Five on Friday: Easy Weeknight Meals

It is finally Friday! We made it through the week! If you are looking for some quick and easy recipes that everyone will love, check out these meals that we have had recently. Links to the recipes are located below each image.


One: Baked Chicken with Zucchini Noodles tossed in Spinach and Walnut Pesto (Whole30 Approved)


Two: Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Homemade Ranch Dressing (Whole30 Approved)


Three: Sweet Potato and Chicken Curry with Cauliflower Rice (Whole30 Approved)

img_0678-1Four: Shredded Beef Stuffed Baked Potatoes

img_0496Five: Breakfast for Dinner – Spinach and Turkey Sausage Egg Bake with Spinach and Apple Salad (Whole30 Approved)

Like these meal ideas? Be sure to check out my meal planning series on the blog this weekend for more inspiration! 

Meal Planning 101 (a how-to series) – Part 1

I’m going to begin this post with a confession…tonight (THURSDAY) is the first night this week that I have actually cooked a real meal. It has just been one of those weeks. I forgot to lay out some meat to thaw on Monday and Jeff ended up running by the grocery store to get some pre-made chicken fingers because I could cook them in a hurry. On Tuesday, by the time I got home from the gym, I just didn’t feel like cooking and we ended up eating hot dogs. Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house and stayed late so my brother could see Jack when he got off work, so I picked up take-out on the way home. It has been a long, crazy week, and even though I love to cook, it has been tough to get in the kitchen and create healthy meals this week.

I think this is a pretty common problem. All of us are busy. We run around from one place to the other, we get home late, and we just want something to eat that tastes good and makes our families happy. So how are we supposed to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table in the midst of our busy lives? It is possible, and the key is planning ahead.

I know that meal planning is hard. It takes organization. It takes time, which is something that is in short supply for most of us. And sometimes, no matter how well we plan, life still gets crazy and we pick up fast food or scarf down junk food because it’s fast, easy, and we’re stressed (or maybe I’m the only stress eater out there…but I doubt that).

Meal planning can feel like a hassle, but it is worth it, and here’s why: if you have a plan and have invested time and money into it, you are more likely to follow through with it. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to cook healthy meals every night this week.” It’s a totally different thing to plan out those meals, shop for the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals, and prep those ingredients so that putting the meal together when you get home is quick and easy. When you know that you can toss a good, healthy meal together in 15 minutes because you have prepared for your crazy busy life, then you might not give in to the temptation to swing by the drive-thru on your way home.

I haven’t been doing a lot of meal planning while I’ve been out on maternity leave, but I go back to work next week and I know that our lives are about to get even crazier because of that. I’m starting my meal planning for next week today, and I will complete small tasks between now and then to help my week get off to a good start.

Do you need help planning your meals for the week? Follow along with me as I create my meal plan and learn how to create a meal plan without spending hours and hours worrying about what’s going to be on your plate (because we’re trying to SAVE time here, not add a major thing to our to-do list).


I’m breaking down meal planning into four easy steps, When you think about each one, they are probably things that you already do each week. The key is doing these things with purpose:

  1. Inventory your kitchen.
  2. Find recipes and create your plan.
  3. Shop for and prepare your ingredients.
  4. Make use of your leftovers.

Tonight, I’m going over Step One: Inventory your kitchen.

This is always the first thing I do when I begin to meal plan. I try to be a smart shopper and stock up on items when they are on sale, so instead of heading straight to the store I always check my pantry and freezer first to see what ingredients I have on hand already.

I have been stocking up on meat as it has been on sale, so my freezer is pretty full. My pantry is looking a little lean because we were on a Whole 30 last month (which pretty much eliminates all processed foods) and we’ve been buying lots of perishable things like fruits and veggies.

Here’s what I already have in my fridge this week:

  • One package of chicken thighs
  • One bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One chuck roast
  • 2 one pound packages of ground chuck
  • One pork roast
  • One pack of boneless pork chops
  • 2 packs of bacon
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 bag of frozen rolls

I know that is a lot of meat to have on hand, but I have been trying to only buy meat when it is on sale and keep it in the freezer instead of being at the mercy of the grocery store because I NEED a certain protein when it isn’t on sale (because meat is expensive, y’all).

In my pantry, I have the following staples that could be used for creating meals:

  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 2 cans of chicken broth
  • 1 can of beef broth
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • Rice (white Minute rice and flavored rice mixes)
  • Bow tie pasta
  • A couple bags of dried beans
  • Various spices
  • Cooking oils – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
  • Baking Basics – flour, sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal, almond flour, coconut flour
  • Russet potatoes and a few sweet potatoes
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Fresh garlic
  • Lemons

Now that I know what I have on hand, I can start to plan my meals. I always start with the protein that I am going to be cooking with. This week, I have a good assortment of beef, chicken, and pork. I like to rotate my proteins (so we don’t have chicken every single night), and I have some really good options with waht I already have.

Now that I have taken inventory, I can begin Step Two: Find Recipes and Create a Plan.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing how I create my plan for the week and some great resources for finding easy, healthy recipes.

If you are new to meal planning, make sure to follow me through this series. If you follow each day’s step along with me on the blog, you will have a solid plan for your week next week! I’d love for you to follow along and let me know what you plan and how it goes for you!

Happy planning!

Christina

 

Pumpkin Patch Fun

Is there anything cuter than a baby in a pumpkin patch?

Enjoy these pictures from Jack’s first trip to Country Pumpkins today! 

Trick or Treat Tuesdays

Jeff and I have really been trying to eat better and start living a healthier lifestyle lately. We attempted a Whole30 last month, but I didn’t plan well enough and we fell off the wagon in the middle of the month, so we didn’t actually complete a true Whole30. However, we did stick to it long enough to experience a lot of the non-scale victories that Whole30 is famous for.

Both of us felt better when we were eating clean, and as we have reintroduced foods that were not allowed on the Whole30 back into our diets, we have really been making an effort to listen to our bodies and pay attention to how certain foods make us feel.

It didn’t take me long to discover that anything made with corn or cornmeal is not my friend (which really hurts my feelings, because cornbread and chicken dressing are pretty much my favorite foods). While I don’t know if I am ready to completely give up those foods, I have decided that I’m going to save them for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas and eat them sparingly on those occasions.

As we’ve been trying to figure out what to do post-Whole30, I’ve been reading a lot about the Paleo lifestyle. While I’m not sure that we want to go in 100% on the Paleo train yet, I am really interested in learning more about the lifestyle. One thing that I have noticed a lot of Paleo chefs do is recreate traditional recipes in a healthier way. While making “treats” is not permitted on the Whole30, it is a common thing in the Paleo world for people to use clean ingredients to make dupes of their favorite treats like cookies, pancakes, and even ice cream.

I’m very skeptical about being able to make tasty treats with no flour, butter, milk, or processed sugars, but I am willing to try it.

Thanks to Instagram, I found Vanessa Barajas, the author of Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind, which is a cookbook filled with 150 Paleo-inspired recipes. I immediately bought the cookbook with plans to choose some of our favorite treats to see if they can  trick our taste buds.

Each Tuesday of this month, I will be sharing a favorite treat of mine (with my traditional family recipe, for those of you who are not on a Paleo diet) AND the Paleo trick for recreating that sweet treat in a healthier way from this cookbook. I will be giving you my honest reviews of these recipes – what I like, what I don’t, and even Jeff’s (always brutally honest) comments.

Here are the recipes that I will be putting to the test this month:

  • Nestle Toll House Original Chocolate Chip Cookies vs. Clean Eating Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Traditional Pumpkin Bread Muffins vs. Clean Eating Pumpkin Bread Muffins
  • Peanut Butter Balls vs. Clean Eating Almond Butter Cups
  • 1001 Chocolate Chip Cake vs. Clean Eating Death By Chocolate Cake

I hope that you’ll join me for Trick or Treat Tuesdays this month!


Christina

Write 31 Days October Challenge

Happy Monday, everyone!

This month, I am participating in the Write 31 Days challenge. This means that I will be writing and posting EVERY DAY this month!

write 31 days

Make sure to stop by often for recipes, pictures of baby Jack, cookbook reviews, and more! I am really excited about this challenge and I hope you enjoy reading along this month!

Here are a few things to look for on the blog this month:

  • Trick or Treat Tuesdays – These posts will be comparing traditional sweets recipes with Paleo versions of our favorite treats. These will be put to the ultimate taste test when Jeff has to do a blind taste test and determine which one is the treat (the traditional recipe) and which one is the trick (the Paleo version). I will be using recipes from Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind and will include a review of one recipe per week.
  • What’s Cooking Wednesdays – Every Wednesday, I will be sharing a quick and easy weeknight meal idea and recipe.
  • Five on Friday – These posts will feature links to five of my favorite things of the week, ranging from my favorite Instagram food accounts to follow to my favorite cookbooks and recipe apps, to my favorite kitchen tools.
  • Letters to Jack – These posts will document important moments that I want to remember for Jack, like his first Halloween and first trip to the Pumpkin Patch and will be filled with super cute pictures of the prettiest baby ever (seriously, he’s absolutely adorable, even if he is mine).

 

I’m looking forward to sharing lots of great moments with you this month!

Christina

 

 

Hello, October!

September was officially the month that nothing got done. Our Whole30 ended up being cut short due to poor planning and a nasty virus, I didn’t complete any of the projects around the house that I wanted to complete, and all my grand plans for blog posts and Teachers Pay Teachers projects just didn’t happen. Despite all of September’s shortcomings, it was a great month. It was my last full month to be home with Jack before going back to work and I made sure to savor every minute of it.

Here are some of September’s greatest moments:








Now we are ready to welcome October! This month is going to be super crazy for us.

My maternity leave is ending on October 9th and I will be returning to work full-time, which means that Jack will be starting daycare. I am so extremely anxious about leaving him and about being able to figure out a work/life balance that works for our family. Being a great wife and mom is my first priority, but I also want to be a great teacher, and it is going to be tough to figure out how to balance all those roles.

Here are a few things we are looking forward to this month:

  • Joining our local gym (I went to a class to test it out last Wednesday and am STILL sore.)
  • Learning about the Paleo diet and trying some new, healthy recipes
  • Jack’s first trip to the Pumpkin Patch and his first Halloween
  • Pumpkin Spice Everything
  • Alabama Football

Also, check out this super cute desktop background from Short Stop Designs for this month (she also has phone backgrounds and free printables on her blog, which you can find here).

I hope you have a great month! Make sure to check back to see what we’re up to throughout the month!

Christina

Banana Bread

This banana bread recipe is the only one my family has ever used and it comes out perfect every single time. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup self-rising flour

Instructions:

  • In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar.
  • Add the beaten egg. Mix well.
  • Add the mashed bananas and chopped nuts. Mix well.
  • Add the flour to the wet ingredients and mix until batter is well blended.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan. I put a few extra nuts and a little sprinkle of sugar on top to make it look pretty.

  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until bread is a nice, golden brown.

Recipe can be doubled, but if you double it you should only use three bananas. 

This recipe is also great for muffins, just adjust your cooking time. Cook muffins for about 30 minutes, until they are a nice, golden brown.