but especially during the cooler months, when daylight is shorter and bedtime comes earlier. For some reason, my toddler is crankier in these fall and winter months and we do everything we can to have dinner ready early so we can get her to bed!

I missed giving you a meal plan last week – mostly because I didn’t do so well at planning it myself. We got a great CSA box and I tried to creatively wing our meals each day. We ended up with not such a bad week of meals on the table, and I didn’t have to buy many groceries either!

This week you get double the inspiration – with last week’s menu as well as this week’s plan.
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Meal Plan – September Week 5/October Week 1

We’ve been out of town all weekend and I don’t want to lug two kids back to the grocery store, so our meal plan this week is an experiment in eating what we already have. We did get our CSA box before we left, so we have some veggies to work with – and our freezer is still stocked with meat – so here’s hoping we’ll have a successful final week of September/first week of October!

CSA box:
1 cup Rattlesnake Beans (dried)
1 lb – Sweet Peppers
1 lb – Japanese or Globe Eggplant
1 lb – Okra
4 oz – Arugula
6 oz – Hotshot Spicy Mix
Eggs

All other ingredients in the recipes below will be found in our pantry, but here’s your grocery list in case you want to follow along. Remember to include the veggies listed above when you head to the store!

Steel cut oats
Milk
local bacon
frozen hashbrowns (or if you have potatoes you can shred them yourself)
cheddar cheese
whole wheat flour
baking powder
salt
black pepper
bread
deli meat/cheese
onions (3)
celery
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
garlic
wild rice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
chicken broth
heavy cream
broccoli (I’m using frozen because that’s what I have – but you can buy fresh too)

Breakfast options:
Oatmeal in the Crockpot

Breakfast Casserole
Eggs & croissants

Lunch options (it’s a boring week for lunches around here):
Salads
Cheesy Pasta Salad (this recipe came from Weelicious Lunches)
Leftovers

Monday Dinner: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Tuesday Dinner: Irish Beef Stew – this was on our meal plan a couple of weeks ago, but because we got sick we didn’t make it – so we’re finally getting around to using those ingredients!

Wednesday Dinner: Eggplant Burgers

Thursday Dinner: Mexican Lasagna – we already had this earlier in the month, but it is one of our favorites – and I always have the ingredients on hand, so we eat it a lot!

Friday Dinner: Chicken & Wild Rice Soup in the Crockpot

Saturday Dinner: Spaghetti and Eggplant Meatballs (we got a lot of eggplant this week – can you tell?)

How did you do on the September Challenge?

September Meal Plan – Week 4

September Meal Plan – Week 4
You’ll notice this week our grocery list is very short, and our pantry list is very long. That’s because we came down with an awful stomach bug last week, so several of our planned meals went out the window. The good news is we still have all the ingredients – so we’ll be recycling them into our meal plan this week. We also started a Fall CSA this week, so most of our meals utilize those ingredients in some way. You should be able to find similar ingredients at your farmer’s market or grocery store. Continue reading

A Lesson in Disappointment

A Lesson on Disappointment
We had been talking about it all morning. My sweet, rambunctious toddler was so excited to head to the botanical gardens for a playdate with friends. I loaded up the car – the double stroller, the diaper bag full of diapers & clothes for the baby, an extra change of clothes just in case we had a toddler accident, snacks to hold us until lunch, a wrap in case the baby didn’t want to ride in the stroller, water bottles, a coffee mug, a toddler (who, I might add, was wearing cookie monster in a ring sling), and a baby. Climbed in, exhausted, and turned the key, only to discover my car wouldn’t start.

“$hit” was all I could think. I don’t think I said it out loud, but who knows – I might have. Tried it again. No dice. So I turned to my excited toddler and broke the news – “Munchkin, I don’t think we can go to the botanical gardens today. Mommy’s car is broken.” Enter toddler meltdown.

You can’t reason with a toddler on any normal day – much less when they are in full meltdown mode. But I tried anyway. “Punkin … we can’t go to the botanical gardens, but we can go to the zoo instead. Would you like to walk to the zoo?”

“Noooooooooooooooo! Want to go to the tanical gardens!” she cried in the saddest cry I might have ever heard. Continue reading

September Meal Plan – Week 3

Well, we were mostly successful this week on staying out of restaurants. We did end up eating out Wednesday night because I didn’t plan our schedule well and we were out of the house from late afternoon until bedtime. But I was successful in packing (and sticking to) picnics the days we were out of the house for lunch!

This week, I signed up for the “Eat Local” challenge through our local farmer’s market. I picked the ultra lenient path – simply because I need to use up what’s in my freezer and not buy more groceries than necessary. I tried to plan seasonal meals this week so that whatever I need to buy, I can buy from a local source – whether that be the farmer’s market or the grocery store. Luckily our grocery store sells quite a bit of local products!

Last week someone asked me if I stuck to a budget when I make my meal plan. I typically try to spend less than $150 at the grocery store each week. Sometimes I’m more successful than others. I try to keep my freezer pretty stocked with meat and frozen vegetables and our pantry stocked with essentials like canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta, etc. I buy a lot of those items when they go on sale, and I try to create meal plans around the meat in our freezer. I also try to use up everything we have. There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of money on food and seeing it end up in the trash can or garbage disposal!

I’ve included a pantry list this week as well as a grocery list, to give you an idea of the kinds of things we always have on hand. To help you in budgeting, I’ve also put the price next to the items we bought, and whether or not we were able to find it locally sourced. The trick in eating at home is to make sure you always have your favorite items on hand!
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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot PieChicken Pot Pie is one of my favorite meals. When I first lived on my own, I would buy the frozen chicken pot pies – simply because they were easy … and I thought they were oh so delicious. Then I tried my hand at making my own – and the frozen ones just don’t taste the same.

Now, I’m super picky about my pot pie. I don’t like it to be too oniony – and I hate big chunks of onion in it. I’m not a huge fan of green beans in my pot pie either, so I stick to the frozen veggies without them. If I’m feeling super adventurous (or I don’t have the veggies in my freezer), then I use fresh veggies instead.

We typically use phyllo dough instead of pie crust in our pot pie. It gives it a terrific crunchy aspect, and lightens it up just a tad. Once you try it this way, you may never go back to “real” pot pie again!

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup onion (chopped very small)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 cups cut up cooked chicken
1 package (10 oz) frozen vegetables (or 3 cups of fresh vegetables, chopped into small pieces)
5-10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Preparation
Heat butter over low heat until melted. Blend in flour, onion, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat.

Stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and frozen vegetables. Remove from heat. Pour chicken mixture into a 9 x 9 x 2 pan (or something similar).

Cut your phyllo dough into half-sized sheets. Scrunch up one half of one phyllo sheet and put it on top of the chicken mixture. Continue with half sheets until your mixture is totally covered with phyllo dough. I like to start in the corner and work my way to the other corner. Place dish on a baking sheet, just in case there’s any runover.

Bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes or until top is golden.

September Meal Plan – Week 2

Eating out for dinner is rare in our house (although I have to admit we ended up going out to dinner last night!) I’ve been a meal planner for years now, and I use cooking dinner as a creative outlet. Most nights D takes the girls and I enjoy the kitchen alone. Other nights we make cooking a family affair. Regardless of whether it’s just me or it’s the whole crew, I typically enjoy cooking and eating dinner at home. We find it’s just easier with little ones.

It’s lunch that I struggle with. I am not a huge fan of leftovers, and it’s incredibly hard to put together lunch for a toddler as well as myself. So the challenge for me this month is really to eat at home for lunch – or pack a picnic when we go on outings.

Starting this week, I’m expanding my meal plan to include lunch ideas. Hopefully this will help me stay out of restaurants during the week!
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Fish in Parchment Paper

Fish in Parchment Paper

 

Fish is one of those things that we hardly ever make, even though it is incredibly good for you. It’s hard to find a fish recipe that we all like – and that doesn’t stink up the house! This one has been in our repertoire for quite some time now. I used to make it for just be back in my single days! I love it because it’s so versatile. If you don’t have some of the veggies, that’s okay – add a few herbs. It’s totally customizable!
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The September Challenge

The weekly meal planning event by kaylacasey
Last night, a friend shared her family is taking the “September Challenge” – one month without eating out – at all. We then got to talking about meal planning and how crucial it is for eating well and not spending a ton of money at the grocery store each week. I create a meal plan every single week. Even when we were getting daily meals brought to us, I still created a meal plan so that I knew exactly what I needed to buy when I went to the grocery store (or used Instacart, which happened several times!)

So I’m jumping on the September Challenge bandwagon – no eating out for a month! And to help encourage you to think about doing the same, I’m going to share my weekly meal plan with you – including links to recipes and a grocery list!
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The Importance of Church

All For One by jeff_golden
You all know how much I’ve been wrestling with figuring out the importance of church. For so long it seemed like a place full of empty promises. But this new place we call home … it is helping us remember how life-giving church can be.

You know, it’s amazing what a difference it makes in your life when you find a faith community that you truly love. For so long we lounged around on Sunday mornings, staying in our pajamas until 10 or so, making our way to the farmers market, and coming home by noon for lunch and a nap. Those Sunday mornings were great – but we didn’t really feel fulfilled. We didn’t feel a burning need to go to church – but we did feel like something was missing.

But now, after just a few months at this new church we call home, we can’t imagine Sunday morning without it. We stayed home one Sunday just before E was born and I felt lost the rest of the week. I missed it…and I haven’t missed any particular church in a very long time. Even after E was born, when she was just 6-days old, we walked through those doors into worship – because we just couldn’t imagine making it through the week without it. It also helped that A wanted to “take E to church.”

And let’s be totally honest … becoming parents of two is exhausting. Although E sleeps pretty well for a newborn, A is still a terrible sleeper. We find ourselves getting less and less sleep as the days go by. When Sunday morning rolls around, we all pile in the car and head to church – because our sleep-deprived selves need it more than ever. Continue reading

Cook Once, Eat Twice: Bruschetta Chicken

Chicken Bruschetta

A few weeks ago, our neighbor gave us some tomatoes. D immediately said, “Ooh! We could make bruschetta!” While I wasn’t opposed to the idea, I knew the last time we had bruschetta as dinner we were hungry a few house later. So I started thinking creatively about what we could do with bruschetta other than put it on toast. We decided to fire up the grill and grill a few chicken breasts, topping them with the delicious bruschetta we made out of fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden.

We had a lot of bruschetta left over and a little bit of chicken, so I made some pasta and tossed it all together. We got two days’ worth of lunches out of it – so this cook once, eat twice actually turned out to be cook once, eat three times!

Here’s what we did:

Day One: Bruschetta Grilled Chicken
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
6-8 small tomatoes, chopped
Dash of Balsamic Vinegar
16 whole Basil Leaves (chiffonade)
Salt And Pepper To Taste
3 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside to rest. Sprinkle additional salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast and grill on medium heat until done. Serve chicken with a spoonful of bruschetta over the top.

Day Two: Bruschetta Chicken Pasta Salad
8 oz rotini or penne pasta
Leftover bruschetta
1 grilled chicken breast

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool off. Chop cooked chicken into bite size pieces. Mix everything together and refrigerate until ready to serve.