Share Your Story: Getting Ahead For a Healthy Breakfast

Welcome to one of our newest features here at Heavenly Homemakers!  I love hearing the stories of how you are using the recipes you find on our site or in our books.  Do you have a story to share?  Take a picture or two, then email me with the details of how you use your favorite Heavenly Homemaker recipe.  :)

Share Your Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Story

Lori sent this in last week – a wonderful inspiration to all of us as we begin busy school years:

With school starting next week, I’ve been spending some time in the kitchen.  I like breakfast to be as quick and simple as possible.  My husband is usually in charge of feeding the kids while I’m getting ready for work.  When I asked my kids (Kaylee-11 and Blake-8) what I should have available for breakfasts when school starts, they both said Breakfast Cookies.  Silly question, I know. These cookies have been a staple at our house since I discovered the recipe a few years ago. Kaylee has actually been asking for them all summer.  She will be thrilled to come home from camp to find the freezer stocked with her beloved cookies.

share your story breakfast

Blake is the happy taste tester! 
Elias, our 12 year old, walked through my office as I was prepping this post.  He was excited to see:
  1. All the food in the picture.  Elias likes looking at food as much as I do.  :)
  2. My cookbook in the picture.  “Hey look, it’s your book!”
  3. Blake’s glasses are almost identical to his.  Love of breakfast cookies and matching glasses?  I think they’d get along just fine.  :)

Can’t wait to hear from more of you.  Share your stories!

Lilla Rose Sale ~ 3 Days Only

Thursday, August 21 through Saturday, August 23 you will receive some wonderful sale prices at Lilla Rose.

They’ve added 15 new styles of flexi clips, bobby pins, and You-Pins, which are all on sale at 10% off.  Also, all the retiring styles are on sale at 20% off.  Take advantage!

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I love that green dragonfly.  These new styles are gorgeous and fun!

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Sale prices end Saturday, August 23. Head to Paula’s Lilla Rose site to see all the goodness. :)

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad ~ The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

Sick of sandwiches?  Need fresh, healthy lunch ideas?  Whether or not you pack lunches or eat lunches at home, I believe we can all use some new, easy, and quick lunch ideas.  Recipes that can be made ahead of time and pulled out for immediate use?  Even better.  Follow along with this Make-Ahead Lunch Box series – and share your ideas too!

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What’s fun about this recipe for Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad is that you can add veggies to your liking.  Don’t like sweet peppers?  Add extra cucumbers.  Don’t like cucumbers?  Add extra carrots.  Don’t like carrots?  Oh, come on Surely we can come up with some vegetables you like.  :)

Feel free to switch out the ham for chicken, take out the cheese if you need to go dairy free, and stick with brown rice pasta if you need to eat gluten free.  See how accommodating this meal is?

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad

24 ounces whole wheat or brown rice pasta
1 pound ham, cut into chunks
8 ounces cheddar or Colby jack cheese, cut into chunks
16 ounces frozen peas (uncooked)
4 cups chopped veggies of your choice (green, red, yellow, and orange peppers; onion, tomato, cucumbers, carrots)
sea salt to taste
4 Tablespoons Italian Salad Dressing
1 1/2 cup Ranch Salad Dressing

Cook pasta until just tender.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  In a large bowl, stir together cooked pasta, ham, cheese, peas, and chopped veggies.  Toss with Italian Salad Dressing and salt.  Stir in Ranch Salad Dressing until coated.  Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Makes 8-10 main dish servings. (<— That is a great, big bowl full.)

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad Lunch

To prepare for the lunch box:

Scoop salad into containers with lids.  (I like using Pyrex bowls with lids like these or like these.)  Store individual containers in the refrigerator until packing for a lunch.  Be sure to pack an ice pack in the lunch box to keep the salad cold!

Side dish ideas:

  • Fresh fruit like cantaloupe, grapes, and strawberries
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Homemade Chewy Granola Bars
  • Raspberry Lemon Cream Cups – recipe coming soon!

I love that this pasta salad is a full meal all by itself – with whole grain pasta, meat, cheese, and lots of veggies!  I love even more that it can be put together ahead of time and pulled out as needed.

What are your favorite veggies to add to pasta salad?

Malachi’s Lego Party On the Cheap

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Malachi has been planning and dreaming of a Lego party with his friends for no less than two years now.  We didn’t schedule it in though, because I figure, why act in haste?  Also, there is the fact that planning and throwing parties is really not my gift and I very much do not enjoy it.  As a result, every few hours during the past 730 days, Malachi would throw out a new Lego party idea to which I would respond with a look on my face as if he had just suggested we go lick the spoons of people who were currently running high fevers.

Poor kid.  Such great ideas.  Such a boring, non-party type mom.  714 days after Malachi’s party planning brainstorming began, I finally got over myself.  He and I sat down, looked on Pinterest, found some fun ideas, and got to work.  Surely there would be a way to make a Lego party fun, but keep it simple and inexpensive.  Yes, indeed.  (For the record, there are also many ways to make it complicated, elaborate, and spendy – just in case you feel like the 8 and 9 year old boys in your life will appreciate all the time you spent coloring individual, personalized placemats and notice all the tiny details on a cake which you have carved and decorated into a replica of a life-size Lego spaceship.)

One of Malachi’s biggest desires for his party was that we have a piñata.  We agreed to fill the piñata with some of the Legos from his collection that could be played with together once the piñata broke open.  Cost?  Free.  (Okay fine.  Already paid for.)  We also agreed that it was a wise idea to put the Lego pieces into a ziplock bag so that they wouldn’t fly all over the yard with the final blow of the piñata.

Did you know that it’s very possible to make a Lego-looking piñata out of one shoe box, 8 bottle lids, and three pieces of tissue paper?  Malachi decided I was a genius for thinking of this.  I had to agree (with great humility.)

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Who doesn’t love putting on a blind fold and swinging at air?  Every boy got exactly two turns each, and then…

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…the rope I had strung through it popped out and the piñata flew into the grass.  Did you know that if you blind fold a child, give him a wooden sword, and set him lose in the yard, he will eventually make his way to said piñata and give it a whack?  We thought that was perhaps a better plan that having Asa hold the piñata in the air while the kids swung the sword.  (You’re welcome, Asa.)

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We spent a few dollars on colored sacks, cups, and plates.  My artistic ability is very limited, but drawing Lego people faces on cups I managed to pull off well enough.

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I am well aware that little boys at parties are not super interested in “come on to the table, children, and let’s make a craft!”  Still – Malachi and I thought it would be fun for everyone to make a personalized container for their Lego projects at home.  94¢ per container, plus some stickers and contact paper?  No problem.

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The boys had lots of fun and turned out great Lego storage containers.  I’m very sure that now that they have these, they will each and every one do a very good job picking up all of their Legos after working on a project so no one in their households will ever step on a Lego.  Again.  Ever.

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Party food included popcorn served out of a very thoroughly washed Lego bucket, and pieces of pizza that tried very hard to look like 1 by 2 Lego blocks.

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See the jar full of Legos below?  Each kid wrote down guesses as to how many Legos he thought filled the jar.  The boy who guessed the closest got to take the first swing at the piñata.  In case you ever need to know the following recipe conversion:  128 Legos equals 1 quart.

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And possibly my favorite free game/activity:  Malachi gathered all of the pieces of two small Lego sets.  He divided them evenly into 10 plastic eggs.  Our older boys hid the eggs around the yard, then the party goers got to enjoy participating in a L-egg-o Hunt.  It was super fun!  Once all the L-egg-o’s had been found, the boys worked together to put the sets together.

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Malachi was flying high the entire week.  Planning, creating, and executing the party was so much fun for him.  I’m so thankful we were able to do this together. Maybe I shouldn’t wait so many hundreds of days next time to work with him on a fun project like this?

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But wouldn’t you know it.  Our party guests had been gone precisely 3.75 minutes when Malachi, gleam in his eye, asked, “So when should we have the next Lego party?”

Share what you’re grateful for this Gratituesday!

1-2-3 Meal Planning: Hundreds of Real Food, Real Simple Ideas {How You Can Get This Resource FREE!}

I am very excited to introduce a brand new resource we recently finished for you!  1-2-3 Meal Planning not only walks you through a super simple menu planning system, it contains over 250 real food, real simple menu ideas.

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Overwhelmed trying to put healthy meals on the table each day?  Burned out on all your old stand-by meals?  Want to be better at serving fruits and vegetables?  Have limited time to cook?  Well – this eBook is just what you need.

Ideas, ideas, ideas.  This book is full of them.  From fall to winter, spring to summer – these easy, seasonal meal ideas will make you hungry and inspire you.  Best of all, this resource will take the frustration out of thinking so hard about what food to make.

100′s of recipes in the book are auto-linked, which means you can click directly on the link and gain immediate access to the recipe right here on my website.  You can buy this eBook right now and access it right away for just $5.  Or, you can get it for FREE!  Keep reading…

1-2-3 Menu Planning
$5.00
Add to Cart

Through Saturday, August 23 we’re offering this new 1-2-3 Menu Planning resource as a free bonus with purchase of our Oh, For Real: Real Food, Real Family, Real Easy cookbook!

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You need the Oh, For Real cookbook in your kitchen!  Having access to real food kitchen tips and loads of Heavenly Homemaker recipe favorites at all times?  That’s what you’ll have with this book.  Learn how to create a healthy kitchen and provide your family with whole food meals that they’ll love – without a lot of effort.

Because this book is printed and shipped to you, we are unable to offer a discount.  But we sure can offer a bonus with your purchase!  If you purchase Oh, For Real this week, while you wait for it to arrive in your mailbox, you can enjoy immediate access to 1-2-3 Menu Planning eBook - FOR FREE!  We are so excited to offer this!

Grab Oh, For Real now.  No need to use a special code.  1-2-3 Menu Planning will be sent to your email inbox automatically with your purchase.

Oh, For Real: Real Food, Real Family, Real Easy with 1-2-3 Menu Planning free bonus
$25.95
Add to Cart

Cost for a book shipped to Canada is $34.05. If you are from Canada or another country outside the U.S., please email me before purchasing. Thanks!

Already have Oh, For Real?  Grab 1-2-3 Menu Planning and be inspired!

1-2-3 Menu Planning eBook 
$5.00
Add to Cart

Bonus special offer ends Saturday, August 23.

Menu Plan For the Week (Have I Told You How Much I Love Food?)

We were in the kitchen putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher together after lunch.  As is common after a meal, we were all discussing what we needed to do the rest of the day and how it was all going to get done.  Beyond our normal “at home” work, we had two outside commitments to keep: 1) Pick up our food co-op order and 2) Elias, age 12, had soccer practice in the evening.

When Elias realized he may be at soccer practice when the Azure order was brought into the house, without thinking he said, “Wait.  Can you maybe not put it away until after I get home so I can look at it first?”  Quickly, he grinned at himself for requesting something so silly.

I think this kid is a lot like his mama.  There is nothin’ silly about wanting to stare at food.  Right?  Right???

I see food and I’m like, “Oh my goodness!  Look at the beautiful green beans and all the deliciously juicy grilled meat!  The canned peaches are sooooo pretty and see these great potatoes that I just got at the farmer’s market?!”  But then there are those of you who are like, “there. is. a. watermelon. and. some. other. food. please. pass. the. salt.”  Do you mean to tell me I haven’t yet convinced you all of the joy of staring at food?  I’ll keep trying.

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EEEHHEEEE!!!  IT’S SEVERAL DOZEN SWEET CORN FALLING OUT OF BAGS!!!!!!!!

Well anyway, it seems that Elias and I are very similar when it comes to our love of food.  He loves going to the grocery store with me – just to look at all the food (and, of course, to smell the pineapple’s bottom).  He loves seeing our Azure orders and our Amazon Subscribe and Save orders come in.  He likes looking into the pantry to see all the goodies.  He loves looking through cookbooks to get new ideas.  He loves chocolate and desserts.  Hopefully, eventually, he’ll love eating vegetables.  We’re working on that one.

So…food.  This time of year is so rockin’ with all of the amazing FOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!  Who’s with me on this?  Peaches and nectarines dripping with sweet juice.  Sweet corn dripping with butter.  Watermelon dripping down my chin.  I’m not ashamed.  I love this time of year. 

We got home from our anniversary trip and had to get to work right away putting up fresh garden produce.  It’s hard work!  But the bounty and the goodness of this food?!  There’s so much to be grateful for.  We’ve been picking, snapping, blanching, and freezing (or eating!) green beans.  We found a great price on sweet corn (see beautiful picture above) and got several dozen shucked, blanched, cut off the cob, and frozen.  This week, we’ll be making fresh salsa with tomatoes and peppers from our garden.  We’re frying okra from our garden and eating it like it’s candy.

Meat off the grill with all these fresh fruits and vegetables on our table?  Well, it is just incredible.

I’ll take the hard work.  I’ll step around overflowing compost buckets and stand over a steaming pot of boiling water in a hot kitchen.  Then Elias and I will stare at it all and imagine how great it will be this winter when we can pull this goodness out of our pantry and out of our freezer to eat.

Having said all of that, you can imagine how much fun I have making a meal plan this time of year.  With all the fresh variety available - healthy menu planning is awesome.

Speaking of menu planning, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  This weekend, we finished a project we’ve been working on!  Watch for details of how you can get this resource for free.  :)

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Here’s our menu for this week.  (Won’t that food be fun to look at??!!?!)

Sunday, August 17
Creamy orange cooler, granola, blueberries
Italian cream cheese chicken, tossed salad, cherry tomatoes, green beans
Grilled burgers, tomatoes, lettuce, homemade pickles, watermelon

Monday, August 18
Green machine milkshakes, giant breakfast cookies, raspberries
Pasta salad bar, cantaloupe
Grilled barbeque chicken, corn on the cob, fried okra, peas, grapes

Tuesday, August 19
Crock pot breakfast casserole, nectarines
Hamburger sauerkraut dip with tortilla chips, cherries, kiwi
Grilled Italian chicken, baked potatoes in the crock pot, green beans, tossed salad

Wednesday, August 20
Pancake and sausage muffins, cantaloupe
Spanish rice with taco meat, spicy avocado dip, fresh pineapple
BLT wraps, sweet peppers, carrot sticks, strawberries

Thursday, August 21
Pineapple mango smoothies, fried eggs
Black bean chicken nachos, olives, pineapple
Beefy enchilada bake, tossed salad, strawberry/peach/apple fruit salad

Friday, August 22
Instant oatmeal packets, blueberries and strawberries
Cheddar ranch burgers, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, watermelon
Chicken salad with crispy cheese crackers, sweet peppers, honey glazed carrots, peaches

Saturday, August 23
Cheesy scrambled eggs, strawberry-peach-orange smoothies
Leftovers
Taco salad, nectarines

I’ve asked before but I’ll ask again:  Who likes staring at food?

25% Off Coupon At Amazon For Natural Value Products

I’m very excited to see that Amazon is once again offering 25% off many Natural Value products!!  When you put a 25% off coupon WITH the 20% discount you get with Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom subscribe and save offers – you can save so much money on these high quality products!

Case in point:  I just ordered a box of Natural Value Reclosable Sandwich Bags for just $1.03.  Wow.

natural value bags

My favorite tuna is being offered at 25% off as well.  Plus olives, mustard, and many other commonly used foods in our kitchen.  I love it when Natural Value gives us 25% coupons!!!  Check out many of the available Natural Value Coupons here.

natural valu tuna coupon

Want to see more Amazon Deals?  Check out this page for all the latest!  Want to know more about how Amazon Prime/Mom and subscribe and save works to save you money?  Read this post.  :)

This post contains affiliate links.

Our 20th Anniversary Trip – And What We Came Home To

Floating down a river on a raft for hours, staying overnight in a family owned bed-and-breakfast type lodge, sitting on the patio relaxing for hours – this is what Matt planned for us on our anniversary.

I loved our getaway so much – I am still flying high from it.  We only had to drive a little over two hours to our destination, which was perfect since both of us are a little “traveled out” after this very busy summer.  I’m amazed at what Matt found for us to do, right here in Nebraska.  It truly was perfect.

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The lady who owned the lodge where we stayed set up an anniversary breakfast table for us.  It was beautiful!

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What were our boys doing the whole time we were gone?  Well, we left them with long school work lists and chore lists.  We bought food we don’t normally buy - as a special treat and to keep things easy and fun for them (making them promise to eat at least one fruit or veggie with every meal).  :)  The college grad living with us made sure all was well with the boys overnight.

But beyond that?  Well, we had no idea what these boys were really up to.  We trusted that they were being responsible and wise with their time.  And just what did they do with their free time?

Amazing.  I’m telling you – this is amazing.  We thought our welcome home “gift” looked like this:

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Truly, homemade cookies, a homemade card on a piece of notebook paper, wild flowers floating in a cup of water – it was much more than we expected.  We were simply hoping the dishes would be done.  (They were.)

What we didn’t know was that there was more waiting for us than the surprise cookies and card.  We sat down to an incredible music video, made entirely by our boys.

Before you watch it, you have to know what all went in to this.  Our boys created the music and beats to this rap/song on FL Studio, our music creation software.  Our boys wrote the lyrics (which is evident in the fact that you may not “get” some of the inside family jokes).  They planned all of this on their own.  They spent hours filming, and even more hours editing.  I have watched this over and over.  I am amazed by it.  Our boys used their gifts, they worked together – well, let’s just say this video does my heart real good.

If for no other reason, you should watch this video to see the JUNK our boys ate while we were gone.  They certainly enjoyed themselves, and who can blame them?!  :)

Thank you for your sweet comments this week as we celebrated our 20th anniversary.  Thanks for letting me share a bit of our lives with you in this video.  It is so much fun to see our boys growing and creating together!  I’m thankful for the family God has blessed me with.  I do not take this for granted.

Cinnamon Nectarine Muffins

I am well aware that I feed an army each day.  But sometimes, the reality of how much food it actually takes to feed this army leaves me with my mouth hanging open.

Take, for instance, the fact that we got 20 pounds of nectarines last week in our Azure Standard order.  Within only 5 days, our family had polished off 15 pounds of them.  Do you know how many nectarines that is?  Neither do I.  But it was a lot of nectarines.

As the box was emptying, I decided to get a little bit creative.  Some of the nectarines were getting pretty soft – a little too soft to slice nicely.  Therefore, into the food processor they went, skin and all.  (I did remove the pit.  I thought I’d mention that for those of you who were considering throwing the entire piece of fruit directly into the machine.  Don’t do that.)  The food processor turned out a very nice nectarine puree, which when stirred into other fine ingredients, turned out a most deliciously moist muffin.

Feel free to sub peaches for nectarines in this recipe.  :)

Cinnamon Nectarine Muffins

Cinnamon Nectarine Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sucanat
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups nectarine or peach puree (4-5 peaches or nectarines)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sucanat, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir in pureed fruit, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla, and egg.  Once mixed, scoop batter into well buttered or paper-lined muffin tins.  Bake in a 400° oven for 25-30 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.  Makes about 15 muffins.

I found that these muffins required a little more baking time than a typical muffin.  You may want to prick one with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean so the muffins aren’t doughy.

Which do you like best: nectarines or peaches?