meal plan monday

IMG_5350

I’m not sure how everyone else gets dinner on the table every night, but for me it wouldn’t happen without meal planning. I would be a wreck at 4pm every day if I didn’t know in advance what we were eating and that we had the ingredients to make it.

To make this happen every week, I sit down for an hour (or less) on Saturday or Sunday and make a plan. I get down the binder of recipes , maybe a cookbook or two for inspiration and the calendar. Some weeks are built on easy favorites because our schedule is full. Other weeks have a bit more space and time to try something new, or something that takes a bit more prep. But having the calendar in front of me to make sure that the ambition of the meal matches the activity level for the day is key.

I don’t have formula for the week, as I’ve heard others do: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. But I do sketch out a rough idea this way:

  • beef
  • chicken
  • main dish salad /soup (depending on the season)
  • pasta
  • vegetarian

Then I feel like I have some kind of framework to build on. I also call out to anyone who is around and ask, “Give me one thing you’d to have for dinner this week.” That usually gets me started. It’s important to me that at least one day a week no one is unhappy about dinner, so I aim to please on Friday. One other consideration is to not have too many meals in a row that one child doesn’t like. I’ve got one kid who hates rice and anything Asian (the rest of us love it) and another who despises anything involving cheese. So, dinner can be somewhat of a diplomatic endeavor.

I also only need to plan out five dinners because the Husband cooks on Saturday and the kids cook on Sunday–and they don’t plan ahead. And though I plan and shop for them, the Husband actually cooks dinner on Monday and Wednesday as well, since Boy #2 and I don’t get back from soccer practice until 6:45 pm. I’m sounding a little spoiled, don’t you think? Still, the plan is key to making it all happen.

I thought I’d start to share some of our meal plans here, since I love getting a glimpse into other people’s ordinary days.

Monday: Panko-crusted pork chops, rice with gravy, green beans and salad. We don’t have a “recipe” for this, but here is a similar one.

Tuesday: Apple chicken sausages with rolls, tater tots, broccoli

Wednesday: Heuvos Rancheros

Thursday: We will be at a school performance, so dinner will be from a Taco Truck

Friday: Spaghetti Carbonara and salad

In addition to those dinners I’ve got apple crisp and some pumpkin muffins on the list to make as well.

What are you making for dinner this week? Check out I’m an Organizing Junkie for some more inspiration.

Advertisements

7 ways to enjoy autumn even if the weather isn’t cooperating

IMG_7608

The rest of the country seems to be well into autumn, but those of us in southern California seem to be stuck in an eternal summer. I can only dream about layering clothes, wearing sweaters and boots, and cozying up by the fire in the evening. But I adore fall (in theory), so I’ve been thinking about some ways to embrace the season, even if the weather isn’t cooperating.

  1. Change up the decor. I’ve pulled out my fall tablerunners. That might be all the fall decor I have. OK, maybe there are a few Halloween decorations, but I change up the table runners on the kitchen table for every season.
  2. Light up the candles. I don’t usually light candles in the heat and bright lights of summer. Since it feels like summer, I hadn’t thought to start lighting candles yet. But this blog post inspired me to buy a new candle and we are all enjoying the pumpkin spice scent.
  3. Change the flower arrangements. Out with the sunflowers and in with the mums! For $6 at Trader Joe’s I can instantly bring a fall feel to the kitchen table.
  4. Cook like it’s fall. We are still eating main dish salads every week, so that I don’t have to turn the oven on, but a few fall favorites are starting to work their way into the menu rotation. Soup and sandwiches, chili, and roasted vegetables, just to name a few.
  5. Break out the mixer and start baking. Nothing makes it seem like autumn more than pumpkin muffins. I’ve already made them twice and some banana bread will make an appearance this week. Coffee and muffins feel pretty cozy to me.
  6. Bring fall colors into my wardrobe. I have not yet had the opportunity to actually wear long sleeves or a jacket yet, but I have been putting aside the pastels and other spring and summer colors of clothing and reaching for the deeper tones of fall clothes. I’m more likely to reach for orange, brown, and burgundy tops these days instead of the white and pink t-shirts of summer. I can’t wait to wear a scarf and boots!
  7. Take a walk. Even if it’s 90 degrees outside, the leaves on the ground tell the true tale. So I get outside and enjoy that the seasons are going to change no matter what.

What autumn traditions are you enjoying?

banana muffins

IMG_5350

I always feel like a good mom when my kids come home to a homemade, freshly baked and (reasonably healthy) treat after school.

These banana muffins from an old Cooking Light recipe fit the bill perfectly. I’ve adapted the recipe over the years, moving away from “light” butter and egg whites, and substituting white whole wheat for half of the white flour (they don’t even know).

Here’s the recipe Give it a try. And if you make them into muffins instead of loaves, they are done in 20 minutes. Just in time for an after school treat.

Banana Bread

(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.

Spoon batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for  1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

For muffins, set the oven to 400° and cook for 18-20 minutes.

november

1-IMG_3718

Here it is a week into November and I still haven’t processed that it’s fall. That’s probably in part due to the fact that it is 85 degrees outside. The biggest clue I have to the fact that we are headed straight for Christmas is that it actually cools down at night. Which is such a relief.

1-IMG_3766

1-IMG_3811

1-IMG_3743

1-IMG_3815

I am trying to get ahead of the holidays this year and start doing things that will help me to enjoy them, instead of feeling stressed. Two things that worked out well for me last year is to complete the family calendar, that I make for my dad and siblings, before Thanksgiving. I pulled this off last year and what a difference it made! Also, to take our Christmas card picture early in November and get those cards ordered! I actually love sitting down with a cup of tea and a Christmas movie in December to address them. It’s just getting them printed that stresses me out.

So, November to do list:

1. Complete Dad’s Calendar

2. Take Christmas card picture and order cards

Other than that I want to make sure that I get in exercise, crafting, baking and spending time with friends and family. Because, really that’s what it’s all about.

{adorable embroidery pattern by the talented Minki Kim}

 

this week in my kitchen

A busy week for us, winding up the school year. But there is always something happening in the kitchen.

Once a week, the kids have to cook dinner, we call it Kids Cook Night. The Girl is perfecting her Pasta with Red Sauce technique, and is quite good! Here’s what she looks like while she tends the pot.

IMG_1969IMG_1971

Baked Chicken Parmesan from Skinnytaste is another people-pleaser in our house. Everyone else had pasta as a side dish, but I skipped it this time.IMG_1976-001

My favorite way to eat the rainbow, chicken stirfry.

IMG_2097IMG_2101And tea, there is always tea.

IMG_1800And caramel brownies to celebrate 8th grade promotion (which is what the call graduation now, apparently).IMG_2085

Linking up with Heather at Beauty That Moves. Click over to be inspired!

this week in my kitchen

All kinds of things happening in the kitchen this week, starting off with Chocolate Chip Scones on Sunday morning.

09-IMG_171608-IMG_172207-IMG_1729

Always a favorite over here is Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss from Rachael Ray.10-IMG_1663 1-IMG_1670

I just made up a recipe for shrimp fajitas, which were pretty good, but I’ve got some notes on how to improve them next time (buy cleaned and deveined shrimp and add jalapenos to the pepper mix).04-IMG_178801-30 shrimp fajitas

My neighbor Minki sent down a delicious plate of chicken topped with pesto and hot pepper. It was delish.06-IMG_1743

And another batch of banana bread. One topped with chocolate chips. That one was gone the first day.05-IMG_1783

It was nice to have on hand when a friend stopped by for tea and a chat. It was so nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.02-4 teaLinking up with Heather at Beauty that Moves. Pop on over there to get all kinds of kitchen inspiration.

 

cookies


Chocolate chip cookies are the absolute favorite cookies in our house. I’ve tinkered with many recipes over the years and this one has emerged as the all-time favorite. I rarely have to make them myself anymore, as my daughter has taken over as the Head Cookie Baker. However, I did whip up these the other day for Boy #1 to take to school for a party.

26 cookies 126 cookies 226 cookies 31 cookies 21 cookiesHere’s the recipe, I think the difference is the bread flour, but it works with all purpose flour too. If I have time, I refrigerate the dough a bit. The cookies come out a little thicker that way. We often don’t make actual cookies, but put the dough in a pan and make cookie bars. That has become the favorite, because the are thick and gooey. On this day, I doubled the recipe and did both, cookies to give away, and cookie bars to keep. Enjoy! (My daughter named the recipe :))

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Ingredients:

2 3/4 c. bread flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 bag  (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside

3. In large bowl combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract; beat until creamy

4. Beat in eggs

5. Gradually add flour mixture

6. Stir in chocolate chips

7. Refrigerate dough for an hour (this is optional, but results in thicker cookies)

8. Drop by level measuring tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets

9. Bake at 375 degrees for 11 to 12 minutes

10. Take cookies out of the oven, let them cool slightly on the cookie sheet, and then remove to cooling rack to cool

Cookie Bar Variation:

Put dough in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.