Five on Friday

It’s finally Friday! This has been a long week, and I am so glad it is finally the weekend! 

Here are five things that I am loving right now:

I just found this podcast this week and downloaded it to my podcast app. Yesterday, after a really rough day (it was Jack’s first day of daycare and I was full of mom-guilt), I decided to turn this on during my drive home. It was exactly what I needed to hear (the current episode was about anxiety, which is very timely considering how I was feeling yesterday). I have a feeling this is going to be a normal part of my commute from now on!

Two words: follow her! Meal ideas, beauty tips, a cute dog, hilarious Instastories… you won’t be disappointed. (There’s also a PaleOMG podcast, which I just downloaded and am planning to listen to next week!)

These are so comfy, but because of the sateen finish they are dressy enough for work. I will be living in these pants.

I. WANT. IT. ALL. Seriously, how cute is this? AND, like most of The Pioneer Woman’s stuff at Walmart, it is affordable. I see a shopping spree in my future! 

  • These amazing pumpkin spice breakfast rolls that my mom and I made this week

Goodness, gracious, these are good. I tried to make them with crescent roll dough and added too much filling, so they didn’t bake well. When my mom came over this week, she made her secret cinnamon roll dough recipe and we filled it with a mixture of puréed pumpkin, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Once they were baked, we covered them with a super yummy coffee cream cheese icing. My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

Coffee Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1/2 block cream cheese
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter together in mixer until blended. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix until blended well. Add milk slowly. Mix well. Add coffee and mix well. Pour over anything (or just eat by the spoonful). 

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Sausage and Potato Soup

This hearty soup is perfect for cooler fall nights. It tastes great with my Copycat Moe’s Grilled Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound mild ground sausage
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 3 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 to 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained

Instructions:

  • Brown the ground sausage. Drain and place in a large stock pot.
  • Place the sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, onion, green beans, and corn over the ground sausage.
  • Add the beef and chicken broth.
  • Add spices and bring mixture to a boil.
  • Add water once mixture begins to boil. Boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat and cover. 
  • Cook smoked sausage in the microwave or oven and slice into bite sized pieces. Add to the soup and simmer for at least one hour.
  • Remove bay leaves and cloves before serving. Potatoes should be fork tender before serving. 

Trick or Treat Tuesday – Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first Trick or Treat dessert challenge for the month is chocolate chip cookies! Jeff and I are both chocolate chip cookie lovers. We have high standards for our favorite dessert, so this is going to be a tough challenge for the Paleo version of this treat!

Typically, I make my chocolate chip cookies using Nestle Toll House’s Original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. For today’s tasting batch, I halved the recipe (because we did not need 5 dozen cookies) and added some chopped pecan pieces. Here’s the recipe I used today:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine (I always use Parkay margarine because I love the way it bakes. It makes the cookies soft and fluffy.)
  • 3/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/8 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1-2 teaspoons water


Instructions:

  • Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in a mixer until creamy.
  • Add the egg and beat well.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients and combine well.
  • If the mixture looks too dry (which can sometimes happen when you half the original recipe) add a teaspoon or two of water to the mixture until it is the desired consistency. 
  • Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. *This step is optional, but chilling the dough really helps it set up so you get a soft, chewy cookie. 
  • Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 11 to 13 minutes, turning once in the middle of cooking time to make sure they cook evenly.

These cookies turn out absolutely PERFECT every single time. Here’s a close up of this wonderful chocolatey chip goodness… Try not to lick your computer screen, okay?


 

That is definitely a treat, right? They are so soft and chewy with just a little crunch on the bottom. Any cookie connoisseur would approve. 

This is me, approving the heck out of these cookies…

Now it’s time to check out the trick for this week. To come anywhere close to the Original Toll House cookies, these Paleo-inspired cookies are going to have to bring it. They look awesome in the picture in the cookbook, but the real test is going to be in how they taste.


These cookies are made with almond and coconut flour and maple sugar and require a 1 hour resting period in the freezer before cooking (so they are prefect to make ahead or keep in the freezer for when you need a quick fix for a sweet craving). The recipe is a little more laborious than the one I am used to, but according to Vanessa, you can’t rush perfection and you should absolutely not skip any of the steps.


The recipe is available on page 300 of the Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind cookbook, or if you need to make cookies right this minute, there is a similar recipe on the Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind Blog.

The recipe was easy to follow, and resulted in what are probably the most beautiful cookies I have ever baked. 


They also tasted really good. They are soft and chewy with lots of chocolate chips in each bite. Jeff commented that they were “really chocolately” compared with my normal cookies, but he liked them a lot. I did taste a slight almond aftertaste from the almond flour, but other than that, these cookies were basically perfect.

This week, the trick actually turned out to be a real treat! 


Join me for Trick or Treat Tuesday again next week when I’ll be comparing pumpkin bread recipes! 

Happy Baking!

Christina

Copycat Moe’s BBQ Grilled Cornbread

Jeff and I both love Moe’s Original BBQ. They have awesome smoked wings and pulled pork, but one of our favorite things about eating there is there side dishes. They have different sides on the menu all the time. Some of the ones we love are the squash casserole, black eyed peas, and hoppin’ john. They also have this amazing Grilled cornbread that they serve on the side of their pulled pork and wing plates. It’s a slightly sweet cornbread and they slice it and grill it on the flat top. It is always my favorite part of my meal there, so I decided to try to come up with my own version of the recipe. It turned out really well and even got Jeff’s stamp of approval. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal mix
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons canned corn kernels, drained
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalepenos with juice
  • Butter or margarine (for grilling)

Instructions:

  • Whisk together all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Pour batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (until golden brown).
  • Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 5 minutes. 
  • Remove from pan and place on a rack until completely cooled.
  • Slice into 1 inch slices with a serrated knife.
  • Butter each side of each slide of bread and grill on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side. 

Meal Planning 101 – Part 4

It’s time for the last part of this meal planning series. Today is all about stretching your meals.


Until this point, we have mostly been discussing just one meal – dinner. While dinner is important, you also need to think about breakfast, lunch, and snacks for your and your family. 

When I’m planning my meals for the week, I usually make sure that I cook a few extra servings at each meal so I have a nice selection of leftovers in the fridge to create snacks and meals for the rest of my day.

For example, this week, I am making Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots on Tuesday. When I pack up my leftovers, I’ll go ahead and portion out lunch sized meals for Jeff and myself, and then I’ll save the rest of the meat for my Shredded Beef Stuffed Baked Potatoes on Friday night. 

On Wednesday, I’m cooking grilled chicken with zucchini noodles in basil and walnut pesto. I’ll grill a couple extra chicken breasts while I’m cooking to use for lunches the next day. For Jeff, I’ll cut up the chicken breast and toss it in buffalo sauce to make a buffalo chicken sandwich for his lunch. For my lunch, I’ll slice the chicken and toss it in a salad with spinach, apples, grapes, dried cranberries, and walnuts. 

For breakfast, I like to keep things that we can eat on the go, because Jeff and I are not morning people and we both have to be at work really early. Some good options are overnight oats, hard boiled eggs, fruit, and Larabars or RX bars. 

I’ll be updating the blog later this week to show you how my plan worked out. I’d love to hear what you’ve planned for your week and how it’s going! 

Happy Planning!

Christina 

Meal Planning 101 – Part 3

Welcome back to Meal Planning 101! If you missed Part One or Part Two, follow the links to get caught up and then join us back here for Step Three: Shopping and Preparing Your Ingredients for the Week.


In step one, you took an inventory of the ingredients you already had in your freezer and pantry. In step two, you examined your week and chose your recipes. Now it’s time for step three: shopping and preparing your ingredient for the week.

After you create your meal plan list, check the ingredients that you will need for the recipes you chose for the week. Create your shopping list by listing out any necessary ingredients that you don’t already have on hand. Also, think about how you can recreate leftovers for lunches and snacks during the week as you are shopping (for example, if you are making a chicken dish, you might want to buy some lettuce and veggies to make a salad that you can top with chicken for your lunch the next day).

I also make sure to shop for healthy snack options like fruit and nuts. 

Here’s what my basic shopping list looks like every week (this is what I buy every single week, no matter what my meal plan looks like):

  • Salad greens
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Snack size boxed raisins
  • Larabars (these are fruit and nut bars that I use for emergency snacks or an occasional quick breakfast bar)
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Eggs
  • Orange juice
  • Bottled water

Now, I’ll add the ingredients that I need to complete the meals for my meal plan. 

  • Sausage (for my Octoberfest Sausage Soup that I’m making on Monday)
  • Octoberfest Beer (for the soup)
  • Beef broth (also for soup)
  • Basil (for my Pesto sauce on Wednesday)
  • Arugula (for Pesto)
  • A couple lemons (also for the Pesto)
  • Flour tortillas (to make tacos for Jeff on Thursday)

Now that I have my list, I’ll check the online store ads to see what is on sale and stock up on sale items for my freezer and pantry.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who can get $100 of groceries for $5 by usin coupons, but I’ve never been that good at it. However, I do use a couple of money and time saving apps when I’m doing my shopping. Check out the following apps to help you shop smarter.

  • Target Cartwheel App – This app allows you to select coupons for specific items when you shop at Target. I usually save a couple dollars on each shopping trip by using this app. I love it because it has a built in scanner in the app so you can scan the product barcode and it will tell you if there are any deals on that product. 
  • Ibotta – This app gives you cash back for buying groceries. I use this one all the time. In the past year, I have earned over $100 back on my normal grocery purchases. Getting your cash out is super easy, too. Once you earn $20, you can just transfer it to your PayPal account. If you don’t already have an Ibotta account, you can follow the link above to join my team and start saving on your next grocery trip!
  • Walmart Grocery Pickup – I used this app for the first time last week and it is a game changer! It makes grocery shopping so easy. You just create an account, make your list, and set your pickup time. Then, you drive to the store, check in on the app when you get there, park in one of the designated pickup parking locations, and a Walmart associate brings your groceries out to your car and loads them for you. It is the easiest way to buy groceries, and it helps me save money because I’m not browsing and adding unnecessary items to my shopping cart. 

When I get home from shopping, I take a few extra minutes as I am putting away my groceries to prepare ingredients for the week so that cooking is easier on busy nights. If there is anything that can be made a few days ahead (like my Pesto sauce for Wednesday’s meal or a marinade), I’ll go ahead and make those things.

I also prepare snacks for the week. For example, I’ll wash my grapes and strawberries and put them in snack sized portions in ziploc bags. I do the same thing with carrots and cucumber slices, pretzels, and trail mix. That way, I have some quick and easy snacks to add to our lunch boxes or toss in my bag when I need a snack on the go. 

I also take this time to clean out and organize my fridge for the week. I’ll group ingredients together in the fridge by meal so it’s easy to grab everything when I start cooking, and if I have things that I have made ahead, I label and date everything. That way, everything is ready to go and all I have to do during the week is just grab my ingredients and start cooking.

Our meal planning weekend is almost over, but don’t forget to check back tomorrow when I’ll be talking about stretching your meals by using leftovers! 

Happy Planning!

Christina

Meal Planning 101 – Part 2

Welcome to Part Two of my meal planning how-to series! In this post, we’re going to be talking about finding recipes and planning for the week ahead.


After you’ve completed Step One (see that post here), you know what you have in your kitchen and can start to build your menu for the week. I always try to work with the list of what I already have on hand first and then make a list of any extras I need after I set my menu. 

I start by looking at my week. There are a few questions I ask myself when I sit down with my calendar:

  • What time will I get home each day?
  • How much time will I have to cook each day?
  • Will I need to cook extra (to use for later meals like lunches and recipe recreations later in the week)?
  • Is there anything special going on this day/week that I need to keep in mind (a birthday, anniversary, party, game, or something else that is not in our normal schedule)?

I look at my week and try to think about these questions first. This helps me decide if I need to plan 15 minute meals, slow cooker meals, or if I’ll have more time to spend in the kitchen and make something a little more fancy.

For example, here’s what my upcoming week looks like:


(My planner is the Big Happy Planner made by Create 365 and is available at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. I love it because it has three rows for each day, which makes it easy for me to keep everything in one place. I use the top row for work, the middle row for personal and family plans, and the bottom row for blog planning. I use the notes section in the margin to jot down my meal plan.)

  • Since Monday is a half-day at work, I’ll have a little extra time that afternoon, so I will have plenty of time to cook and can probably do some prep work for the next few days while I’m cooking that afternoon.
  • Tuesday is my first full day back at work and I have a workout class that afternoon, so I will most likely be dead on my feet when I get home. That makes Tuesday a slow cooker day. That way, I can just toss everything in the slow cooker in the morning and dinner will be ready when I get home.
  • On Wednesday, I’ll have to meet my mom to pick up Jack after work, but I should still have plenty of time to cook (especially if I plan ahead), so I’m going to make one of Jeff’s favorite meals.
  • Thursday is another gym day, so I’ll get home later than normal. That’s another slow cooker day. It is also Jack’s first day of daycare, so I will need something REALLY easy to toss in the slow cooker in the morning because it will be the first time I’ll have to get us both ready and out the door in time for me to be at work at 7:30.
  • Friday is usually date night, so if we can get a babysitter, Jeff and I usually go out to eat. If we don’t go out, I’ll use leftovers and change them up a little bit for dinner.

I don’t plan my meals for the weekends because I use those days for trying new recipes that I want to test for the blog or going to events with family and friends. If you need to plan for all seven days, then you would include the weekends in your plan as well. 

Now that I know how much time I have each day and what my schedule looks like, I can plan the actual recipes. I’ll keep my current kitchen inventory in mind as I am looking for recipes and will try to use what I have on hand first. 

Here are a few tips when you’re looking for recipes:

  • Search for recipes using ingredients you already have. I try to rotate my proteins so that we don’t have chicken three days in a row and then beef four times.
  • Remember your time constraints and make sure to read through the recipe so you know exactly how long it should take. There’s nothing worse than getting started with a recipe that you thought would be quick and easy and then realizing that you needed to let it chill or set up for an hour or that it should have been marinated overnight. Make sure you know how much time you need to dedicate to that meal before you put it on your weekly plan.
  • Consider your culinary skills. I love learning new things in the kitchen, but Tuesday night at 6:30 when my husband and I are about starving because we just got home from the gym and haven’t eaten since lunch is not the time for me to learn a new culinary skill. Save the fancy recipes for the weekends or special occasions when you have extra time. 
  • Keep it simple. The goal is not to make a five-star restaurant quality plate that will get 500 likes on Instagram. The goal is to get healthy, good food on the table for your family. Stick to the simple meals during the week.
  • Be mindful of your family’s dietary restrictions, allergies, and likes and dislikes. You don’t want to end up making two or three meals. You are not a short order cook. Try to find meals that everyone will be able to enjoy together. *OR, try to find recipes that you can easily modify a part of for that one person who has a special dietary need. For example, I am trying to eat a more Paleo-ish diet these days, so if I make something with rice as a side, I can easily make regular rice for Jeff and cauliflower rice for myself. I’m still only cooking one meal, but making just one small modification that only takes a few minutes (thank goodness for microwaveable cauliflower rice).

Here are some great resources for finding easy meals for your week:

  • If you love casseroles and freezer meals that you can put together ahead of time and then thaw and pop in the oven at dinner time, check out The Pioneer Woman’s blog and cookbooks. She has always been one of my favorites. 
  • For Whole 30 or Paleo meals that can be cooked in the slow cooker or Instant Pot (which saves SO much time), check out The Real Food RDs Instagram page and blog. They have great recipes and most of them are pretty easy to put together.

So what did I plan for this week? Here is my plan, with links to the recipes:

Check back tomorrow for Step Three: Shopping and Preparing Ingredients for the Week!

Happy Planning! 

Christina