How to do dinner (without hours of prep and planning, spending a fortune or staring down frozen chicken at the end of a long day)

I’m pretty sure we all know how to not do dinner.  We’ve lived all the scenarios of ways to make dinner difficult.

But what if you want to:

~walk in the door and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes

~use your brain space for things other than figuring out what’s for dinner or what to buy at the grocery

~make the slow cooker or Instant Pot do the work for you

~save money on your grocery bill and on be able to skip the drive-thru because you know you’ve got dinner at home

If all of that sounds good to you, then Eat at Home Meal Plans is the solution.

I’ve put together everything I’ve learned in making 10,000 dinners for my family into a system to make your life easier.  My goal is for you to be able to walk into your kitchen, know what’s for dinner and be able to have it on the table in short order.

To do that, I give you slow cooker recipes (Instant Pot recipes are coming starting in February), sheet pan dinners, 15 minutes meals and more.  Dinner has to fit your schedule if it’s going to work at all.

This is a great time to become a member of Weekly Meal Plans and make dinner simple at your house.  You can lock in the current prices now before the price goes up tomorrow!

Click here to learn more about becoming a member of Eat at Home Meal Plans and join thousands of others in having doing dinner the easy way!

 

 

 

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3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – Soup, Squash and Slow Cooker mornings

1.  Corn Chowder in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

I’ve been trying more and more recipes in the Instant Pot and the other night I decided to try Corn Chowder.  This is one of my favorite soups.  It’s creamy, warm comfort food.

I didn’t need to do much adapting at all to make it in the Instant Pot.  I will say though – the IP doesn’t save any time for this soup.  It would be just as fast to make it on the stove.  However, speed isn’t the only reason to use a pressure cooker.  In my case, I wanted to start dinner a little early and have it stay warm while I drove across town to pick up Mia from volleyball practice.

I’ll write up the recipe with the details soon.  I did cook the onion in butter, then added the other ingredients except the cream and set the timer for 17 minutes cook time.  I ended up adding chicken to this, because I had some handy in the freezer and I only had two potatoes so I felt like the soup needed a bit more.

2.  My favorite Butternut Squash Skillet

This recipe came up on my meal plan the other day and I was so happy it did.  I love this side dish!  It’s easy to make and just so good.  You can find the recipe here.

3. What’s in Passionate Penny Pincher’s crockpot? An Eat at Home recipe!

Laurie from Passionate Penny Pincher shared a video showing how she put dinner in the crockpot in the morning.  Her sweet daughter helped her.  Laurie has been using Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans and she shares why it’s working and how much she’s loving it.

This is a great time to become a member of Weekly Meal Plans and make dinner simple at your house.  You can lock in the current prices now before the price goes up on Jan. 18.

If you can’t see the video below, head over to the Passionate Penny Pincher Facebook page.  And be sure to like her page while you’re there!

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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Easy Sheet Pan Dinner Using Frozen Chicken Tenders

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I have been loving sheet pan dinners.  It’s one of my favorite ways to cook, because it’s so easy to incorporate the veggies with the meat and end up with a full meal with minimum effort.  That’s my kind of cooking!

Recently I decided to try it with frozen chicken tenders.  I didn’t even want to bother thawing them.  Because they’re so thin and small, they thaw and cook quickly.  This means you can easily start them from frozen.   [Read more…]

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3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – What I’ve been cooking

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1.  Chicken Alfredo Bake with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Yesterday was our oldest daughter’s birthday.  She turned 25.  We usually have Sunday dinner together and yesterday was no exception.  Meredith has always loved pasta, so we went with this Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake with Sun Dried Tomatoes.

Because I wanted it to be ready when we got home from church, I assembled it on Saturday then heated it in the slow cooker while we were gone.  It worked great.

We followed it up with our favorite cake for birthdays from the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook.  It’s a yellow cake with homemade chocolate frosting.  So good!

2. Healthy Kickstart Plan

Other than the pasta, I’ve been following the Healthy Kickstart meal plan.  We’ve had lots of vegetables and it’s felt good to start the new year off right in that way.

Healthy Kickstart closes tomorrow.  I’d love to have you join us. We’ve started getting to know one another in the private Facebook group.  You can find out more about it here.

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3.  Instant Pot Garlic Chicken with More Garlic

One of the meals on Healthy Kickstart was Garlic Chicken with More Garlic.  This is a crockpot meal and it’s one of my favorites.  I usually serve it with angel hair pasta or baked potatoes, but for Healthy Kickstart I paired it with quinoa (one of the few meals that includes grains).  It was a delicious combo!

I also made it in the Instant Pot instead of the slow cooker.  It turned out great and I shared the details of how I did it in the Healthy Kickstart Facebook group.  Several other members there enjoy using an Instant Pot too, so we’ve been talking about how to adapt the recipes.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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What I’ve Learned Making 10,000 Dinners

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Next week marks twenty-nine years of marriage for Jim and me and twenty-five years of parenthood for us.  A lot of things have happened in all those years, including the fact that I’ve made thousands of dinners for us!

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about what really works to get dinner on the table and what doesn’t.  I want to share a few of those lessons with you today.  

Cooking methods and timing

There have been years when it worked best to do my dinner prep work in the mornings, like when I had babies and toddlers.  Or when the kids had late afternoon practices or lessons.  Load that slow cooker in the morning!

There’ve been other times when things have been so crazy that there’s little time for prepping and cooking meals and we just need something fast. Fifteen minute meals to the rescue.

Lesson learned: I need recipes that work for the slow cooker, quick skillet meals, 15 minutes meals, freezer meals, sheet pan dinners and other types of cooking.

Red Gold Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

Easy ingredients

With four growing and active kids added to the family over the years, I don’t have time for long ingredient lists.  I also don’t want to spend time and money hunting down obscure ingredients that I’ll only use once.

Lesson learned: Use basic ingredients that I can find in any grocery store that will work in a multitude of recipes.

Pork Chops and Apples Sheet Pan Dinner ingr

Have a plan

It’s so much easier to face cooking when you know what you’re going to make. If you’re staring down a pack of frozen chicken near the end of the day wondering how to turn it into dinner, your chances of success go way down (and the chances of hitting the drive-thru go way up!).

Lesson learned: Have a meal plan that incorporates quick meals, slow cooker meals, easy ingredients and more. Post the menu plan on the fridge and work from it. 

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Dinner is one thing I know how to do really well.

When I started Eat at Home, I wanted to share recipes that work well for family dinners.  But it wasn’t long until I realized that it’s not just about the recipes.  Having a meal plan that puts versatile recipes together with an easy grocery list is a huge part of dinner success.

Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans launched in 2013 and over the last four years, I’ve incorporated everything I’ve learned over my years of making dinner.  I’m still learning things too, so I’m still improving the meal plans.  Starting in February, I’ll be adding in pressure cooker/Instant Pot recipes to the plans.

My goal is that you can print your plans and recipes, quickly shop and easily make dinner for your family.  

This is a great time to become a member of Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans. Prices will be going up January 17, but you can lock in the current prices now.  If the meal plans help you avoid eating out just one time, you’ll not only make up the cost but earn a return on your investment (eating out is expensive!).  

And I promise if you use these plans you won’t be running through the drive-thru to find easy dinners – you’ll be making easy meals in your own kitchen! 

Find out more about Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans by clicking this link.

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6 Classic Meal Builders Your Pantry Needs

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The key to good meals at home is having a well stocked pantry.  There are lots and lots of options for filling the pantry, but keeping a few classic, basic items on hand ensures that you have what you need to fix a meal.  Here are the items I always keep around.  These things are true work-horse ingredients.  They’re flexible and timeless.

1.  Canned Tomato Products

My favorites in this category are crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Crushed tomatoes can be the base of nearly any type of Italian sauce.  Use it to top pasta, in a pasta bake, for pizza, on sub sandwiches, to top chicken or meatloaf.  Endless possibilities!

Diced tomatoes are much easier to keep on hand than fresh and go in all kinds of Mexican and Italian dishes, as well as many others.

Other tomato products worth keeping in the pantry include tomato sauce, paste and salsa.

2.  Beans

Canned beans make for quick meals, but you may also want to have dry beans on hand.  Dry beans can be cooked and frozen, then used just like canned beans.

Use beans in soups, casseroles, quesadillas or other Tex-Mex style dishes and much more.

3.  Broth

Chicken, beef and vegetable broth are all essential pantry ingredients.  Make your own and freeze it or use canned or boxed varieties.  Broth can be used in making soups and stews or in cooking grains or pasta.

4.  Aromatics – Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are both essential in many, many recipes.  They add so much flavor to any dish, but really bring out the best when you’re pulling together a quick easy meal.  They elevate the most simple ingredients to something delicious.

5.  Grains and Pasta

Rice, quinoa, couscous and all shapes of pasta are great building blocks for meals.  Top them with your protein of choice mixed with veggies.  Let your imagination guide you!

6.  Freezer staples – Meats and Veggies

In our modern world, the freezer acts as a (very) cold pantry.  I prefer fresh vegetables, but I do keep frozen veggies on hand.  It’s nice to know we can have vegetables even if we’ve eaten all the fresh and I haven’t made it to the store.

Frozen vegetables can also be roasted in the oven with great results.  Toss the still frozen vegetables (green beans, carrots, butternut squash, broccoli etc) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.

Having cooked meat stashed away in your freezer is a fantastic way to make quick and easy meals.  Cooked chicken can be ready to add to a soup, stew or casserole in just a few minutes of thawing in the microwave.  Cooked meatballs (make these homemade for the best flavor) are versatile for all kinds of dishes – sweet and sour meatballs, sub sandwiches, topping for pizza, served alongside rice or pasta.

These are items that show up on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan grocery lists over and over again.  They work in lots of different meals and you can find them in any grocery.

If you’re looking for a way to simplify dinners at your house, check out Weekly Meal Plans.  We do the planning for you so you can focus on time around the table with your family.

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3 Things that Work in the Kitchen This Week – Plus what I’ve been watching

3 Things that work in the kitchen

1.  Pizza Night for New Year’s Eve

It had been a long time since we’d made homemade pizza, but New Year’s Eve seemed the perfect time.  Our kids had a couple of friends over, but it was a quiet night for us.  I’ve been dealing with a sinus infection and pink eye most of the month of December, so I was happy to not have big plans and to have enough energy to make pizza.

Homemade Pizza slice

I made a fresh mozzarella pizza, pepperoni and added some onions and peppers to a few of the pizzas too. You can read about how I make pizza at home here.

2.  Pressure cooker before church.

One of my favorite times to use the Instant Pot is on Sunday.  It’s so easy to throw a meal in there to have ready when we get home.  I usually let it cook under pressure before we leave and let it have a natural pressure release.  Then it switches to “keep warm” and is perfect when we get back.

It’s similar to using the crockpot, but I don’t have to get up as early to get it started.  This week I made White Chicken Chili.  I did learn that beans need longer than the guidelines given in the recipe booklet that comes with the machine.  We were able to eat them, but they would have been better with a longer cook time.

Look for Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker recipes coming to Weekly Meal Plans in February!

3. Healthy Kickstart Shopping

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You can find out all about Healthy Kickstart here.  The enrollment for this group is only open until January 10.  I’ve started sharing extra content in the private Facebook group and it’s been fun to get to know the other women there.

I also downloaded the first week of plans and did my shopping with the grocery list.  I’m all set for healthy dinners this week!  And I’ll be adding some videos in the private Facebook group showing you how I put together the meals and giving you tips for making the process faster.

I’d love to have you join us and kick your year off to a great, healthy start!

What I’ve been watching:

Since I’ve been sick over Christmas break, I’ve done a lot of movie watching, most of it from the couch.  I did make it out to one movie in theaters though.  We saw Sing a few days ago and it was a lot of fun!

Here’s a list of other movies I’ve watched recently, all on Netflix.  This list is kind of embarrassing just because it’s so long!

The Legend of Bagger Vance – This was my favorite of all the movies I watched.

Imitation Game – Good movie with an interesting story based on true events.

Pleasantville – Interesting and different. It’s filed under Romantic Comedies, but I wouldn’t put it there. I’m not sure where I’d categorize it, actually.

Christmas in the Smokies – light hearted Christmas movie

Last Love – an independent movie that takes place in Paris. It was fun to see Paris and the story line was interesting.  It could have had a happy ending for everyone too, but since it’s independent it didn’t really.

We’ve also slowly been re-watching The Crown with our oldest daughter and her husband. If you haven’t started that series, go watch it!  It’s fantastic and I’m really enjoying it the second time around too.

I’d love to know what’s working in your kitchen and what you’ve been watching.  And I’d love to have you join me for Healthy Kickstart too, if it’s a good fit for you!

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Join me for Healthy Kickstart!

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I know we’re right in the middle of the holiday week.  You’re probably finishing up leftovers while planning menus for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

But this is the perfect time to get a jump start on your health in the new year!  I’m so excited about the Healthy Kickstart group I’ve been working on.  We’re going to focus on positive eating habits – cutting back on sugar, carbs, dairy and refined ingredients.  We’ll be kicking up the vegetables and choosing healthy ingredients while keeping the meals simple and family friendly.

Healthy Kickstart is a judgement free zone.  We all start in different places and we all have different goals.  We will honor each other and ourselves in this process.

Enrollment is now open.  You can find out all about Healthy Kickstart by clicking here.  

I hope you’ll join me!  

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Healthy Kickstart into the New Year

I know we’re just about to celebrate Christmas and there’s lots of feasting and sweets still to come, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into something that’s coming.

I’m inviting you to join me for Healthy Kickstart!  We’re going to focus on positive eating habits – cutting back on sugar, carbs, dairy and refined ingredients.  We’ll be kicking up the vegetables and choosing healthy ingredients while keeping the meals simple and family friendly.

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We all have different goals with our diets and different things we’d like to improve.  You may want to:

  • Cut out all sugars, carbs, and dairy or just cut back on them
  • Incorporate more vegetables in your diet
  • Start cooking at home and stop running through the drive through
  • Give up a food vice like sodas, caffeine, sweet treats etc.

No matter where you start or what your personal goal is, Healthy Kickstart can help.

Healthy Kickstart is a judgement free zone.  We all start in different places and we all have different goals.  We will honor each other and ourselves in this process.

This program will include:

  • 4 Weeks of Healthy Kickstart Meal Plans
  • Private Facebook Group where we’ll cook through the plans together
  • A supportive group of people who are all focusing on their health
  • Help in setting your personal goals in reforming your eating
  • Videos showing how to shortcut the recipes, making them even easier and more versatile
  • Breakfast, lunch and snack ideas and recipes
  • Encouragement and support in sticking with it and building new habits

Enrollment starts December 27.  There will be special pricing for Eat at Home Meal Plan members, but anyone is welcome to register.

More info will be headed your way in a week or so.  For now, let’s all enjoy Christmas with family and friends.  There’s much to celebrate and be grateful for!

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3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – Christmas Plans!

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1. Paper Plates and Cups

We are still living without a dishwasher.  Most of the time it’s just fine, but I know when we have everyone here over Christmas we’re going to miss it.  My plan is to use some paper products, but I’m still debating which meals and how often I want to do it.

Definitely for Christmas Eve.  That’s a smaller dinner for us and we’ll be in a rush to get to church afterward.

I love the way the table looks when it’s set with the pretty red plates on Christmas morning though, so I may use real plates for that meal.  For dinner later in the day, it may be back to paper.

I’ll be on the hunt for some pretty paper products.  If you’ve seen any you’d recommend, let me know!

2. Turkey Sheet Pan Dinner

I’ve made this meal before for Christmas and it’s been requested by several people again.  You can read more about how I make it here.

It’s easy, fairly healthy and crowd pleasing.  Plus it feels very Christmasy.

3.  Breakfast and Baking

I’m going to keep things very traditional for both of these.  And let me just confess – I haven’t done any baking so far.  We went to Disney World with my parents and got home on Tuesday 12/13.  I was sick with a sinus infection and pink eye (fun) so Wednesday was a wash out.

I somehow feel like we had one less weekend than normal between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Suffice it to say, I’m feeling a little behind!

I’ll be making Frozen Fruit Cups, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (a long standing tradition that couldn’t be easier), and a breakfast casserole.

For Christmas treats Peanut Butter Balls are a must-have around here.  Cookies will probably be Chocolate Crinkles, Gingersnaps and Amish Oatmeal Cookies.

What are your Christmas plans?  

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