Archives for category: cooking

What what, a meal plan?!? Turns out being done with the school semester frees up some time, even if it’s crazy holiday season.

Here’s what we’re having this week!

Sunday: Massaman Curry (I’ve been craving Thai food for awhile…)
Monday: Steaks on the grill with Sweet Potato Gnocchi in brown butter sage sauce (a friend had a huge crop of sweet potatoes this year so we had a gnocchi freezing date)
Tuesday: Lasagna (going with meatless this time, with lots of spinach mixed in the cheese layer, and homemade red sauce), salad
Wednesday: Man-pleasing Chicken (I’ll make extra to use in the soup for Friday) with leftover sides (I’ve got some broccoli and mashed potatoes in the fridge)
Thursday: Honey Lime Tilapia with confetti couscous
Friday: Chicken Noodle Soup with biscuits

PLUS lots of cookie baking this week!! What do you have planned?


Are the leaves changing where you live? Having grown up in Florida, I’m used to greenery and soaking up the sun on the beach through December but I absolutely love having actual seasons here! Everything is the perfect shade of orange and red and yellow.
But with this display of colors comes colder weather and that means sniffly noses and little coughs aren’t far away. All of a sudden I feel everyone around here is getting sick. Several of our friends have coughs and/or fevers and it seems to be spreading, eek! So before we come down with something I wanted to boost our immune system and hope that it just skips us this time. Fingers crossed! We’ve been taking some extra vitamin C but I wanted something more, something yummy and healthy, something with cold fighting powers mixed in. Chicken noodle soup it is.

We normally buy whole chickens and if I don’t use the carcass right away, I freeze it for stock or soup. This was the perfect time to use one up. This past weekend Morgan also closed up our garden and pulled the last of the carrots. These little guys were definitely making it into the soup!


I started with the base of onions, celery and cute garden carrots (plus some extra from the store).


Then I added 8 cups of water, the chicken bones from a yummy roasted chicken and some herbs.


I had some sage, basil, oregano, and thyme from the garden and found some bits of bay leaves in the pantry.  I tossed it all in, let it boil, then reduced to a simmer for about an hour.  Right before we were ready to eat, I removed the bones, and added some pasta.  A few pinches of salt later, lunch was served!


One of Starr Lily’s favorite things is having picnics in the living room, so we got cozy on the floor and gobbled up some delicious and immune boosting soup! Even Baby Koala Bear got a spot at our picnic.


Is there something you like to eat to keep your family healthy?

I want it to feel like fall so badly, but it’s still in the 90s here in Florida.  I’m still going to cook like it’s fall in hopes that cooler weather will be here soon.

Monday:  Chicken and Spaghetti (it’s a family favorite sort of recipe…chicken in a sauce of peppers, onions, garlic, olives, and tomatoes over pasta with cheese melted on top….yum)

Tuesday:  Slow cooker pesto chicken over sweet potatoes (I have leftover pesto to use up)

Wednesday:  Pumpkin, goat cheese, and spinach over gnocchi  (I’m roasting a pumpkin to have on hand….I did already roast one a couple weeks ago but that’s already gone)

Thursday:  Salmon cakes, quinoa salad, and broccoli

Friday:  Ragu alla Bolognese….maybe I’ll tackle homemade pappardelle too

Saturday:  Yogurt Marinated Lamb kebabs with lemon butter, over orzo with feta


What’s cooking at your house?

What?  I have a blog?!?  So I haven’t written in …forever.  I have a theory that I can do about 3 things well consistently (school with kids, my job teaching community college, cooking meals, cleaning house, writing for the blog, cleaning house, sewing, gardening, spending time with friends….) so at any given point in time, only 3 of those are going well and the rest, not so much.  School with the kiddos has been going great, and I’ve been cooking consistently…the other tasks all get to take a turn briefly. Sometimes the other tasks just fall off the radar completely….

The hubby went out of town for two weeks at the same time my mom was out of town for a month, which also coincided with me starting back to teaching, so life was put on hold a little bit.  Well, maybe not life, but just the regularly scheduled program.  We have been back into a good routine for a few weeks though so no real excuse on not posting.

I’ve found this semester that it’s easier for me to just cook a meal that takes 30 minutes or less than for me to make the entire meal for the hubby to finish while I’m at work.  Why?  Because I came home a few times to find dinner not made/finished because he didn’t read my note.  Plus, I only like so many crock pot meals.

This week’s plan:

Monday:  Spinach and Cheese Calzones from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day <—meatless!

Tuesday:  Homemade Individual Chicken Pot Pies (I will make these in advance and hope Hubby puts them in the oven while I’m at work)  Here’s a recipe if you need one.  I’ll be changing up the veggies based on what we have.  I’ll make a simple salad to go alongside.

Wednesday:  Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos, with guacamole (thanks to Drea’s mom hooking me up from her avocado tree) and some queso fresco, also some quick Spanish rice.

Thursday:  Pork Ragu over fettuccine (I LOVE this sauce.  one of my favorites….last time I made it Doug was out of town, so I froze enough for us to have for another meal….all I have to do is defrost it, heat it up, and cook some pasta). salad.

Friday:  Parmesan Crusted Salmon over Orzo with Spinach Pesto (maybe I’ll take pics and write up the recipes for both of these.  Family favorites around here)

Saturday:  Out with friends!

Sunday:  Meatball subs, using up red sauce from Monday (I made a giant batch of meatballs awhile back and froze in meal sized portions), salad

That’s it!!  Lots of variety this week with very little effort…should be a good one 🙂

That’s right, I’m brewing some kombucha.


I feel like I’m one step closer into awesomely crazy-crunchy mom world, but I’m loving it, ha! Have you tried kombucha? It’s full of good probiotics and is also tastey and fizzy, win-win! I suppose some people aren’t too fond of the yeasty flavor, but I like it. It almost reminds of hard cider… almost. But buying kombucha can be pricey and some of my friends are making their own so I knew I could get my hands on some SCOBY (more on that in a bit) to make my own.

There are a ton of how-to videos out there, so I’ll just direct you to one I like from Cultures for Health and instead tell you how ours is turning out. Here’s a quick recap: first, brew some tea (I had 6 bags of Lipton’s) and steep it with a cup of sugar. Add the SCOBY and enough water to fill a gallon jar and let it sit for a week on the counter. Pretty easy, no?

The only thing that has taken me a while is finding just the right container. Apparently plastic and metal containers are a no go so we need to stick to glass to keep the bacteria and yeast happy. I wanted to do two ferments to flavor the kombucha so I needed to find bottles for that too.

I ended up buying this and this from crate and barrel (they had a great sale!) and then used some pint and half pint canning jars that I had on hand. I also bought some extra goodies, but they aren’t necessary! Cuppow makes a lid to add to the canning jars so you could drink from it and I like using a straw so I bought these stainless steel straws too. It makes drinking my kombucha a little fancy and fun!

I was able to pick up a SCOBY from my friend (thanks Pamm!) before my jars arrived and was so excited to start making a brew that I just used the largest glass container I had on hand. It has the plastic/metal dispenser, but it didn’t affect it at all.


So back to the SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym for Sybiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and is pretty gnarly looking.


The bacteria and yeast live off of the sugar and ferment the tea into some yummy, healthy fizziness! It feels a bit squishy, and after each original ferment, you grow another SCOBY to share with your friends! I’ve read you can give it to your doggies as a treat or compost it for the garden too.

After the tea has sat on your counter for a week, then you can rebottle it and add some flavorings to make it extra fizzy. I added clementine segments and ginger to this batch.


I muddled it up, added the fermented tea, put the lids on and let them sit on the counter for another two days. Ok, I didn’t really let them sit there, I had one every day and noticed how much fizzier and tangier it got. They were all yummy! And Starr Lil’s loves it too! I also tried strawberries and it was amazing.

Here is the only warning – true story, my sister made a batch and the pressure from the second ferment exploded a bottle and kombucha went flying all over her kitchen. I still chuckle imagining her cleaning kombucha off of the ceiling. So you might want to refrigerate the second ferment after two days, just in case!


I’m excited to try some different flavors soon, like apple cinnamon, and I just found a recipe for spicy chocolate!

Up next on my fermenting adventure… water kefir! Have you tried some of these yummy/healthy fermented foods?

Last week we were struck with illness in our house, and took a few days off from life as a result.  I sometimes think it’s God’s way of telling us to slow down a little and get some rest.  All are better now, so back to the usual.

Tuesday:  Tomato soup (with spinach and stars), pesto/provolone/ham melts (My soup starts off with sweating some carrots and onion in butter and olive oil, then add in broth and diced tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, chopped basil, maybe a dab of honey if it’s super acidic, puree it all after it simmers…then you can add in other stuff, too.  Like a splash of cream for creamy tomato)

Wednesday: Lamb Burgers with feta and tzatziki, sweet potato fries, and Greek salad

Thursday:  Spaghetti and Meatballs with salad (I made a large batch of meatballs awhile ago and froze them in portions, so Doug just has to make some noodles while I’m at work and reheat the meatballs and sauce)

Friday:  Country Fried Steak with gravy over egg noodles with broccoli

Saturday:  Cookout with friends

Sunday:  …raid the fridge?

Man this time of the year seems so busy!!  What exciting meals do you have planned for this week?

Back to school time is insanity.  I like getting into an established routine, but I am not in love with feeling so busy all the time.  My schedule for the fall….I teach two nights a week, Bible study one night, church another night, then the kids have Awanas once a week.  So that leaves two nights a week that I am not out of the house.  Two.  Out of seven.  It feels insane, right?  Meal plans will reflect that…there will be a lot of meals that I can throw together quickly, or have very little clean up.  My first week of work I came home to no dinner on the table, despite leaving clear instructions to hubby on what he needed to do to finish things up.  I ended up just doing it myself, so I guess I’ll prepare for that…I can get any prep done for dinner before I go and be ready to finish it up and get it on the table when I get home from work.

Here’s what we are eating this week….

Monday:  Tandoori Chicken over quinoa with steamed broccoli, homemade naan

Tuesday:  Slow Cooker Braised Chicken Thighs (adding potatoes in to the slow cooker, too)

Wednesday:  Pork Ragu, salad

Thursday:  Grilled Shrimp, Orzo Pasta with Spinach and Parmesan

Friday:  Korean Beef over brown Basmati rice  (I’ll add in broccoli, too)

Saturday:  Huge food truck rally!

How does your week look?

All of these back to school sales create such mixed emotions….Drea and I used to LOVE roaming the aisles of office supply stores, picking out new sharpies and post its and seeing what else is out there (who are we kidding, we still do).  But as any teacher can tell you, there is also the bundle of nerves that comes with starting a new year….what will my class(es) be like?  What will the FIRST DAY be like?!  Even though I’m only going back to teach a couple nights a week, the same emotions are there.  That sense of loss you feel for your freedom…but with school starting, that means the fall season will soon be upon us.  No more mega hot weather….lots of holidays…then you start feeling like time is just flying by and your babies are growing up too quickly and then you cry a little.

And that’s what happens when I see a sale on crayons.  That’s normal, right?

Meal planning is still easy this week, but in a short while we are back to me working some nights and things become a little more difficult.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts 🙂

Monday:  Honey Lime Tilapia with herbed Israeli couscous

Tuesday:  Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Lemon Butter over brown basmati rice with broccoli  (we just bought a lamb for the freezer!!)

Wednesday:  Ground Beef Enchiladas (I’ll sub in whole food ingredients, like make my own enchilada sauce), salad

Thursday:  Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy with Herbs, Lemon Marinated Chicken, and Cherry Tomatoes, homemade focaccia, salad

Friday:  Roast pork with quinoa mac and cheese

Saturday:  Subs and a bike ride


Sunday is my flex day as always….yesterday I made a pizza out of leftovers we had (some pesto, some chicken, cheese, tomatoes).  Pizzas come together so quickly it’s a great fast meal.  I think I can do the recipes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day in my sleep now.

What are you having?  Any sobbing over pencils and staplers?

I am definitely not a master at breadmaking, but have done a lot of research and practice in the past couple of years. Not everything is a winner, but soft, fluffy, almost doughnut style Sweet Potato Rolls are my favorite. I tried a lot of recipes, and did a horrible job keeping track of the ones I loved (this was before my Plan to Eat days….now recipes are much better organized). I found this recipe to be my favorite…..but like many bread recipes out there on the interwebs, it is for a bread machine. Plenty of people swear by their bread machine, but I want to have LESS appliances, not more. I have developed the ability to read bread machine recipes and adapt them as I go since I understand the order of making bread (or at least think I do). So here’s my adapted version, for those of you out there wishing for more counterspace:


2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or one packet (I buy my yeast in bulk at the local membership warehouse, and store in the freezer)

2/3 cup warm milk (you should heat until it feels like it would make a great bath, or roughly 100 degrees. Too hot and it will kill the yeast, too cold and…something else happens but I don’t remember what)

1/4 cup sugar, or honey. I think you can get by with about half that if you want to cut back on sugar, but they are super mega delicious with all of it

Start by adding just those three things to the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a regular bowl if you plan to do this all by hand). Mix it up, let it sit for about 5 minutes. It will start to get a little foamy. If not, your yeast might be bad and you might need to start over with new yeast.


Next, add the following

1 egg (room temp is best, but not crucial–and whip it a little before adding)

1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (I bake my sweet potatoes the day before I want to make rolls. I also never measure the sweet potato and just throw in about 1/2 cup…but it’s likely more)

1/4 cup melted butter (mmmmmmmmm….unsalted, since baking always means unsalted butter, right?)

Mix all of that up, either by hand, or using your dough hook or paddle. You just want it all nice and incorporated. I think it’s good to use a silicon spatula for this step, since the dough hook doesn’t really ‘mix’.


Now we are ready to add in flour. I’ve learned that it’s best to add flour little by little when making bread so you add just the right amount. Adding too much flour can be very bad…and by very bad, I mean I have no clue how to fix it. I did mention I’m not a professional, right? Anyway, I add 1 cup flour (bread flour, all purpose, or white wheat will work here) along with 1 tsp of salt, and start mixing with your dough hook.


Once the flour is no longer all over the sides of the bowl and looks like it’s almost all added in, add in another 1/2 cup.


Keep going until you’ve added about 3 cups (you might need to use your spatula to wipe down the sides of the bowl). But…it might be a little less or a little more (this one probably took a little over 4 cups).

IMG_0986^ not quite ready, but close!

How do you know when to stop? Once all the flour is incorporated, it will be not super sticky if you jam your hand in there. I know, not super scientific. But, you should be able to stick a finger in and pull it away and it will feel more like dough, less like a sticky glue pit.  It will also pull away from the sides of the bowl while mixing.  This dough is a little on the wet side, so best to err on that. If you use extra sweet potato like me, you might find the need for extra flour….or if you use the white wheat instead of all purpose, you might use less…

After you think you’ve got the flour thing figured out, turn your mixer up a little and let it knead the dough for about ten minutes. You might need to stop and scoop the dough ball off of the hook a couple of times since I find it just gets stuck and doesn’t seem to move around at all. That’s normal, right? Anyway, after it kneads for awhile (which you can knead the dough by hand on a floured counter too if you don’t have a mixer), the dough should be not sticking to you at all, and when you pull it apart lightly, it doesn’t break.  You might find that you need to add a little flour again along the way, but a couple tablespoons at a time, tops.


Okay, once the kneading step is all done, form it into a ball. Just grab the dough and keep pulling around to the bottom so the top is nice and smooth. Hold it in one hand, oil your bowl with another (I just use the mixer bowl), plop your ball in pretty side down to oil the top, then turn it over (so all sides should be oiled now).


Then cover and let rise for about an hour. If you live in a particularly cold place, you might let it rise in the oven (you can turn it on to like 200 and then shut it off). I live in Florida, it’s never cold. The countertop works great for me. You can cover with plastic wrap, but I use a tea towel that I get damp first.


After an hour, your dough should have doubled in size roughly. It will be nice and pillowy soft. Resist the urge to just eat it.


Divide it in half, then divide each half in half again, then divide each quarter into three….so you should end up with 12 pieces. You can use a 9×13 pan, or two pie pans, or two 8-9″ cake pans (lightly oil first). Take each piece, form into a ball like you did with the big ball, and put them in your baking dish of choice.


Cover again and let rise for about another 30 minutes to an hour.


After that, they should plump up and fill up all the space between them.


They are ready to bake!

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake for about 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on top and you can’t stand the smell them baking anymore because you fear you might ingest your own stomach. Don’t burn your tongue, it’s tough, I know. You can make the glaze in the original link, but they come out tasting identical to doughnuts if you do. I prefer without, since it seems less wrong to eat with dinner, or sneak them after the kids go to bed. Plus, any leftovers will be a little gross and gooey if they have the glaze.


And for the record, my hubby hates these because they have sweet potato in them and he hates sweet potatoes. That’s okay, more for me.

Enjoy!! These keep well to eat the next morning. Beyond that, I have no idea since they’ve never lasted. I’d love to hear about how yours turn out!!

I had to search through my Pinterest boards to find my meatball recipe to link, and now I want to make all new and different things….ah, Pinterest.  Here’s the plan for now anyway 😉  All of these are likely out of order, but will all happen this week.

Monday: use leftover roast beef to make Philly cheese steaks, serve with salad and grapes
Tuesday: Eggplant Parmigiana, Meatballs, Spaghetti, homemade marinara  (I know, way too much for one night, right?  Doug HATES Eggplant Parmigiana since he’s a crazy person, so I promised I’d make meatballs, too)
Wednesday: Steaks on the grill, roasted cauliflower, mashed garlic potatoes
Thursday: Roasted Red Pepper Goat Cheese Alfredo, salad (this is super delicious by the way, we’ve had it quite a few times here)
Friday: Pork Ragu, salad  (When we ordered our whole pig, we didn’t get the hams ‘smoked’, so I’ve found this is a great use for not-baked-ham)
Saturday: homemade pizza (from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)

Sunday will be a flex day….leftovers, perhaps?

What are you having this week?