Resolve to Start Meal Planning

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

 There are plenty of great reasons why regular meal planning should make it on to your New Year’s Resolution List.  Meal planning helps you save money, eat healthier, stress less, spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.  These are all things that we want, so why do we resist doing it?

I think what holds many people back from meal planning is thinking that, in order to do it “right,” they have to plan a month in advance, spend every weekend batch cooking and freezing, AND be super organized.  Sure, you can start that way if you want to, but for most folks it’s easier to begin gradually rather than cannonballing into the deep end.  So, here are some baby steps, tips, and tools to get you started on your meal planning adventures.

  • Plan a week of dinners.  Look at your calendar for the next week and plan your dinners based on what you’ve already got on hand in the fridge, pantry, and freezer.  Save more complicated, labor intensive meals for weekends or other non-busy days.  Plan on slow cooker meals or meals that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less for busy nights.  Next week, try planning out ten days to two weeks in advance.  Before long, you’ll be on a monthly meal planning schedule. (Which is great, because you only have to do it 12 times a year vs. 52 times a year!)

  • Make a double batch of a family favorite meal and freeze half of it.  It doesn’t take twice as long to make a double batch of a recipe!  In fact, it usually only takes a few extra minutes. You’ll be grateful two or three weeks from now when you’re short on time.  You’ll have a great meal you can dump frozen into the crockpot before heading to work and come home to a wonderful smelling house and dinner ready to serve!  I highly recommend a dish like beef stew, spaghetti sauce with meatballs, chili, or vegetable soup for your first freezer meal.
  • Stock up on freezer cooking supplies next time you’re at the store.  If you don’t have plenty of zipper freezer bags (quart and gallon size) and plastic containers in various sizes for freezer cooking, be sure and stock up so you have no excuses.
  • Search Pinterest or Google for good freezer cooking and batch cooking recipes.  It’s more fun to meal plan if you have recipes you’re excited to try!

  • Check out these great Meal Planning tools!  If you’d like a FREE blank meal planning calendar or freezer inventory sheet, just click here to download.  If you’re ready to really get serious about meal planning, invest a few dollars in my e-book, Discover the Magic of Meal Planning. (Kindle Unlimited members get it FREE!)

Whether you’re trying to save money at the grocery store, eat healthier, or spend more time with your family, meal planning can help you with those resolutions.  Here’s to a Happy New Year and Happy Meal Planning in 2015!





Meal Planning Monday ~ Vegetarian Options for Holiday Gatherings

This week’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggies & Glitter.

I’ll never forget my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian.

While my family heaped their plates with smoked ham and oven-roasted turkey, my holiday meal consisted of pumpkin pie, brown sugar sweet potatoes, and several yeast rolls. Ironically, I had become a vegetarian for purely nutritional reasons, yet my feast was anything but nourishing. I knew that something had to change if I was going to successfully stick with this new lifestyle through the holiday season each year.

Since then, I have collected an arsenal of recipes that I can make and tote along to social gatherings from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Not only do I now have healthy options at holiday parties, but my friends and family have grown to look forward to these dishes as much as the meat-laden ones they have been devouring for years.

These five plates will brighten any holiday potluck spread, but they can also be served up as main entrees at home on busy weeknights. Whether you’re accommodating a strict vegetarian or just looking to lighten up on the amount of meat you consume yourself, these easy recipes will leave you feeling satisfied this season.

Monday: Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of The Vegetarian Times

Yes, planning a holiday meal is stressful, but I would argue that generating healthy meals during a busy week of school or work is just as taxing. Because half of this vitamin-rich recipe is prepared ahead of time, this salad is the perfect meal for a particularly manic Monday when ordering pizza seems like the only viable option.

Preparing the rice mixture on a leisurely Sunday and chilling it in the fridge overnight will make it possible for you to have an antioxidant-loaded meal on the table in less than a half an hour. To save yourself even more weekday work, also dice up the butternut squash and store it in the fridge one day prior to devouring this salad with your family!

Access the full recipe here:

Tuesday: Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market

I’ll be the first to admit that I only thought of the sweet potato as a dessert component until I had reached adulthood. After all, I had only ever tasted it when it was topped with marshmallows, smothered with brown sugar and butter, or incorporated into a pie. It never struck me that it was also a savory root vegetable packed with a slew of vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, as well as iron and potassium.

Sweet potatoes are combined with fresh baby arugula and naturally sweetened with honey in this recipe, which is full of flavor without all of the processed junk that is often included in sweet potato dishes.

Access the full recipe:

Wednesday: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Image and recipe courtesy of

Vegetarians obviously won’t be indulging in the main protein source (turkey, of course!) in which most people indulge on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean that “tofurkey” has to be at the heart of a meatless feast. Even as someone who is enthusiastic about sampling a wide array of meat alternatives, I’ll be quite honest that the idea of faux turkey sounds revolting to me.

This delicious recipe will undoubtedly appeal to both vegetarians and meat lovers alike, and it will save you from having to resort to noshing on “tofurkey” this Thanksgiving.  Quinoa is often thought to be a grain because it’s frequently used as a replacement for rice, but it’s actually a seed that can sprout into a leafy vegetable if harvested in a certain way. Like leafy greens, it’s also packed with protein. Served in half of a roasted acorn squash and topped with pumpkin seeds, it will leave you feeling more satisfied than turkey ever could.

Access full recipe:

Thursday: Spinach and Cheese Strata

Image and recipe courtesy of

A vegetarian strata recipe is ideal to have on hand over the holidays due to its versatility. Not only would you be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t love to indulge in such a decadently rich dish, but it can also be served virtually any time of day. While this dish was a hit when I served it to my family at a Thanksgiving weekend brunch, I also enjoy making it on cool fall evenings when it’s just my husband and me together at home.

Even though this dish is not for those who are counting carbs, it’s also loaded with protein-rich eggs and fiber-filled spinach. It’s certainly a healthier “comfort food” option than most others you will find this holiday season!

Access the full recipe:

Friday: Roasted Apple Pumpkin Soup

Image and recipe courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

 One of my favorite things to do during the fall months is to go apple picking with loved ones. Regardless of how many times I tell myself to take it easy, I always come home with more apples than I can physically consume before they rot! This recipe is one of my personal favorites because it combines tart apples straight from the orchard with pumpkin, one of my other favorite seasonal flavors.

Because it makes a large batch of leftovers that will last for up to three days in your refrigerator, this recipe is ideal for a busy holiday weekend when you want to have an easy, healthy option on hand. Just remember that in order for this to be a truly vegetarian dish, you must use vegetable stock rather than that made with chicken.

Access the full recipe:

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.


Meal Planning Monday ~ Slow Cooker Comfort

Hello. It’s Heather popping in from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. The dreariness of fall has hit in full force. I hear the rain falling outside as the damp seeps in. Fall is my favorite time to pull out slow-cooker meals. With school in session and fall activities starting up, there just never seems to be enough time and the first thing to go tends to be dinner time.

Besides the questionable healthiness of swinging through the fast food drive-thru, we also have the cost factor. With a family of 5, 3 of whom are growing children, fast food definitely isn’t very frugal. Having a meal plan and making it functional for busy days and evenings, ensures I hit that drive thru less. Freezer meals and slow cooked meals save the day and budget.

I have a new healthy favorite slow-cooker meal that is easy and packed with hidden veggies. After dinner I asked my thankfully not too picky eaters if they knew there was zucchini in it. (Tip one, puree it well and nobody will know.) This recipe will make two batches, filling two goals for me. One, a great healthy slow-cooker meal, and two, a freezer meal. The best part is this meal is egg-free for those who may be allergic to most lasagna dishes.

Chicken Sausage Zucchini Lasagna Casserole


  • 2 pounds chicken sausage, cooked (I make them ahead of time in the oven then fridge for meals)
  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 – 24 ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups diced zucchini
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium sweet pepper
  • 32 ounces ricotta
  • 24 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic/3 cloved, diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil


  • Boil water and cook lasagna noodles to al dente, drain.
  • Finely chop sausage in food processor or blender with a bit of tomatoes, be careful not to puree.
  • Blend rest of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, peppers, and garlic in blender or food processor then mix with sausage.
  • Mix together ricotta and seasonings.
  • Put 2 cups of meat and veggie sauce mixture in bottom of pan.
  • Fill surface with one layer of noodles, slightly overlapping them.
  • Cover noodles with about 1/2 cup ricotta mixture.
  • Add another 2 cup layer of sauce.
  • Add another layer of noodles.
  • Add another 1/2 cup of ricotta.
  • Add one more layer of noodles.
  • Dot with ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup sauce.
  • Cover with 8 ounces of mozzarella.
  • Slow-cook on low for 4-6 hours. Should be ready at 4 hours.

For freezer meal:

  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Using a 9 x 13 aluminum pan,
  • Start with a layer of noodles.
  • Add a layer of meat sauce, then ricotta.
  • Continue layering until all ingredients are gone.
  • Cover with 16 ounces mozzarella.
  • Bake for approximately one hour, or until cheese is golden brown.
  • Let cool.
  • Wrap with several layers of plastic wrap.
  • Wrap with foil.
  • Tape reheating directions to package.
  • Freeze.
  • Pull out to thaw in refrigerator about 1 day in advance.
  • Pull plastic off, replace aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • If still frozen, add 20-30 minutes, depending how frozen it is.


Here are four more great slow-cooker meals that will have dinner on the table almost as soon as you get home. The best part is that if you do most of the prep work the evening before or that morning it will really make dinner quick and easy.
  1. Chicken Tacos – shredded taco meat, tortillas, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa
  2. Change up your traditional Chicken Noodle with this Chicken Couscous Soup.
  3. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
  4. Slow – Cooker French Onion Soup + Slow Cooked Brats


Heather writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

October ~ A Month of Meals

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Do you meal plan weekly or monthly?  I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it’s less stressful for me to meal plan monthly, since I only have to do it 12 times a year, instead of 52!  On numerous occasions, I’ve had people ask me to share my monthly meal plan so they can get some fresh ideas for their own meal plans.

October is going to be frightfully busy for me!  I start teaching Financial Peace University tomorrow, which is a nine-week class.  I’ve also been doing more financial coaching appointments in the evening lately.  That means plenty of FFY (Fend For Yourself) days on the calendar!  I’ll be batch cooking to stock the freezer with soups, chili, BBQ, and pasta for those busy evenings.  I also plan on baking during the weekends – homemade granola bars, pumpkin bread, zucchini muffins, and plum cake!  Here’s what I’m cooking in October.

Week One


Monday ~ Homemade vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  There will be plenty of leftover soup to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Hubby will probably reheat white chicken chili for his dinner.

Wednesday ~ Breakfast for dinner: Omelets, hash browns, turkey sausage and fruit

Thursday ~ FFY – Financial Coaching.  Hubby will have to reheat a freezer meal.

Friday  ~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce with salad.  I’ll make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the leftovers.

Saturday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I’ll also bake pumpkin bread sometime over the weekend.

Sunday ~ Using the leftover chicken meat from Saturday, and the chicken stock in the freezer, I’ll be making chicken soup.  Recently, I’ve been omitting the noodles and adding extra veggies, like peas, green beans, and corn.  We’ll round out the meal with crusty rolls and butter.

Week Two


Monday ~ Broiled or grilled chicken breasts with artichokes & tomatoes.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  I’ll put beef stew in the crock pot in the morning, so it will be ready when Nick gets home from work.

Wednesday ~ Loaded Nachos.

Thursday ~ Turkey Chili with salads.  Plenty of leftovers for the freezer!

Friday  ~ White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup with beer bread.  This is a cheap, filling, meatless meal.  Thanks to my sister, Leah, for this recipe!

Saturday ~ I’m going to try my hand at making Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce and serve it with brown rice.  It’s a more involved recipe than most of the ones I make on a regular basis, so I’m saving it for the weekend.

Sunday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and a veggie.  I’ll also bake a double batch of granola bars.


White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stock/soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Stir in broth, carrots, beans, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale; cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until kale is done, stirring occasionally.

Week Three


Monday ~ Spinach Stuffed Chicken. My freezer is packed with frozen spinach, so I’m trying to work it into my meals this month.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Chicken & Potatoes in the crock pot – easy and delicious!  I’ll strain the juices left in the crock pot and freeze it because it makes awesome stock for chicken soup!

Thursday ~ Out to Eat for Dinner!  A well-deserved night off for me!

Friday  ~ Meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Rosemary Lemon Chicken in the crock pot with Parmesan potatoes and a veggie.  Make 5 balls of foil from 1’ x 1’ sheets and set the chicken on top of the foil balls inside the crock pot.  This keeps the skin from getting soggy.  I rub the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary and stuff it with lemon wedges, and cook it breast side down.

Sunday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole and side salads.  The leftovers from this casserole freeze really well.  I also plan on making zucchini chocolate chip muffins.

Week Four


Monday ~ Spicy Shrimp & Tomatoes.  This can be served over rice or pasta, or with crusty rolls to dip into the tasty juices!

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Black bean soup with tortilla chips.  Fast, vegetarian, and leftovers freeze well.

Thursday ~ BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a veggie.

Friday  ~ Chicken and mushrooms with white wine sauce over wild rice with garlic roasted cauliflower.

Saturday ~ Salmon and Steak with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Sunday ~ Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with Hash Brown Casserole and green beans.  I’m also going to bake my favorite cake – Cardamom Plum Cake – just because!




Meal Planning Monday ~ Back to School Lunch Remix

This week’s post is by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.

We have 180 days of school, that means 180 days of packing school lunches times 5 kiddos for me. Hmmm, how fun does that sound? With that being said, I plan on posting several tips this school year along with some creative, easy recipes. Hope it will make your school year a bit easier.

Let me get you started with a video HERE where I explain how to pack the lunches for a week in about 30 minutes. I get so many great emails by the middle of the school week from many happy moms.  Here are a few out of the P&J box ideas for you to try:
-Peanut Butter and Fruit Sandwich: replace jam with fresh sliced strawberries, bananas and/or blueberries. We like to use fruit swirl bread too.
-Peanut Butter and Jelly Ritz Cracker Sandwiches
-Make your own Uncrustables
-Peanut Butter and Jelly Waffle Sandwiches: replace the bread with your favorite flavored waffles or even pancakes
-Peanut Butter, Raisin and Granola Apple Sandwich
Let’s get away from sandwiches here and there, instead pack a child’s favorite- Homemade Chicken Nuggets. My kids love finding these in their lunches and it’s an easy lunch to put together.
Recipe: Cut your chicken breasts into cubes, bread them with Shake N Bake. We used the Pretzel Shake and Bake-the kids love it. Bake according to directions.  Slice Cheese Sticks in half the long way, core out an end of the cherry tomato and fit the cheese stick on top.
Another idea is to make Lunch Kabobs: cube the cheese sticks, rotate the chicken nugget, cheese cube and cherry tomato on the skewer.  Invest in a good thermal thermos for soups. We make Chicken Soup all throughout the school year.
Here’s my quick simple recipe: Use leftover chicken or cook up a couple chicken breast or thighs. Pour a carton of chicken broth in a pot and warm on the stove. Add your cooked chicken. Add veggies. I use diced carrots and usually 1/2 cup of corn. You can add some frozen mixed veggies if you choose. Then add your fun noodles such as alphabet pasta, bow ties or wheels. Cook until pasta is done.  Make your soup as hearty as you like it.  Pack a roll, soup crackers, goldfish crackers or Cheez-its. My kids like to add goldfish to their soup.
This is a tasty lunch for kids and it’s quick and easy to put together. We call these Inside Out Sandwiches.  We used Pillsbury Bread sticks, bake according to directions. When completely cooled, spread cream cheese on one side of the bread stick. We used veggie and chive cream cheese. We then take a slice of turkey, slice in half the long way, and twist it around your stick. I use one half of deli meat on each stick. Pack in a container and pack it in the lunch box.
One of my favorite pieces of advice is make it easy on yourself. Repeat the meals a couple times during the week and rotated your lunch menus every two weeks. This makes your grocery list easy for you, too.
I’m a wife, mommy and a lover of life enjoying everything from playing board games to cooking to traveling. Finding deals for our family has allowed us to do the fun things in life with enjoyment and less stress. When I find a deal I’ll always share it on my blog, Extreme Coupon Professors. Hop on over to see all the ways to save!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Dreaming of Spring

This week’s post is by Bee Mandelberg of Style Island.

Mother Nature seems to be toying with all of us this week, taking us for a roller coaster of a ride as we revel in the spring season for one day, only to be freezing again the next. But just because the outdoors isn’t quite spring ready, doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared indoors.

In spite of the chill still in the air, but inspired by the sunshine, I decided to try my hand at some homemade chicken salad sandwiches. Although they can obviously be eaten anytime, something about the meal made me think of an airy, carefree spring day. Although the warmer season hasn’t hit quite yet, at least we can will it with this lunch.

This is so simple to make, and should last for a few lunches; just keep the leftovers stored in your fridge.


Chicken Salad Sandwiches for a simple spring Lunch

  •  1 lb. skinless chicken breast – already prepared and refrigerated*
  • Mustard
  • Light mayonnaise
  • Walnuts
  • 1 Celery stalk
  • Dried cranberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 pinches of salt

Cut up prepared chicken into small pieces and put into a bowl. (* I used the Foreman grill to make mine, but you can prepare it however you prefer).  Add 1 tbsp. mustard, 3 tbsp. light mayonnaise, walnuts, cut up celery, and cranberries. Mix everything together. Chill.  Serve alone or as sandwiches. Enjoy!


Here are some other great recipes for lunch or dinner to ease you through the transition from winter to spring.  I have a feeling we haven’t had the last snowfall of the season yet, even though the first day of Spring is later this week!


Mexican Siesta Soup

Easy Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Veggie Rice Soup

Cream of Chicken Soup with Ciabatta Bread

Bee Mandelberg is a lifestyle blogger and writer at Style Island.
A New York City native, she adores rifling through her mom’s closet for vintage
clothes, pretending to be Parisian and obsessively watching horror movies. You
can find her carrying a Vogue in one hand, and a cappuccino in the other.



Meal Planning Monday ~ Upcycle Your Leftovers

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Most people don’t get excited about eating leftovers for dinner.  “Oh, we’re eating that again?” I’m not the type of person that likes to eat the same thing over and over, so I completely understand!  However, I hate wasting food.  So rather than thinking of leftovers as last night’s recycled dinner, let’s learn how to “Upcycle” our leftovers into something even better!

Upcycling is a term that describes the process of converting waste materials (aka leftovers, for the purposes of our discussion) into new materials or products of better quality (tasty recipes your family will love).  Several years ago, I learned that Americans throw away one-third of the food they buy.  Ever since then, I have been on a quest to waste as little food as possible.  And that means using up my leftovers in creative ways!  My favorite thing to upcycle is roasted chicken (or turkey).  For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made Cornish hens seasoned with lemon, garlic, and rosemary.  They were delicious! Nick and I each ate half of a hen, which meant we had leftover chicken.  I actually get excited about leftover chicken because I have come up with plenty of ways to upcycle it, including:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup.  If you have juice from the chicken left in the bottom of the roasting pan or crock pot, strain and freeze it.  It makes the best broth!  You can’t buy anything that flavorful in a can!  I sauté sliced carrots, celery, and onions in a little butter.  When the onions turn translucent, I add the broth with a bay leaf and some parsley, salt and pepper. Usually, my frozen broth isn’t quite enough, so I’ll add a few cups of water and a couple chicken bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil and add your noodles.  Add the cooked chicken to the pot the final two minutes of cooking.
  • Greek Chicken Salad.  Just add your cold, cooked chicken to a bed of lettuce, with black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, pine nuts, and Greek dressing.  I’ll serve this with warm, crusty wheat rolls and butter.
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.  If you’ve got leftover dark meat chicken, BBQ sandwiches are the way to go!  Shred the dark meat and mix it with enough BBQ sauce to thorough coat the chicken.  I like Weber’s BBQ sauce because it doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup in it.  I’ll heat it up in a skillet, pop some sweet potato fries in the oven, and make a veggie or salad to go with it.
  • Other ideas.  Chicken salad (mayo, sliced red grapes, chopped pecans); Chicken, Artichoke, and Spinach dip; tacos or taco salad; chicken spaghetti; Chicken & Rice Casserole (This casserole is a great way to upcycle leftover rice.  Make it healthier by using brown rice.)


One of my favorite side dishes to make with roasted chicken is Parmesan Potatoes.  They are super easy and absolutely delicious!  A few weeks ago, I had some of the Parmesan potatoes left over, which is pretty rare.  So a day or two later, I thought I would upcycle them into Twice Baked Potatoes.  I scooped out the insides of the potatoes, leaving the skins intact.  I mashed the potatoes and added plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits.  I didn’t need any seasoning because there was already Parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley on the leftover potatoes.  I filled the potato skins with the mashed mixture and baked them for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  One taste and my hubby declared that ALL potatoes should be Twice Baked Potatoes from now on!  Now that is leftover upcycling success!  (I’ll be making extra Parmesan Potatoes in the future so we can have the Twice Baked Potatoes more often!)

What’s your favorite way to upcycle leftovers?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Changing Gears

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

When my husband started a new job two months ago, he went from working first shift to second shift. I was a little worried about the transition and how it would affect our eating arrangements. Ever since we’ve been together, my husband has worked first shift. I’ve always had dinner on the table when he gets home, so not having him home for dinner was a little sad. The kids didn’t seem too sad; as long as I feed them they seem to be happy. Since I would be the only one making dinner and cleaning up, I have made most of my meals in the crockpot. I wanted to share a few of my favorite crock pot recipes.

Chicken and Dumplings ~ I LOVE Cracker Barrel chicken and dumplings but don’t always have the budget to eat out. Making chicken and dumplings at home is not only inexpensive but delicious!

Black Bean Soup ~ My middle child (aka Picky Kid) isn’t too fond of this soup but my other two love it. With so many different ways to make this I suggest trying a few different recipes to see which one fits your taste the best.

Parmesan Honey Pork Roast ~ I was a little worried about this recipe but it turned out great!

Broccoli Cheese Soup ~ The recipe I use is totally unhealthy but absolutely delicious! Anything that uses Velveeta cheese is delicious in my book!

Beer Chicken ~ Whole Chicken, can of beer, garlic, salt pepper, and paprika is all you need to make a tasty dinner. I use the leftover chicken to make chicken enchiladas for dinner the next day.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine

1 (10 ounce) can cream of chicken soup

1 1/2 cups milk

1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli


1. Sauté onion and green pepper in butter.

2. Combine all ingredients on low in crockpot for 3-4 hours. Do not add salt.


Meal Planning Monday ~ Changing Gears

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

Summer is my favorite season and I’ve been in denial about its departure the past few weeks.  But now that the kids are back in school, temperatures are cooling down, and even a few leaves are beginning to change, it’s undeniable that fall is right around the corner.  As sad as I am to see the end of summer days filled with golf, pool time, and picnics, I’m ready for a change.  So it’s time to shift gears into fall (my second favorite season, for the record) with my meal planning.  Here are some of ways I’ll be switching things up.

  • More Baking – I miss baking!!  I love baking cakes, muffins, granola bars and cookies, but during the sweltering Kentucky summers, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and burden my already overtaxed air conditioner.  When I bake, I usually make double batches and freeze leftovers.  This means that on busy mornings, I can just pull out a couple of chocolate chip zucchini muffins out of the freezer and pop them in the toaster oven or microwave.  My freezer is pretty bare of baked goods right now, so I’m anxious to restock.  When I was on vacation in Michigan, I bought some freshly ground cardamom at a spice shop for my Plum Cardamom Cake.  My co-op had some super ripe organic plums which I pureed and froze last month just for this cake.  (See recipe below.)  And with pumpkin season around the corner… My kitchen is going to smell fantastic!


  • More Soup –  I love homemade soup when the weather starts to cool down.  It’s relatively easy to make and leftovers get frozen in individual portions for weekday lunches.  I stopped buying canned soup last year due to the cost and the salt content.  Once a month, during the fall and winter, I would make a huge pot of soup or chili with the intent of freezing most of it.  Check out my blog post “More Soup for You!” for my favorite soup recipes!

  • More Casseroles and Pasta – I was so excited to add back casseroles and other hearty pasta dishes that require the oven to my September meal plan!  Pizza Casserole, Eggplant Rollitini, Firecracker Casserole, and Turkey Stroganoff will be served at my table in the very near future!  The great thing is that most of these also freeze well (with the exception of the stroganoff due to the sour cream) so I’ll be putting some homemade frozen dinners in my stockpile.  I’ve been collecting recipes on Pinterest to try as the weather cools off.  This Mexican Chicken Casserole is on the top of my list!

So, how do you change gears when it comes to meal planning this time of year?  If you’ve fallen off the meal planning wagon during the summer, now’s the time to jump back on!

Plum Cardamom Cake  (Modified from original recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor Cookbook)

  • 1 package of white cake mix
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of fresh, peeled and pureed plums
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbs. of Domino Light (or ¼ cup of sugar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the batter is well combined.  Pour batter into the Bundt pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until cake is golden and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes.  Run a long, sharp knife along the edges of the pan and invert the cake on a serving platter.

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Best of Christine 2012

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Happy New Year’s Eve!  I hope you have some fun plans to hang out with friends and family to ring in the New Year.  Today is my birthday, so I’m taking a break from blogging.  I thought I would highlight my favorite posts of the year, so be sure to check out any you might have missed.

            Next week, we’ll be back with new Meal Planning Monday posts.  I’m also working on some great guest bloggers you’re sure to love!  Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!