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.

Naptime Woes

Naptime Woes
Naptime has always been a source of strife for us. As I sit and type these words, I listen to your cries as you fight yet another nap. I don’t know what to do anymore. Maybe it’s my fault we have come to this. I used to wear you until you fell asleep. Almost every single day. I can’t do that any more. Your sister is tiny and demands so much of my attention. I try to sit next to you, but you refuse to close your eyes…tossing and turning and keeping yourself awake.

“Maybe she’s outgrown a nap,” some people say. But one look at your tired eyes shows me that you still need it. Bedtime is not much better. More often than not I simply feel guilty for having a new baby to take care of. You are still a baby yourself, needing my constant comfort and love.

I am almost afraid to be totally honest and transparent, for fear that someone will think I’m a terrible parent. Continue reading

A Letter to My Daughter Before Her Sister Arrives

A Letter to my Daughter Before Her Sister Arrives
Dear my precious one:

In just two days, your sister comes. I am so excited to meet her, and I know you are too. You will be such a great big sister! I will never forget your sweet kisses on my belly. Or the way you already talk about doing things with her – from playing with toys to riding in the buggy at the grocery store. I will always remember the way you hug my tummy and gently say, “come out E … E come out!”

Leaving you to go to the hospital will be the hardest part. In all your life we have never been apart longer than a few hours. I hope it will just be one day, but even one day is too many. I’ll miss eating dinner with you and hearing about your day. I’ll miss you showing me your “baby vitamin” when you get out of the bath. I’ll miss putting you to sleep…even though sometimes it takes much longer than I would like.

Don’t you worry about me though … I’ll be just fine! There are so many great doctors and nurses to take care of me and E.

And you … you will have the time of your life! Gramma & Grandpa will be here to play with you, and Daddy won’t be that far away either. If you need him, or just want him, he can come home in just a minute’s time. It will be one of the best days of your life. And the whole time I am away from you, I’ll be thinking of you. And counting down the minutes until I get to bring your baby sister home and we can start our new life together.
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How to Stock your Freezer – Including Recipes!

How to Stock Your Freezer
One of the best things I did before we had A was prepare tons of meals to put in our freezer. Because A was 2 weeks late, and I was totally over being pregnant, we actually dug into our freezer stash before we even had a baby in the house – but boy was I glad I had the stash to dig into!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten into a good habit of always making sure we have a meal or two in the freezer. Mostly because I loved the convenience of our freezer meals when A was born – but also because let’s face it … life as a parent can be overwhelming, and some times you just don’t want to cook! So even if you’re not preparing for a new baby in the house, you can use the tips and recipes that follow to inspire you in stocking your freezer at any time!

As we have been preparing for our latest arrival, we have a toddler to chase, and haven’t had as much free time to spend in the kitchen. Instead of spending 4-6 hours one day preparing meals for our postpartum period, I learned the beauty of creating our freezer stash over time. One of my favorite tricks is to buy double the groceries for your weekly meal plan. When you make dinner, double your recipe and stick one batch in the freezer. You end up with dinner on the table AND dinner for later! I actually made very few freezer meals this time around that required extra work.

You’ll want to make sure you think about three meals plus snacks. Coming home with a new baby is not only exhausting, but it makes you starving – especially if you’re going to breastfeed. So while it’s important to make sure you’ve got easy dinners to put on the table, you don’t want to forget about breakfast and lunch!

I also took time to create a “Freezer Inventory” so that whoever was preparing food knew what they could find in the freezer at any given time. I can’t take credit for the printable – you can find that here. You can see from the picture above that we have a very well stocked freezer (complete with LOTS of ice cream).
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A Birth Plan for Peaceful Caesarean Birth

Cuddles by Jess Liotta and Colin Liotta
Here we are – 38 weeks and 5 days into our third (and final) pregnancy. Over the last few weeks, we’ve received an incredible amount of support from our friends, family, and doctor. Due to an unfortunate series of events, we ended up having to switch our prenatal care provider between 37 and 38 weeks. While it was a stressful week, we could not be more pleased with how the new practice has handled the transition.

After a lot of thought, conversation and prayer, and a lengthy meeting with the doctor last week, we decided to schedule a family-centered caesarean birth. In the event that I go into labor before our scheduled date, I’ll work with him to determine which direction I’d like to pursue.

I am so thankful for a doctor who helped me think through all of my options, who patiently listened to my desires and my fears, and who gently challenged and questioned me to make sure I was clear about what I wanted. He and I worked together to come up with a shared decision – and when I left his office, I was confident about two things: 1) I had chosen the right birth provider, and 2) Together, we made a fully informed decision that I knew I wouldn’t later regret.

One of the things I did in preparation for this birth was re-visit my birth plan from our first experience. Because my doctor routinely practices a family-centered caesarean experience, I don’t actually need a birth plan – most of what I included is standard procedure. However, I found that putting one together helped me to really focus on what I really wanted out of this birth. My ultimate desire is a peaceful birth experience – and one that won’t end in total separation from my baby for several hours.

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