Meal Planning Monday ~ Eating Clean

          This week’s Meal Planning Monday post is written by my good friend, Julie Brawley.  By her own admission, she is obsessed with cooking, and currently has two food blogs, Eating Clean 4 Life and Gluten-Free for Life.

            Thanks Christine for inviting me to guest blog and share my quest for “clean eating.”

            Studying food and nutrition has always interested me and I really enjoy cooking.  A few years ago, I was having some unexplained health issues.  I was bound and determined to figure out what was causing the problem.  I started doing extensive research and the first thing I decided to do was give up my Diet Coke because of the aspartame.  Guess what?  The unexplained health issues disappeared!!  This discovery sparked in me a relentless drive to do more research on certain ingredients in my food.  It was alarming to me that my food was full of additives and preservatives, many that could make my family sick!  It was disgusting – but what could I do?

            Then in 2009, I took a trip to Italy.  For about nine days, everything I ate was 100% natural ingredients – ZERO processed foods.  I was staying with friends that lived 100% off of their land.  I was blown away by how wonderful the food tasted, and there were no man-made ingredients added to their food.  I must also add that I felt amazing!  When I got home from Italy, I immediately threw out everything in my home that contained additives.  I researched and bought a TON of cookbooks that focused on using only natural ingredients, which is what “clean eating” is all about.

            Since I create websites for a living,  I decided to share with the world my passion for clean eating by sharing recipes that I have “cleaned up” – plus tips, tools, and advice on how you too can lead a “clean eating” life.  I hope you enjoy this week’s Meal Plan of clean eating recipes!

Monday ~ Diablo Pot Roast, pictured above

Tuesday ~  White Chicken Chili served with Corn Bread

Wednesday ~ Crock Pot Lasagna and Salad with Italian Dressing

Thursday ~ Spicy Tilapia with Italiano Green Beans

Friday ~ Beef Stew with Corn Bread

Saturday ~ Turkey Barley Stew

Sunday ~ Mongolian Beef and Jasmine Rice





Meal Planning Monday ~ Happy Halloween!

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I love everything about it from pumpkins to zombies.  I especially love decorating and baking for Halloween.  Over the weekend, I made dinner in a pumpkin.  It looked kind of gross and my husband was a bit hesitant to eat it, but Derrick and the kids ended up loving it.  I also made Mummy hot dogs for the kids’ lunch this weekend.  You would be surprised what ordinary lunches and dinners can be turned into awesome Halloween-themed meals!  Pinterest has been a great source of finding Halloween meal ideas.  Here are a few of my favorite Halloween meals that you and your kids will love.

Ghost Popsicles ~ (Pictured above.)  My kids went crazy over these!  Slice a banana in half, place a Popsicle stick in flat end, and then dip in vanilla yogurt.  Place 2 chocolate chips toward the top of the banana for eyes and freeze for 4 to 5 hours.  The original recipe called for white chocolate but I used yogurt instead that way I felt good about serving my kids popsicles.

Mummy Hot Dogs ~ This meal is super easy and super cheap.  Grab a can of crescent rolls and a pack of hot dogs.  (I found both on sale and paid $2 for both!)  Roll out the dough so the seams are together.  Cut into thin strips, then wrap around the hot dog.  Aren’t they cute?

Halloween Cinnamon Rolls ~ I haven’t tried these yet but they look amazing.  The recipe called for rainbow sprinkles but I’m going to substitute black and orange sprinkles and also tint the icing orange.

Pumpkin Quesadillas ~  These are super cute!  Take two tortillas and sprinkle cheddar cheese on one.  Take the other one cut out the face of a pumpkin.  Place pumpkin cut-out tortilla on top of the other one, then pop in the microwave for about 25 seconds.

Dinner in a Pumpkin ~ The recipe calls for ground turkey, mushrooms, onions, celery, rice, cream of mushroom soup, brown sugar and soy sauce, all baked inside of a pumpkin.  The thought of soy sauce and brown sugar scared me a bit but I was surprised it went together so well.  Here’s a picture of my pumpkin dinner and the recipe.

Dinner in a Pumpkin Recipe:

1 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery or water chestnuts
1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cup cooked rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 medium pumpkin

Cut off the top of a pumpkin and clean the insides out.  Brown your meat in a large skillet with the onions and celery.  While the meat mixture is browning, cook your rice according to the package directions.  In large bowl, blend meat mixture, rice, soup, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Spoon into pumpkin and replace the lid.  Set the pumpkin on a cookie sheet to capture any spills.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour or until pumpkin insides are soft.  Leave the lid on the pumpkin while it is baking to hold in the heat.

Discover the Magic of Meal Planning ~ December 6th

Does the question, “What’s for Dinner?” cause you stress on a regular basis?  If so, “Magic of Meal Planning” Workshop is for you!  In this fun and informative one-hour workshop, you’ll learn how the simple strategies of Meal Planning can save you time, stress, and money when it comes to feeding your family! You’ll learn the Meal Planning basics, how to save time and money with Freezer Cooking, and get tips and recipes that will help you get a delicious dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.

 Only $10!  Satisfaction Guaranteed!

 Includes a FREE copy of Christine’s e-book, “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking”!


 Thursday, December 6th @ 7 PM

Vineyard Christian Church, Florence, KY


Meal Planning Monday ~ Pumpkins Galore

           October is National Pumpkin Month, and I am definitely celebrating!  I love cooking with pumpkin, especially when it’s combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice.  Canned pumpkin is on sale just about everywhere right now, so I am stocking my pantry with it so I’ll have plenty to last me through the winter.  I am finding all kinds of creative ways to use pumpkin, and I thought I’d share them with you this week.

  • Christine’s Power Pumpkin Muffins ~ I posted this recipe a few months ago on my blog.  These delicious, hearty muffins make a great breakfast or snack.  I make double batches and freeze them.  Thaw them out on the counter for an hour or two, or defrost them in the microwave.  I like to warm mine up in the microwave for about 30 seconds, and then slather them with a little butter and honey.
  • Pumpkin Spice Pancakes ~ I start with my favorite pancake recipe that I got from my Uncle John.  I add a cup of pumpkin, a scoop or two of vanilla protein powder, a teaspoon of cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice), and ¼ cup of chopped walnuts.  These also freeze and reheat well, too.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte ~ Nothing heralds the beginning of Fall like the annual comeback of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte!  Unfortunately, my wallet can’t handle buying too many of them, and neither can my hips.  Thankfully, I found this copy-cat recipe that is light on calories and inexpensive to make.  Score!
  • Roasted Pumpkin Bowls ~ Here’s a cool way to add some flair to a Fall dinner party!  Serve pumpkin soup, beef stew, or chili in a roasted pumpkin bowl.  You can even eat the pumpkin when you’re finished with your soup.  Click here to see how.
  • Toasted Pumpkin Seeds ~ Don’t throw away those pumpkin seeds after helping your kids carve jack-o-lanterns this year.  Those little seeds are full of vitamins and minerals, and can be toasted and flavored a variety of ways.  How about some Caramelized Spicy Pumpkin Seeds?  Or Cajun Spiced Pumpkin Seeds?  Maybe some Drunken Pumpkin Seeds soaked in whiskey?  Yes, please!
  • Pumpkin Spice Cake ~ Pumpkin Spice Cake with cream cheese frosting is by far my favorite way to enjoy pumpkin!  I use the recipe from the “Cake Mix Doctor Cookbook,” by Anne Bryn, below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Pumpkin Spice Cake

From The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Bryn

  • 1 Package Spice Cake Mix (18.25 oz.)
  • 1 Package Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (3.4 oz.)
  • 1 Cup of Pumpkin, canned or fresh (mashed)
  • ½ Cup of Oil
  • ½ Cup of Water
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon of Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tub of Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ½ Cup of Chopped Pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place all ingredients, except frosting and pecans, in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides of bowl and blend on medium for 2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared pan and place in the oven on the middle rack.
  3. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed, 32 to 35 minutes.  Allow cake to cool.
  4. Frost cake with the cream cheese frosting.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Slice cake into squares and serve.

Practical Couponing Workshop ~ November 29th

Learn How to Turn Coupons Into Cash!


Are you intimidated, yet awe-struck, by the show, “Extreme Couponing?”  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to spend 40 hours a week and devote an entire room of your house to your stockpile!  The truth is, I can teach you how to invest just a few hours a week to help save your family time, stress, and money.  I like to call it “Practical Couponing!”

 This two hour workshop will provide you with all of the information you need to hit the ground running and start saving NOW with proven coupon strategies!  You will learn how to use coupons to immediately begin saving $200-$300 per month, or more!  You will have a chance to get all of your questions answered.

 Only $20!  Satisfaction Guaranteed!

 Includes a FREE copy of Christine’s e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen”!


 Thursday, November 29th @ 7 PM

Vineyard Christian Church, Florence, KY



Here’s what participants are saying about the workshop:

 We saved $57 on our food bill the first week after taking your class. That was a 31% savings on all name brand products. Mary has a goal of saving 50% by the end of the month. Just at 30% that equals $2,964.00 per year! Who can’t benefit from that? Christine, thank you!  ~ Herb & Mary Johnson


Name the Gorilla Contest

The GorillaBackups Gorilla is really getting tired of being called “the Gorilla!”  He really needs a proper name, and we need your help!  All you need to do is comment on this blog with your name suggestion, for your chance to win a $25 Target gift card!  Contest ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, October 14th.

Here are the rules:

  • ONE name submission per person!  Multiple entries by the same person will be disqualified!
  • If the same name is submitted by multiple people, the first person to comment with that name will get credit for it.
  • You must be 18 years of age or older and be a US resident.
  • Have fun and be creative!

Glenn & Shelley, the Gorilla’s “parents,” will review the submissions on Monday and pick a winning name, which will be announced by Wednesday, October 17th.

            GorillaBackups’ plans for off-site backup for your computer’s data – your important digital documents, music, videos, and pictures – start at less than $36 per year – that’s about a dime a day, so check them out!  (Use coupon code STRONGTOWER.)

Meal Planning Monday ~ Fresh Baked Bread

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking in the kitchen, especially on a cold day?  I think not.  I have always wanted a bread machine, but sadly it was out of my budget.  Until one day, a mom friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was giving hers away.  I jumped on that opportunity – and I am so glad I did!  It has seriously changed my baking life.  Now I can make pizza dough, crescent dough, French bread, and even bagels in my bread machine.

            I thought I would share my favorite bread recipe with you.  I will say this though; follow the directions when you make the bread!  It’s very important you do.  Just last week, I thought I would make a honey-oat bread and put in more honey so it tasted sweeter.  Well, that was NOT a good idea!  My bread not only didn’t rise, but it was also dense and just nasty looking.  I’m sure if you wanted to switch similar ingredients, such as walnuts for cashews or dried blueberries for dried cranberries, which would be fine.  Just don’t toss in more liquid ingredients in like I did.

            One recipe website I love to look at for bread machine recipes is  Actually it’s one of my all-time favorite websites for any kind of recipe.  They have a whole section dedicated to bread machine recipes, including how-to videos.

             I love making white bread.  Yes, I know wheat bread is healthier, but there’s nothing like fresh white bread with a little homemade butter (I’ll share that recipe in another blog post.)

          I also love making pizza dough.  My husband isn’t a fan of it, but my kids are.  My husband could live on Papa John’s pizza if I let him.


Best Bread Machine Bread  (From

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package bread machine yeast
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt


    Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine.  Let the yeast dissolve and foam for 10 minutes.  Add the oil, flour, and salt to the yeast.  Select Basic or White Bread setting, and press Start.


Meal Planning Monday ~ More Soup for You!


          One of my favorite things about autumn is having a nice bowl of hot soup on a cool day.  Lately I have been the anti-“Soup Nazi,” declaring, “More soup for you!”  Once every week or so in September, I made large batches of soup and froze the leftovers in individual servings.  One of the reason I did this, besides the fact that I love soup, is to have easy meal options on hand for busy days.  I have eight classes this month that I am scheduled to teach, so it will be great to heat up some soup with a sandwich or grilled cheese on these nights.

            This has also saved me money over buying canned soup.  I am very picky about my canned soup, because so many varieties have too much sodium and other additives that I’m trying to avoid.  Plus, many of the canned soups really don’t taste very good.  My brand of choice is Wolfgang Puck’s organic soup line, which is delicious but expensive.  It’s also a rare thing to find a coupon for that brand.

            This week, I am going to give you several great soup ideas and recipes that you can make and freeze.  If you’ve got a big family, you’ll want to double or triple the recipes so you have plenty of leftovers to stock your freezer.  You may need to add plastic freezer containers to your grocery list this week if you don’t have enough on hand.  Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say to your family (with an accent, of course), “More soup for you!”


Tomato Basil Soup ~ In my opinion, there is nothing better than tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich when it’s cold and rainy outside.  One of my friends recently turned me on to parmesan-crusted grilled cheese, and it is SO good!  Just sprinkle a little parmesan on top of the buttered bread and make as usual.  I’ve been making mine with turkey, pesto, and sharp cheddar cheese – pure heaven!

Taco Soup ~ This soup is a crowd pleaser, and can be made with either ground beef or turkey.  It’s a nice alternative to chili and perfect for tailgating!

Vegetable Soup ~ I consider myself a vegetable soup connoisseur.  Frisch’s vegetable soup has always been my favorite.  I was completely delighted when one of my Facebook friends, Lori Wagner, shared her homemade version which is even better!  I have a feeling that this soup will be the first one that needs to be replenished.

Chicken Soup ~ There’s something so comforting about a bowl of chicken soup when you’re feeling under the weather!  I was so glad that I had some in the freezer when I got sick with a sinus infection recently.  The recipe, which I got from my Mom, is below.

Black Bean Soup ~ Lately I’ve been adding some shredded chicken to this recipe, which is really good when served with crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkling of cheese.

Chili ~ It freezes very well and it’s so easy to double a chili recipe.  That makes it a no-brainer to make extras for freezing.


Mom’s Chicken Soup

  • 2 Large Bone-in Chicken Breasts, or 1 whole chicken
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • ½ cup of sliced celery
  • ¼ cup of diced onions
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 TBS of dried parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cans of low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ package of egg noodles (I use whole wheat egg noodles)

Place all ingredients, except for the egg noodles, in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  Cut into the breast and ensure there’s no pink in the middle.  Peel the skin back from chicken and allow to cool slightly.

While the chicken is cooling, return the broth to a boil and add the egg noodles.  When the egg noodles are tender, turn off the heat.  Remove chicken from the bone, chop and add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves from the pot, and serve.