Archive for the ‘Food & Recipes’ Category

The MomAdvice Make Ahead (Week 2)

Monday, September 21st, 2015

The MomAdvice Make Ahead Meal Ideas

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.

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead

Fresh Berries (Strawberries & Blueberries)

Chopped Broccoli (to be made into this easy Microwave Lemon Broccoli  for a side)

2 Pounds Taco Meat

4 Cups Brown Rice (for taco bowls)

Chopped Lettuce (for tacos/taco bowls)

2 Italian Meatloaves (Prepared minus the breadcrumbs to make it gluten free. I popped one in the freezer for another week!)

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken (I cooked the chicken and have the sauce set aside in a separate container for warming)

3 pounds Roasted Chicken, sliced (for wraps & salads this week)

2 dozen Hard-Boiled Eggs Prepared in the Oven

Chopped Carrots & Celery (I store these in water)

Green Smoothie Packets (I use this recipe and froze the strawberries, bananas, and spinach in packets for the morning)

The MomAdvice Make Ahead Meal Ideas

No more cooking for this girl ALL WEEK- YAY!! Happy Monday, friends!! xo

Make-Ahead Tutorial: Bake Hard Boiled Eggs

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Make-Ahead Tutorial: Bake Hard Boiled Eggs from MomAdvice.com

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).

Make-Ahead Tutorial: Bake Hard Boiled Eggs from MomAdvice.com

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!

Make-Ahead Tutorial: Bake Hard Boiled Eggs from MomAdvice.com

Bake Hard Boiled Eggs in the Oven
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12 servings
 
A quick method for big-batch make-ahead preparation of hard boiled eggs. Be sure to read the post for additional tips for success.
Ingredients
  • 1 dozen eggs (or more!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Put 1 egg in each of 12 muffin cups.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Plunge baked eggs in a large bowl filled with ice water until cooled completely, about 10 minutes.

 

 *This post contains affiliate links! I only recommend what I love! xo

Have you tried this method before? Any tips or tricks that have worked for you

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Berry Quinoa Parfait

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Quinoa is such a perfect, protein-rich way to start your mornings, I just knew I’d need to share this Berry Quinoa Parfait with you again as a part of our M Challenge Focus on Better Mornings. I know that when you start the day with one of these delicious parfaits, it really will be better!

Berry Quinoa Parfait from MomAdvice.com

I love berries and today I am showing off a delicious gluten-free Berry Quinoa Parfait that you can enjoy in any season with fresh or frozen berries. Walmart asked me to showcase a fun new idea that you can do with berries and I knew that this would be the ticket.

Since going gluten-free, I have learned that the key to beating hunger pains (without eating gluten-free junk food) is a protein packed meal or snack. Quinoa is one of my favorite foods whether it is just cooked as a basic, in a yummy Greek Quinoa Salad, in my favorite Lemony Spinach & Tomato Quinoa Salad, in my Quinoa Berry Bowl, or even using those quinoa flakes in my Pumpkin Nut Quinoa Breakfast.

Combining the protein power of quinoa with the protein power of Greek yogurt makes this healthy treat more filling. Did you know that a typical 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein? That is approximately the equivalent of two to three ounces of lean meat.  Just as a reference, one cup of cooked quinoa (185 g) contains 8.14 grams of protein, which means the quinoa paired with the Greek yogurt definitely will help you feel fuller longer. 

Not to be outdone, berries have many health benefits, but the biggest health benefit is the antioxidants that they have which help you fight off illnesses. Berries are filled with potent antioxidants that can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, and cataracts and other eyesight problems. They also are said to assist with weight-loss because they are filled with so much water. 

A sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds adds the perfect finishing touch since almonds are a great source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and (as if you needed more!) they are another great protein source.

Berry Quinoa Parfait from MomAdvice.com

If you haven’t tried quinoa in a sweet dish, it is just as delicious and satisfying as it is in a savory dish. It reminds me a little of one of my favorite dishes… rice pudding.  To add to its sweetness, I cooked it in a little vanilla and with a little dash of cinnamon. Make sure that you allow the quinoa to cool before adding it to the yogurt. Once you have made your assembly line of treats, wrap each one in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for a healthy snack after your workout or as a healthy dessert with your family.

Berry Quinoa Parfait from MomAdvice.com

Berry Quinoa Parfait
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A gluten-free protein-packed parfait that is both healthy and satisfying. Try this fun new idea to enjoy your fresh berries this summer.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup (or more) of your favorite berries, fresh or frozen (I love blueberries & strawberries)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • Mint leaves (optional)
Instructions
  1. Use my directions for cooking quinoa as a basic (linked to above) or follow package directions adding the vanilla and cinnamon to your water. Allow to cool.
  2. Mix the greek yogurt and honey together in a small bowl.
  3. Using a spoon add a ⅓ of the yogurt mixture into your glass.
  4. Top with ⅓ of sliced strawberries and blueberries then add ⅓ of the quinoa. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.
  5. Repeat with the remaining yogurt, berries, quinoa and almonds until you have three layers.
  6. Finish with your mint leaves.

Looking for more great berry ideas? Check out these Baked Strawberry Donuts, my Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, these 8 unique blueberry recipe ideas, & (of course!) a guide to freezing your berries this year! Happy berry-eating!

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The MomAdvice Make Ahead

Monday, September 14th, 2015

The MomAdvice Make Ahead

Wow, I can’t believe our family’s Choose Your Own Adventure trip has finally been fulfilled! It was such an incredible vacation (equal parts busy and equal parts R&R)  that I’m looking forward to sharing more about it with you this week! In the meantime, I have been knee deep in laundry, grocery shopping to replenish the very empty fridge, and I have been doing some food prep this week to try to get ahead.

I hope to try and doing a little making ahead each week since our family life has gotten quite busy between dance lessons, cross country meets/practice, and instrument lessons.  I shared this photo on Instagram and had a few people ask me how I made certain things for the week so I thought maybe sharing it here so you could not only hold me accountable (something I can always use), but I hope it might inspire you to get a little ahead during your busy weeks!  I must say that Shutterbean has been such an inspiration to me in this department-have you read this post on make-ahead planning? I also love to follow along with her hashtag to think of new ideas that I can do ahead in my kitchen!

The biggest thing for me is my desire to decrease the amount of food waste we have in our house. If things are pulled together, frozen, and incorporated into our dishes, there is less chance of those items going to waste in our home.

For me, it’s also less about menu-planning and more about thoughtful preparations that can be pulled together for the week ahead whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For menu-planning advice, I’m An Organizing Junkie is a pioneer for Menu Planning Mondays where you can gather so much good stuff each week and you can start brainstorming what you can make ahead for your meals each week.

Here is what I got ready for our crazy activities week!

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup (Prepared minus the noodles- I like to make them fresh so they maintain their consistency)

Spaghetti Sauce (double batched)

Chopped Broccoli (to be made into this easy Microwave Lemon Broccoli for a side)

Roasted Green Beans (prepped and thrown in a bag for the week)

3 pounds Roasted Chicken, sliced (for wraps & salads this week)

1 dozen Hard-Boiled Eggs (I used this oven baking method with really good success. I also kept the shells on the eggs for storage because they keep for one week like this and it keeps bacteria away!)

Chopped Carrots & Celery (I just chopped these up while chopping up the celery and carrots for my soup)

Pot Roast Italiano (prepped and thrown in a bag for the week)

Green Smoothie Packets (I use this recipe and froze the strawberries, bananas, and spinach in packets for the morning)

For a couple of hours of cooking and prepping, I’m hoping we can stay on track with our family’s eating this week!

Let me know if this helps you and if you would like me to continue sharing these ideas with you! xo

 

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Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Friday, September 11th, 2015

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!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

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.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

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.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

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!

Make-Ahead 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!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
 
A make-ahead breakfast burrito that you can tuck in your freezer for a healthy breakfast, snack or meal.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. In the same skillet, cook your red peppers over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. For reheating, place a frozen burrito in a dampened paper towel and microwave for three minutes, turning halfway through.

Recipe Adapted From: Dinners For Winners

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Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

When I say that my life has felt a little disorganized, I mean it! One sore spot in my house has been my spice cabinet and pantry. Thanks to the gentle shove (ahem) of The Magic Art of Tidying Up, I am trying to transform those sad corners and joy-robbers into more thoughtful spaces. I figured that I can’t be the only one with a disorganized spice rack so I wanted to offer free printable spice labels and pantry labels that you can use to spruce up your own space too, designed by our own MJ from Pars Caeli!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

Here is my cabinet before I tackled it. There were several spices that had empty jars (why? who helped me on clean-up? WHO?), several duplicates (who does the grocery shopping? who? oh wait…), and there were some that had labels as far as back as 2008 (THE SHAME!). There were also spices lurking in a few other corners in the pantry that were, of course, duplicates. Hunting for spices in a million spots and then trying to not get a black eye from knocking myself out with one as I dig around was a nightly occurrence.

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

I absolutely love the clean design of these labels and they couldn’t be easier to print. You will need to purchase a package of this style of label to print on. We kept the design simple and light to keep the ink waste to a minimum.

If you have spice jars you can reuse, by all means do it! About five years ago, I asked my in-law’s for two sets of these jars since I intended to redo my spice cabinet. I found them when I organized my scary storage side of my basement this weekend while binging on podcasts. It felt like Christmas all over again. This decluttering has really been paying off!

I used a small funnel to funnel the spices that still had life in them into these new fresh jars and then attached the new labels. How easy is that?

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

For pantry items with a larger volume, I used some mason jars that I already owned that had been gathering dust on a shelf. These are the perfect holders for these items and the labels work really well on this size jar too!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

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This corner is making me so much happier and it made prepping for our dinner hour so much easier this week! I didn’t realize how much frustration I was having and how much time I was wasting hunting for these spices each night!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from MomAdvice.com

Get the Labels!

If you are interested in receiving 14 free home management printables and these beautiful pantry labels (see the small sampling above), just input your email below or in the sidebar and we will send you the link to your packet as our thank you for being a subscriber (look for it in the final welcome email). Subscribers will have access to our additional printables as they become available.

Note: if you already subscribe to the Mom Advice Newsletter, be sure to look in your inbox for a special email that contains the link for your set of these printables! If you can’t seem to get the form to work with your browser, just look over to your right in the sidebar on the site. You will see a handy form there too that works with all browsers! We appreciate you so much! Thank you! 

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5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas with Jessica Fisher

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Jessica Fisher is the force behind both Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats, where she shares budget-friendly, family-centered recipes and ideas. She has been a friend of mine for many years and I so admire all the work she does to create family meals on a budget! I’m so excited to have her contribute to our Meal Planning M Challenge with some great dinner ideas straight from her new cookbook!

5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas from Jessica Fisher on MomAdvice.com

What to Do When You Don’t Know What’s for Dinner?

It’s happened to all of us: 5 pm rolls around, tummies start to rumble, and you find yourself staring into the vast cavern of your refrigerator, wondering what’s for dinner. Your impulse might be to say, “There’s nothing to eat. Let’s go out.”

For most of us, this isn’t entirely true. There’s nothing easy to make to eat, but there’s probably actual food in the house. So, what do you do? Do you give in to the impulse and pay for overpriced burgers and fries? Or do you exert yourself, as Jane Austen would say, and cook something up?

I’m going to make the case for the latter and go so far as to say, “Suck it up, Buttercup. You can do this in 30 minutes or less.”

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated — or longer than your favorite TV show. If Agent Coulson and his team can catch the bad guys and acquire major super powers in 60 minutes, you can make dinner in half that time.

Consider these 5 quick fix dinner ideas that taste great and won’t break the bank:

Beans and rice – A rice cooker can produce perfect rice in 20 minutes. Opening a couple cans of beans, shredding cheese, and mixing up some salsa might take you another ten. Between the two of you, you’ve got the makings for a great supper that’s filling as well as economical. This Chicken-Cilantro mixture will be the piece de resistance.

Lotsa pasta – Pasta is the go-to choice at my house. My kids can smell boiling noodles from a mile away. They’d be satisfied with butter and parmesan, but in just a few minutes, I can whip up a broccoli cream sauce that they gobble down with gusto.

French Bread Pizza from Good Cheap Eats

Piece’a pizza – It might take an hour or two to proof traditional pizza dough, but we can have a great pizza dinner without the wait. Using French bread, pita bread, lavash, or tortillas for the base, I can create custom pies in just a few minutes.

Wrap it up – Keep tortillas on hand for quick sandwiches and burritos. Frozen chicken tenders cook quickly; just pull as many as you need from the bag. Throw on some shredded cheese and vegetables, and drizzle with your favorite sauces. Or go meatless with something like these Green Chile Burritos.

Cobb Salad from Good Cheap Eats

Salad’s on – I’ve got an 11-year old boy who will eat Caesar Salad until the cows come home. If I keep those ingredients on hand, I’ve always got a dinner he loves. Explore the world of salads and find those that really make your heart happy. Cobb? Tostada? Pasta? Cole slaw? Use those as your go-to’s, stocking those ingredients as pantry staples. Add a cooked meat for the carnivores in your midst. You’ll eat fresh in no time at all.

Need more inspiration for a quick fix?

Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

I spent a year researching how to make dinner quick, easy, and healthy. My findings are stuffed into Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!).

My new cookbook provides over 200 recipes that feature real food, real quick. With over 100 time-saving tips, you’ll eat for a day (or a month), as well as learn how to adapt your own kitchen skills to economizing time and money.

Dinner time doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or stressful. You’ve got the skills; you just need to know how to use them to your advantage. You can totally do this!

What’s YOUR favorite quick fix?

 

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Slow Cooker Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Slow Cooker Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

I believe that the slow cooker can be every mother’s best friend. What could be easier than throwing in a few ingredients, plugging it in, and then going about your day, without the worries of needing to figure out what everyone is going to eat for dinner?

A few years ago I discovered the beauty of slow cooking for breakfast and lunches as well as dinners. Setting a slow cooker to cook overnight and waking up to breakfast is a glorious thing on busy weekday mornings and having meat, soup, or a filling that’s been cooked and ready to go into a sandwich or thermos takes the “what’s for lunch?” out of the busy morning equation.

With this in mind, I’ve rounded up some of the best slow cooker recipes to boost your menu ideas and to be a resource for our M Challenge focus on meal planning. Plug these recipes into your menu planner and you will be able to take advantage of the cooker’s “set it & forget it” function and help make your meals go smoother. Some of these are Mom Advice recipes that weren’t featured in our 21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals and the rest are from around the web that I chose to show the variety of foods that can be cooked in your slow cooker. I hope you enjoy them and that they make your meal planning a breeze!

Breakfast

slow-cooker-creamy-coconut-oatmeal

Slow Cooker Creamy Coconut Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole @ Spend With Pennies

Crock Pot Cinnamon Roll Casserole @ Recipes That Crock

Slow Cooker Nutella French Toast with Carmelized Bananas @ I Can Cook That

Slow cooker Egg, Spinach & Ham Breakfast Casserole @ 365 Days of Crock Pot

Slow Cooker Breakfast Quinoa @ My Whole Food Life

Slow Cooker Black Bread @ Kleinworth Co.

Slow Cooker Bread Pudding @ Nourishing Joy

Lunch

slow_cooker_black_beans

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches @ The Recipe Critic

Lentil Sweet Potato Chili @ Delightful Adventures

Sausage-Bean Soup with Spinach & Tomatoes @ An Oregon Cottage

Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwhiches @ Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Skinny Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken @ Skinny Mom

Garbanzo Bean-Veggie Pitas with Creamy Avocado Dressing @ BHG

Dinner

slow-cooker-carnitas

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Slow Cooker Meatloaf @ The Magical Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken & Veggies @ Damn Delicious

Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta @ The Cooking Jar

Slow Cooker Dinner Rolls @ Growing Up Gabel

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas @ Cooking Classy

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken & Rice @ The Southern Plate

Slow cooker BBQ Ribs @ Number 2 Pencil

Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese @ The Food Network

Crockpot Sweet & Sour Chicken @ The Frugal Girls

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3 Challenges & Solutions to Meal Planning for My Family

Monday, August 17th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Meal Planning Challenges & Solutions

Sometimes I think my family is out to get me. I mean, surely they can’t be so obnoxious without some planning or plotting! Could they be this difficult naturally? All at the same time? Without coordinating their attack on my patience and sanity?

These are the thoughts that bombard me several times a week, almost always in regard to dinner.

DINNER. They want it every single day. Every! Single! Day! And do they want the same things? NO!

Sigh. Okay, fine. They’re probably not out to get me. But I bet I’m not the only wife/mom/home manager to feel that way – especially around dinnertime! So in case you also struggle with picky eaters or busy schedules or lack of motivation (oh, just me?), I thought I’d take a look at three of the challenges – and their solutions – I face to meal planning for my family.

1. Time

Every Sunday night my husband and I have the same conversation. It goes like this:

Me: Heavy sigh.
Him: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing. Just thinking about everything I need to do.
Him: Can I help you?
Me: No. I just need more hours. Could you give me more hours?

Poor guy. He just wants to snuggle on the couch and watch another episode of Blue Bloods with his wife, and here I am mentally reviewing my to-do list and trying to figure out how to get it all done – no – get ANYTHING done. Because I often feel like the repetitive but necessary tasks of everyday life take up 90% of my time, leaving me very little margin for new ideas, extra projects or defrosting my refrigerator.

So when I think about making a menu and a corresponding grocery list, it feels overwhelming. I mean, REALLY. Who has three hours to sift through all those yummy recipes I’ve pinned and clipped over the years to find five or six meals to make in the coming week? And then to choose sides to go with it? And look in the pantry and fridge to see if we already have any of the ingredients? And THEN make a list?

Gah. It seems so much faster, in the moment, to just hop in the car, drive to the store and buy what I think we need for the week. Except . . . you know just as well as I do . . . that does not EVER save me time. Or money. Or that precious commodity: sanity. Going to the store without a plan never results in the right combination of food for a week of meals! I KNOW THIS! So, how do I resist the temptation to do it anyway?

Easy. I don’t make a new menu every week.

I have a few basic meal plans that I can rotate, based on categories for each day. (e.g. Monday is something grilled because my husband has more time that day, and Wednesday is something fast and easy because my daughter has piano lessons that night.)

And those new recipes I want to try? I remember that I’m not actually Betty Crocker and limit myself to one or two a month. Because seriously, our family favorites are favorites for a reason. (And, honestly, my family would happily eat tacos every single week for the rest of our lives.)

Speaking of tacos, I know a lot of people who use theme nights for the meal plans. So Monday is Italian night, Tuesday is Mexican night, etc. Sometimes I do this, too – although sometimes it’s to remind us not to have Mexican three times a week.

2. Preferences

“Preferences” seemed like a nicer way to put it than, “Picky eaters.” But that’s really the issue, isn’t it? One of the things we say often in my house is that different people like different things. I started this to help my oldest daughter understand that just because someone likes green or football or country music or tattoos or Minecraft, they aren’t weird. They just like different things.

But for the love of sweet potatoes (which some of us like and some don’t), finding food that all four of us like gets harder every day! And while I am NOT a short-order cook, I do want all my people to get enough to eat. So where’s the balance?

My solution for now is to cater to their wishes – sometimes. I know what they like (until they change their minds again), so I plan to fix those foods and those meals often.

But sometimes I want to fix and serve something that one or two of them don’t like. And in those cases, we always have peanut butter and bread (if it’s the main dish) or cup of peaches and applesauce (if it’s a side dish). I’ll let my daughter replace one of our foods, but then she has to make do with the others. So if she doesn’t want green beans OR rice, she has the choice of which one to “choke down” and which one to replace with fruit. That’s our compromise.

As for new foods or new recipes, everybody has to try a few bites. And in the case of new recipes, we take a vote after giving it a try. If the majority (or at least the parents) like it, then we add it to the rotation. If not, well, at least we tried!

3. Motivation

Last but DEFINITELY not least is the biggest challenge of all in my house: motivation. I have to confess: sometimes I’m just lazy. Or busy. Or tired. Or ALL OF THE ABOVE! And the last thing I want to do is think ahead or make one more list. Especially after a week that’s included a bombed recipe or forgotten plans or unexpected dinners out.

But all I have to do is a little math to get myself back on track. I know how much I spend on groceries when we’re planning and cooking meals on a regular basis at my house. So a quick calculation of how much we’ve spent on fast food and take-out when I’ve slacked off will cure my lack of motivation REAL FAST.

Plus, I know that we eat a lot healthier when we eat at home. And sure, I might not have to do dishes, but my trash can (and dining room table) is overflowing with Styrofoam cups and paper bags! Yuck.

Staying mindful of those realities – and remembering my easy meal plan solutions – helps me plan meals for my family (and stay sane while doing it)!

What challenges do you face when meal planning for your family?

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21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Slow cooker meals are always a cornerstone of our family’s meal plans since it’s so convenient to have dinner cooking while you’re away (or breakfast cooking while you sleep!). Which makes it perfect to republish this article full of slow cooker meal ideas for our Focus on Meal Planning M Challenge. I hope you enjoy seeing these recipes again!

21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals from MomAdvice.com

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to my slow cooker! And so I’m sharing 21 of our favorite slow-cooker meal recipes that you can create and enjoy all month long. These recipes are a few of our tried and trues over the years on MomAdvice and will make your week go oh-so-much smoother!

I believe that the slow cooker can be every mother’s (or father’s!) best friend. What could be easier than throwing in a few ingredients, plugging it in, and then going about your day, without the worries of needing to figure out what everyone is going to eat for dinner?

Ninja Cooker

Truth be told, I have moved up in the slow cooking world and am now madly in love with my Ninja Cooker. I use it almost daily and love that I don’t have to dirty my stove or skillets to brown my meat anymore. I would definitely add that one to your next holiday wish list! You can read more of my thoughts on that over here.

In honor of this kitchen gadget, I have put together a month’s worth of meals using your slow cooker. Each of these meals will have a recipe and tips for making your dinner hour go more smoothly. Keep in mind that many of the recipes accommodate six to eight people so you may be able to cover (at least) a month’s worth of meals.

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Wings

 

Side Ideas- Fresh veggies & blue cheese dressing for dipping, steamed broccoli, and fresh fruit.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

Side Ideas- Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins & Salad

 Sticky Chicken Recipe

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic salt

3 lb roasting chicken

1 cup chopped onion

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken and onion. Rub herb mixture inside and outside of chicken. Place in food storage bag; seal bag. Refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from bag; stuff with onion. Place in crockpot on low 6-8 hours; high 2-4 hours. Chicken juices should run clear and chicken reaches 180*. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Side Ideas- Mashed Potatoes & Corn

Pot Roast Italiano

Pot Roast Italiano

 

Side Ideas- Roasted Green Beans & Orzo Pasta
Tortellini & Turkey Divine

 Tortellini & Turkey Divine

1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage turkey

2 clove garlic– minced

2 small onions– chopped

2 cans whole peeled tomatoes- 16 ounce cans

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

5 cups beef broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 zucchini- sliced

1 green bell pepper- chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 package cheese-filled tortellini

 

In a large pot, cook sausage over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Drain fat from pan, reserving 3 tablespoons. Cook garlic and onion in reserved fat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, broth, basil, and oregano. Transfer to a slow cooker, and stir in sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, and parsley. Cover, and cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain water, and add pasta to the slow cooker. Simmer for a few minutes, and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Side Ideas- Salad & Fresh Fruit

Slow Cooked Italian Beef

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Side Ideas- Oven Fries & Apple Slices

Sloppy Joes

 Side Ideas- Tortilla Chips & Carrot Sticks

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Side Ideas- Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins & Fresh Fruit

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat – cubed

2.5 cups carrots

2.5 cups potatoes

1 cup celery

1 can diced tomatoes – with the juice poured in

1 can beef broth

1 cup water

1 tsp ground mustard

3 sprigs rosemary

Put beef in a zipper bag with a 1/4 cup of flour and toss to coat. Brown the meat in a skillet and place on the bottom of the crock pot. Coarsely chop vegetables and place on top of the meat. Pour in the can of diced tomatoes with juice, can of beef broth, water, and ground mustard. Place sprigs of rosemary on top and cook on high for four hours or on low for six to eight hours.

Side Ideas-  Make your own salad bar!

Slow Cooked Apple Oatmeal

Slow Cooked Honeycrisp Apple Oatmeal

 

Side Ideas-  Create your own oatmeal toppings bar and serve with green smoothies.

3-Ingredient Chicken Tacos

3-Ingredient Slow Cooked Chicken Tacos

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 cup chicken broth

1 pound chicken breasts – boneless & skinless frozen chicken breasts

Dissolve taco seasoning into chicken broth. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker and pour broth over them. Cook on LOW for 5 hours. With two forks, shred the chicken meat into bite-size pieces. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.

Side Ideas- Roasted Corn Salsa With Tortilla Chips

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

1 package Italian Turkey Sausage – mild

2 cans crushed tomatoes

1 can petite diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

½ cup beef broth

Brown the turkey sausage in a large skillet. Place cooked sausage in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour over the sausage all of the other ingredients, including any of your own Italian seasonings. Cook sauce on low for six hours or on high for three to four hours. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

 

Side Ideas- Lemony Spinach & Tomato Quinoa Salad & Carrot Sticks

Mongolian Beef

 Mongolian Beef 

 

Note- to make this in your slow cooker, brown the beef and then heat all the ingredients together on LOW for four hours.

Side Ideas- Brown Rice & Steamed Broccoli

Slow Cooker Chicken BBQ Sandwiches

 

Side Ideas- Shoestring Oven Fries & Carrot Sticks

Taco Soup

1 pound ground turkey

1 can chili beans with liquid

1 can kidney beans with liquid

1 can whole kernel corn with liquid

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

2 cups water

1 package taco seasoning mix

In a medium skillet, cook the ground beef until browned over medium heat. Drain & set aside. Place the ground beef, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, & taco seasoning mix in a slow cooker. Mix to blend and cook on Low setting for eight hours.

Side Ideas-  Roasted Corn Salsa With Tortilla Chips

Chicken Italiano

Chicken Italiano

 

Side Ideas- Spaghetti & a DIY Salad Bar

 Breakfast Casserole

Note- I recommend doing this one using this technique to prevent burning and even cooking.

1 pound turkey sausage – sweet or spicy

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

6 slices white bread – toasted and cut into cubes

8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Crumble sausage and cook thoroughly. Drain meat. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together evenly. Place the casserole in the fridge overnight. In the morning put in the slow cooker for four hours on high or six hours on low.

Side Ideas- Fresh Fruit & Grapefruit Halves

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

 

Note to make this in your slow cooker, brown the chicken and then heat all the ingredients together on LOW for two-four hours.

Side Ideas- Brown Rice & Steamed Broccoli

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

2 cans cream of chicken soup – (10-3/4-oz) reduced-fat, reduced-sodium, undiluted

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry (10 ounces)

9 oz chicken – diced cooked chicken (two small or one large boneless skinless chicken breast)

8 oz sour cream – low-fat

1 cup milk

2 oz grated parmesan – (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup onion – chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 cup mozzarella cheese – (4 oz) shredded part-skim

Combine first 10 ingredients in large bowl.

Spread about 1/4 cup sauce in bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add 3 uncooked lasagna noodles, breaking noodles in half as necessary to fit slow cooker. Spread one-third of chicken mixture over noodles, sprinkle with 1/3 cup mozzarella. Layer 3 more noodles, half of remaining chicken mixture, and 1/3 cup mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles and chicken mixture; sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese.

Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting; cook 5 hours or until pasta is done.

Side Ideas- Roasted Green Beans & Grapes

 

Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken

3 pound chicken – whole or pieces

1 tsp dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

garlic cloves – minced

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup sherry wine or chicken broth

¼ cup lemon juice

Wash chicken; pat dry; season chicken generously with salt and pepper; sprinkle half of oregano, rosemary and garlic inside cavity of chicken; melt butter in frying pan and brown chicken; transfer to slow cooker or crockpot; sprinkle with remaining oregano, rosemary and garlic; add sherry to frying pan and stir to loosen brown bits; pour into slow cooker. Cover, cook on low for 7 hours; add lemon juice and cook 1 more hour (total of 8); transfer chicken to cutting board; skim fat from juices and serve over chicken.

Side Ideas- Have two slow cookers? Try our easy Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes!

Feel free to share your favorite slow cooker recipes below! I’d love to add them to our list!

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