Meal Planning Monday ~ Recipe Resources


          If you’re like me, you might be making a resolution soon to be a little more adventurous and try some new recipes in the New Year.  My Mom once told me that the secret to being a good cook is to start with good recipes, then practice, practice, practice!  So where do you find these good recipes? 

            The internet is a plentiful source of recipes!  I’ve found quite a few goods ones, and some bad ones, by just Googling the name of what I’m looking for, such as “Chicken & Mushroom recipe,” and see what links come up.  This method can be a bit of a crap-shoot, so I’m going to give you some recipe websites that Leah and I use frequently and with good success.

   is an easy site to use.  You can search by category (appetizer, main dish, etc.) or by ingredient.  The recipes are rated by other users, so you’ll know if the recipe’s worth trying.  There are also some great general cooking articles, even instructional videos, on this site, such as how to roast a chicken, make the perfect gravy, or a fluted pie crust. 

   is a great website to check out.  I have found two of my favorite appetizer recipes there: Warm Italiano Spread which is a cream cheese pesto dip that is quickly devoured at parties, and the Creamy Mediterranean Spread which is also a cream cheese dip (noticing a trend here?) with chopped kalamata olives, roasted red pepper, and feta cheese.  There are also some fabulous dessert recipes on the Kraft website.

   is Leah’s latest obsession for recipes, and I can easily see why.  The pictures of the food are pure works of art and will have your mouth watering in a matter of seconds!  Click on a picture and it will take you to the source website which may be a blog or a recipe site you’d not have found otherwise.

            There’s a fresh take on the old fashioned recipe swaps that our mothers used to attend.  Leah and I are part of group on Facebook called “Try It Out.”  The whole goal of this group of friends is to find out what others are having for dinner and share recipes so we don’t get bored with our usual meal plans.  Members post pictures, ask questions, and post their favorite recipes.  I highly recommend that you start one with your friends and family who like to cook!

            Yes, I do still use some old-fashioned cookbooks, too!  My “Fix It and Forget It” crockpot cookbook has been in heavy rotation with the weather being cold now.  I’m also a fan of the Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks by Anne Byrn.  The Bacardi Rum Cake is fantastic!  I make it every Christmas, and I think there might be a riot if I decided not to!

            So, join me in 2012 by resolving to be a little more adventurous in the kitchen and try some new recipes!  Who knows, you may have yet to discover your family’s new favorite dinner.




Crafty Christmas Gifts


            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Two weeks left until Christmas!  I’m so excited because this is the first year that my husband and I have been able to afford Christmas presents.  In the past years, we’ve had to decide between paying bills and buying presents.  There’s  no joy in knowing you had to put off paying the electric bill so you can buy your kids’ presents.  We’ve worked very hard to reach this point and, although it wasn’t an easy road, it has paid off greatly.  I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.  It was both a sanity and marriage saver.  

            If you’re struggling with your finances or just don’t have a lot saved up for Christmas, you can always make something homemade.  Many times a gift from the heart means more than a store bought piece of plastic.  I thought I’d share a few do-it-yourself gift ideas.  I’m posting the ideas and also the links to the blogs I found them on.  Not only will you get some ideas for presents but you might find a new blog you’d like to follow!


Tea Cup Candles ~ These are adorable and very inexpensive to make.

Fabric Coaster ~ If you know how to sew or someone who has a sewing machine this looks fairly easy.

Memory Game ~ If you have a digital scrapbooking kit like My Memories Suite this is perfect! If not you can find different patterns online to use.

Peppermint Face Scrub ~ I’m a sucker for any homemade beauty products.

Canvas Log Carrier ~ I’m thinking about making one of these for my parents.

Vanilla Sugar ~ I bet this would yummy in some sugar cookies.

No Sew Wine Bag ~ Not only does this look easy but would make a great hostess gift too.

Have fun with your presents this year!





Meal Planning Monday ~ Holiday Baking

          It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at the Luken house!  I’ve put up all of my holiday decorations and Nick helped me put up the tree so I could decorate it today.  I always love pulling out all of our ornaments and remembering where each one came from.  Some I inherited from my parents, others were gifts from loved ones, and many are souvenirs from the trips we’ve taken over the years.  Last year we were on vacation for two weeks in December, so I didn’t bake any Christmas cookies, didn’t put up the tree, and most of my family received gift cards.  Although I wish we were going back to Maui this year, I am going to savor all of the holiday traditions I missed out on last year- especially making Christmas sugar cookies with my Mom.

            From the time I was four or five years old, I’ve helped my Mom make Christmas sugar cookies (from scratch, complete with homemade butter cream frosting, pictured above).  When I was in my early 20’s and my Mom was in college getting her Master’s Degree in Social Work, she stated that she was too busy to make Christmas cookies.  That was the year that I took over the tradition and began making them every year.  Sometimes my Mom helps me, sometimes one of my friends does.  We make a triple batch of sugar cookies, and frost them all in one day.  It is definitely a labor of love!  And I am looking forward to doing it again this year.  I know my friends and family who are the lucky recipients of a bundle of fresh baked cookies are looking forward to it as well!  Many people have asked me for the “secret recipe” for the sugar cookies and frosting.  Sorry, but that is reserved for my niece and nephew who will inherit it at the proper time!

            Now is the time to stock up on all of your baking supplies for the holidays and beyond!  Ingredients like sugar, flour, spices, nuts, chocolate chips, cake mixes, and frosting are all on sale now.  Many of these will keep for months in the pantry and the freezer.  I’ve included the recipe for my Fiery Fried Chicken, which is delicious and easy to make on those hectic evenings leading up to Christmas.

Monday ~ Stroganoff

Tuesday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and green beans

Wednesday ~ Fend for Yourself Night

Thursday ~ Chicken Parmesan

Friday ~ Black Bean Chili

Saturday ~ Chicken Tacos

Sunday ~ Fiery Fried Chicken with potatoes and mixed veggies.  This chicken has a great sweet and spicy flavor, thanks to the coconut oil and chili garlic sauce.
Fiery Fried Chicken

  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders
  • ½ cup of pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbs of Chili Garlic sauce (find it in the Asian food aisle of the grocery store)
  • 1 ½ cups of bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil



  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the coconut oil to the pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the pineapple juice and the chili garlic sauce.  Dredge the chicken tenders in this mixture, then coat with bread crumbs.
  3. Cook in the skillet about five minutes per side until coating in golden brown and chicken is no longer pink inside.