Meal Planning Monday ~ Pesto Perfection

            Hi, my name is Christine Luken, and I’m addicted to pesto!  Really – I can’t get enough of that basil, garlic, and olive oil perfection.  And lately I’ve been eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Breakfast?  Yes!  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to put a smear of pesto on an egg sandwich until Panera debuted their Mediterranean Egg White sandwich several months ago.  It’s essentially a breakfast panini – bread, egg white, pesto, cheese, and sundried tomatoes.  It’s super-delicious, but not cheap!

            So I decided to make my own version at home!  First I cook my egg in a little bit of Smart Balance spread or butter.  I take two pieces of whole wheat bread, outsides buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  Once the egg is cooked, I add it to the bread with a smear of pesto on one side and some sharp white cheddar cheese and cook it like a grilled cheese sandwich.  My mouth is watering as I type this!

            Of course, pesto isn’t just for breakfast!  You can add it to your sandwiches for lunch instead of mayo or mustard.  And I love making a great pasta dish with a pesto-based sauce and a good glass of red wine for dinner.  Here are a few great recipes ideas for you fellow pesto addicts!

  • Warm Italiano Spread ~ This is one of my favorite appetizer recipes from Kraft!  It’s simple, delicious, and my party guests always love it!

  • Creamy Pesto Chicken & Bow Ties ~ This is a new recipe that I’m trying this week.  It’s a little different from my usual pesto and chicken pasta recipe and I’m excited to try it!  See recipe below.

  • Pesto Stuffed Crescent Rolls ~ Leah suggested I try these rolls for a delicious side dish for dinner.  Pesto and mozzarella cheese tucked into a warm crescent roll – what’s not to love about that?

  • Pizza ~ If you like to make your own pizza, why not top yours with pesto, mozzarella, and fresh tomato slices?

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pesto?

Creamy Pesto Chicken & Bow Ties (From

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 ¼ Pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1 Can (10.75 ounces) of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup 98% Fat Free

½ Cup of pesto

½ Cup of Milk

½ of a 1-pound package of bow tie (farfalle) pasta (about 3 cups), cooked and drained.

Heat butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook until browned, stirring often.

Stir in the soup, pesto, and milk and heat to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Stir in the pasta and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

$ave a Bundle by Renting Your College Textbooks!

Attention college students and parents of college students!  How would you like to save a bundle – up to 90% – on your text books?  Sounds too good to be true, right?  Well, if you are renting your college text books from Campus Book Rentals, you KNOW these discounts are for real!

I SO wish I would have had this option in college!  I remember my parents’ shell shock over the price of my text books.  The interesting thing is, I only remember using one of those text books after I graduated.  What a waste!

Some of the perks of renting your books with Campus Book Rentals include:

  • Save 40-90% off of bookstore prices!  Still don’t believe me?  Click here to see an example!
  • Free shipping both ways
  • You can highlight in the textbooks
  • Flexible renting periods
  • Campus Book Rentals donates to Operation Smile with each textbook rented

To me, this seems like a no-brainer!  If you’re heading back to campus for a new semester in January, I highly recommend checking out Campus Book Rentals before buying your books.   If  you still have some questions, you can check out this informative – and hilarious – video. FAQ’s:

Meal Planning Monday ~ Five-Star Thanksgiving Leftovers

             Happy Thanksgiving!!  In just a few days, we’ll all be lounging around the house – our bellies stuffed with turkey, watching football, hanging out with our loved ones…  And wondering what we are going to do with all of the Thanksgiving leftovers!  Whenever I cook for family gatherings, I seem to over-estimate the amount of food needed.  My philosophy is that I’d rather have too much food – and leftovers – than not have enough for everyone.

            Have you noticed that when people say the word, “leftovers,” it’s usually in a negative tone of voice?  Not at my house!  I’m a seasoned veteran at creatively re-purposing my leftovers into new culinary creations.  So let’s explore some interesting ways to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers!

  • Turkey ~ Of course you can make turkey sandwiches and turkey noodle soup with your leftover meat, but how about some Zesty Southwest Tacos?  (Recipe below.)  In less than 20 minutes, your family can have a fiesta that’s sure to please!  You could also shred the turkey and toss with BBQ sauce for sandwiches.  I also like to use my turkey meat in place of chicken in my Chicken and Wild Rice soup.  Really, any recipe that calls for shredded chicken can be made with turkey instead.
  • Mashed Potatoes ~ If you use sour cream in your mashed potatoes, they likely won’t freeze very well and no one wants watery mashed potato leftovers!  I found this great blog post with ten creative ways to use up those leftover mashed potatoes, including Shepherd’s pie, mashed potato soup, and salmon croquettes.
  • Pumpkin ~ If you’ve got leftover fresh or canned pumpkin puree, try adding it to baked goods, pancakes, smoothies, or oatmeal with some pumpkin pie spice.  I recently tried this awesome Pumpkin Bread recipe (Thanks Yvonne!), with a few alterations.  I substituted whole wheat flour and evaporated cane juice for the white flour and sugar, and added a scoop of vanilla protein powder for each loaf.  The bread was delicious and super-moist!  I made two loaves and froze one for later use.

Zesty Southwest Tacos  (From First for Women Magazine)

½ cup leftover cranberry sauce

1 small jalapeño pepper, minced

1 lime, zested and juiced

2 Tbs. canola oil

3 cups leftover cooked turkey, shredded

2 tsp. Southwest seasoning blend

12 taco shells, heated

1 ½ cups of shredded lettuce

1 ½ cups shredded red cabbage

1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro


In a bowl, combine cranberry sauce, jalapeño, 2 tsp. line juice, ¼ tsp. lime zest.  Heat oil in skillet.  Add turkey, seasoning blend, and ¼ cup of water.  Cook 4 minutes or until water evaporates.  Divide turkey mixture among the taco shells.  Top with lettuce, cabbage, cilantro, and cranberry sauce mixture.

            Be sure and tell me if you have an interesting and delicious way to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers!






Meal Planning Monday ~ Thankful for Delicious Side Dishes

Today’s post is by Leah Kelley.

The turkey is the star of Thanksgiving dinner, but let’s not forget the supporting actors – those wonderful side dishes!  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not only because I get to see my extended family, but also because I love to eat!  I wanted to share a few different ways to spice up your usual turkey day side dishes.

Sweet Potato Casserole ~  I absolutely love this dish!  I’ve always eaten it with marshmallows on top, but when I discovered a recipe that uses pecans and brown sugar instead, I fell in love with the dish even more.  Instead of topping with marshmallows, use this mixture instead: 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1 cup chopped pecans, and 1/3 cup butter, melted.

Green Bean Casserole ~  Instead of using the traditional recipe with canned soup try this grown up, sophisticated version!  It looks delicious and I can’t wait to make it for Thanksgiving!

 Glazed Carrots ~ In my family, we always have carrots on Thanksgiving. My mom steams them then throws a little brown sugar and butter in the bowl and viola! – glazed carrots.  They are super yummy and easy to make.

Mashed Potatoes ~ I know what you’re thinking, “You HAVE to have mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving!”  Instead of the old faithful mashed potatoes why not add a little flavor to them?  Give Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes a try!

Whatever your family’s food traditions are, have fun with your side dishes this Thanksgiving!





Meal Planning Monday ~ I’m Not Perfect!

            Yes, it’s true!  I’m not a perfect person, which also means I’m not a perfect Meal Planner and I’m not a perfect Coupon Queen.  This past week has been hectic and draining.  I honestly didn’t even feel like writing anything for Meal Planning Monday!  Here are some examples of how my week went:

  • I came home from a busy day to discover that my meat was still frozen, so I ate a PB&J sandwich for dinner.
  • I realized that it was already November 3rd and I hadn’t even made up my monthly meal plan.
  • I burnt my oatmeal and had to scrub scalded milk out of the bottom of the pan.
  • I let several great coupons (including $ off my order) expire before I could use them.
  • I came to the conclusion that my homemade mashed potatoes kind of suck no matter how I make them, and I must smother them with gravy.

            The good news is that none of us have to be a perfect meal planners or couponers to save time and money.  But for those of us who are teachers, the pressure (real or imagined) is to be the expert and always know the right answers.  So this week, I am giving ALL of us permission to relax and not take ourselves so seriously in the kitchen and the grocery store!  Let’s be willing to have some fun and laugh at ourselves when we mess up (which we all will.)

            This week I’m NOT going to give you my meal plan or even any recipes.  Why?  Honestly, I’m all out of fresh ideas at the moment.  I also have a very busy week ahead and will be eating meals that I’ve stocked the freezer with over the past few weeks.  So this week, I want YOU to tell ME what’s on your meal plan or post a link for one of your favorite recipes.  I need some inspiration!