Meal planning Monday 12/1

I can't believe it's December already! I always feel like once Halloween hits, the rest of the year is in fast forward and if you blink too quickly it'll be New Year's Eve before you know it.  Matt will be traveling quite a bit the. Next few weeks and the kids and I are busy with end of the school term projects. Our menus might not be the most creative but this is when planning is the most important.  Nothing worse than getting home late with lots left to do and not knowing what's for dinner or having anything in the fridge. 
Zoe and I went to a fun girls "friendsgiving" the Friday after thanksgiving and my friend Dina had some yummy meatballs with pineapple simmering away in her crockpot that we're going to try making Thursday night.  Otherwise, sticking to the kids favorites and not experimenting much.
I'll probably whip up some pancake muffins with the leftover pancake batter Tuesday evening, those have been a huge time saver in the mornings. 


Meal Planning Monday November 17

Our kids are total homebodies who hate going out and avoid it if they can. This doesn't work very well with Matt and I's love of brunch.  By some small miracle, we were able to talk them into walking to the recently opened Dupar's this morning.  While we waited for our food, the kids were quickly distracted by friends who we ran into allowing us a few quick minutes to discuss the coming week.  It's not glamorous, but sometimes, the back of a kids coloring sheet is as good as it's going to get.  I still prefer to write out my "menu" than to type it out on my phone (the way I'm writing this post).
Usually, I plan in a notebook the way Jenny Rosenstrach (www.dinneralovestory.com) does so I have a very informal book of all our past plans. Even if I don't post (ahem, I know I've been slacking again), I can at least have a quick reference.
This week we're sticking to the quick basics:
Monday - crockpot tacos
Tuesday - Matt has a business dinner, kids choice
Wednesday - I have a parent association meeting; crock pot BBQ chicken over potatoes
Thursday - grilled turkey burgers
Friday -pasta and sausages
Saturday - takeout for the USC vs UCLA game 
Sunday -TBD


Meal Planning Monday - October 27

We spent the evening with our fabulous friends carving pumpkins, watching the kids play, sneaking glances at the World Series that was playing in the background and enjoying the amazing chili and cornbread our friends made.  Fall is finally here and the countdown to Halloween is down to single digits.  Our neighborhood is big on Halloween.  We might not have sidewalks or streetlights but we fill the streets with a few hundred kids and enough glow sticks to light up the town.  If you dare attempt to drive down our street on October 31st after dusk, you'll get stuck in a sea of families and will be slowed down to a crawl making you rethink your decision.  I used to do a big pre-trick-o-treating dinner but now that the kids are old enough to really get into the spirit they're too excited to eat and the effort isn't worth it.  Instead, we're doing a neighborhood pizza party on the front lawn with friends and hoping they eat a few bites before we head out.  What is your Halloween eve tradition?

Monday - Crock-pot Ground Turkey Tacos
Tuesday - Two Peas & Their Pod's Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Wednesday - Roasted Butternut Squash & Bacon Pasta
Thursday - Grilled Flank Steak, Potatoes, Grilled Veggies
Friday - Halloween Pizza Party
Saturday - Out at a Birthday Party
Sunday - TBD, probably out


Tuesdays with Zoe: Jello Play Dough

My little sidekick is home sick today with a nasty cough that we've been passing back and forth between the two of us for the last few days and cannot shake.  It was another nonstop weekend and we ended up unexpectedly taking Zoe with us to her first USC football game which might have been a little too much for her.  Either way, now we're both down for the count which means no baking today...Instead, we're playing with the big batch of play dough we made for her play date last Friday.

We've tried many different play dough recipes but by far our favorite is this jello based recipe I found on the website, Modern Parents Messy Kids.   Not only does this recipe smell fantastic (not your usual salty dough smell), it holds up really well, is inexpensive to make and is relatively foolproof.

From Modern Parents Messy Kids:

You'll Need:

  • white flour – 1 cup
  • warm water – 1 cup
  • salt – 2 tbsp
  • cream of tartar – 2 tbsp
  • cooking oil – 2 tbsp
  • Jello – one 3oz pack
Click through to MPMK for full instructions, they have wonderful pictures and easy to follow directions. 

My Notes -
Add the warm water absolute last.  The water activates the color and scent.  Even though Zoe usually picks the color/smell we're making, I like the added "wow" factor of combining the dry ingredients then adding the water and watching her reaction.

If you aren't sure if they dough has cooked long enough, cook it a little bit longer to be safe.  First time we made this recipe, I under cooked it and had to toss it since it was just too sticky.

This recipe is very generous.  I usually make a single batch and it is plenty for Zoe to play with, even with a friend over.  It is very easy to halve if you want to make multiple colors/scents.


Tuesdays with Zoe: Chocolate Chip Muffins

Tuesday afternoons while Jamie stays late at school for an extra curricular activity, Zoe and I spend a rare afternoon together.  Since she stopped napping for good a few months back, I've been trying to do something special with her during the extra time we have together.  More often than not, she asks if we can bake or do some sort of sensory activity that requires kitchen time. 

I've decided to start chronicling our adventures in a new series of posts called Tuesdays with Zoe. Both my children have inherited my love of baking and these posts are the recipes that we make together - simple enough for a preschooler or early elementary aged kid but full of flavor and lots of fun.  

Hands down, Zoe's favorite thing to make is mini muffins.  She loves taking them to school in her lunchbox and telling her classmates that she made them or sharing them with her brother for an afternoon snack.  Over the last year we've tried three or four different chocolate chip muffin recipes without finding one we want to repeat. They've all been decent, but not memorable.  I knew today's was a keeper before the muffin batter even went into the muffin tin - Zoe couldn't stop eating the batter! I sincerely doubted we would get the full 24 muffins the recipe claims to make by the time I got her hand out of the mixer.

These muffins from Add A Pinch are moist, light and very flavorful.  The base recipe, without the chocolate chips is a great sweet muffin, I look forward to making these again!

The only modifications I made to the recipe was to use 1/2 coconut sugar and 1/2 granulated sugar to make them slightly healthier and to mini chocolate chips in place of full sized chips. Otherwise the recipe is perfect as is! 

Serves: 24 mini muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup coconut sugar and 1/2 granulated sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F. Spray mini-muffin tin with bakers spray or coat well with butter and flour, making sure to discard any excess flour from the tins after coating.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Add an egg, one at a time, taking care to fully incorporate before adding the other. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and scoop mixture into prepared mini muffin tin, filling about ⅔ to ¾ full. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  5. Once muffins have baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the muffin tin before removing for serving.

 Start to finish this whole  activity took about 30 minutes, just right for my almost four year old's attention span. 


Meal Planning ~ October 13

I don't know about you but I could certainly use a weekend to recover from our weekend. We had a blast celebrating five different birthdays, party hopping around the neighborhood, watching Jamie play baseball, Zoe dancing like a princess, religious school, errands, too much sugar, a few too many glasses of wine and not nearly enough sleep. Yet, I wouldn't trade it for the world - well, I wouldn't mind a little more sleep but who wouldn't like to be a little more rested?

The weather is supposed to be perfect this week - warm autumn days giving way to cooler nights. While I'm not quite ready to jump on the pumpkin everywhere bandwagon, I'm definitely ready to start making more casseroles, soups and stews. Heartier food to warm the soul from the inside out.

Monday - Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pulled Chicken from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Tuesday - Kids Choice since Matt is traveling. If I were a betting woman I'd say it's either going to be pancakes, dutch babies, or pot-stickers
Wednesday - School fundraiser night at California Pizza Kitchen
Thursday - Tortilla Soup
Friday - Family Date Night at Disneyland
Saturday - USC Homecoming Football Game
Sunday - Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Minestrone Soup from the Kitchn


Meal Planning - Oct. 6

A day late and a dollar short...and that my few and far between readers is why I'll never be a professional blogger. As hard as I try, I'm not always able to post my menu on Sunday evening or even by the end of the day on Monday. My weekly menu is almost always done by the time I go to bed Sunday evening but getting it posted is a whole other challenge. Today I'm attempting to post from my phone, not sure how it'll work out but at least I'm getting my menu up!

Monday is our family's busiest day of the week which is why it's become crockpot night. Our recent favorite is ground meat tacos - it's beyond simple. 1 pound ground turkey or beef, a package of taco seasoning (even better if you mix your own) and a cup of water. Put all the ingredients in the crockpot on high for four to six hours. If you get a chance, break the meat up with a fork or potato masher . If you aren't home, no worries. It can be left unattended and the meat crumbled at the very end.  If there is a little extra moisture/water when the meat is cooked, simply use a slotted spoon when serving.

Monday - Crockpot taco salad
Tuesday - Chicken Pot Pie from This Week for Dinner
Wednesday - Miso Glazed Salmon from Dinner a Love Story
Thursday - Oven Baked Honey Mustard Chicken from Damned Delicious
Friday - Grilled Sausages,  Kale Salad, Couscous
Saturday - out at a birthday party
Sunday - out at another birthday party