3 Things That Work in the Kitchen – December 7

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Leftovers, quick meals, colds…

Not much went on in the kitchen this past week.  At least not much that is worth noting.

We ate leftovers for a good bit of the week.  I was slammed with a bad cold on Monday night.  Jim was out of town, the boys were working and Mia and I were coming back into town after a volleyball game.  By that point all I wanted was some soup and my pajamas and to be able to breath again.  We swung through Chick-fil-A for a bowl of soup to go.  The drive thru is not my favorite way to get dinner, but on that night, it was about all I was up for.

The rest of the meals for the week were:

  • Ham (leftover), scrambled eggs and biscuits
  • Ravioli with jarred sauce and Italian sausage that I browned and added to the sauce
  • Rotisserie chicken, pretzel rolls and salad from Costco
  • Something unknown that I have no memory of

This was not a stellar week of meals, but I’m back in a routine now.  I hit the grocery with the Traditional Weekly Meal Plan and I’m all set to do better this week.

2.  Simple Advent Wreath

advent wreath

I was inspired by the Sorta Awesome Podcast to try doing an Advent wreath and simple readings this year.  We’ve done this in the past, when the kids were young, but we’ve found it difficult to keep up every night.  And I can never remember where we’ve stashed the Advent wreath.

On Sorta Awesome Podcast Episode 36, Jerusalem Greer was the guest and she talked about doing Advent in a simple way.  She suggested making an Advent wreath by using something round, four candles, something living (like greenery, water or cranberries etc).    In the Sorta Awesome Hangout on Facebook, people started sharing photos of the Advent wreaths they put together and I realized that I could do this.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

I spent about five minutes pulling this together last Sunday evening.  I used a glass cake plate, four partially burnt candles, some pink and purple ribbon and a few sprigs of rosemary.  In the spirit of simplicity, I did a google search for Advent readings that were short and only once a week.  I knew we wouldn’t be able to keep up with more than that.  Although, there’s no shame in starting and falling behind. It’s more important that we start than that we tick off every night on the calendar.

I found this Advent devotional on the Billy Graham site.  My intention is that we will light the candles and do the reading on Sunday evenings this month.

3.  December Scripture Writing Plan

december scripture writing plan

Earlier this week Mary Beth, our editor for Weekly Meal Plans, shared this on Facebook.  She didn’t know where it came from, but a few days later I saw on Instagram that Christy from Southern Plate had tracked down the source.  The plan came from the blog Sweet Blessings and I’m so grateful that she shared it.  I’m really enjoying copying the verses in my notebook each morning.  It doesn’t take long and it’s a good way to focus on Advent for a few minutes at the start of the day.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?


3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – November 30

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1. Easy, slow cooker caramelized onion gravy meatballs

I really meant to take photos of this meal, but we had it in the midst of painting the kitchen (see below).  I totally forgot to take pictures.  It was so good though, I promise to make it again and give it an actual blog post so it can be easily searched.

I used frozen meatballs that I had made a few weeks before.  I added them to the crockpot still frozen.  Over the top, I poured a jar of beef gravy and a packet of McCormick Grill Mates Sauce Mix-Ins.  I used the Sweet Mesquite & Caramelized Onion flavor.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 3.46.51 PM

Oh my!  This was such a good combo!  We had it over instant mashed potatoes and it was a lovely lunch.  I know there wasn’t much homemade about it, but it was quick, easy and good.  Perfect for the midst of a big painting project.

2.  Newly painted kitchen (and family room)

We painted the family room walls and trim on Saturday before Thanksgiving.  It didn’t take as long as we’d thought, so I decided to go ahead and start painting the trim in the kitchen, even though we didn’t plan on painting the kitchen right then.  Once I saw how great the family room looked, I couldn’t wait.  We finished up the kitchen walls on Sunday afternoon.

I chose Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray for the walls.  I’m so happy with how it turned out!  Everything looks updated and clean.  There isn’t a lot of wall space in the kitchen, so I’m not sure you can tell much about the color from this photo.  I also kept thinking I would snap a picture when the kitchen was clean and clear of activity.  That never seems to happen though.  I took this one when we were prepping for family to come to dinner.

kitchen 1

3.  Rosemary tree

rosemary tree

Last year I almost bought a little rosemary tree like this, but I passed it up and kept wishing I’d made the purchase.  So the other day when I was passing through Lowe’s and saw a display of them, I put one in the cart right away.  It was only $10 or $12 and it smells amazing.  I love to brush my hand through it when I’m at the sink.  It was worth the small splurge.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

A Home Tasting Meal Where Ever You Are – Bear Creek Soup

Bear Creek lunch with book

It’s not always possible to actually eat at home.  I do my fair share of packing up food to go.  My youngest daughter takes her lunch three days a week to classes, where she has access to a microwave.  And Jim works in an office, so he likes to keep some easy meals handy there.

One quick and easy meal that also has a taste of home, is Bear Creek Hearty Soup Bowls.  These are so easy to toss in your bag in the morning.  Fixing the hot bowl of soup is as simple as adding water, stirring and heating.

If I can have a warm bowl of soup, along with a good book, that is a taste of home for sure.  I love to read while I eat.  That equals comfort for me.

Bear Creak Soups

There are four varieties of Bear Creek Hearty Soup Bowls.

Cheddar Broccoli – Thick and creamy broccoli soup with a blend of rich cheeses

Creamy Potato – Rich and creamy potato soup with a delicate blend of herbs and spices

Cheddar Potato – Savory cheese flavor with a blend of spices and rustic potatoes

Creamy Chicken with Rice – Rich and creamy home-style chicken soup with hearty rice

Bear Creek Cheddar Potato

All of them make a good meal away from home (or even at home!)  And pairing the soup with a good book makes it even better.

Bear Creek Country Kitchens began over 20 years ago with one goal in mind: to create home-style soups that will satisfy every appetite.  Combining high-quality ingredients and a special blend of spices, Bear Creek soups are delicious and easy to prepare.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bear Creek Soups. The opinions and text are all mine.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – November 23

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Another sheet pan dinner

sheet pan supper

I’ve been really loving sheet pan dinners.  If the meat is thawed out and I have some veggies to roast, this is the perfect meal.  It’s healthy and pretty quick too, especially if you use thin, boneless pork chops.

For this version I used a bag of mixed, frozen root veggies from Costco.  I wasn’t sure how that would turn out, but it worked great.  They held their shape and texture, despite being frozen.  Not quite as good as fresh, but so much quicker.  I added fresh brussels sprouts and a handful of fresh cranberries that were hanging out in the fridge.  Everything got seasoned with salt and pepper and the chops got a generous sprinkle of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning.  I love that stuff!

I roasted the frozen veggies and pork chops at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes before adding the brussels sprouts to the pan.  Then I gave it another 15-20 minutes of roasting time.

2.  Packaging matters

hoisin sauce

I usually buy hoisin sauce in a small jar, but the last time I was in the grocery they didn’t have any.  Instead I found it in a bottle.  This is the first time I’ve noticed hoisin in a bottle, but it’s changed the way I use the sauce.  I guess it’s because the bottle reminds me of a soy sauce bottle, but I find myself reaching for it often now.  I’ve added it to fried rice and used it for dipping sauce for potstickers.  I can see using it for meat marinades, topping hot sandwiches and more.

3.  After Thanksgiving family dinner menu

We are hosting Jim’s family on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I’m really looking forward to it!  Everyone will be here, except our oldest daughter and her husband, but we are planning to skype them in from Bolivia.

I didn’t want to make a classic Thanksgiving dinner, since we all will have just had our fill of that.  Instead I decided on ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted veggies, warm homemade applesauce and rolls.  My youngest is also lobbying for Sweet Pea Casserole.  We’ll top it all off with Kentucky  Chocolate Nut Pie for the Derby.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends!

Butternut Squash Casserole

Butternut squash casserole with cranberries and pecan topping

Raise your hand if you need to take something to Thanksgiving Dinner at someone else’s house.

I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.  This one travels really well.  No risk of spilling it in your car.  Or very little risk, anyway.

It stays hot for a long time, which is important for buffet line items.  And I think you could even make it in the slow cooker.  If you want the pecan topping to crunch up, just pop the slow cooker under the broiler for a minute before serving.

Butternut Squash Casserole is similar to sweet potato casserole, but the flavor of the squash is a little different.  This one also has fresh cranberries studded through it.  They add a tart flavor to the rich sweetness of other ingredients.  The McCormick Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Vanilla really bring out the autumn flavors of this dish.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

[Read more…]

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – November 16

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Saving brain space

The other day I took one minute and printed off the Traditional Weekly Meal Plan for the week of November 16.  I took it to the grocery where I spent 45 minutes shopping for the ingredients.

That night we had 10 Minute French Dip sandwiches and salad.  The next day I put Chicken Enchilada Soup in the slow cooker and let it cook all day.  And I’m all set for the rest of the week too.

The best thing about all of this is it required no real thought or decision making on my part.  I just followed the plan.

If you’d like to save some brain space and get a great deal, click over to take advantage of the sale on Weekly Meal Plans.  Right now you can get a 12 month membership $10 off.  That comes out to just $4.17 per month.  So worth it for all the brain space saved!

Don’t wait though!  The sale ends tomorrow!

icons collage

2.  The solution to the winter tomato.

When I toured the Red Gold farms and canning facilities back in September, someone told me about how she uses canned diced tomatoes during the winter instead of fresh for things like salads and topping tacos.

We decided to try it the other day for tacos and it works great!  The tomatoes have a much better flavor than winter, grocery store tomatoes.  We didn’t use the whole can for the taco topping, so I saved the extra in the fridge and added them to the Chicken Enchilada Soup later in the week.  There’s always something to add diced tomatoes to.

3.  Favorite hot drinks.

Have you seen this article about how Norwegians not only survive winter, but actually enjoy it?  I’m determined to change my attitude regarding winter.  I’ve started lighting candles at night in the family room (I like the battery operated, flameless candles).  I’m focusing on enjoying the cozy feeling of being snuggled in the house with family, rather than dwelling on the fact that it gets dark so early.

Another thing to celebrate about winter is hot drinks.  A mug of something warm feels so comforting when it’s cold outside.

Here are a few of my favorite hot drinks, but I’d love to hear yours too!

  • Earl Gray tea with a splash of vanilla syrup – I’ve heard this called a London Fog
  • Constant Comment tea
  • Steamed Vanilla Milk – hot milk and vanilla syrup, whipped with a small blender (or steamed if you have a steamer)
  • Warm Caramel Apple Drink
  • Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
  • Blender latte – Strong coffee, any flavor of syrup and plenty of hot milk. Pour in to a blender and spin till frothy.

What’s working in the kitchen for you this week?




Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole

Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole served

You know how Thanksgiving is more about the sides than the turkey?  Well, this is one dish you are going to want as part of the feast.

Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole is similar to green bean casserole, only it has a creamy, homemade sauce.  And it’s chock full of sweet peas.  Specifically, Libby’s Sweet Peas. (Don’t miss the Cansgiving Sweepstakes below!)

I love simple, frugal recipes like this one.  It rings in at about .60 cents per serving.  It’s easy to put together and there’s a good chance you have all the ingredients in your pantry.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole:

Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole ingredients

The steps are as easy as making white sauce with chicken broth as the base.  Sour cream gets stirred into the sauce, making it extra creamy.

Fold the sweet peas into the sauce.

Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole assemble

All of this deliciousness gets poured into a greased casserole dish.  Finally, sprinkle french fried onions on top.  They give great flavor to the peas and crunch to every bite.

Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole

Serves: 8 servings

  • 1½ Tbs. butter
  • 1½ Tbs. flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ⅛ tsp. onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cans Libby's Sweet Peas, drained
  • 2.8 oz french fried onions
  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the flour to form a paste and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in the chicken broth, cooking over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil and begins to thicken.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  5. Fold in the peas.
  6. Pour into greased casserole dish.
  7. Top with french fried onions.
  8. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, till hot and bubbly.

Cansgiving Sweepstakes

Libby’s is giving away 10 $350 electronic gift cards!  You can have a chance to win by posting a photo of what you are thankful for on Twitter, Instagram or Libby’s Facebook page using the hashtag #Cansgiving.  Find more information and all the details by going here.

Disclosure: Libby’s has supplied me with product and compensated me for my time, however all opinions are my own.


Make dinner easy – Weekly Meal Plans Sale!

Almost 3000 people participated in the latest Eat at Home Challenge!  Everyone who participated had a chance to try out my favorite solution for family dinner – Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans.  I’ve heard so many good things from folks who used the plans.

I love being able to print the grocery list and hit the store, with no more planning needed.  I stick the menu on the fridge and consult it each day, knowing I’ve got everything I need to make all of those meals.


To celebrate completing the Eat at Home Challenge, I’m running a sale on the 12 month membership for Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans.  You can get a whole year of membership for just $50, which is only $4.16/month.  Click here for the sale code.

The sale ends Tuesday so don’t wait.

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – November 9

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

butternut squash insta

Last Monday I worked on a couple of new side dish recipes for Thanksgiving.  My house smelled fantastic!  I’ll have a recipe for Creamed Sweet Pea Casserole later this week.  And the recipe for the Butternut Squash Casserole in the photo above will be shared next week.

I kept dinner easy the night I made the side dishes, by throwing bbq chicken in the crockpot.  My youngest daughter had a volleyball practice that night.  We reheated the casseroles and served them with the chicken for a quick after-practice dinner.

2.  Cleaning out lunch boxes

My youngest daughter packs her lunch three days a week.  She packs it herself and she’s also supposed to clean out the lunch box when she comes home.  Unfortunately, she often (usually) forgets about cleaning it out until the next time she needs to pack lunch.  That means the food containers sit dirty for two days.

Not good.

This week we set a reminder on the phone with an alarm.  Problem solved.

3.  New design for Eat at Home Meal Plan grocery lists

grocery list insta

I shared this photo on Instagram the other day, before I hit the grocery store.  I love the new design of our Weekly Meal Plans.  The color-coding is more vivid, making the list easier and more fun to use.

Look for details on a sale on Weekly Meal Plans starting tomorrow.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – November 2

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Listening and watching in the kitchen

baked chicken tacos

Those are Baked Chicken Tacos in the photo above.

As my kids get older, I find myself fixing dinner alone more often.  When they were little, there was always someone under foot or playing nearby.  Now they are off studying or at work or practice.

The upside of being alone in the kitchen is getting to watch or listen to what I want while I cook.  Here’s a list of things I’ve watched or listened to while cooking recently:

The Cozy Minimalist Course – I bought this back in the spring, I think, but hadn’t ever finished it. Now we’re fixing up the living room and it seemed like a great time to pull out this decorating course.

Andy Andrews –  I recently signed up to do Andy Andrew’s Unshakeable Entrepreneur class.  It came with bonuses of several other courses from him, all audio that I can’t make work on my phone.  I used my cooking time to catch up on some of this.

Andy Andrews is one of the wisest people I’ve ever listened to or read.  His podcast is great and so are all of his books.

Cedar Cove on Netflix – I’ve already made my way through the two seasons of this on Netflix, but I started it again the other day.  It’s nice to re-watch an easy series like this when you don’t want to pay a lot of attention to it anyway.

2.  Caramel Apple Pops

caramel apple pops

The last weekend of October is always a soccer tournament for us.  This year we’ve got a player on the girl’s and boy’s teams and our oldest son is assistant coach for the boys.

Many tournaments ago, a parent brought these caramel apple pops and shared them on the sidelines.  It’s become a small tradition, so when I spied these in the grocery I had to pick up a bag.  They’re so good!

3.  I’m now the mom of two adult children.

This one has nothing to do with kitchens or cooking, but we celebrated our oldest son’s birthday this weekend.  Peter turned 21 on October 31.  He’s studying Computer Information Technology, he helps lead worship at church and helps coach the high school soccer team.  I’m very proud of him.  He’d also be horribly embarrassed that I wrote all of that, but I don’t think he reads my blog, so I’m safe 😉

Eat at Home Challenge

This is the last week for the Eat at Home Challenge, but it’s not too late to join us.  You can sign up here.

We had to be out of town over the weekend.  We left on Thursday, which is also my grocery day.  I went ahead and hit the grocery with my list from the Traditional Plan so that we’d be all set to eat at home when we got back.



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