Everyday Mom's Meals: October 2021

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Slow Cooker Holiday Season

Happy November 1st! Go put that jack-o-lantern on the front porch in the trash before it starts to rot (or before it gets any worse), grab your pilgrim and turkey decorations and start prepping for the biggest foodie holiday of the year! 

It's going to be a whirlwind over the next 2 months and before we know it we will be writing 2022 on all of our checks. But there is so much to plan, do and celebrate between now and then.

Let's talk about holiday season meals; and I don't just mean the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. I mean all the meals that have to happen between those! From simple weeknight suppers to plan around the school concerts, work parties, holiday shopping, and those that have to be doubled or tripled due to those house guests who are coming soon! No matter if your company will be here for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the entire time between the two, I've got a meal that is sure to please both in flavor and ease! 

During the holiday rush, slow cooker meals are definitely the way to go! Letting it take care of cooking while you're running around doing the million things on your to-do list will save your sanity over and over. 

This recipe is another one that can be served a few different ways, making it as versatile as it is delicious. I piled these Slow Cooker Italian Sausage and Peppers on top of hoagie buns, added some shredded cheese and my boys devoured them. Well, that is partly true. My big boys ate them that way. For the little guy and myself, I just cut them up on a plate and we enjoyed them just as much. They would also be delicious with a side of pasta too. You can get a couple different meals out of one recipe, or one meal that everyone can customize for themselves. 

I hope these next few weeks don't fly by too quickly for you to take a minute and savor them! We are gearing up for the most magical, wonderful time of year and I for one, can't wait!

 Slow Cooker Italian Sausage and Peppers

2 lbs. mild Italian sausages

2 cups marinara sauce

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. dried basil

Hoagie buns

1 cup shredded pizza style cheese

Salt and pepper

Dried parsley, for garnish

Grated Parmesan for serving

Dried Red Pepper for serving 

Grease slow cooker insert. Add sausages. Top with sliced vegetables. Sprinkle with seasonings. Pour marinara over. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Stir well. Serve on hoagie buns topped with cheese, over pasta or as is. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Holiday Casseroles

 I realize we haven't even reached the end of October yet, and everyone has pumpkins, ghosts, vampires and candy on the brain, but my brain has moved on. Sure I'm still celebrating all things Halloween this week, but the inner planner in me is thinking ahead to the holiday rush that is about to descend down up on us. 

I have always said that once we get down trick or treating, and the calendar flips to November 1st, it's a downhill coast, a very fast one, to Happy New Year. The weeks of leading up to Thanksgiving and then Christmas seem to go at supersonic speed. With so much to do, so many fun things to plan, so much good food to eat, so many loved ones to hug...it can be a blur. 

I know most people's brains don't work this way, so planning so far ahead isn't always an option, so let me do it for you! 

When I first made this casserole for a weeknight meal, it was perfect because it came together pretty quickly. But it got me thinking of two things. First, those house guests who will be at your table needing fed beyond the big holiday meal (this image always makes me think of Cousin Eddie's family in Christmas Vacation who come to stay for a month!). Second, as much as we love all those dishes we look forward to this time of year, how we can get burnt out too, since there are so many turkey and ham leftovers to enjoy before you are ready for something completely different. 

This baked gnocchi has the familiar flavors of spinach and artichoke dip, but in a simple, hearty casserole perfect for a crowd! 

Let's talk gnocchi for a minute. My 5 year old always says "Oh these are those little potato dumplings that taste like pasta!" I think that's a great way to describe it. No, they don't really taste like pasta, but they have a similar texture, are boiled in water and work in many of the same dishes, so I can totally see why he thinks that way. 

Whether you're looking for a simple weeknight meal for your family, or something you can serve to that family that might be hanging out from the turkey to the yule log, this gnocchi bake is sure to be a hit. Planning ahead, even if just a little, can really cut down on the stress the holidays seem to bring...take it from me!

 Spinach and Artichoke Gnocchi Bake

2 (1lb.) packages gnocchi

6 oz. baby spinach

1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped

1 yellow onion, finely chopped 

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup heavy cream

2 TBS olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

1/2-1 tsp. dried red pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cook gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions. In a large skillet over medium saute onion in oil until soft. Add spinach and garlic and saute until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and red pepper. Stir well. Pour in cream and lemon juice. Stir. Add artichokes. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. When gnocchi is cooked, drain well. Add to sauce. Stir well to combine. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with mozzarella and cook for 10-15 minutes or browned and bubbly.


Inspired by Simply Delicious

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Stress Free Sandwich Night

Sandwiches. We all have our favorites. From Philly Cheese Steaks to Reubens and everything in between, there are so many to love. I think for a lot of us, sandwiches are something quick you can grab at lunch time, an on-the-go meal to eat while driving or sitting at your desk. But I am here to tell you when done right, sandwiches can open up a whole new world when it comes to your weeknight menu plan!

 If you aren't planning a sandwich night for one of your weeknight meals, you are missing out on a great opportunity for taking a little stress out of your life. A simple sandwich supper can be filling, delicious but still so easy on the cook after a long day. 

When I do a sandwich supper I am sure to plan a couple side dishes to help round out the meal, so it's a great time for fries, cottage cheese, fresh fruit, salad or a bowl of a favorite soup. But even with the addition of a couple other dishes, sandwich night is still one of the easiest ways to get a meal on the table your family will love and you won't be exhausted with a sink full of dishes to clean up after. 

I've been making these Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches for years. They are easy, inexpensive thanks to using boneless chicken thighs, and can even be prepped ahead of time if you want to save even more effort when supper time rolls around. (See the note below)

Boneless chicken thighs sometimes get a bad wrap. I know the boneless breasts are the most popular, but for certain recipes, thighs can easily be swapped out and save you some major dough! Plus, dark meat has so much flavor too! 

These are great for a weeknight meal when everyone has to eat at different times too! They keep warm on the stove or even in the slow cooker beautifully. Or serve up a big batch for your next Game Day watch party! 

Dinner time can be so incredibly stressful, but it doesn't have to be! Between planning ahead and remembering our good friend, Mr. Sandwich, simple stress-free meals are sure to turn a bad day into a good one!

 Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, trimmed

1 (8 oz.) bottle hot sauce, like Franks

4 TBS butter

1/4 c. olive oil

Garlic Powder

Salt and Pepper

Blue cheese dressing, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place chicken on foil. Baste with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake for 20-30 minutes until juices run clear. Cool enough to handle and shred with 2 forks. In a large pot melt butter over low heat. Add entire bottle of hot sauce and stir to combine. Add chicken and mix well. Put lid on and allow to warm through, about 15 minutes. Serve on buns with blue cheese dressing, and carrots and celery on side if desired.  *NOTE* The chicken can be baked ahead, cooled, shredded and refrigerated for 1-2 days. When you're ready, continue with rest of recipe.*

 Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Even I Cleaned My Plate

 So I am going to reveal a big secret to you. Are you ready? It is going to rock your world. I'm a food blogger and there are nights when I sit down to supper, and if I've been working all day on new recipes for all of you, I'm not even hungry. No matter how appetizing the food is, even if I've been drooling over it the entire time it has been cooking, it just doesn't taste good. Correction. It tastes wonderful, just not to me. 

This same thing actually happens when I've made a really big meal too, mainly on holidays. I cook Thanksgiving dinner all day and by the time I sit down, I'm hot and exhausted and not in the mood. Now, on those days, I get over it and chow down...I'm not missing out on turkey and stuffing! 

It's funny to look back now because growing up when either of my grandmas would spend the whole day in the kitchen making a huge spread, even at the holidays, I can distinctly remember them sitting down, and watching everyone else dig in and not touch a bite for a while. I always wondered why, and now I 100% understand. 

But this meal? This recipe? Even after working on it all day, and being dog- tired by the time I sat down, I couldn't stop eating. It was so incredibly delicious I cleaned my whole plate! After smelling the mouth watering aromas wafting from the slow cooker all day long, I couldn't wait to dig in. 

I have made meatballs in the Crock Pot before, but I've spent some time tweaking my recipe and through trial and error, I present to you the most delicious Crock Pot Italian Meatballs EVER. Yes. I said it. 

I served these over some penne pasta, but they would be just as delicious in a sub bun for meatball sandwiches, on mini buns or dinner rolls for meatball sliders, or quite frankly, on a plate with a fork. 

Filled with flavor, cooked all day, what more can you ask for? Now before the hate emails start to flood in about using frozen meatballs, if you feel inclined to use homemade, please be my guest. Me? I have found several brands (even store brands) that taste homemade and I feel totally comfortable using them, especially in a recipe like this when I'm adding so much other flavor. 


Those of us who spend a lot of time in the kitchen know what it's like to sit down to a meal we've worked so hard on, only for our appetite to disappear. So the next time you are lucky enough to gather around the table to a home cooked meal, be sure to thank the person who made it a couple extra times!

Crock Pot Italian Meatballs 

2 (14 oz.) bags frozen Italian style meatballs

3 (24 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce with meat

1 (29 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 TBS sugar

2 TBS Italian seasoning

2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried red pepper 

Salt to taste 

Dried Parsley

Add meatballs to Crock Pot. Pour sauce over top. Add seasonings.  Stir well. Cook on LOW for 6 hours. Garnish with dried parsley and serve. 

Shared at Weekend Potluck

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Hello October

Welp, I can't deny it any more. With the arrival of October, I guess summer is officially over. Yes, I know the first day of fall was a couple weeks ago, but I was hanging on with all my might! I will admit though, so far it has been an easy transition because we've been having some beautiful weather! Sunny, warm days, with not a cloud in the sky. But just when we were getting cocky about it, the last 2 have been dreary and rainy, 

With the cooler, sometimes wet days, and the fact it is dark by 7:30 (soon to be even earlier!) I have soup on the brain all the time. When I'm making my meal plan I find myself having to make sure I'm not getting into a rut. Soup, chili, chowder, stew...there are SO many I can't wait to enjoy, but let's face it I've got plenty of time since the cold weather months always drag on. 

My go-to chili recipe will forever by my Crock Pot Chili, which is always a hit, and so easy it's one of those recipes you can memorize after making it a few times. 

But as good as my classic chili is, recently I found myself craving something different, and shock of all shocks, a copycat recipe came to mind. I wanted Wendy's chili, but didn't want to leave my house. I knew there would be a copycat recipe on the internet, but who knew there would be so many! So after reading what was probably close to a bazillion....yes it was that many, don't doubt me, I took a little something from many and started cooking.

My oh my! This is so close to the original, if I close my eyes, I would swear I just hit the drive-thru! For me, the things that set Wendy's chili apart from many, mine included, is the two types of beans, peppers and celery. My grandma always used kidney beans in her chili, and while I don't for mine, for this one, they are a must! 

We love this topped with cheese, diced jalapenos and oyster crackers. Sour cream, avocado and diced onions would be wonderful too. If you know anything about Wendy's you know a cup of chili and a baked potato are the perfect combo...so that would be a great use for some of the leftovers the next day. A big scoop of this down over a fluffy baked potato...mmmm good! 

I hope you are enjoying fall thus far. Get out there to the pumpkin patch, apple orchard or fall festival! When you come home know you can have a big bowl of chili to warm you up, and celebrate all that soup season has to offer!

Copycat Wendy's Chili

2 lbs. ground beef

1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce

3 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

2 (15 oz.) cans kidney beans, drained

2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained

2 (15 oz.) cans pinto beans, drained

2-4 TBS chili powder

1 TBS cumin

1 TBS sugar

2 c. water

2 beef bouillon cubes 

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown beef until no longer pink. Remove. In leftover drippings, saute onion, pepper and celery until soft. Return beef to pot. Add beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, sugar, water, bouillon, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for for 45 minutes-1 hour covered. Serve with favorite toppings.

 Shared at Weekend Potluck