Everyday Mom's Meals: July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Not So Cheap

About 3 years ago, Qdoba came to Fort Wayne. I don't know if I had ever heard of them before that, but being Mexican food, we were certainly happy to have another option, since it's one of our favorites. Oh, and it didn't hurt that Mr. E. actually won FREE meals for a year at their grand opening!

Yep, for an entire year, the three of us could go in there and have a delicious meal, absolutely free. And being at a time when money was a little tight, we were especially grateful for the treat.

But after the year was up, I have to admit our visits became less and less frequent to the point I can't tell you the last time we ate there. Believe me, it's not that we don't still love the food, but the first time we went in and got the same meals we had been getting for free, and had to pay for them we realized just how not so cheap it was. I'm not dissing them in anyway. They have fresh ingredients, delicious food, and ask a fair price. But for a family of 3, I paid about the same as I do for a sit down meal, with a server...and they are a little closer to the fast food category in my opinion, which is totally fine, but if I'm paying that money, I kinda don't want to have to get my won drink. You know what I'm saying?

So a couple weeks ago and when Little Man and I started talking about how badly we were craving one of their burrito bowls, I decided it was time to try to recreate them at home. But instead of doing them individually on an assembly line like they do in the restaurant, I figured why not make a big one. In one pot. Easy peasy.

I adore one pot meals, and I know so many of you do too. Especially with back to school time upon us, those simple meals that can be on the table in about 30 minutes are crucial to moms (and dads) every where not pulling our hair out.

Add your favorite ingredients to this to really make it your own. I think corn would be delicious, and maybe even some hot peppers for those who like it spicy.

I love going out to eat, and when we do, I still want to stay on budget and get the most bang for our buck. So when places have to get scratched off the "to go" list, at least I can recreate our favorites at home.

Chicken Burrito Skillet
Inspired by no. 2 pencil
2 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.) cubed
3 TBS olive oil, divided
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 c. extra long grain rice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. shredded taco blend cheese
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
3 green onions, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Additional Topping Ideas:
Sour Cream
Taco Sauce
Green Chilies
Pickled Jalapenos
Diced Avocado

In a large skillet, heat 2 TBS oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to hot oil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until browned on all sides. Move chicken to sides of pan. Add other TBS of oil and allow to come to temp. Add rice, cook and stir for about 2 minutes until just beginning to brown on edges. Stir in chicken broth, beans, tomatoes, and seasonings. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed. Stir occasionally while cooking. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cheese, cover again and place on warm setting until cheese melts. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and green onions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Boy & His Beach

My boy is part fish. I accepted this a long time ago. He has a very special relationship with water. From body surfing in the waves of the Atlantic to spending hours playing in the pool, I know he must have gills I haven't found yet.

I shouldn't be surprised though. He comes by it naturally. His dad and I both love the water too. He gets the part fish DNA from me because I could be by/in the pool all day long. As far as the beach goes, his adoration for it comes from his daddy. I like the beach. I like to gaze at it. Walk on it. Maybe dip my toes in the ocean. But to lay in the sand, having it stick to my skin, and then swimming in the salt water...not so much. I like chlorine. But my boys can spend hours laying on the sand, digging, napping, they don't care as long as they are becoming one with "their" ocean.

So you can imagine how sad it sometimes is that we live in landlocked Indiana. Sure, we have our pool in the backyard, but it will never be as nice as the one in Florida. And yes, we could visit the beach at one of our many lakes...but it's not the same.

So when I want to bring a little beach to my little boy's Hoosier world, I find other ways; and this time it included a snack! Seriously, if you are having kids over for a day at the pool, or lake, or even a kids' birthday party, you've got to include these. They are as cute as they are yummy and they will go nuts for them!!

My boy loves his beach and ocean. Since we can only get him there 2 weeks every summer, I've got 50 other weeks in the year to nurture that love, and keep him as excited as he was when he stuck his toes in the sand for the very first time.

Sand and Surf Pudding Cups
1 (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 c. milk
1 c. vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
1 Fruit Roll Up
Teddy Grahams
Parfait Cups
Mini Umbrellas
Blue Food Coloring
In a medium bowl whisk together pudding mix and milk until smooth. Chill in fridge for 5 minutes to soft set. Remove and add food coloring until you get the desired color of blue you want. Carefully scoop into cups. Top with “sand” or crushed cookies. Cut fruit leather into 4 equal strips. Lay one in each cup. Add with a bear. Add umbrella. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes to finish setting.
*NOTE* Crushing the cookies are a great way for the kids to get involved. Simply put cookies in a Ziploc bag and let them pound away!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Whole Grain Challenge with Nature's Harvest® {A Feature and Giveaway}

"Whole Grains." Everybody is talking about them, and you can't go down the aisles of your grocery store without seeing them around every turn. That's because they are an important part of a nutritious diet! The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults eat 48 grams or more of whole grains daily and children ages 4-13 years old eat a minimum of 40-48 grams per day. However, studies have shown that the majority of children and adults are not consuming the recommended amount of whole grains.

This is why Nature's Harvest® Bread is so excited to launch the Whole Grain Challenge to encourage families to include 48 grams of whole grains into their diets every single day.  From July 13 to August 10, participants can take the whole grain pledge on the Nature’s Harvest® Facebook page and they will automatically be entered into a weekly sweepstakes.

If you've never tried Nature's Harvest®, let me tell you why you should! 

Each variety of Nature’s Harvest® bread is baked with:
At least 8 grams of whole grains per serving
No artificial flavors or colors
No high fructose corn syrup 
Since ALL Nature’s Harvest® breads are baked with at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving, it’s an easy way for moms to provide her family the whole grains they need… no matter the variety.
Nature’s Harvest® bread is now available to consumers nationwide and come in delicious varieties including:
100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Bread
Honey Wheat Made with Whole Grain Bread
Butter Top Made With Whole Grain White Bread
Butter Top Made with Whole Grain Wheat Bread
Now you can have bread that is soft, flavorful and perfect for every day use that your family will love that you can feel absolutely great about giving them. With back to school time just around the corner, and all those pb&j sandwiches going with the little ones, it's the perfect time to make the switch!

I was super excited when my friends at Nature's Harvest® asked me to try their bread and come up with a fun recipe to share with all of you.
One of our favorite supper time combos inspired me. Soup and Grilled Cheese. It's an American classic, and while 99% of the time, it's the standard tomato soup and American cheese, this time I decided to switch it up. I took that grilled cheese sandwich to the next level! I basically took one of my favorite appetizer dips and stuffed it between two slices of bread. Genius, I know. 
With busy school days almost here, simple, tasty, fast meals we can get on the table and still feel good about are a must, and using Nature's Harvest® for a soup and sammy meal gives us just that. Oh, and the great folks at Nature's Harvest have also provided me with a fun giveaway for you too. Just scroll down under the recipe to see how to enter! 
Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese
1 loaf Nature's Harvest® Butter Top Made with Whole Grain White Bread
Margarine or Butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can artichokes, chopped
6 oz. fresh spinach
3 TBS olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 TBS sour cream
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
3 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook garlic in oil for 30 seconds just until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add artichokes and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and Parmesan, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread margarine on one side of slices of bread. Lay margarine side down in large skillet. Add about 2-3 TBS mozzarella cheese, and 2-3 TBS of spinach mixture to bread. Top with another slice of bread, margarine side up. Cook until browned on all sides. Serve with a cup of your favorite soup.


Leave a comment telling me your favorite sandwich! Include an email address so I can find you easy. 
(1) Winner Will Receive:
(1) $5 off coupon for Nature's Harvest® Bread
(1) $25 Visa Gift Card

Contest Ends: August 7, 2015
Disclaimer:  The information and coupons have been provided by Nature’s Harvest® so that I could try the product and share my thoughts and information about Nature’s Harvest® bread. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Nature’s Harvest®. They also provided me with the prize package for the giveaway, but I am in charge of running it and choosing a winner.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Missing Florida

A month ago at this time, I was laying in a lounge chair, next to my favorite pool in the world, just steps away from our favorite beach in the world. Yes, we were on vacation, and yes, we've been home for nearly 3 weeks now...and we are still going through withdrawal.

We can't help it. It's not that we don't love our Hoosier home, but the sand, the surf, the relaxation, the freedom...all of it is so appealing, but especially when you get back into the daily grind and your already busy life explodes with more and more to do.

Now, this week it did get a tad easier because we "discovered" a great public pool about 20 minutes north of our house that is such a fun time, the boy literally spent an entire afternoon playing and swimming. (I say discovered, because it's been there for years, and I've known about it, but this week was the first time we actually went.) So after a fantastic day poolside, I wanted to make something with a little tropical feel to really complete the "almost like Florida" vibe.

This makes a terrific sweet side to any summer meal, or wait and serve it for dessert. If you're having a pool party or maybe a get together at the lake, it's super cute for those too. To me, it's a little like the classic ambrosia I've made a thousand times, but just with a little something sunnier. Oh, and if that pool party happens to have kids at it, be sure to spring for the tiny umbrellas. The boy thought they were the best part!

Creamy Tropical Salad
1 ( 20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows
1 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, reserve a little for garnish
Maraschino cherries, for garnish

In a large bowl combine pineapple and oranges. In a small bowl whisk together sour cream and vanilla until combined. Pour over fruit. Stir until combined. Fold in marshmallows and coconut. Chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Garnish with extra coconut and cherries. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Salad...Hold The Mayo

I love summer. I love everything about summer. The sun. The heat. The water. The FOOD! I crave summer time foods year round (Yeah, I'm the girl that you will find making potato and macaroni salad while the snow falls!) but they never taste quite as good as they do in the backyard on a warm summer evening.

However, the one thing I find that most of our favorite summer dishes (especially the sides) have in common is mayo. Now, I love mayo. I eat it by the bucket loads...on sandwiches, in salads, from the jar with a spoon..okay that one might be pushing it; but it's probably my most used condiment. But during the hot summer days, sometimes mayo isn't your friend.

One, depending on the time of day, mayo can seem a little heavy. We like to eat later in the evenings during summer vacation, and a few times, salads with mayo have just seemed a little too much at that time of day. And two, this being the biggest issue, mayo and sunshine do NOT mix. If you're having any outdoor party or meal, those mayo filled salads must be kept chilled, and let's face it, that's not always practical.

So, I set out to make a delicious, summer quality salad/side dish that didn't have one ounce of mayo in it. Not one drop. I wanted something with a lot of veggies, but a light dressing that would could hold up to the heat and sunshine.

This is what I came up with. I was inspired by artichokes and olives because, well, if I'm being honest, I was just hungry for them. And the hearts of palm? If you've never had them they fall into that same category of salty, briny...mmm good. They are one of Mr. E's favorites, so I threw those in too. If you go to look for them, they are usually right next to the canned artichokes.

Feel free to add whatever veggies you love, pretty much anything would be delicious in here. In fact, I wanted to add zucchini too, and simply forgot it at the store, so it's definitely going in next time!

Summer salads are so tasty, and we all love the creamy mayo filled ones. But after you've eaten 100 lbs of those this summer, maybe something lighter could go on the menu too!

Quick Artichoke Salad
1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 (14 oz.) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, well drained
1/2 c. black olives, sliced
1/2 c. green olives, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
 2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 TBS dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine and toss all veggies. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar lemon juice and garlic powder. Pour over veggies. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our Day At The Zoo 2015

Any long time follower of this blog knows that while 99% of the time I blog about food, and lots of it, I also love to write about adventures we have as a family; and fun things we find to do in our hometown. And many of you, especially if you live around here, know from a young age one of little man's favorite places to visit is our very own Fort Wayne Children's Zoo,  which has been voted one of the best in the country time and time again. 

Last summer we were invited out to enjoy a day at the zoo and then share that day with all of you. This summer we were once again invited out to enjoy a fun day, but with an exciting new twist! We were able to try some of the menu options at the zoo, and learn more how they feed all us visitors every day. 

First off, if you haven't visited the zoo lately, you might be surprised to see all of the new options they have to feed you. With the remodel of the Australian Adventure, there is a brand new patio area with plenty of seating, and two new places to find something yummy to eat, Ray's Barefoot Grill and Matilda's. This happens to be our new favorite spot in the zoo, so we were excited to have lunch from Ray's. 

Such a beautiful spot, with plenty of tables! 

Ray's has delicious grilled options from burgers to chicken.
We quickly found what we wanted to try. For me? A grilled chicken breast sandwich and little man wanted the fried chicken tenders. Both came with delicious french fries, which appeared to be hand cut and fresh. The chicken was juicy and flavorful; both of us went on and on about just how tasty the whole meal was. It was the perfect portion too, for a light lunch while exploring the zoo. 

Every bite was yummier than the last.
This time around, we were so lucky to be able to meet Head Chef Matt!!! Yes, the zoo has a head chef!! Don't worry if you weren't aware, either were we!! The zoo is fun on it's own, but Alex is such a foodie, this was an added bonus! But he was so kind to meet us, talk to us a little and then answer some questions we had after our visit!

Chef Matt and Alex! Foodies unite!

What questions you might ask? Well, we had a few for Chef Matt, and here is what he had to say!

1. Did you always know you wanted to be a chef? And more specifically, a zoo chef?
I started washing dishes in a restaurant when I was 14. At that point I knew I liked the kitchen. I continued to work in restaurants as I went to school for marketing. Ultimately, I decided to go to culinary school and strived to be the best chef I could be. Working in zoos did not cross my mind, but a friend of mine became a chef at a different zoo and asked me to work with him. At that point I was hooked.   
2. What are some of your responsibilities as the head zoo chef? How does the menu get created?
Some of my responsibilities are client relations, sanitation, proper food handling, ordering, cost of goods, scheduling, menu design, and new concept development. Menus tend to get created in our off season. These reflect what guests want, what food is trending, and what we see works in other locations.
3. What is the most popular food item at the zoo? What's your favorite?
As of now chicken tenders and fries are number one. My favorite would have to be the deep-fried peanut butter and jelly with candied bacon and powdered sugar.  It’s a special we run from time to time at Matilda’s.
4. What new things would like to bring to the zoo menu?
I would like to bring BBQ to the zoo, and possibly lemonade shake-ups.  
5. Are you able to provide foods for people with special dietary needs?
Yes, we do have vegetarian options and can typically take care of vegan needs. We’re looking into providing more gluten-free options.  
The other really cool (pun intended) new addition to the zoo we discovered was the Icee Station located in the Indonesian Rainforest! Yep, you can build your own Icee from one of the delicious flavor choices like Mango, Pina Colada, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade and more! My little dude was super excited about this one! 

If you are planning a trip to the zoo this summer, be sure to take the time to explore all of the delicious, and in my opinion rather affordable food options they have. There are so many amazing things to see, why not include a tasty treat too? For a list of menu options and prices, click here.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary day at the zoo in exchange for this feature. Plus tickets for a giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


To Enter: Leave me a comment telling me your favorite animal to visit at the zoo! Be sure to leave an email address so I can find you.
(1) Winner will receive (1) Family 4 pack of tickets for the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo.
Contest Ends: July 30, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Yay!!! He Was Home

Back when Mr. E and I were first married, he was 100% in charge of the grill. I didn't even know how to start the thing let alone cook anything on it. And it wasn't really an issue because we were both working, home around the same time, and while I worked on the "inside" part of the meal, he would man the grill. 

But after he and little man started training in Taekwondo, there were many evenings he would have to go straight to the dojang (the school) from work, and he wouldn't eat supper until after class; and that left Monkey and I on our own if we wanted something grilled. So...I learned. I put my big girl panties on and started grilling more and more. And I have to say, I was pretty proud of my skills. I became almost the grill master he is....almost. 

See, there is still one thing I just can't quite get the same results he can. Bone in chicken. I can handle boneless like a champ, but for some reason when I try to cook legs, thighs or breasts on the bone, they don't come out as tasty as his. So, I figure since I can grill so many other things, I will leave those to him. But that can get tricky when planning the menu. I have to make sure it is an evening I know he'll be home, or on Sundays. Those are our allowed bone-in grilled chicken days. 

In fact, this was our supper last Sunday. I was craving some grilled drumsticks and wanted that bright, pungent flavor of lemon. Lemon on chicken is so perfect. It gives it tons of flavor, and helps to keep it so moist and juicy too. 

So many of us are grilling out every chance we get this time of year, and it's easy to fall into a chicken rut. Put some life back into yours with this flavorful, simple and delicious dish!

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
7-10 chicken drumsticks
1/4 c. olive oil
2 TBS lemon pepper seasoning, divided
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Non Stick Spray

 Combine chicken, olive oil,  1 TBS lemon pepper seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 8 hours. 30 minutes before ready to cook, allow chicken to come to room temp. Spray with non stick spray. Sprinkle with other 1 TBS lemon pepper seasoning and drizzle with half the lemon juice.  Preheat grill to high. Spray with nonstick spray. Sear chicken for 1 minutes on all sides. Reduce heat to heat to low, cook, and turn often until chicken is cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with remaining lemon juice.

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Meal Plan July 19- 24

*New Recipes
Links to Recipes on Blog
^ Recipes being "re-blogged" 

We are celebrating Mr. E's birthday with his family.

Sloppy Joes
Mac n Cheese
Ambrosia Salad*

Crock Pot Beef Stroganoff^
Dinner Rolls

Chicken Burrito Skillet*

Slow Cooker Confetti Bean Soup*
Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese*


Friday, July 17, 2015

Classic Doesn't Mean Boring

Last week when we got back from our 2 week Florida vacation, I had a craving. Sure, there was the one to immediately go back because it was sunny and HOT there, not rainy and cool like here in Indiana. And there was the one to turn the car around because I knew the beach and amazing pool would still be waiting on me. But neither of those are what I'm talking about today. The one I'm referring to was much more topic appropriate. See, I came home with such a hankering for potato salad, it simply could not be ignored.

I have absolutely no idea where it came from. There is no logical explanation for it. It literally came out of nowhere and would not be silenced. As soon as I began to plan that first week's meals, I knew one of them had to include it...for my emotional well being.

I have a hundred different recipes for tater salad; and I'm always up for trying new versions. It is definitely one of the summer time foods I look forward to the most. But this craving was screaming for something simple. Something classic. Nothing fancy. I just wanted a good ol' fashioned eggy potato salad. I didn't really need anything else in it. No onion. No celery. No carrot. Just potato, eggs and dressing. At least the nagging craving wasn't demanding something elaborate!

So this is what I came up with. Classic. But definitely not boring. It's simple, but still scrumptious. It's easy enough for any weeknight meal, but tasty enough you can definitely serve it to guests, or take it along to a cookout or potluck.

Classic doesn't mean boring. It means something you can come back to and love at first bite, all over again. And who knows, the most simple dish might be the one everyone can't get enough of!

Classic Potato Salad
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
3/4 c. mayo
2 TBS mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until just fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool. In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, celery seed, salt and pepper. Combine eggs and potatoes in a large bowl. Pour dressing over and mix well. Sprinkle with paprika. Chill until ready to serve. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Slow Cooker Summer

I will admit, it wasn't until just a couple years ago I ever thought to use my slow cooker during the summer months. I'm sure it's because back then I wasn't as using it for the variety of dishes I do now, so it was mainly for soups. And as much as I love soup, and yes, even find myself craving it once or twice in the summer months, most of the time when it's 90 degrees outside with 110% humidity, a piping hot bowl of soup is the last thing I want to eat. So, it usually stayed in the china cupboard from about April to September.

That has totally changed now, and I will use it year round, and actually look for ways to utilize it more during these hot months. After all, who doesn't love something that allows you to get a hearty, delicious meal on the table, without heating up the house with the oven or even stove??!! And with the vast amount of dishes you can now make in the Crock Pot, you aren't limited to just soups or stews anymore...however, that is what I happen to have for you today, ironically enough.

Honestly though, there are going to be some cooler, rainy days during the summer, and this would be perfect for those. And if you live in the Midwest, there have certainly be plenty of those this year! My word, I can't remember a more rainy summer than this one, or at least it has been a very long time. Day after day of torrential downpours, heavy thunderstorms, flash flood warnings...this has been Summer 2015 in Indiana.  Hence why I don't feel bad about breaking my "rule" about winter time foods during the months of June, July and August!

This is comfort on a plate. It's something the whole family will love, think you really spent a lot of time making, and will end up on your "make again and again" list! And to be honest, I know this will taste SO good some fall and winter...I'm kinda glad I tested out in the summer!

If you aren't using your Crock Pot during these dog days of summer, saving on time, energy and heat...you need to start! I promise once you do, you will find yourself cooking everything and anything you can inside of it!

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew
Pepper Biscuits
Inspired by The Gunny Sack
2 lbs. boneless chicken tenders, cubed
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 c. chopped carrots
3 c. cubed Yukon gold potatoes
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
1 soup can water
2 TBS cornstarch
3 1/2 TBS cold water
1 (8 ct.) can Grands biscuits
1 TBS butter, melted
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Dried Parsley

Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Add potatoes, carrots and onions. In a medium bowl whisk together 2 cans of soup and water. Pour over chicken and veggies. Cook on HIGH for 6 hours. In a small bowl whisk together cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Add to stew and allow to cook about 10-15 minutes until it's slightly thickened. Place biscuits on baking sheet. Baste with melted butter and sprinkle with black pepper and parsley. Bake according to package directions. Serve stew topped with 2 biscuits per plate. Sprinkle with extra parsley.

 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Monday, July 13, 2015

Another Sweet Side Dish

So...I need a vacation from my vacation. You know how it is. You come home after being gone, and you hit the ground running, trying to get back into the swing of things, you blink and a week has gone by and the laundry still isn't caught up, you still aren't 100% unpacked, and you feel like you've been going nonstop--totally cancelling out the two weeks of rest and relaxation you just had. Yep, that's where I'm at.

Plus, we had some added stress to our return. We had a death in our family, and we had to break to the news to our son that his teacher from this past school year had also passed away after a battle with cancer. It was a very sad week in our house. Alex loved Mr. Thorn, and when he became ill back in April, and had to leave the classroom for the rest of they year, he was crushed. But nothing could have prepared him for when we had to tell him back in June just how sick Mr. Thorn was, and then when we had to tell him his suffering and battle was over because God had called him home. Having to share with a 10 year old such devastating news (plus the added death of my husband's great uncle) was not how I wanted to spend the first few days post-vacation. But such is life, and we are now entering into a new, hopefully better week.

But you can see why I might feel like I've been going 100 mph since we got back, in every direction, with a million things to do. So cooking and blogging has kind of had to take a back seat. However, I did manage to make this new treat and just had to share.

I was making breakfast sandwiches and wanted something light to go with them. I wasn't in the mood for any of the "normal" things I serve with them, and then I remembered this recipe I had seen. Ya'll know how much I love these sweet salads I can call a side dish and be done with it. Plus, a little creamy fruit salad seemed appropriate as a breakfast for supper thing.

I am slowly but surely returning to normalcy around here. Or at least trying. In the meantime, I'm so thankful for quick and easy dishes I can whip up, we can enjoy, and then I can share with all of you.

Pineapple Fluff
Inspired by Southern Bite
 2 (20 oz.) cans crushed pineapple, drained well
8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip
1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, reserve a few for garnish

In a large bowl combine drained pineapple, cream cheese and vanilla. Stir until mixed well. Fold in Cool Whip until combined. Add powdered sugar and walnuts and stir again. Scoop into parfait glasses or dishes. Garnish with extra walnuts. Chill several hours before serving. 


 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Meal Plan July 12-17

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog

Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken*
Corn on the Cob
Jello Parfait


 Grilled Steak
Baked Potatoes
 Quick Artichoke Salad*

Sliced Pears


 We're taking Mr. E out for an early birthday supper!  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kick Up Weekend Brunch

Brunch is one of my favorite things. See, I love breakfast foods, but I don't like breakfast. Or, shall I say I don't like breakfast at breakfast time. I've always been that way. Eating early in the morning just doesn't jive with my system. But give me some eggs, bacon and toast at about 10 am, or even noon, or for supper at 6 pm, and I'm a happy girl! 

So you can see why the idea of brunch appeals to me. Some of my favorite dishes, later in the morning when I'm ready for them. And one of my favorite things to order when we go out for brunch is an omelet. There is a diner here in Fort Wayne that serves them 100 different ways, and each one is as big as your head! 

But at home, omelets are a different story. I can't make them in a skillet to save my life. Seriously. I've tried. A lot. That is until I figured out I could easily let my oven do all the work while I take all the glory. Yep, bake 'em! Why not? It's just like a quiche with no crust. You get all the same flavors, but with no hassle of that dreaded skillet flip! 

This one will put a little kick into your brunch this weekend. Amazing Mexican ingredients take your ordinary eggs to the next level. Don't worry about the heat level though. Ya'll know I'm a wimp, so if I can eat it, anyone can. Add some toast and fresh fruit on the side and watch the family flock to the table. Truthfully though, this makes an amazing simple supper too! Who doesn't love breakfast for supper? 

If you love brunch as much as I do, but the menu has gotten a little stale, it's time to kick it up a notch with a little Southwestern flare!

Baked Southwestern Omelet
Originally Published on Indiana Dairy
8 eggs
1 c. milk
¾ c. Mexican blend cheese, plus extra for top
1 TBS dried minced onion
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained well
½ green pepper, diced
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained well
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chopped Chives
Sour Cream
 Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8 x 8 baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms, green pepper, cheese and diced tomatoes.Stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes until set and toothpick comes out clean. Garnish with extra cheese, salsa, sour cream and chives. Allow to sit 5 minutes before cutting to serve.

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

$50 Meal Plan Challenge #4 {Indiana Family of Farmers}

It's almost hard to believe we've been doing this challenge for four months now. I hope some of you have found some useful tips when it comes to feeding your family on a budget, or maybe at least a recipe or two you want to try. 

This month's $50 challenge is even more helpful than in months past. See, we just got back from a two week vacation in Florida, and all that fun leads to some much needed budget following back here at home. You know how it is, you save for a vacation so you can enjoy yourself, you eat out a lot, you let the normal day to day budget worries slide a little, and then you come back and reality rears its ugly head. But hey, that's what vacation is for...having fun and relaxing! 

So we are home and it's time to get back on track with economical, wallet friendly meal plans that I can feed my family without breaking the bank. This time of year, I love focusing on fresh veggies and fruits because they are in season, and at their best prices, both at the grocery store, or if I'm really lucky, a local farmer's market.  Yes, we love to grill out and barbecue too, but I try to fit in the fresh produce wherever I can too.

The new recipe I'm sharing today is actually one I developed for my little guy. See, our favorite pizza place in the world just happens to be in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where we vacation. Not only do they have hands down the BEST pizza on the face of the planet, but amazing pasta dishes as well. And this time during one of our five visits ( yes in a two week period), we all decided to have pasta instead of our usual pizza. Boy, we weren't disappointed. It was just as delicious as anything we could get at that famous Italian chain restaurant, and easily something I could recreate for him at home. 

Plus, it's super budget friendly and you can stretch a few ingredients to feed a hungry crowd! You might even have most of them on hand right now in the kitchen! Oh, and it can be on the table in under an hour!

Meal #1

Meal #2
Grilled Steak
Summer Corn Salad
Baked Potatoes

Meal #3
Creamy Baked Ziti*
Garlic Bread

Meal #4

There you have it. What I could feed my family for $50. Pretty good, huh? Now like always, remember a couple things. One, we have freezer beef, so those grilled steaks are already paid for, making it easier for me to stay in budget with such a treat. Two, I shop at Aldi's, Kroger and Walmart. I get everything at the best price possible and watch sales very closely. And finally, we all know different areas of this country have different prices, so maybe where you live, only 3 of these could be made for $50. That's okay! We all do the best we can with what we have! 

Creamy Baked Ziti
1 lb. ziti
1 (24 oz.) meat flavored spaghetti sauce
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 oz. cream cheese, diced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
3/4 c. sour cream
2 c. shredded mozzarella, divided
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Dried Parsley

Preheat oven to 375. Boil pasta to just al dente. Do not over cook. While pasta cooks, in a large skillet combine spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir in cream cheese until completely melted and combined. Season with garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper. Stir until mixed well. Reduce heat to low. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Add to sauce mixture and stir to combine. Add 1/2 pasta mixture to 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with sour cream and spread to make a layer. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella. Add rest of pasta. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little parsley before serving.

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Vacation Breakfast { A Post for Earth Fare}

Summer is in full swing at our house...at last. The only sad thing is that the reality is school starts again in only 5 weeks. Depressing, I know. I think I will be adopt Scarlett O'Hara's motto here, "I will think about that tomorrow." 

So, like I said, summer is in full swing. We just got back from a 2 week beach vacation in Florida, and while we are trying to get back into a routine, we still have a ton of things on the calendar to look forward to. But that's how I like it. I only get the boy home with me for a few precious weeks it seems, so I will pack them full of fun! 

Another thing I am sure to do over the summer is make some special things for breakfast. See, the boy loves breakfast, but not early like he has to eat during the school year. He wants something light on those days, so I save more filling and/or yummy things for days when we can ease into our day, like Sunday mornings, or this time of year, weekdays!

These came about because my little man said he was hungry for doughnuts and I could only make that a reality with things I had on hand. There were apples in the fruit bowl, and I went from there. 

These are super simple, delicious and perfect with a tall glass of milk, or hot cup of coffee. They even make a fun dessert instead of breakfast. 

Oh, and as a side note, whenever I post a new recipe for doughnuts, many of you want to know about the pan I use. It's a nonstick one you can usually find in the same aisle as muffin tins. They can be found at Walmart, Target, Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. I actually got mine at Crate and Barrel. Seriously, anywhere.

Summer vacation is a time for many things for me and my favorite little guy, including some time to get into the kitchen and make him some extra special treats!

Baked Apple Cinnamon Donuts
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 TBS butter, melted

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 TBS plus 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a doughnut pan. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves. In a small bowl whisk together sugar and eggs. Pour oil in gradually and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in apples. Fill each well 3/4 full and bake for 15-18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool. Once cool, brush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until set. Makes 10-12 doughnuts.

Shared at Weekend Potluck