Join the Eat at Home Challenge!



I’m really excited today to invite you to join the free, two week Eat at Home Challenge!  It’s easy to get off track with meal planning and dinner making.  The next thing you know we’re hitting the drive-thru too often or we get in a rut of making the same meal over and over again.

I’ve got help for you though!  Sign up now to be part of the Eat at Home Challenge.  It starts July 16 and will be full of tips on meal planning, pantry stocking, quick cooking, and grocery shopping tips.  The goal is to eat at home for at least six dinners a week for two straight weeks.  This is a great time to build the eat at home habit and take control of dinner time before school schedules start again!

Pop over here and enter your email to join the challenge!

6 Meals in 10 minutes each – Slow Cooker Freezer Plans SALE!

You want to enjoy summer, so why not keep the cooking easy and your kitchen cool too!  Stop guessing about what’s for dinner and pull out a slow cooker freezer meal instead!  If you can spare 1 hour, you can have a freezer stocked with 6 meals ready to go for your busy summer days.

We’ve even got summer plans so you don’t have to eat soup or stew in July!  Load the slow cooker and spend your day having fun with your family.  Then come home to a great meal that required almost no effort on your part.

We’re having a quick sale this week on this great resource.  Get it for just $7.97!

That’s $4 off the regular price of $11.97.

Slow-Cooker_Kindle-cover 500x750


These meals are my “busy day emergency stash”.  They keep us out of the drive-thru lane, but require minimal effort to get dinner on the table.

Add to cart

Use the code: SUMMER at checkout


We’ve put together all of the Slow Cooker Freezer Meal plans from the last year into one big printable.  Now you can get dinner organized and ready in just 1 hour for a whole week’s worth of meals.  That’s about 10 minutes per meal!

You get 12 plans, each with:

  • 6 dinners designed to be assembled and frozen to be cooked later in the slow cooker
  • Side dish suggestions
  • Color-coded grocery lists
  • Printable recipes
  • Instructions on assembling all of the meals

slow cooker plans summer sale banner


Use the code: SUMMER at checkout

Add to cart

This is a quick sale and only lasts through Thursday July 2 at midnight Pacific.

All of the members to Weekly Meal Plans get one of these Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans each month as part of their membership.  It’s a popular benefit of being a member!

Here’s an example of a few months of menus.  Grocery lists, assembly instructions and printable recipes are included in the ebook.

  1. French Dip Sandwiches, Fries, Carrot + Celery Sticks
  2. Mediterranean Chicken, Pasta, Salad, Garlic Biscuit Bites
  3. Easy Crockpot Beef Fajitas, Corn, Chips + Salsa
  4. Teriyaki Pork Chops with Red Pepper and Pineapple Rice, Peas
  5. Chicken Shwarma Ranch Veggie Salad, Chips
  6. Italian Parmesan Herb Chicken and Potatoes Tomato and Artichoke Heart Salad
  1. Maple Apple Chicken, Roasted Broccoli and Red Pepper, Pretzel Rolls
  2. Slow Cooker BBQ Peach Pulled Pork, Sweet Potato Fries, Carrot and celery sticks
  3. Sweet and Sour Meatballs over Rice, Peas, Egg Rolls
  4. Chicken Tacos, Summer Corn Salad, Chips and Salsa
  5. Easy Pepper Steak, Pasta, Salad
  6. Chicken Philly Sandwiches, Quick Cole Slaw, Fries

Use the code: SUMMER at checkout

Add to cart



Ginger Peach Pork Tenderloin

Ginger Peach Pork Tenderloin


One of my goals for this summer is to increase my grilling skills.  I’ve been wanting a ceramic grill for a while, but now is not the time for us to buy.  So I’m committed to really learning to use the gas grill.

I’ve cooked on a gas grill for years, but I’ve never really tried to learn any techniques.  But this year, I’ve really been working on seeking out good grilling methods.

Enter this 7-6-5 Method for grilling pork tenderloins.  This is so easy and so full of flavor!  I’ve done this multiple times already.  The process involves brining the pork for about 45 minutes.  Brining just means pouring cool water mixed with kosher salt and sugar over the pork and letting it sit in the fridge.  It couldn’t be simpler.

After the brine, I pat the meat dry and usually give it a generous sprinkle of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning or McCormick Maple Smokehouse Seasoning.  But this time I decided to give it an extra summery flare and use peaches.

I pureed a couple of peaches, added McCormick ground ginger and rubbed the meat down with the peach sauce.  The sugar in the peaches gave the pork a nice char on the outside.

To serve along with the meat, I added a teaspoon each of brown sugar and soy sauce to the remaining puree and warmed it in the microwave for a minute.  The ginger, peach and pork make a wonderful combination!

Here’s what you’ll need:   [Read more…]

If you’ve ever wanted to improve your food photos (or any photos)

How to Improve your photos

I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now.  I’m still not a great photographer, but I’ve come a long way.

(Most of this post focuses on food photography, but these basics are applicable to photographing any subject.)

Here’s one of the very first photos I took for the blog.  The recipe is still one of our favorites (I really need to shoot a new photo!).  The original photo probably wouldn’t convince you to try it.



Now here’s a photo that I took more recently.  The recipe is based on the slow cooker version in the photo above, but it looks much more appetizing in this photo:

15 Minute Chicken Fiesta Skillet


I know others can take better photos.  But I try not to compare myself to others.

I want to see growth when I compare myself to myself – old work to new work.

Here are a few things I’ve done to improve my photography over the years:

1.  I learned to use my camera on manual mode.

After attempting to read the manual and learn on my own, I finally took a class to learn to use my Nikon D40 on manual mode.  The teacher got me up to speed quickly.  Much, much quicker than if I’d tried to do it on my own.

2.  I learned about lighting.

Good photographers are always chasing daylight.  In the beginning, I never did that.  I just shot the picture where I happened to be standing, usually at the kitchen counter under artificial light.

tripod photo


(photo above taken with iPhone and edited with PicTapGo)

Now I’ve learned a few tricks:

* I move the food near a window.  I’ve learned which places in my house have the best light.

* I use white foam core boards to bounce light on the subject.

* I use a tripod to keep the camera steady while shooting in lower light.

* I use special photography lights when I have to shoot in the winter.  There’s just no way for me to get enough light in the house during the darkest months of the year.

There are other things I’ve learned over the years, of course, but these are the things that have had the biggest impact on my photography.

I’d like to say that I never take a truly bad photo anymore, but that’s not the case.  I’m still learning.

In fact, I just took advantage of the chance to buy the Ultimate Photography Bundle.  It’s packed with 13 eBooks and 5 eCourses.  That will keep me learning for a long time!

I started with iPhone Only Photography, because that’s the camera I have with me most often.  I’ve already learned a few things that I didn’t know about the iPhone camera, in spite of the fact that I’ve been using an iPhone for years now.

(updated for iOS 8) iPhone Only Photography will teach you the three MOST IMPORTANT lessons to get UHHHMAAZZZZING photos every time with your iPhone: 1. How to take manual control of your iPhone camera. 2. How to create strong composition.  3. How to edit to recreate the feelings you felt when you took the photo.  Also you’ll get specialized teaching and tutorials for portraits, food photography, night shooting, landscapes, concert photography, and panoramas.

(updated for iOS 8) iPhone Only Photography will teach you the three MOST IMPORTANT lessons to get UHHHMAAZZZZING photos every time with your iPhone:
1. How to take manual control of your iPhone camera.
2. How to create strong composition.
3. How to edit to recreate the feelings you felt when you took the photo.
Also you’ll get specialized teaching and tutorials for portraits, food photography, night shooting, landscapes, concert photography, and panoramas.

I’m also looking forward to diving into Eat Pretty Things and Tasty Food Photography, so I can gather tips I can use here on the blog.


Tasty Food Photography February 10 2015

And The Unexpected Everyday eBook looks great for capturing images of my family’s everyday life.

The Photography Master Class: Your Complete Guide to Photography eCourse sounds like it will cover it all, and in a video format too.

This is an amazing deal at just $37.  The bundle is only available for a week, June 22-29.  The Photography Master Class alone is worth $199.

I’m excited to improve not just my food photos, but also photos of my family too.

This post contains affiliate links.


Weekend Links – Fun things to read and listen to

It’s been forever since I’ve shared a weekend links post with you. The end of the school year is always a little crazy and these posts went on the back burner for a while. Now school is over and we’ve been to the beach for vacation and I’m feeling refreshed!

Here are some things that have caught my attention lately:

Happy Listening


I’m back to taking morning walks.  I always listen to a podcast while I walk and my current favorite is Happier.   It’s a fun listen with lots of interesting info that can be applied to make your life happier.

Fun Reading

I’ve also started reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before.  Her insights into personal tendencies and how those affect our habit making and breaking are really useful.


Modern Mrs. Darcy’s latest Summer Reading Guide came out a few weeks ago.  I’ve got several of her picks on my reading list, but I hit the beach with Love Walked In.  It’s got lots of old movie references, which was fun.    The story was breezy, but still had substance.

Better Photos

Speaking of the beach, I didn’t take one, single photo.  These days, most of my photos (other than food photos) are taken with my phone.  For vacation, I just wanted to put my phone down and not be tempted to check email or Facebook or blog stuff.  It made me wish I had a small point and shoot camera, because I now regret that I have no photos of our time together.

I love this free resource for learning to take great family photos.  It will help you capture everyday moments and special times with your family.  A lot of taking great photos is just being mindful of picking up the camera and learning to really see and notice the moments happening around you.  Guides like this one help us do that.

Good Watching



My youngest daughter and I blew through the first season of When Calls the Heart.  We’re anxiously waiting the second season to be added to Netflix.

510H87W38RLOne of my very favorite movies is on Netflix right now.  Of course, I had to watch it again.  The book is better, but the movie is fantastic too.

Just for Fun

My parents shared this video with me a few weeks ago.  It’s a fun watch and it introduced me to some new music too.  Dustbowl Revival is now a station on my iTunes radio.  Good stuff!

I hope you’re enjoying summer!  What fun reads, watches and listens have you been enjoying?

This post contains affiliate links.

30 Days of Whole Food & Garden Fresh Summer Slow Cooker Recipes

30 Days of Whole Food and Garden Fresh Summer Slow Cooker Recipes


I know I don’t usually post on Sundays, but I wanted to let you know about our new Summer Slow Cooker Series that starts tomorrow and runs every day through June.

This year it’s all about recipes that use whole food ingredients and/or garden produce.  For many of the recipes, I’ll also suggest side dishes that will add in even more fresh fruits and vegetables.

All of these recipes are great for summer – no soups, no stews.  Keep your kitchen cool and eat healthy and easy!

I’ll add all the links for each of the 30 days to the bottom of this post, so you can visit here at any time to find all the recipes.

It won’t be all slow cooker recipes in June though.  Some days, I’ll post twice.  I’ve got some great grilling recipes for you.

Day 1: Green Chili Shredded Beef Bowls 

Day 2: Zesty Chicken

Day 3: Paleo Chicken Roll-Ups

Day 4: Mac n Cheese & Snap Peas

Day 5: Turkey & Lentil Sloppy Joes

Day 6: Sea Food Paella 

Day 7: White Bean & Mushroom Spaghetti Squash Bowl

Day 8: Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Parm Bomb

Day 9: Honey Dijon Pork Chops

Day 1o: Spicy Sesame Honey Chicken

Day 11: Chicken Curry

Day 12: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Day 13: Honey Maple Ribs

Day 14: Pine Nut Meatballs and Veggies

Day 15: Honey Mustard Chicken

Day 16: Korean BBQ Tacos

Day 17: Almond Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Day 18: Salsa Chicken

Day 19: Blue Berry Crisp

Day 20: Ham & Swiss Frittata

Day 21:  Easy Chicken Legs

Day 22: Chicken Cacciatore

If you want to find even more Summer Slow Cooker Recipes, check out our past series (click the photos):

100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Recipes


75 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Meals EatAtHomeCooks


Would you like a menu of slow cooker meals, along with a color-coded grocery list all done for you?  Find your perfect Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan here.

15 Minute Creamy Chicken Florentine Quesadillas

Creamy Chicken Florentine Quesadillas


Quesadillas are a quick and easy favorite in our family.  I wanted to take the concept and give it a different spin.  Something other than Mexican.

We loved these Chicken Florentine Quesadillas!

They’re full of chicken (I used rotisserie chicken I had in the freezer), garlic cream cheese spread, spinach, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Parmesan.

The great thing about quesadillas is they’re easy to make to order.  So if you’ve got someone in your house that turns their nose up at the good stuff, give them a plain chicken and cheese option.

Here’s what you’ll need to make them:

[Read more…]

How to do Road Trip Picnics – where to stop and other tips to make them easy

Road Trip Picnics


We’ve been talking picnics all month.  We’ve covered Day Trip Picnics and Vacation Home Food.

This week, let’s talk about road trip picnics.  I really like to pack our lunch for our first (and sometimes, last) day of travel.  We prefer our own sandwiches to fast food, especially when traveling.  A couple of my kids deal with car sickness and it really helps to have control of the food choices.  Not to mention that it’s much cheaper to pack.

I won’t talk too much about what to pack.  We’ve covered that pretty well already.

I do want to share some tips I’ve learned and I’d love to hear yours too!

Where to stop for a road side picnic.

When you’re on a long trip, trying to get where you’re going, you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a place to eat.  Convenience wins big over scenic views in this case.

Rest stops are an obvious solution.  Many of them have picnic tables.  We’ve found that as you enter most states, there are Welcome Centers that tend to be a notch above regular rest stops.

Tip: It’s nice to have a roll of paper towels to use as place mats or even to sit on if the benches aren’t the best.  Although, the adults tend to eat standing up to counteract all the hours in the car.

Eating in the car.

We’ve found it’s best to get out for a break, but there are times when it makes sense to eat in the car.  If it’s raining, you may want to skip the picnic.  Heavy traffic occasionally makes it hard to to stop.

Just in case you end up needing to eat while driving, pack the cooler where an older child or adult can get to it.  Have that person pass out the lunches and drinks.

Tip: For snacks like boxes of cheese crackers or grapes, small paper cups work great for handing out individual servings.  These are also easy for the driver to eat from.

Strategically splurge on treats.

If you’re looking at 8-15 hours in the car, you can bet you’re going to need a few treats.  Here are a few things that have worked for us in the past:

  • DumDum lollipops and Jolly Ranchers – It’s fun to choose a flavor and the small candy lasts a while too.
  • Planned afternoon breaks that involve purchased treats like soft drinks, coffees, or even ice cream.
  • Treat bags – When the kids were little, I would pack a bag of small games, toys, stickers, etc.  I tried to aim for one treat per hour.  Some of the most successful items were masking tape, pipe cleaners, dry erase markers (to use on the windows),  and blank notebooks.  The car was usually a mess when we arrived at the destination, but everyone was was (relatively) happy.

I’d love to hear your tips!

Many of us will be hitting the road this summer for long trips.  Share what works for you and your family in the comments.

This meal has been my go-to quick recipe for over 10 years

mexican beans and rice done2


I make a lot of new recipes.  We rarely repeat meals, because I’m always trying to create new recipes to share with you.

That said, there are a few go-to meals that are so well liked and so easy that they get repeated with some frequency.

Mexican Beans and Rice is one of these.

A friend gave me this recipe over 10 years ago.  I have no idea how many times we’ve had it since then.  It takes common, pantry ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  It’s cheap, nutritious and can be made in just 15 minutes.

I wrote the post with the recipe about a month after starting this blog.  The photos were pretty bad, so I shot new ones a few years ago.

And there are near endless substitutions and additions you can make, depending on what you’ve got on hand:

  • Use black beans or pinto beans instead of kidney beans, or use a combination of beans.
  • Use brown rice or instant brown rice instead of white (I like the flavor of brown better, but I’m always in a huge hurry when I make this so I stick with Jasmine rice, which cooks quickly.)
  • Add cooked ground beef or cooked chicken for added protein.
  • Top with cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Serve with guacamole or avocado slices.
  • Use a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies if you don’t have any salsa.
  • Serve in tortillas instead of over rice.
  • Cook the rice in chicken broth for extra flavor.

If you haven’t tried this one, I encourage you to make it soon.  It’s a great recipe to add to your arsenal of easy, weeknight meals.

Substituting when you can’t find the product a recipe calls for – Jalepeno Chicken Taco re-do

Sometimes companies come out with new products and recipes get created around those products.  Then a while later the products get pulled or you just can’t find them.  Or maybe you’d just really like a homemade version.

What to do?  Substitute!

Depending on the recipe and product this can be really easy or a bit more challenging.

Recently, I made Creamy Jalapeno Chicken Tacos, but I couldn’t find the jalapeno cream cheese.

Slow Cooker Creamy Jalapeno Chicken Tacos


Instead, I used plain cream cheese and a small can of diced jalapeno peppers.  It was a simple fix and the result tasted great.

Here’s another example.  We love the sauce packet for this Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks recipe:

Slow Cooker Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks


But I really wanted a homemade version that would be close.  This Korean Taco recipe comes very close to the same taste:

Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Tacos


Cream of…Soup Substitutions

Canned cream soups can be substituted with a good white sauce.  There are lots of ways to vary the flavors of white sauce so it fits your recipe.

white sauce how to make


Try to get close enough when making substitutions

Sometimes it’s not possible to get the exact flavor without the product.  I know a lot of people have been frustrated while trying to make this Creamy Pina Colada Pie.  Pina Colada jello is not easy to find.



Try Island Pineapple jello instead.  It won’t be the same, but it will be close.  Or use any other flavor of jello that catches your fancy.

What are some ways you’ve made substitutions for products lately?

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