From Burrito Bar to Casserole – a 5 Minute Way to Use Leftovers!

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Allow me to tell you about two of my favorite new Simple Meals tricks! From Burrito Bar to Casserole, here are two meals that go together super easily!

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The first favorite Simple Meals trick is this: Any time I’ve been privileged to feed a large crowd lately, I have been setting up a Burrito Bar. I fed Asa’s soccer team this way (35+ college male athletes, phew!). I fed Matt’s soccer team this way (20+ college women athletes – Matt’s their assistant coach).

It is important, yet frustrating, to note that I took no pictures of either meal because I always get too busy with the food and the fellowship and I forget to take a picture. I regret this every time. But moving on…

What is great about setting up a Burrito Bar is that each person can build a burrito (or three) to his or her liking. And best yet, those who have food allergies can still eat this meal! (My gluten free friends skip the tortilla but can eat everything else. My dairy free friends can skip the cheese and sour cream and eat everything else. It’s so simple!)

Burrito Bar Fixin’s

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And now for my second favorite Simple Meals trick! After I’m finished serving the Burrito Bar, I stir together the leftovers and spread it into a casserole dish. This makes it super easy to put away leftovers! And it makes for a very delicious meal on another day, which takes zero effort!

I fully admit that this doesn’t look super appetizing. For shame. Something so delicious should not look so…blah.

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I will now attempt to give you an idea of measurements so that you, too, can stir together Burrito Bar leftovers and create a new meal of…what shall we call it? Burrito Bar Casserole? Cheesy Mexican Rice? Mom’s Night Off? Yes, let’s call it that.

From Burrito Bar To Casserole

From Burrito Bar to Casserole - a 5 Minute Way to Use Leftovers!
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • Leftover cooked chicken or hamburger (1-2 pounds)
  • Leftover cooked rice (2-3 cups)
  • Leftover beans (up to 2 cups)
  • Salsa (2-3 cups)
  • Sour Cream (2-3 cups)
  • Shredded cheese (1-3 cups, optional)
Instructions
  1. Stir these leftovers together, not worrying much about the measurements!
  2. Spread the mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  3. Top it with cheese (optional).
  4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to warm and serve. Or cover and freeze for up to two months.
  5. When you are ready to serve this meal, cover it with foil and slide it into a cold oven.
  6. Bake a refrigerated casserole at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Bake a frozen casserole at 275 degrees for 2-3 hours or until hot and bubbly.

From Burrito to Casserole - a 5 minute way to use leftovers

Do not get stuck on the measurements for this “casserole.” Simply stir the leftovers together until it looks right for your family. Then your kids might do what mine did, take one bite, and say, “This is actually pretty good.”

Actually?

Yes, because it’s so shocking that my food would taste good. (Okay, but in their defense, it didn’t look super tasty, right?)

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Simple Hawaiian Beef Roast (5 Minute Prep!)

I first attempted this Simple Hawaiian Beef Roast recipe about a month ago on a busy night in which I was feeding out of town guests who had come to watch our youngest son, Malachi, perform in our local Children’s Theater production.

hawaiian roast beef

Malachi is the first of all our kids to choose to be involved in theater. It is a gross understatement to say that before this summer, I knew nothing about being a theater mom.

I kept calling the costumes “uniforms” because I have been a sports mom for so many, many years. But more difficult than this is the fact that I volunteered to help create said costumes. What in the world was I thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking that since all parents needed to be involved in some way with helping to pull off a huge 50-kid theater production, volunteering to help with costumes would be a better choice for me than volunteering to put on stage make-up. No way, no how should I be allowed to attempt to paint a child’s face.

I showed up to the first costume meeting where about 10 talented moms joined to talk to the director about all the costume needs. For two entire hours, everyone sat and discussed costumes – in German. Thoroughly lost while hearing all the words I didn’t understand, I eventually asked the director a question. He kindly said, and I quote, “Blah, blah, blah, stuff, stuff, blah. Does that make sense?” [DEER IN HEADLIGHTS]

I wanted to exit back stage left. Please someone tell me where I can sign up to bake cookies!!! Deliver me from trying to understand how to put together uniforms! I mean costumes.

As it turned out, the other moms did a marvelous job creating fabulously impressive costumes. The make-up moms transformed kids’ faces so that they actually looked like daisies and rabbits and mice.

Malachi's play 1

In the meantime, I used my talent to write actors’ names on Wal-mart bags with a sharpie so we could keep track of each character’s gloves, socks, and shoes. Rock on.

When all was said and done, I had so much fun meeting theater parents and kids from our community that I would join the costume committee again next year if I’m “needed.” I might even remember to stop calling them “uniforms.”

malachi's play 2

So this roast recipe. It’s so simple you can throw it into the crock pot to cook all day without exerting any effort. You can set out plates and direct your guests to help themselves to the roast as you head out the door to go help 30 sweet girl actors between the ages of 7-17 don their hedgehog, cook, queen, and daisy costumes as you pretend with all your might that you actually know what you’re doing.

Simple Hawaiian Beef Roast

Simple Hawaiian Beef Roast (5 Minute Prep!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 3-4 pound beef roast (frozen or thawed!)
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 20-ounce can of pineapple, drained (or 2 cups fresh or frozen pineapple)
Instructions
  1. Place roast in crock pot.
  2. Pour barbecue sauce over the top.
  3. Add pineapple.
  4. Cook on low for 10 hours if roast is frozen and 8 hours is roast is thawed.

Simple Hawaiian Beef Roast

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The Simplest and Best Grilled Chicken (My Very Favorite Summer Food!)

You should know that there is much significance in me sharing that this Best Grilled Chicken is my favorite summer food. After all, do you know how many great summer foods there are to compete with this chicken?

There’s cold watermelon. There are strawberries, which can be made into this amazing Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait. There’s fresh corn on the cob (hello, I’m from Nebraska). There are peaches and nectarines. There’s asparagus and okra (sure I’m weird, but these actually are summer favorites of mine).

I guess the best news is that all of the above mentioned summer food choices can be served with The Simplest and Best Grilled Chicken, creating the best meal on the planet, amen and amen. (By the way, remember how our grill was broken? My genius husband was able to fix it. I am so very thankful!)

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What I love about grilling is that all I have to do is throw out some simple fruit and veggie side dishes to complete the meal. Anything goes with this chicken. Any veggie. Any salad. Any kind of potato, pasta, or rice. Any fruit.

And even better: You can make it with any sauce you like!

Great Sauce and Dressing Ideas to Marinate The Simplest and Best Grilled Chicken

If your time is limited, you can do what I’ve been doing lately and buy a few sauces pre-made to have on hand for Simple Recipes like this. Homemade sauces are awesome, but as I’ve shared, right now I’ve got to pare back to keep my schedule a little lighter. So I’m not making everything from scratch right now (and I’m smiling more often).

I do read the labels (no high fructose corn syrup or other nasty ingredients allowed!). I am searching for good prices. But I’m appreciating the ease of opening a bottle and dumping it on chicken to marinate for our dinner. Sooooo simple!!!!

Do you see how easy it is to make real food for your family? And do you see how delicious real food tastes? (Wait. Can you see how food tastes? Who even wrote that sentence??)

Lemme just say this: If you’re afraid of real food and the word “healthy” makes you cringe and think of sprouted beans and tofu (I cringe at those too!), let go of the fear and make yourself some of this chicken with a slice of watermelon and some steamed green beans on the side. It’s as easy as that and you will learn that real food is the best thing you ever ate!

My Favorite Grilled Chicken Tip

My Best Chicken Tip

I’ve shared this before, but let me share again that the secret to making perfect chicken on the grill is to use boneless chicken thighs instead of boneless chicken breasts. Breasts get dry quickly. Thighs retain juiciness and the flavor is unbeatable.

Bonus

Boneless chicken thighs are usually less expensive than chicken breasts. Who knew?

Simple Grilled Chicken

Simple Grilled Chicken (My Very Favorite Summer Food!)
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups of your favorite marinade (bbq, teriyaki, Italian dressing, etc.)
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in a single layer in a 9x13 inch dish.
  2. Spread dressing or sauce over the top.
  3. Cover and allow chicken to marinate until grill time or for at least two hours (overnight is fine!)
  4. Grill marinated chicken on low heat for 20-25 minutes, watching to be sure chicken is cooked evenly on both sides.

What are your favorite summer foods?

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Make life even simpler when you sign up to receive our weekly Menu Planning Packets. One tiny price, loads of weekly help. Read about this and sign up here!

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lilla rose summer sale celtic paula

Lilla Rose is having a Summer Sale ThursdaySaturday – FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $50! (Must select “Free Shipping” at checkout.

This sale can also be combined with the monthly special for July.  (One free bobby pin with a $40 purchase, and two free bobbies with a $50 purchase!)  So yes, with just a $50 order, you can get both free shipping AND two free super-strong bobby pins that will NOT slip out of even super-fine hair.

So many lovely styles to choose from! Plus there are beautiful new natural hair sticks and cute new summery U-Pins, such a ladybugs, sand dollars, sea turtles, and flip flops!

Sale runs Thursday, July 13th, 2017 at 7am Pacific, through Saturday, July 15th at midnight Pacific. This is a sale you won’t want to miss!

30 Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan time!
30 Day Real Food Menu Plan

I’m excited to share that I’ve made a list of one entire month’s worth of real food meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner/supper. Why? Because school is just about to begin (or already did for some of you).

I personally thought it would be valuable to avoid thinking about how to feed the hungry school children since I will, of course, be joyously reading for hours each day with my offspring about the adventures of Lewis and Clark and having fabulous discussions about planets, galaxies, and Ralph Moody. During the times I’m not joyously reading, I will be joyful at a soccer field or in a car dropping or picking up a kid from a music lesson. I will be way too joyful to think about meal planning.

Assuming you also have much joy during the back-to-school season – I thought maybe you’d like this resource too.

Don’t look now, but I’m absolutely not going to stick with these lists entirely. I’ll use it as a reference and guide. This is 30 days worth of real food meals at a quick glance to ease us all back into a school routine. Now that is JOY!

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

We’ll begin with breakfast, head into lunch (for the homeschoolers among us), then land on dinner/supper. As much as possible, I plan to (or already) have foods prepped ahead and put into the freezer so that all I have to do is pull them out and thaw/cook/serve. Everything else will be easy to put together. Scrambling eggs takes no time at all. Right? Right.

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30 Real Food Breakfast Ideas (always served with fruit and often served with some sort of additional protein)

  1. Fried eggs on toast
  2. Scrambled cheesy eggs
  3. Breakfast Burritos
  4. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
  5. Easy Breakfast Casserole
  6. Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
  7. Giant Breakfast Cookies
  8. Instant Oatmeal Packets
  9. Pancake and Sausage Muffins
  10. Whole Wheat Waffles
  11. Coconut Flour Muffins
  12. Quick Mix Pancakes
  13. Homemade Poptarts
  14. Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
  15. Peanut Butter Snack Bars
  16. Peanut Butter Breakfast Cake
  17. Coconut Fudge Bars
  18. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins
  19. Quick Mix Biscuits
  20. Low Sugar Carrot Cake
  21. Lemon Bread
  22. Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls
  23. Grape Nuts Cereal
  24. Crepes
  25. Breakfast Cake Muffins
  26. Honey Cinnamon Muffins
  27. Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
  28. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
  29. Strawberry Cream Muffins
  30. Peanut Butter Pancakes

Muffin Tip: Make muffin batter ahead and put it into the freezer like this so that you can easily bake them fresh as needed in the mornings!

Tuna Melts on Spinach

30 Real Food Lunch Ideas (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies. If I’m serving salad, I usually serve some sort of bread to fill my men)

  1. Tuna Salad
  2. Tuna Melts on Spinach
  3. Pasta Salad Bar
  4. Meat and Cheese Burritos
  5. Easy Noodle Stir Fry
  6. Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad
  7. Pizza Boats
  8. Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with whatever toppings we have available
  9. Homemade pizza (crusts already made – boys build/bake their own)
  10. Spanish Rice
  11. Taco Salad
  12. Easy Cheesy Bean Dip with chips
  13. Chicken Tacos
  14. Black Bean Chicken Nachos
  15. BLT Chopped Salad
  16. BLT Wraps
  17. Bacon, Egg, and Avocado Salad
  18. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with turkey or ham if I have some)
  19. Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  20. Creamy Mac and Cheese
  21. Healthier Cheese Dip with chips
  22. Real Food Meat and Velveeta Dip with chips
  23. Taco Quesadillas
  24. Tuna Casserole
  25. Chicken Burritos
  26. Plain Quesadillas
  27. Hamburger Patties
  28. Beef Summer Sausage with cheese and crackers
  29. Corn Dog Muffins
  30. Cheesy Salsa Burgers (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Dinner/Supper (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies)

  1. Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas
  2. Grilled Barbeque Chicken
  3. Italian Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Mongolian Beef (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  5. Quick Mix Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  6. Barbecue Cranberry Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition)
  7. Sloppy Joes
  8. Cheeseburger Macaroni
  9. Easy Apricot Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Chicken Edition)
  10. Turkey Sausage and Red Bean Stew
  11. Taco Potatoes
  12. Beefy Enchilada Bake
  13. Baked Ziti (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  14. Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
  15. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet
  16. Spaghetti
  17. Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  18. Popcorn Chicken
  19. Bacon-Wrapped Individual Meatloaves (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  20. Italian Pasta Bake
  21. Salmon Patties
  22. Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies
  23. Grilled Salmon
  24. Grilled Burgers
  25. Fiesta Chicken
  26. Sour Cream Enchiladas (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  27. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
  28. Lamb Chops
  29. Hawaiian Beef and Rice (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  30. Grilled Steak

30 Day Real Food Back-to-School Menu Plan

You can pin or bookmark this page for quick reference. Or better yet:

Learning Resources and Freebies Made Easy

Today you can download this FREE 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource to keep handy during this busy time of year! Not only that, we’re always offering free printable learning resources you won’t want to miss!

Sign Up to Download the 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource

 

Why I Rarely Make Big Meat and Potato Meals (Plus 9 of My Family’s Favorite Real Food, Real Simple Meals)

My true confessions about meat and potato meals…

You know what I love about mashed potatoes? Eating them. Otherwise, I am so over mashed potatoes. Therefore, I kind of stopped making them.

Why did I stop? It’s not like they’re difficult. My family loves them. They make a filling side dish. They are a real food. And above all, we can stir lots of butter into them. Why wouldn’t I make them more often?

Because, this:

why i don't make big meals

I decided to make mashed potatoes a couple weeks ago since I had pretty much avoided the task since Thanksgiving. The family was thrilled. But making a meal of lamb chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, a veggie, another veggie – well by the time it’s all said and done – I had spent a very long time in the kitchen and had a sink and counter full of dirty dishes. That’s just one meal, people. (Except for the muffin tin and probably like, a spoon.)

I’m convinced that this is why so many people don’t enjoy cooking. Am I right? It takes too long. There are too many steps. There’s too much clean up. You know what? I don’t enjoy it either when it looks and feels like that.

Well, I’m not here to tell you what to do (except for never eat margarine). But as for me and my house, we’re only going to make mashed potatoes for special occasions. Otherwise, we’re going to stick with simple meals that don’t require many steps. Fast (real) foods that don’t dirty many dishes. Real food made easy.

Real Food, Real Simple Meal Ideas

Here, I’ll list a few of our favorite Not-So Meat and Potato Meals:

Instead of mashed potatoes, I’ve been making a lot of baked potatoes recently. I love this because they are so versatile and easy. Here’s a post detailing what I do with leftover baked potatoes.

taco potato skillet 3

‘Fess up. How often do you make mashed potatoes? (The real kind, not from a box. Don’t get me started.)

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If you love the idea of keeping your meals simple and good, you will LOVE Simple Meals!!

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Make Extra Baked Potatoes on Purpose Because…

7 Ways to Use Baked Potatoes

What’s better than a baked potato?  A baked potato with butter.  Obviously.

But also, I have found that leftover baked potatoes can be a great meal-brain-time saver.  This is why I typically bake twice (at least) as many baked potatoes as we will need for one meal.

First, let us be reminded of my favorite way to bake potatoes – particularly in the summertime – but also pretty much all the time because it’s just so easy:

How to Bake Potatoes in the Crock Pot (Without Foil)

I typically have my boys scrub enough potatoes to completely fill the crock pot since I know having the leftovers will give me another easy meal later in the week.

What do I make with leftover baked potatoes?

1.  Homemade Frozen Hashbrowns or Hashbrown Patties

We shred baked potatoes into hashbrowns for the freezer.  Oh how I love pulling these out for a fast side dish.  If I take the time to freeze them into hashbrown patties, they are an extra special treat.

Homemade Hashbrown Patties

2.  Fried Potatoes

Leftover baked potatoes make the best fried potatoes.  We love to chop them up into a skillet with butter and sea salt.  They cook up quickly since they have already been baked, and they have incredible flavor!

3.  Potato and Egg Scramble

A favorite breakfast around here includes leftover baked potatoes fried in butter, then scrambled up with eggs.

4. Baked Potato and Bacon Casserole

This can be made and frozen, which makes an easy meal even easier. Grab the recipe here.

Bacon Baked Potato Casserole

5.  Potato Veggie Skillet

Leftover baked potatoes, cut up and fried in butter with veggies like onions and sweet peppers (and mushrooms and broccoli and spinach and asparagus) is incredible.

 6.  Baked Potato Soup

If I have leftover baked potatoes, I can make my Potato Soup recipe super quickly.  The baked potatoes give the soup a great flavor!

7.  Taco Potato Skillet

This makes a super fast meal!  Simply brown meat, add taco seasoning, then add chopped leftover baked potatoes – cooking until it is heated through.  Top with shredded cheese.  Serve with veggies.  My family loves this meal.  I love it because I can make it in about 15 minutes with little effort.

taco potato skillet 3

What do you do with leftover baked potatoes?

Menu Plan for the Week, a Freezer/Pantry Clean Out Challenge Update, and How I Got Ahead This Weekend

It would appear that my “only buy produce, eggs, and dairy” challenge has also turned into a “see how deep you can dig down into the pantry and freezer to surprise your family with random food choices” challenge.  I’m having a lot of fun.  My family?  I don’t even think they’ve actually noticed.

It’s just food to them.  As long as there is plenty and as long as it is tasty, there doesn’t seem to be any argument to eating muffins made with freeze dried strawberries (this recipe, only with almost expired freeze dried strawberries) or an un-named casserole that used up the rest of our turkey and some odds and ends of pasta.

Kids: Mmm, what’s this casserole called, Mom?
Me: Dinner.
Kids shrug and get seconds

I have not made a dent in our store of food, though I am panicking a little bit as it appears we are completely out of the vital ingredient dried cranberries.  I’m not sure how we will survive.

I had fun doing some price matching and buying our fresh produce for the week.  Actually, most of what you see in the picture is gone already.  We plow through it.  I’ll probably head back to the store on Wednesday if we can wait that long.

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Yes, that is one big sour cream tub.
I like that this brand contains only one ingredient, “cultured cream.”
We go through it pretty quickly, and as a side note:
When I use up the sour cream, the container is perfect for soup when I take meals to other families.

Regarding my plans to get ahead, can I just confess (again) how much I dislike cleaning?  I was very willing to spend hours in the kitchen, but finding the motivation to go upstairs to tackle some filth?  That is not nearly as much fun.  Let’s focus on the fun food, shall we?

First thing, I grabbed out my Oh, For Real book and all spices needed to make Turkey Sausage and Ranch Salad Dressing Mix.  Two full jars of spice mixes later, I put 12 pounds of ground turkey with spices on the stove to cook.

weekend 1

While the meat was cooking, I went to work on muffins.  I had already put together and frozen Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins the night before, so I started on Banana Muffins and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Super easy!

Realizing I was hungry and about to faint (not really, but I thought I should add some drama), I pulled out tuna salad and a bunch of fruits and veggies.  The boys had slept in and weren’t hungry yet for lunch, so I munched alone while jotting notes in my Menu Planning Notebook.

weekend 2

After working on menu ideas for this week, I turned over to the Freezer Section of printables.  I decided to start jotting down what I have left in my freezers since I’m working on getting them cleaned.  Having a running list will be helpful.  I didn’t finish the list, because the turkey sausage was finished cooking and I was done eating.  I’ll take my list out to my freezers later to take final inventory.

weekend 3

Yes, I know.  Corn isn’t a vegetable. 

Last, I took a few minutes (yep, that’s all it took) to make a double batch of Instant Oatmeal.  It filled three half-gallon jars, so we should be set on that for a while.  I love having that on hand!

weekend 4

After the meat cooled, I separated it into freezer bags for easy “almost ready” meals.  We’ll be using some for Sausage Gravy this week!

Here’s what our menu choices look like for this week:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Fruit and Veggie Sides and Snacks (I serve 1-4 with every meal)

By the way, this Easy Veggie Dip continues to be a big hit as we work our way through lots of raw vegetables!

How has your weekend been?  

Menu Plan for the Week ~ Plus What I Accomplished Over the Weekend

Here’s a little something worth noting:  Our work as homemakers and mothers is glorious, but rarely glamorous.  I spent some extra time online this weekend, researching new recipe ideas for the holidays.  All of the pictures I came across were so pretty, the end result of the recipe was so perfect, and I almost started feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with the Joneses (or the Pinterest Queens as the case may be).

Then here I was, ready to post pictures of some of the very simple (but ever so helpful) tasks I got checked off my list this weekend so that I can try to better manage my wife/mom/school/work/ministries life next week. None of my pictures even look exciting, much less pretty or pin-worthy. And don’t look now, but I was so busy cooking and writing on Saturday, I never even made it upstairs to change out of my pajamas. Glamorous? Not even a little bit. Glorious? Absolutely.  I love the life God’s given me.

Rarely Glamorous, Always Glorious

Here are some snapshots of my not so glamorous, but absolutely glorious (or at least practical) weekend:

Friday afternoon I washed and poked three lovely squash our neighbors had grown in their garden and shared with us. Into the oven they went.

weekend work 1

Then, I pulled out the chicken carcasses I’d saved from last weekend and set them to boiling for broth. You’ve got to admit, a picture of chicken carcass floating in water is almost glamorous, yes?

weekend work 2

About 1.5 hours after I put the squash into the oven, I pulled them out, took out the seeds, scooped out the inside, and pureed it. I now have five 2-cup portions ready to use for upcoming baking projects. I use this squash in any recipe that calls for pumpkin. No one can tell the difference.

weekend work 3

Friday night after the broth was finished, I strained out the bones and cooked rice directly in the broth. I also threw tons of carrots and spinach into the pot. Once cooked, I stirred in chicken and other ingredients to make Creamy Chicken and Rice Casseroles. One went into the freezer for another time. The other went into the fridge for my family to eat this week.

weekend work 4

Saturday we ate leftovers all day (a perk to having only three people at home all weekend). I was barely in the kitchen at all except to make a quick batch of Chili and double recipe of Coconut Fudge Bars for this week.

weekend work 5

weekend work 6

Oh! And I finally finished the “Build Your Menu Planning Notebook” I’ve been working on for the past several months. I’ll be sharing all the details about this on Monday once I get it uploaded into my shop. You are going to love this new fun and helpful resource!

Build Your Menu Planning Notebook 350

Nothing about meal planning is particularly glamorous, but saving your family money and feeding them nourishing meals? It is glorious. I can’t tell you how much fun I had printing and putting together my own personal Menu  Planning Notebook! I got seriously giddy as I picked from all the pages and then built a notebook to suit my needs. Details soon!

notebook 2

Sunday night, about 30 youth and adults will be meeting at our house for High School Huddle. I’m making baked ham, green beans, fresh pineapple, relish tray (carrots, cucumbers, sweet peppers, and ranch dip), French bread (store-bought, yay me!) and butter, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

As for this week’s menu, here’s what we’re look at eating:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Fruits and Veggies to Work With (I serve 1-4 with each meal)

  • Pears
  • Clementines
  • Fresh Pineapple
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Applesauce
  • Apples
  • Mixed Greens and/or Spinach
  • Steamed Broccoli and Carrots
  • Raspberries
  • Home-Canned Peaches
  • Mini Sweet Peppers
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Cabbage (need to use this up – not sure what we’ll do with it yet)

Here’s to floating chicken carcasses, a simple pot of homemade chili, menu planning, and the glorious lives we can all be thankful for as homemakers!

Menu Plan for the Week ~ How Do I Cook For Three People?

I believe we should label this summer “The Summer of Never Being Home.”  Never is perhaps too strong a word, since in fact, we have been home for a few days here and there in between all the travel and camps. But we have certainly been away from home more than we’ve been at home. After a big trip to Nashville, a smaller trip to Oklahoma, two weeks at church camp – I am home for four days before taking off again.

Where am I going this time? Oooooh, yay me! I am blessed to go spend three days with my friend who had a baby a few weeks ago. I get to love on Mama and Daddy, love on baby, love on baby, love on baby…and maybe do a few dishes and some freezer cooking. Whatever Mama needs. I’m very excited.

After I get home, I’ll have two days, then head off again for another quick trip. Then, our family will all be home together just in time to begin our school year the first full week of August. Phew! This has been (and continues to be) one very full summer!

So let’s catch up a little here.  I’ve been online very little in the past two weeks since internet access out at church camp was quite difficult to come by.  I’ve missed you!  Week One at camp found our family in these roles:  Justus and Elias were both campers, Asa was a counselor, and Matt, Malachi, I were helping in the kitchen. Cooking for 140 campers and staff? So fun – and completely exhausting. Wow, and wow some more.

Week two of camp for us was quite different. It was Senior High session, which meant that Asa was/is now a camper; Justus, Elias, and Malachi were kitchen staff, and Matt and I were Bible class teachers. The week allowed for much more down-time for Matt and me. We studied, taught, studied some more, spent time with campers…and took naps and went to bed early every night. Really, I couldn’t believe how much sleep my body kept asking for. Apparently, this summer has worn me out more than I realized. :)  By Thursday, I believe we finally caught up on rest. It was a great week of refreshment for us. Matt and I loved team-teaching the youth. They blessed us so much, and working together in that role was wonderful.

As the week came to an end, Justus and Elias asked if they could please stay for one more week to help in the kitchen. They loved their role working together with three other middle school boys to keep up with running the dishwasher, wiping tables, filling drink jugs, and doing whatever else the head cook needed them to do. It’s always fun when you’re working with your friends, right? (And when you’re having adventures with catching mice in your cabin late at night. Oh boys.)

Because the head cook said he could certainly still use our boys’ help for the final week of Senior Session, we let them stay. So three boys are still at camp, and here we are at home with only our youngest, Malachi. It’s quiet, for sure.

So what to eat, what to eat? Well, for starters, we came home to find this in our garden:

green beans from garden

Right after Matt brought in the first bunch, we snapped and steamed them – then absolutely pigged out on them. We could not get enough. I mean, we did not even take the time to use a fork. We picked them up and ate them like they were French fries. No shame. Wow, they are unbelievably delicious.

For these next few days at home with just the three of us, here is what we’ll be eating. (You’ll notice there’s no real plan here. What can I say? I’m not feeding an army this week, plus I’m planning to leave again in a few days. Meals will be light and simple.)

Breakfasts:

Lunches and Dinners:

Here’s to a great week of continued refreshment, playing catch-up, and eating amazing summer produce!

Tell me what you’ve been up to the past few weeks! What has your summer been like? Full and busy, or restful and relaxing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 10 Favorite Real Food Pre-Packaged Convenience Foods

Can food be pre-packaged, convenient, tasty, and healthy – all at the same time? Why yes, as a matter of fact it can. Is it possible to fill your shopping cart with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and guilt free? Why yes, as a matter of fact it is. And finally, does anyone know where I might have put my favorite pen? Eh, that’s okay. I figured it was worth a shot to ask.

There are many healthy foods that take little to no time to prepare. Today as I was putting lunch on the table and asking the boys to pull out strawberries, carrots, peppers, and pickles from the fridge to go with our meal, I was once again struck by how easy it is to put healthy foods on the table.

Stop believing the myth that eating healthy food is difficult and time consuming! And seriously, if you come across my missing pen, would you please let me know?

10 Real Food Pre-Packaged Convenience Foods

There are dozens of foods you can buy that are full of nutrition, just because they were born that way. You might need to take the time to peel it, wash it, or slice it – but have you ever timed yourself opening a box of cookies, then working like mad to get the plastic pouch inside to tear open? In the meantime, you really should have just sliced a cucumber.

Here are 10 great ideas for real food pre-packaged convenience:

1. Mini Sweet Peppers

Oh my goodness, have you tried these? They are deliciously sweet, perfectly crunchy, and wonderful all by themselves or in a salad. We take these on the road trips, munch on them for snacks, add them to our lunch plates, and argue about which color tastes the sweetest. I can’t get enough of these.

packaged convenience 1

2. Fresh Berries

Without a doubt, you can not compete with fresh berries picked and eaten right out of the garden. But during the times those are not available, we look for the best deals on strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries at the store. Wash ’em and eat ’em. It doesn’t get any easier than pulling out berries for a snack or a side dish with a meal.

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3. Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

Again, these are best fresh out of the garden. But since ours won’t be ready for another month or two, buying these pre-packaged works great for us.

packaged convenience 3
 4. Baby Carrots

There is some controversy over buying packaged baby carrots because of the information many have heard about baby carrots being soaked in chlorine before being packaged. Read this info and do with it what you wish. As for me, sometimes buying a package of baby carrots is a huge help in my effort to provide my family with extra veggies during a meal.

packaged convenience 4

5. Mixed Greens

Think making salad is too time consuming? Oh for Pete’s sake. Just buy a container of mixed greens and throw it on the table. It’s pre-washed and ready to eat. We go through a couple packs of these each week.

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6. Pickles

Open a jar, put it on the table, your work here is done.

packaged convenience 6

 7. Cheese Sticks

These can be a little pricey compared to buying a hunk of cheese and slicing it yourself. But when we’re talking about pre-packaged convenience foods, this one is a winner. Cheese is great for an on-the-go protein snack. Yay cheese.

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8. Larabars

Yes, you can made these homemade. I’ve done it myself many times. But sometimes my family needs something to stuff in a pocket to eat in between soccer games.  I watch for great sales and coupons through Amazon or Vitacost, and buy these by the case. They contain fruit and nuts only – a great healthy snack.

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9. Fruit Leather

Again, I make this homemade sometimes too. But for a fun treat, I like getting pre-packaged fruit leather when I find it on sale.

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10. Raisins

Buy them by the bag or in individual serving sized boxes. This pre-packaged convenience food is awesome for snacking. And really, aren’t those tiny little boxes just the cutest?

packaged convenience 10

What else? Oh, I could list tons. Peanuts, cashews, almonds, bananas, apples, grapes, oranges – think of all the pre-packaged real foods there are to pick from! Never again can we ever claim that healthy eating is difficult. And never again should anyone carry my favorite pen out of my office, put it down, and forget about it.

Leave a comment and tell us your current favorite healthy convenience foods. It’s great to share so we can all get new ideas!