3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – September 14

3 Things that work in the kitchen


1.  Giant pack of Costco ground beef

Last week I bought a huge pack of ground beef at Costco.  I turned it into burgers on the grill and a bulk batch of meatballs.  I loosely used this recipe.  I didn’t have any bread crumbs, so I soaked several slices of torn bread in milk.  That is kind of gross, not gonna lie, but it makes for really moist meatballs.

I love having meatballs in the freezer.  They are so versatile, quick and easy to use.  And homemade is so much better than store bought, although I’m not opposed to buying those sometimes either.

2.  Cooking free Friday and Saturday

It pretty much never happens that only Jim and I are home, with all the kids gone.  But this weekend, we are practicing our empty nesting (we’re still a long way from an actual empty nest, since our youngest is just 13).  Due to an out of town soccer tournament that Mia went to with friends and a heavy work schedule for the boys, we found ourselves alone Friday night and all day Saturday.  At least, that is the plan as I write this on Friday afternoon.

Consequently, no cooking is going to happen.  We’ll have dinner out Friday night,  out with friends on Saturday night and we’re planning to take in a BBQ Festival Saturday afternoon.  By Sunday I may be in the mood to cook a real meal.  We’ll see 😉

3.  A good idea, but not a great result

peanut butter and brownie


One evening I decided that these two things needed to come together.  I searched a few recipes and saw that most required mixing the peanut butter with a few other ingredients before trying to marble it in the brownie batter.  Always one to take a short cut, I decided to skip that step.

It didn’t really work.  We did eat the whole pan, but the peanut butter was weird textured on top of the brownies.  They tasted pretty good, but I wouldn’t do it that way again.



I realize that the brownie confession above has no place near a discussion of healthy living, but let’s just pretend that brownie episode never happened.

A class from my favorite yoga instructor at a great price!

This is the last day to get the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle.  As part of it, you get an online course with Jen from Healthy Moving – Core Workshop.  This is a “deep dive, comprehensive healthy core course”.  The regular cost of this course is $79.  That’s what I paid for the Healthy Moving Challenge (worth every penny too).

Through the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle sale you can get the Healthy Moving Core Workshop course, plus a TON of extras for just $29.97!

Don’t wait though!  The sale ends today!  Click here to find out more.


Peanut Butter, Apple, Pecan Sandwiches – Back to School Lunch

Peanut Butter, Apple, Pecan Sandwiches


Back to school time is here and with it, lunch packing duty.  It can be hard to strike a balance between having variety in the lunch box and sticking with ingredients that you have on hand.

This recipe does just that by using common ingredients that are packed with fall flavor.  Peanut butter, cream cheese, apple, cinnamon and pecans make a great combo!

Feel free to substitute too.  Use almond butter or sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter.  Use a different type of nut.  Try it with pears instead of apples.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the sandwiches:

Peanut butter apple pecan sandwich ingredient


Peanut Butter, Apple, Pecan Sandwiches

Serves: 2 sandwiches

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs. chopped pecans
  • ½ small apple, peeled and diced
  • 4 slices Nature's Own bread
  1. Stir peanut butter and cream cheese together.
  2. Add honey, cinnamon, pecans and apples. Stir to combine.
  3. Spread on bread to make two sandwiches.

Natures Own 2



Nature’s Own Bread is kicking off back to school with a #LunchBoxCreations contest.  You can enter by submitting your photo or video to http://lunchboxcreationssweeps.com .  Four winners will be chosen and each will win a $250 grocery store gift card!

  1. How to Enter

    1. Visit http://lunchboxcreationssweeps.com and  submit a photo or video of your favorite sandwich creation using Nature’s Own bread, and submit the entry, as directed, between 12:00 AM ET on 8/17/15 and 11:59 PM ET on09/15/15.
    2. Any entries submitted after September 15th, at 11:59 PM ET will be ineligible.
    3. Entrants can either submit a link of their video or photo from Vine, Instagram, or YouTube, or can upload their own photo as directed on the sweepstakes form.
    4. A photo submission counts as one (1) entry.
    5. A video submission counts as five (5) entries.
    6. Only one submission per person per sweepstakes.

For inspiration – and to show that anyone can make a video! – here’s the video I made with my youngest daughter, Mia.  We were doing a “dry run” of a school morning.  We homeschool, but she goes to a cottage school three days a week and packs her own lunch on those days.  She’s a great lunch packer and consistently has the most variety of anyone in the family.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Nature’s Own. The opinions and text are all mine.

You can also find Nature’s Own on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Homemade Turkey Sausage Burgers

Homemade Turkey Sausage Burgers on English Muffins


This recipe is a breakfast-y spin on burgers.  It’s also a great way to take plain, ground turkey and season it like sausage.  I’m all about using what you’ve got on hand, and I’m more likely to have ground turkey than sausage.  But I do make sure to keep the pantry stocked with McCormick spices, so seasoning the meat is a great option.

I served the turkey sausage burgers, draped with melted Colby-Jack cheese, piled high with lettuce and tomato stacked on toasted English muffins.  A bit of mayo topped things off.

Eat this sandwich for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.  No matter what meal, you won’t be disappointed. If you like eggs, try add a poached egg on top of the sausage.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the turkey sausage burgers:

Homemade turkey sausage ingr


Homemade Turkey Sausage Burgers

Serves: 6 servings

  • 2 lbs. Ground turkey
  • 1½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. Rubbed sage
  • 1½ tsp. Ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. Rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. Smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Brown sugar
  • 6 slices Colby-Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • English muffins
  • Lettuce and tomato
  • Mayonnaise
  1. Mix the turkey, all the spices and the brown sugar together until well combined.
  2. Form the meat into 6 patties.
  3. Grill or cook in a skillet until cooked through.
  4. Top the patties with cheese.
  5. Serve on toasted English muffins, topped with lettuce and tomato and served with mayonnaise.

Feel free to vary the spices and herbs to your own taste. If you like spicy things, you might like to add McCormick Red Pepper Flakes or Cayenne Pepper to the mix.

Have you ever heard the term “breakfastarian”?  I’m pretty sure I could fall into that category, because I love breakfast at any time of the day.  If that describes you too, you’ll love these Turkey Sausage Burgers!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by McCormick.  All opinions are my own.

5 Kitchen Tools to Help You Save Time

Jessica is one of my good, blogging friends and I’m so excited to have her here to share about her latest cookbook. I know you’re going to love her recipes and tips. She has a common sense approach to family meals that keeps things quick, efficient and tasting wonderful!

sharp knives for book promotion

Everyone knows that a well-equipped kitchen can help you enjoy the process of cooking and pull together great meals. But did you know that the right kitchen gadget can also help you save time?

Over the years, when I’ve struggled with junky kitchen tools, I’ve discovered that not only do them slow me down, but they take the fun out of cooking. With the right tools in hand, I can make dinner in 30 minutes or less!

Here are some of the gems that help me make the most of my cooking experience and get dinner on the table lickety-split.

Sharp knives

Ever struggle to slice meat or vegetables with a decrepit knife? No fun. Invest in a good set of knives and keep them sharpened to avoid that hack job.

Food processor

I remember hearing about a friend spending an hour to shred a block of cheese because she was using a rusty old box grater. The food processor is a veritable whiz at making quick work of shredding cheese and vegetables, pulsing flour and butter into pie crust, and blending up salsa and mayonnaise.

Electric griddle

banana pancakes on griddle for book promotion

My husband thought I was nuts when I brought home an electric griddle. But, with a large crew of hungry children, this countertop appliance is worth its weight in gold! Not only can it cook eight pancakes at a time, but it’s also great for bulk cooking quesadillas, crisping burritos, and grilling cheese sandwiches.

Stick blender

The immersion, or stick blender, was the joke of the 1980’s. Turns out, the joke’s on those of us who waited 20 years to buy one! With its one-handed efficiency at blending smoothies, soups, and sauces, the stick blender gets the prize for saving you from washing extra dishes, including that bulky blender bowl.

A large skillet with a lid

For years I messed with frying multiple batches of foods in too-small pans with jury-rigged lids. It was a revelatory experience when I bought a larger skillet that came with a lid. Wow! Not only could I cook more safely, but I could also cook it all in one fell swoop.

How you equip your kitchen can make cooking dinner quick, easy, and utterly enjoyable. Once you pick up one of these handy-dandy gadgets, you’ll wonder how you lived without them.

Honorable mention: Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!)

GCE 30 cover

While not a bonafide kitchen gadget, this cookbook will help you get dinner on the table in no time. With over 200 recipes, 100 time-saving tips, and 100 meal plans, you’ll have everything you need to put real food dinners on the table really quick. Plus, my husband

What’s your favorite kitchen item that helps you save time in the kitchen?

Jessica Fisher loves to cook, but she loves eating more. The quicker it gets on the table, the better! Check out her new book Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!) so that you can eat real cheap, real quick, and real good.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 31

3 Things that work in the kitchen


1.  Roasted Okra

Last week when I posted about roasted veggies, someone mentioned roasting okra.  I decided to give it a try, even though I was skeptical.


The verdict – It’s pretty good!  I’d definitely make it again.  Even our youngest daughter liked it.  Roasting really does bring out the goodness in all kinds of veggies.

The photo isn’t great, but I snapped it with my cell phone and I’m sharing it here anyway.

Give me a list – what should I try roasting next?  Turnips? Rutabaga (never had it)?

2.  Home Seasoned Turkey Sausage – recipe coming soon

Homemade turkey sausage ingr


I used these simple ingredients to season plain, ground turkey and give it a sausage flair.  It was easy and full of flavor.  Then I turned them into grilled turkey sausage burgers.  So good!

3.  New podcast discovery

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.57.58 AM


I usually listen to podcasts when I’m driving, but sometimes it’s nice to listen while I’m cooking or cleaning up.  I recently discovered the Sorta Awesome podcast and it’s a lot of fun.  The episodes are chatty and friendly.  It’s a nice way to make doing dishes more enjoyable.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

My Daily Green Smoothie Recipe

Easy Every day green smoothie recipe

Every day since the beginning of the year, our breakfast has included a green smoothie.  It’s a small change, but it gets more fresh fruit and veggies in our diet in an easy way.  We even packed the blender for our beach vacation, along with a Costco sized box of oranges, several bunches of bananas and a big box of spinach.

It took a while to land on a combination that we really like.  I tend to get hooked on one thing for breakfast and repeat it over and over.  Smoothies can be made a kajillion ways, but keeping it consistent means I always know what I need to pick up at the grocery and putting the ingredients in the blender becomes an easy routine.

green smoothie ingr blender


I make enough for two servings every morning.  I’ve found that if we have a little extra, it can be frozen and added to the next day’s blender of ingredients.  If I’m adding smoothie from the previous day, I just cut back on some of the ingredients so we don’t end up with leftovers again.

The first few times I tried adding pineapple, I didn’t care for it.  I think I may have been experimenting with carrots and apples at that time too, and those may have been the texture issue instead of the pineapple.  Now we love having pineapple in the smoothies.  I buy bags of frozen pineapple chunks from Costco to keep it easy.

Daily Green Smoothie Recipe

Serves: 2 servings

  • ½ cup apple or orange juice or water
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  1. Blend in a blender until smooth.
  2. If using a Vitamix, add ingredients in the order given.
  3. If using a regular blender, blend juice and spinach first, then add remaining ingredients.


3 Things Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 24

3 Things that work in the kitchen


1.  Soccer field picnics

Tuesday night we traveled to Louisville for a soccer game.  One son plays and the other is an assistant coach.  The game started at 5:30 and we just barely made it in time.  We knew we’d be running late, because of the boys’ class schedules.  Then we hit traffic and got a call that another family had gotten a flat tire on their way to the game.  We were able to pick those boys up on the side of the road and get them to the game on time, while their parents fixed the tire.  Whew!

I often pack dinner for us on nights like this.  It beats running through the drive thru.  Our picnic this time was purchased at Costco, since I’d run in there for a few things earlier in the day.  We made turkey sandwiches on croissants and had potato salad and grapes.  It was simple, but it worked.

If you’d like more ideas for meals during sports season, check out this post I wrote a few months ago.

2.  Birthday cake




It’s not pretty, but it is chocolate.  Making a pretty cake does not come easy to me.  Actually, it’s pretty rare that I make a cake that looks really good.  I don’t have the patience for it.

Thankfully, boys who are turning 17 don’t really care what the cake looks like.  Especially if you make the Cannoli Cake that was requested.  Four light yellow layers, spread with creamy cannoli filling studded with chocolate chips and covered with chocolate ganache will make almost anyone happy no matter what it looks like!

The recipe comes from The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook, which is one of my favorites.

3.  Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos – a million ways to make them

There’s a reason that chicken tacos in the crockpot are so popular.  You can throw any type of Mexican-like ingredient in the pot and end up with something delicious at the end of the day.  This time I used chicken tenders, corn, black beans, diced tomatoes seasoned for chili and taco seasoning.  I melted cream cheese at the end of the cooking time.  So easy and good!

What worked in your kitchen this week?


Boneless Pork Chops and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Chipotle pork chop sheet pan dinner


I really like using these thin cut boneless pork chops.  They’re relatively inexpensive (groceries are getting crazy high in price!), they’re versatile and easy to use.  I need to do a post with lots of different ways to cook with these chops.

I’ve made this sheet pan dinner several times now.  It’s easy and it cooks in just about 30 minutes or a bit less.

To keep the prep quick, I used very small potatoes that didn’t require any chopping.  The green beans took longer to prep.  Brussels sprouts would work well and might be quicker.  Or try slices of cabbage.

One benefit to using thin cut pork chops is that they cook in the same amount of time the vegetables need. With a thicker cut of meat, you would need to put the meat in first and then add the veggies to the pan later.  This way it all goes in at the same time.

I have a really big sheet pan that I bought at Walmart.  I love it, because it fits a whole meal for a family.  My sheet pan is similar to this one.  If you don’t have a large pan, use two regular sized ones.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this meal.  Keep in mind that the veggies and seasonings can be swapped for other things.

Boneless pork chop sheet pan dinner ingr

This time I used McCormick’s Smokehouse Maple seasoning on the chops.  I love this stuff!  We flew through the first container of it and when I saw it in the store, I grabbed another.

I kept the seasoning on the veggies simple with kosher salt and black pepper.  Sometimes I like to sprinkle McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning over everything though.  That’s another favorite for my family.

Boneless Pork Chops and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6 servings

  • olive oil
  • 3-4 cups small potatoes or chopped potatoes
  • 3-4 cups green beans, trimmed and cleaned
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 lbs. boneless thin cut pork chops
  • Smokehouse Maple seasoning or other seasoning blend
  1. Brush one large or two small rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.
  2. Toss potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add them to a section of the pan.
  3. Toss green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add them to a section of the pan.
  4. Brush pork chops with olive oil and place in the remaining space on the pan. Sprinkle chops with seasoning.
  5. Place pan in a 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until meat is cooked through and potatoes are tender.



Want to eat more vegetables? Start roasting them!

Easy changes for health

You might wonder why the cooking method would lead to eating more vegetables, but trust me – it does!

Since I started roasting veggies vs steaming them, we’ve upped both the quantity and variety of vegetables we eat as a family. It’s a small change that brings healthy benefits.



Roasting brings out the flavor of foods in a way that steaming can’t.  I toss the veggies with olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper.  Often, I grab a seasoning blend instead of the salt and pepper.  Montreal Steak seasoning is one of our favorites.  Sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary are wonderful too.

When it comes to types of veggies to roast, the variety is as endless as the produce department.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


It only takes about 15 minutes for many types of vegetables to roast.  Some potatoes and winter squash will take closer to 30 minutes.  I heat the oven to about 425 degrees, give or take.  It’s not an exact science, so don’t worry about getting it wrong.  If you want them to roast faster, turn the oven a bit hotter and cut the veggies a bit smaller.

I’ve found that vegetables I didn’t think I even liked are now favorites.  Things like green beans and brussels sprouts taste much, much better when roasted.  We also love combining several different types of vegetables on one pan.

Quick roasting (15ish minutes) options include:

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Zucchini and yellow squash
  • Tomatoes (grape, cherry or larger varieties that are quartered)
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant (although I admit we haven’t tried this one yet)

Roasted Butternut Squash or Sweet Potatoes


Best Ever Roasted Squash or Sweet Potatoes

Veggies that need longer roasting (30ish minutes):

  • Onions, quartered
  • Garlic cloves
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips

What are your favorite vegetables to roast?

P.S.  Since we’ve been talking about making small changes for health, I wanted to share with you a new program I found.  Jen from Healthymoving.com is doing a 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge during the month of September.  Jen is a yoga teacher.  I’ve been a member of her site for a while now (used to be called Stay at Home Yoga).  She has recently rebranded to Healthy Moving and is really promoting that we don’t need to make lots of time for exercise in our lives, we just need to get moving.  

This really speaks to me, because I work at my computer and also do a lot of driving each week.  All of that leads to lots and lots of sitting without much moving.  As part of the 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge, Jen is going to be teaching us to create a dynamic work station, where we get to move around instead of just sit.  

I’m really excited for the things I’ll learn during the 30 days of September.   It’s so much easier to make small changes for better health, than to try to fit in an hour long workout.  If you’d like to join me, click here!  The challenge starts in September.


This post contains affiliate links.  I only share things that I truly like and that I think you will too.


3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 17

3 Things that work in the kitchen


Is anyone else longing to get back into some kind of routine?  I love summer, with its laid back attitude, but by this time of year I’m usually ready to get back into a new groove.  Part of that for me involves getting back to a few blogging routines that I’ve let drop over the summer.

It’s been forever since I’ve written a 3 Things post.  I’ve been hard at work on some things on the backend of the blog (new email systems, launching the first Eat at Home Challenge, working on a Volume 2 of Slow Cooker Freezer Meals, improving the Weekly Meal Plan Member Page…)  I’ve vacationed and taken time to swing in the backyard.  Books have been read.  Migraines have been fought.

This past week, we helped my daughter and her husband pack up their apartment, put everything in storage to move to Bolivia for four months.  They arrived at their new home Sunday morning, safe but with wet luggage (the airline left it outside while waiting for a storm to clear).

Now it’s time for me to get back to some normal routines.  Here are three things that have worked in my kitchen this week.

1.  Roasted Chipotle Pork Chops with New Potatoes and Green Beans.

Chipotle pork chop sheet pan dinner

This meal was so easy to make!  It all roasted in the oven in about 30 minutes.  I’m planning to make it again and take more photos so I can do a post with a real recipe.

Here are the details:

~ I used thin cut boneless pork chops.  This allowed them to cook in the same amount of time as the veggies.

~ I used really small new potatoes that didn’t require any chopping.  That saved time.

~ The potatoes and green beans got tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  The pork chops were brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with chipotle seasoning blend.

~ The pan full of good stuff went into an oven heated to 425ish (I can’t remember the exact temp I used) for 30 minutes.

2.  Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Slow Cooker

I found a pack of chicken breasts in the freezer the other day and decided to use them for soup.  There were two large pieces with bones in the pack.  This is perfect for making a rich broth the easy way.  Start by putting the chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Then add the other ingredients and cook.  Before serving remove the chicken from the crockpot and pull the meat from the bones, then stir the meat back into the pot.  This is the method I use for several soups, including White Chicken Chili, Chicken Cock a Leekie Soup, Thai Chicken Curry Soup and several others.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’d never tried this method of cooking the chicken right in the soup with Chicken Tortilla Soup though.  I put the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and poured the chicken broth over the top, the same amount the recipe calls for.  After cooking that on high for five or six hours, I took the chicken out and pulled it from the bones.  Then I added the meat and the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and let it cook an hour or so longer.  I also added a cup or so of water, to stretch the recipe and because the broth was rich enough to handle thinning it a bit.  It worked great!

3. Frozen Meatballs become Sweet and Sour Meatballs

One thing I did when I started feeling better after my stinky July, was to make a big batch of meatballs.  I love having meatballs in the freezer.  Sometimes I buy the pre-made kind and those are useful, but homemade is so much better.

Frozen meatballs can be used for all kinds of things – spaghetti, of course, but also this Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe.



I used an onion and a green pepper instead of carrots this time.  If you’ve got meatballs cooked and frozen, this meal is as fast as making the rice.  It’s a big hit with my family too.

What worked in your kitchen this week?

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