Give up on perfect and embrace good enough for weeknight dinners

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I know that picture is weird.  The cauliflower looks blue in places.  But I’m embracing the imperfect with this post and encouraging you to do the same.

That photo shows how I cut cauliflower quickly for a side dish to go with a weeknight meal.  It takes all of 1 minute to cut up the head and have the veggies in the pan cooking.

In an ideal world, we would all have time for elaborate dinner prep.  We’d make our time in the kitchen unhurried.  Sometimes those slow evenings happen and it’s wonderful when it does.

But many nights dinner prep happens fast and furious, either coming at the tail end of a long day or squeezed in between activities.

I’d much rather get the cooking done fast, even if it means it’s not perfect.  I want to have a nutritious meal with my family, preferably with plenty of time around the table to eat together.  And I’m willing to sacrifice the “right” way to do things for just getting it done.

As part of the 15 Minute Meal series, I’ll be sharing quick cooking tips with you.  This week though, instead of a tip, I wanted to share this perspective:

Dinner doesn’t have to be perfect or elaborate.  A simple meal with your family is a weeknight gift.  Enjoy it!

Whether your having pot roast or grilled cheese sandwiches, the important thing is that you’re having dinner together.

One more note:

Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone together.  Once kids grow into the teen years, they are busy with work and activities.  Just as dinner doesn’t have to be perfect, not everyone has to be home for it to count as a family dinner.

At our table, sometimes we’ve got 7 people for dinner.  And sometimes it’s just two of us.  Either way, we still make it a habit to sit down together with whoever may be home.  Whenever family members are gathered at the table – no matter how few or how many- it still counts as a family dinner.

 

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3 Things that Work in the Kitchen this Week – August 25

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

Chicken Party

Meredith and I have been having semi-regular chicken parties recently.  What’s a chicken party, you ask?

We hit up Costco and buy 4-5 chickens.  Then we bring them home and take the meat off the bones, pack it in zip top bags and stick it in the freezer.  This is one of my favorite quick cooking tips.

I used to cook chicken for stashing away, but since Costco is so close to us now I usually just buy theirs.  At $5 for a large rotisserie chicken, it’s hard to beat.

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Sometimes I buy the white meat that’s already packaged.  I then repackage that into 2-3 separate zip top bags.  Honestly, I think the taste is better when I use their whole chickens.  Maybe it’s because that also includes the dark meat.  And it’s a bit cheaper to use the whole chickens too.

We often drag other people into our chicken party.  Both Jim and Mia are great at picking the meat from the bones.  More people make for a better party ;)

One thing we haven’t tried yet is making broth from the bones.  I know this is easy and good and I have no excuse for avoiding it.  If you make broth this way, tell me about it in the comments.

Here’s a post I wrote on how to use and freeze the meat from a Costco chicken.

Picnic for the soccer game

Isaac had a soccer game in Louisville one night.  Instead of grabbing dinner at a fast food place, which would have taken more time (we were late to the game anyway!), I made a Pasta Salad.

This is one of my go-to game night meals.  I can fix it ahead of time and mix in either rotisserie or grilled chicken.  And the pasta salad recipe is so adaptable.  This time I used a little broccoli, carrots, a large tomato instead of the cherry tomatoes I usually use.  I was out of bow tie pasta, so I used shells instead.

We did stop at Culver’s after the game for frozen custard though!

New giant skillet

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I’ve been needing a large skillet for a long time.  My daughter had gotten one in a Christmas gift exchange a couple of years ago.  She kept it in her room, waiting and ready for when she was married, but I borrowed it several times.  Well, now she’s gone and she took her skillet with her!

I found this one on sale at Amazon the other day for just $18.65.  It’s a 5 quart skillet with non-stick coating.  Perfect for lots of things, including a big pan of Migas.  I don’t know how long it will be on sale, but I couldn’t resist snatching it up at that price.

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

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What’s next? Changes coming to the blog (hint: I think you’re going to like it!)

We are rapidly coming to the end of the 100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Recipes series.

Whew!

This series has been a great one!  We’ve shared everything from fish, to desserts, to granola, to dips, to Indian food, to Mexican, to…well, just about everything!

I’ve had a blast with it, but in all honesty I’m ready to move on.  And I bet you are too.

Bookmark that post though, because all those slow cooker meals will come in handy as school gets back in session.

But let’s turn our attention to something else, shall we?

3 Things That Work

3 Things that work in the kitchen

I have struggled with my Monday posts for a while now.  I used to share menus with you.  For a long while, I shared what my family was eating each week.  I’ve found it hard to make these posts both useful and interesting for all of us.

After much pondering, I’ve decided to try sharing 3 Things That Work.  Each Monday, I’ll think back over the last week and post about 3 things that worked in my kitchen, for our family meals, for shopping for groceries etc.

I want to make this a fresh, easy to read post with tidbits of useful info.  We’ll see how it goes ;)

A New Series is Coming

15 Minute Meals for Back to School

For the last couple weeks of August and the month of September, we’ve got a new series starting.  This one won’t be an everyday series though.  Look for recipe posts a couple times a week, plus quick cooking tips posts on Thursdays.

The series kicks off this Thursday with a new 15 minute recipe.  Here’s to cooking quick after a summer of slow!

Looking Ahead…

During the month of October we’ll focus on repurposed leftovers.  Cook once, eat twice!

And of course, we’ll be sharing plenty of good comfort foods, fall favorites, baked goods and more over the next few months too.

Make Meal Planning and Shopping Easier!

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If you’d like to make quick work of your meal planning and shopping, check out our Weekly Meal Plans.  They’re color-coded so they’re easy to use and a lot more fun than shopping with a spreadsheet.

Choose from Traditional, Slow Cooker or Whole Foods Plans.  Each plan is full of simple meals.  Find out more here! 

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Becoming Conference, Biltmore House and a Giveaway!

Last weekend I went to North Carolina with a friend for the Becoming Conference. We made a long weekend of it and it was a blast, despite the rainy weather.

We met lots of new people, heard some great speakers, tried out chalk paint in a furniture painting workshop, window shopped in Asheville and Black Mountain and more. One of my goals for the weekend was to sit on a swing for a while and just be. Thankfully the rain held off long enough for me to do that.

We also got to tour the Biltmore Estate.  The views are incredible from the house, even on such a rainy day.
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Teresa took this photo from the porch of Biltmore House.  I swiped the picture from her Facebook page.  I was terrible about pulling out my phone for pictures, so I don’t have many.  I find that when I really relax into an experience, I tend not to take many photos.

Splurging for the Biltmore visit turned out to be a great idea.  The tickets are a little pricey, but it’s so worth it.  If you get to go, spend the extra for the audio tour.  Hearing about the details of the house and learning more about the family really enhanced our visit.

Weekend Link

I wasn’t planning to have any links for you this weekend, but I have to link to this post.  It’s been floating around in a lot of places this week and for good reason.  If you’ve been needing a new perspective on something, go read this post from The Momastery.

Giveaway!

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Another highlight of the weekend was getting to meet Christy from Southern Plate.  I bought two copies of her new cookbook, Come Home to Supper.

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One copy is for me.  And one is for one of you!

Christy even signed them both:

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I think you’re going to love this cookbook!

To enter, leave a comment here telling me what you’re favorite southern recipe is.  I’ll choose a random winner on Thursday 8/21.  U.S. residents only.

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Washington DC, Mt. Vernon, Monticello trip highlights

A few weeks ago I asked for advice on touring Washington D.C.  Thank you so much for all the info and recommendations!  We had a great trip.  I don’t have many pictures, because my phone battery isn’t holding a charge like it used to.  I found myself looking for outlets in restaurants and even bathrooms to keep it charged up!

We had four days to make the trip.  Two days were devoted to touring D.C.  Jim was working both of those days, so we toured without him.  We stopped at Monticello on our drive out.  And on the way back, we made a stop at Mt. Vernon.

I was worried about the weather being hot and muggy, but we lucked out.  Other than our afternoon at Monticello, when it was 95 degrees, we had beautiful weather.

Monticello

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We all loved Monticello!  We learned so much about Thomas Jefferson and the beginnings of our country through this tour.  The docents were all excited about sharing Monticello with visitors and that made for a lovely visit.  (Our visit to Mt. Vernon turned out to be a stark contrast, but more on that in a bit.)   [Read more...]

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Ice Cream, Pedometers, Becoming, Pigs

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No.  Not becoming pigs.  And not in that order either.

Let’s Start with Pigs

That photo is of my brother-in-law, George.  He and his wife have started a small farm with pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys.  These pigs went to market earlier in the week.  Half of one of them will be filling my freshly, cleaned out freezer.  Here’s to farm raised meat!

Becoming Conference – Want to Come?

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I’m really excited about going to this conference with a local friend in a few weeks.  It’s not a blogging conference, but there will be some bloggers there who I’m excited to meet.  My friend, Jen of Beauty and Bedlam is one of the organizers.  I’m looking forward to seeing her again.  And I can’t wait to meet Christy of Southern Plate.

Mostly, I’m looking forward to doing something that feeds my creativity and provides rest for my soul.  The conference takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC.  There’s still time to register and the prices are very affordable.  I’d love to meet you there!

My New Pedometer

I decided to buy a pedometer in an effort to encourage myself to walk more.  Before I bought it I even googled, “Does using a pedometer make you walk more?”.  Turns out it does, as long as you write down the number of steps you take each day.

I liked the price of this Omron pedometer and it has great reviews on Amazon.  It’s easy to use too.

I’ve been walking in the mornings and being able to see how many steps I’ve taken (or how few) encourages me to keep going.  I’m surprised at how few steps add up in my day-do-day living.  If you want to hit 5000 or 10,000 steps goal that gets promoted so often by health experts, you really have to be intentional.  It’s a lot harder to do than I expected.  Even with taking a long walk in the morning and sometimes a second walk in the evening, I’ve yet to hit 10,000.

Ice Cream, You Scream

Have you ever wondered about the difference between ice cream and gelato?  The Kitchn has the answer for you.

I love any kind of ice cream or gelato or anything closely related.  Love, love, love!  This Sunday, our local Graeter’s ice cream store is having a sale on their cones.  $1.40something each to celebrate 140ish years of Graeter’s.  I know what I’ll be doing Sunday afternoon.

What will you be doing this weekend?

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Saturday Chatter – Washington D.C. touring advice needed, books I’m reading and more

I finally feel like we’ve had a few weeks of summer.  To me, that means having a mostly free schedule.  Free play.  Time for home projects.  Afternoons reading on the back porch.

I’ve been making an effort to declutter the whole house.  I wish I could say I’ve been methodically moving from room to room.  Instead, we’ve jumped from bedrooms to bookshelves to junk drawers to garage.

The only thing I have trouble clearing out is books.  I decided I could finally part with some of our homeschool books.  We’ve got five tall bookshelves full and I’d like to pair it down to just three.  Let’s just say, I’ve still got some work to do.

It’s hard to say good bye to all those good read-alouds from Sonlight.  My kids got sentimental about some of the books too, even the kids who aren’t really into books.  Reading together builds memories.  It’s hard to beat the good feeling that comes from a mom and kids snuggling up together to read.

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I’m not very crafty, but I’m super happy with the giant spoon and fork we hung over the sink.  I found them at a local place called Street Scene.  They were brown wood.  I’m guessing they hail from the 70s.

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The silver spray paint made all the difference.  Can you see the little tikis carved on the handles?  I think those are so fun!   It reminds me of ‘Ohana in Disney World.

Washington D.C.

We’re going to tag along with Jim in a few weeks to Washington D.C.  The kids have never been.  We’ve only got two days, so we’ll have to be selective about what we do.  I’d love to know if you’ve got ideas.  And if you’ve know of any must-eat restaurants, let me know!

Books

I’m in process of reading two different books right now.  I started The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.  I found this one on Scribd, after hearing about it from several people.  So far, I’m really liking it.  I’ve heard it said that if you like Downton Abbey, you will like this book.  I think that’s a fair assessment.

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I got part way into the book and my Scribd account expired.  It was a Valentine’s gift from Jim and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to renew it or not.  In the end, I decided to renew.  They gave me a free month and I can cancel at any time.  It was the same price to get a month of Scribd as to buy the kindle version of the book.

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The other book I’m reading is  Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindburgh.  This is such a restful book.  She wrote it during the 1950s, but it is amazing how she deals with so many of the things that modern women wrestle with.  She talks about the feeling of being pulled in many directions, busyness, distractions, finding simplicity and more.  The book is timeless.  It’s as if you’re on the beach with her as she shares her thoughts on life.

What are you reading now?

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Independence Day, Books, Homeschool, Weekend Links and more

Happy 4th of July!

Thanks to all of the veterans and those currently serving in the military!

When we were in Disney World a few weeks ago, my dad was chosen as Veteran of the Day at Magic Kingdom.  We had gotten to the park very early.  While we waited at the rope for the park to open, one of the cast members struck up a conversation with Dad.  In the course of their talk, he asked if dad was a veteran and invited him to be part of the Flag Retreat that afternoon.

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I’d heard of the Flag Retreat ceremony before, but I didn’t realize what a special event it is.  A brass band played.  The Dapper Dans sang the National Anthem and God Bless America.  The flag was lowered, folded and handed to my dad to carry up main street.

The rest of the family was also invited to follow the band up Main Street.  We were part of a small parade.  People were watching from the side walks and waving.  My sister and I said if we’d known that would happen we would have cleaned up a little more!  We were looking pretty “theme park awesome” by that time of day in sunny, humid Florida.


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Dad was given a certificate and a special pin that is only given to those who participate as Veteran of the Day.  There was also a photographer there to capture the whole thing.  She took quite a few photos for us.

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This was the highlight of the trip for all of us.  It was such a surprise and an honor for my dad.

Crashed site, books, homeschool and weekend links

Last weekend, I moved my site to new hosting.  The process didn’t go as smoothly as hoped.  The site completely crashed twice.  And even my emails started bouncing back to the sender.  If you sent me an email last weekend through Monday morning and ended up with the email bouncing back, please resend.

As for books, I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately.

I’m most of the way through The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education.  I don’t agree with everything in this book, and that’s part of the fun.  But it’s chock full of ideas for non-traditional education.  I’m declaring next year a jubilee year in our homeschool.  I want to focus on reading good books and traveling.  Of course, we’ll throw in some math too.  (Anyone here used Life of Fred?  I’d love to hear what you think of it.)

This is my 18th year to homeschool.  We’ve had good years, hard years and everything in between.  Last year was hard.  One of the hardest so far.  We considered other school choices for this next year, but once again decided that homeschooling is in the best interest of our two school-aged kids.

But we all need a breath of fresh air.  We need to relax.  The kids need a chance to go deeply into the areas of their interests.  And they need to be encouraged to broaden their interests too.  I’m hoping that getting back to my unschooling roots will help.  When my oldest kids were very young, we took a much more unschooling approach to things.  Over the years, we got away from that, adding in more text books and classes, and such.  There’s a time and place for all of that, and this year is our time to relax a bit.

Now for a few weekend links:

tuscany food

I follow Tsh Oxenreider on Instagram and she has been killing all of of with photos of Tuscany.  What a trip!  I loved reading her first post about her experiences.  I’ve got a travel goal of going to Scotland in the next few years.  After that, I think we may need to add Italy!

Seaking of Tsh, her latest Art of Simple podcast is an interview with Anne Bogel on all things books.  Anne blogs at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  I love her blog.  And I can blame her for filling up my Kindle with lots of good reads.  I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but it’s on my list for this weekend.

I want to do this for a Sunday afternoon lunch:  Bruschetta Bar from What’s Gabby Cooking.

Have a fabulous weekend!

 

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Thai Style Pork – 100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Recipes

Ready for another trip around the world?

Slow Cooker Thai Style Pork

 

This is a recipe with Thai inspiration. I love the flavors in this one. Cilantro is such an aromatic herb and it goes so well with the spice and sweetness of Thai food. This is a one dish meal, but if you wanted, you could try out making some fresh spring rolls or buy some egg rolls to go along with it.

Click on over to get the full recipe and instructions.

If you love using your slow cooker, check out our All Slow Cooker Weekly Meal Plan.  It’s got all the planning done for you (including the grocery list) so you can go enjoy summer!

This is day  43 in our 100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Recipes series.  Find the other posts by clicking here.

100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker Recipes

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How I Make Our Disney World Planning Booklets

wdw planning booklets

 

I promised a while back that I would share how I put together our Disney World planning booklets.  We’ve used planning booklets on quite a few trips now.  This much planning and detail isn’t necessary for every trip, but here are a few instances they are helpful.

Use Disney World Planning Booklets if:

  • You are traveling with a large group
  • You are traveling during a busy, crowded season
  • You are trying to maximize what you can get done at park opening/rope drop

For this trip, we are hitting all three of the above.  We’ll be traveling with 13 people total and we tend to tour as a herd.  The biggest reason we stick together, especially in the mornings, is to optimize what we can get done at rope drop.  If you hit the rides and attractions in a particular order and get there first thing, you can really avoid a lot of lines.

I use small photo albums from Dollar Tree to make the booklets.  I thought about just using our phones for this, but not everyone in our party has a smart phone.  And I think it’s simpler to pull out the booklet.  Each family unit gets one, which keeps me from having to repeat the same info over and over.

What goes inside our booklets:

[Read more...]

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