If I had to point a finger at where I began to realize the beauty in make-ahead meals, I would point it to my bag of chicken I cook each week for our family. This small kitchen tip truly takes just a few moments of effort to have a container full of prepared meat for sandwiches, wraps, or to be eaten on it’s own with veggies and fruit to round out the meal. The best part is that with my easy technique, you can prepare chicken in bulk for your week right from it’s frozen state.
For our family of four, I prepare three pounds of chicken each week (one frozen bag of chicken breasts from ALDI, to be exact!) and we usually plow through these three pounds by Wednesday or Thursday of the week. I never have any leftover because it is my go-to for making wraps for my husband to take for his lunch and it is the go-to for my kid’s busy activity nights. I started making a habit of taking the chicken out first when I brought in my groceries and getting it roasting as I put the rest of the food away. For five minutes of prep work, it has saved us at least a hundred bucks a month if I had went with my impulse to just run out and grab something at Panera instead of preparing a meal at home.
My secret ingredient (and this is no endorsement- just a HUGE fan!) is this Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning mix. The picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea. I found it in the spice aisle and it makes such a fantastic dry rub on the chicken that it tastes as good as anything you would get in a restaurant. Since it is salt-free, I layer on the salt just the way I like and this helps to enhance the flavor of the chicken.
Now that you know the secret, I encourage you to try this technique as your first baby step towards the make-ahead meal life.
The first week of my make-ahead feasting went so well that we didn’t even eat out once last week despite a grueling activity schedule! I will be sharing make-ahead tutorials as I have lots of techniques to share with you about how we are accomplishing our make-ahead feasts! Today you can catch my tips for hard boiled eggs in the oven!
Since we have another crazy week (who doesn’t it?), I wanted to share what is in our fridge this week. I hope this can help inspire you for making ahead a few dishes for your week too.
Have you ever prepared hard boiled eggs in the oven? I had seen the tutorials floating around Pinterest, but we never really ate hard boiled eggs in our house. Recently though, my daughter and I have both discovered how much we love these for an afternoon snack or for a quick lunch with chopped veggies so I thought I would prepare these for our week.
It seems kind of crazy to bake your eggs, but this is a great way to make a lot of eggs for your week. This week I made two dozen since we went through a single dozen so quickly in our house. Although egg prices are high right now, this is still a really affordable snack and a great source of protein.
Here is the thing, results seem to vary on success with baking your hard boiled eggs in the oven and it’s a good idea to give these a test run in your oven with just a couple of eggs rather than wasting an entire dozen.
What Can Improve My Experience Baking Hard Boiled Eggs?
Get an Oven Thermometer- I am telling you that one of the best gadgets you can buy if you are not getting consistently good results with baking in your oven is an inexpensive oven thermometer. I have had ovens in homes that were fifty degrees off or more and I could have saved myself a lot of tears and burnt dishes if I would have known that this cheap little gadget could improve the results in my cooking in a dramatic way.
Try Different Temperatures- Once you know that your oven temperature is correct (or how to gauge it if isn’t) try baking the eggs at 325 degrees first. If your eggs are not to your liking, increase the temperature to 350 degrees.
Stop the Brown Spots- Brown spots can develop on your egg from resting in the muffin tins, particularly with a dark muffin tin like the one I am showing in this picture. Although the spots don’t really bug me, you can prevent them by using a silicone muffin pan, baking in a mini muffin tin, or lining your muffin tin with liners, tin foil, or I have even heard that cotton pads/balls can offer a buffer between your egg and the bottom of the pan. Alton Brown actually recommends placing the eggs directly on your oven racks and skipping the muffin tin altogether. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that one!
Make Peeling Easier- Fresh eggs can actually be more difficult to peel, as we have discovered, so it’s best to use older eggs for an easier peeling process (one week or more old).
How Should I Store My Eggs?
Once you have your week’s worth of eggs, how the heck do you store them? I read a lot of advice on this one when we prepared our eggs! Ideally, you want to keep these in their shell since it acts a barrier to bacteria and it helps them last longer too. Within the shell, you can eat these safely for up to seven days (although they never last that long in our house!!). Peeled hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator in a bowl of cold water to cover for about five days (change the water daily) or in a sealed container without water (cover the eggs with damp paper towels) for the same length of time.
We store ours in their shell since I am worried about the bacteria factor!
In honor of our Focus on Better Mornings M Challenge, I’m republishing one of our favorite breakfasts that helps our mornings run smoother – easy burritos that can be pulled from the freezer whenever you need them. It doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious and customizable, too!
Back-to-School requires a lot of planning and getting back on track with a healthy breakfast is one thing I want to work on this year. Today I wanted to show you a recipe for Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos that can be made ahead and also created for your gluten-free or dairy-free family members. One batch of these freezer breakfast burritos can yield 15-18 burritos, depending on how you stuff ‘em, and they are filled with everything your kids need to start their day on the right foot. I am partnering with Walmart on this back-to-school idea today so you can snag all the supplies you need right at their store.
What I love about these burritos is that they are not only filled with fresh whole foods, but also that they are inexpensive to create. With kitchen staples like eggs, cheese, potatoes, and tortillas, it is likely you already have a few things on hand for this back-to-school breakfast. Create an assembly line of ingredients in the kitchen and have your kids jump in on the fun.
The potatoes are tossed in paprika and garlic powder for a tasty topping to the eggs. I love a little Italian turkey sausage, red peppers, and cheddar or colby cheese for these burritos. You can create your own flavor combinations or consider clearing out items from the fridge and making a unique combination all your own.
Be careful to not overstuff the burritos so they can be wrapped easily and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to place in the freezer until frozen. Once these are frozen you can tuck them in a freezer bag and just grab them when you need them. Do you know how to wrap a burrito? If not, I love this tutorial for perfectly wrapped breakfast burritos!
With one kid in middle school (GASP!) and a daughter who prefers not to eat in the morning, I am hoping that these burritos will be the perfect way to get them motivated to eat a healthy breakfast. Just grab one from the freezer and wrap it in a dampened paper towel for the microwave for three minutes (flip it halfway through). Wrap in foil and let them eat them on the way to the bus or in route to school. These also make a great after school snack, after sports activities, or an impromptu dinner with their pals while doing homework.
To make them dairy-free substitute the cream with almond milk (which is what we did) and add a vegan cheese to them or leave them cheeseless. For a gluten-free burritos, Walmart offers this option in their stores.
We hope you love this delicious breakfast as much as we did. We have already started raiding our make-ahead breakfast burritos for quick lunches this week. I am shocked how beautifully these reheat and taste. There are no excuses why you can’t tackle a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check out my recipe for Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal for another fun breakfast treat!
A make-ahead breakfast burrito that you can tuck in your freezer for a healthy breakfast, snack or meal.
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper
1 lb Italian Turkey Sausage
1 dozen eggs
2 tablespoons cream (or milk substitute)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
½ pound cheese of your choice (or vegan cheese)
18 tortillas, soft-taco size (8-inch), whole-wheat, flour, or gluten-free tortillas
To roast potatoes, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle diced potatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Toss the potatoes together to evenly coat in oil and seasonings, and spread out into a single layer on the parchment. Roast until browned on the bottom and tender, about 20-25 minutes.
Brown your sausage. Once it is cooked through, set aside in a large bowl, leaving about a 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan for the eggs.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream (or milk substitute) and pour into the sausage skillet. Cook over medium heat until just set, stirring as needed. season with salt and pepper and stir to combine, and transfer to the bowl with sausage.
In the same skillet, cook your red peppers over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
Make an assembly line- tortilla, cheese, followed by a small handful of potatoes and a scoop of the egg/sausage mixture. Roll the tortilla up.
For freezing, place burritos on a wax- or parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm, at least an hour. Transfer to large freezer bags and keep frozen for up to one month.
For reheating, place a frozen burrito in a dampened paper towel and microwave for three minutes, turning halfway through.
I love a good summer dinner outside and one without a lot of dishes, is always a winner. We started a new dinner tradition this summer doing a weekly shrimp boil. Have you ever done a shrimp boil? Call it a shrimp boil or call it a Lowcountry Boil, this is a dish that is easy to entertain with, thanks to its one-pot wonder status and the simplicity of serving this dish right on a pile of newspapers in the center of your picnic table.
The history of the Lowcountry Boil is a pretty interesting one. Coastal Living Magazine shares, in this article, that this dish was once called Frogmore Stew and was created by a National Guardsman when he needed to cook a meal for 100 soldiers. Richard Gay, who learned the recipe from his family, had everyone remembering his stew. The dish was later named Frogmore, where Richard was from, by the guards who teased him about home. The postal service eliminated the name Frogmore, which changed this popular dish name to Lowcountry boil.
If you can feed a hundred soldiers, you can feed a few extra friends around your dinner table with this fun dish, which is why I wanted to share it with you today.
You see, I have been on a mission this summer to transform my attitudes about entertaining. This summer I decided to challenge myself and open our home up once a week to family and friends for dinners.
You know people that are natural born entertainers? The kind of people that just love entertaining?
I am just not one of them.
I want to be one of those people, but I often find the stress of preparation and wanting things to be perfect gets in the way of the relaxed kind of hostess I desire to be. By putting myself on a weekly dinner schedule with friends & family though, it has begun to feel more natural to have weekly guests in our home. Not only has it held me accountable to keeping up a bit around the house, it also has created so many beautiful memories with people we love around our dinner table.
My standards of what a perfect meal are also starting to relax a bit. My housekeeping has relaxed a bit in the process too. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s an honest thing.
I began to notice that real friends don’t care what kind of condition your home is in if you share a meal with them.
They just love being with you.
I have also found a little sangria also helps to relax your guest’s standards too. Ahem.
My children have come to really love this dish too. There is just something so fun about grabbing a fork, dipping, and spicing to your heart’s delight. When the humidity gets to be too much, I just nestle this feast on a cookie sheet lined with newspaper on our kitchen table. We also love to throw on a really good record that fits the mood of the evening (this was last night’s selection)!
Since we live in the Midwest, our seafood is pretty limited to frozen offerings. You can certainly build upon this dish depending upon your location and grocery budget.
I hope this dish inspires you to open up your table to others and try something new. As a reluctant hostess, I have found the experience of opening up our table weekly to be really incredible for our entire family!
Call it a Shrimp Boil call it a Lowcountry Boil...whatever its name you decide upon, bask in the glory of this easy one-pot wonder! This recipe can easily be doubled for a large crowd!
2 lemons, halved, plus wedges for serving
½ cup Old Bay Seasoning
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large red onion, quartered
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound baby red potatoes
4 ears corn, husked and snapped in half
2 pounds large shrimp, (cleaned & shells removed)
13 ounces kielbasa (we use a turkey kielbasa in this), cut into slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water. Squeeze the lemon juice into the water and add the squeezed lemon halves. Add the Old Bay, garlic and onion. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine and add to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes to the pot and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook 5 more minutes.
Add the shrimp & kielbasa the pot, cover and cook until the shrimp curl and are just opaque, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the shrimp and vegetables with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a large bowl. Add the butter and about 1 cup broth to the bowl and toss until the butter is melted. Transfer the shrimp and vegetables to a pile of newspapers. Serve with the remaining broth, lemon wedges and hot sauce, if desired.
Have you ever done a shrimp boil? What makes your dish special? I would love to hear!!
If you live at the pool like we do in the summer, you won’t want to miss today’s post over on the Wild Oats blog. After years of pool days, we have learned a few things about the best snacks to pack and we are sharing them on the blog today.
Whether you love sweet or salty, there is a snack for you on today’s list! I can’t wait to hear what your winning pool snack combination is!
*This post is sponsored by Wild Oats. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!
There is not much that I miss since going gluten-free except the convenience of eating anywhere where I want without worry.
In fact, there is only one food that I really and truly miss…
I have blogged about our weekly pizza night together that has been a family tradition for many years. I can admit it, I miss the days of sitting down and sharing a pizza with my kids. For awhile, our pizza nights lapsed- making pizza for everyone else and me eating a cardboard version of it just wasn’t in the cards at first. The only way that I can explain it is that it was a time of mourning for me. Others echo me when they say that they were blue to find out that they needed to make diet switches. It is like a little part of your life has changed and won’t be the same again.
Luckily, substitutions can be made with gluten-free crusts, but they often lack the flavor of that soft, doughy variety. I still make them on occasion, but I wouldn’t say gluten-free pizza is my favorite thing.
Portobello mushrooms, hollowed and inverted, can make a delicious substitute for an expensive gluten-free crust (and they also double as a mean burger!). I love the meaty taste of these and I love how they can stand up to baking and grilling in the summer season. When baked, a little drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of salt & pepper, creates a delicious fun base to your pizza. I would say that these trump a gluten-free crust any day and they are made with whole foods that you can be proud of!
This girl is no stranger to quinoa and we have talked about easy ways to prepare it on the Wild Oats blog. Of course, quinoa plain over and over again can be a little boring so to bring the pizza flavor into this dish, we incorporate Wild Oats Basil and add tomato flavor into the quinoa. When mixed in, it tastes like a protein-packed pizza sauce.
If you are vegan or dairy-free, the quinoa can be cooked in veggie broth and the cheese can be switched with a vegan cheese.
These are all the flavors I love about pizza without the belly ache. It’s a pizza that you can really feel good about for your whole family.
No need to be sad about that pizza night anymore- I’ve got you covered! You can snag all these fun products from Wild Oats (an affordable organic option) from Walmart!
Summertime means a lot of eating on-the-go for our family. It isn’t the running to and from activities like the school year, but the good stuff like picnics with my people, poolside lounging and road trips to the neighboring Michigan beaches.
Thankfully, the fresh produce and deliciously grown convenience food that we all love is in season. A container of cherries shared by the pool, bunches of grapes on our car trips, and strawberries by the fistful in the sunshine until we think we might turn into berries ourselves. It’s all such good stuff, isn’t it?
Salads are my go-to in the summer thanks to their amazing portability factor. Not only do I love fresh green salads made with romaine or spinach, but I adore a healthy topping of quinoa on top for that protein punch.
*This post is sponsored by Universal Pictures. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!
We have had so much fun preparing and hosting our MINIONS Backyard Bash in honor of the film’s launch on July 10th! Today we want to show you how we decorated for our party, the fun goodie bags we got to share with our friends, and an easy cupcake minion you can create for your very own party (no decorating skills required!).
In the new film, you get to go back to where the story of the Minions all began! Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, the Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters-from T. rex to Napoleon-the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a terrible depression. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob decide to seek a new boss to follow and decide to make a journey to find their new master. This is where they meet their new potential master, Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock- yay!), the world’s first-ever female super-villain. They travel from Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in London. It is here that they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind…from annihilation.
We can’t wait to see this family-friendly film together and were selected to help throw a party in honor of this film’s launch. #luckyducks
We got an incredible package in the mail that included all the party supplies we would need to execute our backyard bash as well as fantastic party favors that included adorable beach towels, beach balls, and PlayDoh sets for all of our guests.
The only thing we really needed was Mother Nature to cooperate with our plans.
Unfortunately, it has rained for two straight weeks in Indiana so we had to move this party indoors and enjoy the fun inside instead!
We weren’t going to let a little rain ruin our party though! We outfitted our table in blue and yellow to go with our theme. I let my kids do the decorating while I prepared our snacks. The goggles, of course take center stage in this set-up. We secured a set of adorable goggles to each of the chairs with a little washi tape for each person to take home. Our centerpiece was also adorned with goggles and we even stapled some together to make a goggle banner over our table.
Lemonade, popcorn, and cupcakes were served for a little rainy day magic together.
The Minions are a hit with kids of all ages so we invited our friends and cousins to join us for the afternoon. We loved sharing our Cupcake Minion with them and everyone can’t wait to catch the movie this summer!
In honor of the film, I’d love to show you how to create this cupcake minion for your party table! Before we begin, I want to encourage you to make this as easy on yourself as possible! If you want to make this party treat REALLY fast, call your local bakery and ask for two dozen white cupcakes with the frosting on the side. This is what we did to save some time and our local grocer only charged $14.99.
Two Dozen White Cupcakes
Frosting, tint half of it yellow and then other half blue (I recommend these Wilton food colorings to achieve this bold shade)
1 canning jar ring
Black licorice (if you aren’t a fan of black licorice, we tried a new chocolate Twizzler variety that worked perfectly)
1 Hershey Kiss
1. Tint over half your frosting in yellow and the other portion in blue. Set one cupcake aside for your eye.
2. Ice as I have shown here (15 Yellow, 4 Blue, 4 Half Yellow & Half Blue, 1 Left Without Icing!!). You can pipe the icing on, if you prefer a more polished look, or you can just spread the icing on with an icing spatula, as we have shown here.
3. Cut your black licorice up in random smaller pieces and apply to the top of your Minion head to create the hair.
4. Trim the top off of your cupcake to expose the white cake of your cupcake for the eye (pardon our picture, we decided to do that one last minute!). Make sure to not trim it too deep, so that your canning ring will fit around on the outside of it. Place your canning ring around the cupcake top to create your goggle.
5. Invert a Hershey Kiss into the center for your eye. Place the cupcake on top of your other cupcakes in the center. Finish by tucking two pieces of licorice underneath the eye to create the glasses. Trim the licorice to fit across the cupcakes on the end. Finish by bending your licorice into a smiley face! How easy was that?
We hope these ideas inspired you for a MINION’S Backyard Bash of your own! Remember to catch the film on July 10th! We can’t wait to hear what you think about it!
*This post is sponsored by Walmart. Proceeds from this post were donated to Riverbend Cancer Services. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site and our community!
Have you ever wanted to create your own DIY Outdoor Home Theater? We have had this on our summer bucket list for years and this summer we decided to finally put together our very own DIY outdoor movie night together with our kids and are sharing it with you today! There is something truly magical about watching a movie together under the stars and I love that you can do this right in the comfort of your very own backyard. We partnered with Walmart to show you just how easy it is to host an outdoor movie night of your own.
Now that you know what to buy, here are my tips for hosting your own diy outdoor movie night:
An EASY DIY Set-Up
You don’t need a lot to create a great movie set up. A simple white sheet (we like to double ours up to get the optimum picture) and some clothespins are exactly what we used to create our set-up. We simply draped our sheet on our clothesline out back and held it in place with a couple of clothespins. Anchor the bottom of your sheet with rocks or a brick to hold the sheet in place, particularly on those windy days.
Although there are more expensive screen options that you can purchase, I have found that sheets don’t take up a lot of storage and offer a decent picture for the price. Make sure to iron out those creases to avoid having ripples on this DIY screen- it’s worth the extra step!
Get a Great Picture (and Sound)
Your biggest investment in your outdoor movies will be your projector although Walmart does offer several affordable choices (check out this budget-friendly option for just $113.88)! More than likely, you already have the laptop and with the addition of small external speakers, you will have incredible sound.
We have had our projector for years and take it with us on our trips as a back-up plan for rainy days and we use it at home regularly especially in the winter months.
We were always struggling with sound on ours and we had an ah-ha moment and realized that with the right cable, we could hook the sound up to our daughter’s mini guitar amp. Now we have sound and we didn’t even have to make a speaker purchase. This goes to show that you can really think out of the box on creating your own DIY theater for a great picture and sound for your movie night.
Create the Mood
With the humble beginnings of a sheet and some clothespins, I am all about creating a mood. Consider stringing some outdoor lights up and around your movie screen to really create the movie magic for the night. I have always found that twinkle lights take everything up a notch when outdoor entertaining and are less than $20 a strand. It’s an affordable luxury for really creating the mood!
Comfy seating keeps your guests in their seat longer (although running around the yard while the movie is playing is totally required!). Add some blankets to the ground and some comfy outdoor pillows (I love these from BHG at Walmart). Consider also gathering your patio furniture around to keep things cozy for the adults in the crowd!
Bring On the Snacks
You can’t watch the movie without POPCORN! Take your popcorn game up a level and craft up a popcorn bar for your guests. Fill trifle containers with popcorn (don’t forget your scoopers!) and then fill ramekins with candy treats, marshmallows, and other fun mix-ins for you guests.
To make the treat more interactive (while you are waiting for it to get dark), you can have a table for decorating paper bags with stamps, markers, and decorative scissors for cutting a pretty scalloped edge. Have kids create their own popcorn bags and fill them with their favorite combination of treats. For older guests, the party section of the store offers a variety of fun containers you can use for your snacks.
I am also a big fan of the reusable insulated solo cup for outdoor drinks and a perfectly sized popcorn bucket. We found these in the outdoor section of our store.
For drinks, I am a BIG fan of using an inexpensive outdoor flower box for your soda drinks. Isn’t this a fun way to bring drinks to the table? Retro sodas and paper straws are always a hit with my kids. Center this on your picnic table for easy grabbing!
Here is our movie screen once it was dark. As you can see, even with a tiny projector, you have a pretty great picture on your sheet. We found adjusting the bricks to pull out any wrinkling, made a dramatic difference in the projection of our show. Our first movie night we caught, “Little Rascals!” The kids ran around like crazy, catching glimpses between games of hide and seek.
At the end of the night, it ended up just being me and my Dad, sitting side by side in two chairs, finishing out the show together.
We both agreed, that was pretty darn sweet.
There is certainly something so magical about an outdoor movie and we hope we have inspired you for a night of your own!
Reservations to our movie theater are highly recommended. We encourage you to dial our yellow phone to hold your seat! We would like to say a big thank you to Mallory Dzierla Schoenle of Copycat-Design for sharing her talent with the Riverbend Cancer Services.
We purchased her beautiful donation of this handmade lemonade stand to help support the cause and transformed it into a popcorn stand for the evening festivities. Mallory is a big giver in our community and as a DIY girl myself, I can see the labor of love that goes into each of her projects. You can check out her Facebook page or her website for more information about her beautiful pieces!
For more fun summer activities, check out this page of great ideas! Have you ever hosted an outdoor movie night? Please share your tricks and tips here for a fun night with the family!