Monday, December 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 12/20 - 12/26

The final countdown to CHRISTmas is on! I'm so excited. The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year is my favorite time of the year with CHRISTmas being my absolute favorite part. My shopping is finished and my kitchen table has become wrapping central. I'm trying to slow down, soak it all in and keep the reason for the season present in the front of my mind.

We're trying to keep our menu pretty simple this week. We want to keep the fridge as cleared out as possible to make room for holiday groceries.

Monday: Date Day with my husband, dining at The Montgomery Inn

Tuesday: turkey or roast beef paninis, soup

Wednesday: homemade pizza

Thursday: crockpot taco soup (carryover since I didn't make it last week; freezing the leftovers)

Friday: tradition of Christmas Eve dinner with my grandma (meatloaf a la my dad, baked potatoes, salad, cheesecake)

We're hosting Christmas at our house for the first time this year. Our daughter is the only grandchild on both sides of the family. Since she's pretty much the center of the universe, it's easier for everyone to come here than for us to try to pack her around to multiple houses in multiple cities, all in one day. I'm grateful that everyone is willing to make the day easier for us, but I'm also a bit nervous about playing hostess to people who are awesome hosts themselves. My in-laws are local, but my parents are out of town. They'll be coming over Christmas Eve night and staying in our "guesthouse" (the camper) so that they'll be here for the festivities without having an early morning commute.

Christmas Breakfast: breakfast before casserole (courtesy of my mother-in-law), breakfast pizza (courtesy of my mom), coffee cake (courtesy of my sister-in-law)

Christmas Lunch: pinwheels, coctail weiners (totally giggled typing that), deviled eggs, veggie tray, fruit salad and whatever other finger foods I decide on between now and then

Christmas Evening: cheeseburges, grilled chicken breasts, all the sandwich fixing, chips, pretzels, steamed broccoli

Our CHRISTmas evening meal may sound meager, but that's because we'll break out the big guns on Sunday. We're having our daughter dedicated at church the day after CHRISTmas so my parents are staying another night to be here for that. We're hosting a little luncheon afterwards for family and some church friends. I haven't completely finalized the menu for this one. Feel free to make suggestions!

Dedication Lunch Menu: Honeybaked ham, roasted redskin potatoes, green beans, salad, cheese board, some sort of dessert

What are your holiday food traditions? What's your go-to dish to take to holiday gatherings?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Reading List

The BBC says most people have only read 6 books from this list of 100.

The 17 books in bold are what I have read. I consider myself an avid reader and fairly well-read, but maybe I'm just reading the wrong things. I'm a bit embarassed by how many of the classics I haven't read.  Probably about half of the these books are on my shelves at home. I don't do New Years' resolutions, but I do set a reading goal every year. Maybe my 2011 goal will be to read at least X number of books from this list.

The Reading List

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (some, but not cover to cover)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood 
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 12/13 - 12/19

We have quite the week ahead! Christmas festivities are in full swing as are preparations to lead my very first Weight Watchers meeting on Wednesday. I'm extremely excited about both! I love having a menu plan in place, especially during busy weeks. I can focus my time and attention on other things rather than racking my brain all day about what to make for dinner.

Monday: cheeseburgers (My husband volunteered to cook!), homemade steak fries, lima beans or carrots

Tuesday: chicken sausages, macaroni & cheese, steamed veggies

Wednesday: marinated pork loin, baked sweet potato (for my husband), baked potato (for me), mixed veggies

Thursday: crockpot taco soup (Thanks Kristan!)

Friday: tuna salad pitas, chips and salsa

Saturday: family Christmas party on my husband's side

Sunday: homemade pizza

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breakfast with Santa

Peanut had her second Santa encounter this morning at the local fire station. She wasn't afraid, but she couldn't figure out why this strange man was dressed so funny or why she had to sit on his lap. We did manage to get a great big "Ho! Ho! Ho!" out of her. We've been practicing for a couple of weeks. Well, hers sounds more like "Ack! Ack! Ack!" but you get the point.


 What a difference a year makes! I was just checking out last year's photos from this same event and I can't believe how much she's grown.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 11/29 - 12/5

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving, but it's nice to be back to a "normal" week. My mother-in-law is pretty stingy with her Thanksgiving leftovers so we don't have any of those to incorporate into the menu this week. :) Most of what I'm making this week is coming from the pantry and the freezer so my grocery bill tomorrow should be minimal.

Monday: chicken baseballs, macaroni & cheese, steamed broccoli

Tuesday: meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, corn

Wednesday: Rotel chicken, pasta, cheese & veggie skillet

Thursday: Bar-bea-Q beef (on sammies for hubby, over rice for me), green beans

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: turkey pastrami subs, salad

Sunday: homemade pizza

There is something VERY exciting happening this week at work and I'm putting in some extra hours. Weight Watchers is introducing their BRAND NEW plan called PointsPlus. It's based on the latest and greatest science and the plan as a whole is truly revolutionary. I've been living this plan since the beginning of October and LOVING it! If you're already a member, I'd highly suggest getting your behind into a meeting this week. If you're not a member yet, now would be a fabulous time to join! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meal Swap Recap

I've been posting about our church meal swap in my Menu Plan Mondays for the last month. A couple of my readers e-mailed me questions and I've had a few requests for more information. I decided to dedicate today's post to the logistics of what we did and my thoughts on the experience.

Getting Started

First, we very briefly discussed food allergies or strong aversions to certain foods via Facebook messages. Luckily, there were no food allergies so that wasn't a concern. The only things to work around were a husband who doesn't like chunks of tomatoes in anything and two husbands who don't like casseroles or too many textures in the same dish. At the end of September, we had an initial planning session that lasted about one hour. Each person brought 12 recipes they felt comfortable making for others. The only guidelines for the recipes were that they needed to a) be freezeable and b) reheat well and fairly easily.

We went around the table, each person giving the names of their recipes and a brief description if it wasn't self-explanatory. From there we started narrowing down the lists to 4 recipes per person, one for each week in October. The most important thing about this step was HONESTY! If we heard a recipe that we knew our family wouldn't enjoy, it was important to speak up so that it could be removed from the list of possibilites. On the other hand, it was equally as important to chime in when we heard somehing that sounded really good. I was a little nervous that all of one person's recipes would get vetoed or that someone woudn't hear any recipes that sounded good to them. It was a pleasant surprise to see how easy it really was.

The final thing we did in our planning session was to decide which meals would be prepared in which week. We tried to keep a little variety within each week (i.e. not all Italian dishes, not all chicken recipes, etc.)

The Logistics

The exchange: We decided that 2 of us would bring our meals on Tuesday when we met for our mommy & me group and the other 2 would bring meals to church on Sunday mornings. We're fortunate that our church has a refrigerator with plenty of space so that the "bringers" could put their food in their when they arrived and the "takers" could grab it out of the fridge as they left. This way the meals would be fairly fresh. We also wouldn't be juggling a ton of food and children at the same time.

Containers: Each person was responsible for providing containers for each of their meals. If the container was reusable, it was the responsibility of the recipient to wash and return the container. I personally found it the easiest and most cost-effective to purchase foil pans with lids. I bought 30 of each at Sam's Club for around $13 total.

Side dishes: Main courses were the focus of our meal swap. If the dish required rice, pasta or buns to really be complete (i.e. spaghetti and meatballs, stir fry, pulled pork sandwiches), then the "cooker" provided those. If the dish was a meal in and of itself (i.e. enchiladas, marinated/breaded meat) then there was no accompaniment. When pasta or rice was provided, we chose to do it uncooked so that it would be fresh at the time of serving. We all bought in bulk, portioned it into plastic bags and wrote the cooking instructions on the outside.

Reheating instructions: Each "cooker" included suggested reheating instructions with each of their dishes. One of the ladies read that it's best not to write directly on aluminum foil pans because it can rub off. We also didn't want to write the instructions directly on plastic containers since they're reusable. Instead, we wrote our instructions on either plain white labels or masking tape and adhered them to the container.

What Dishes Worked?
  • meats cooked in sauce (beef stroganoff, curry chicken, spaghetti and meatballs)
  • soups and stews
  • doughy things (stromboli, calzones)
  • things that could be assembled ahead of time and baked just before eating (enchiladas, lasagna) although it is important to specify any timeframe in which the dish has to be baked
  • stir frys
  • I've been told by others that casseroles work extremely well, too. We didn't have any of these in our meal swap because of the two husbands who don't like casseroles. Weirdos. :)
Luckily, all of the meals worked. The ones I posted above were just the types of dishes that froze and reheated the best. We had a few marinated/breaded meat dishes that were delicious, but challenging to reheat without them drying out or the breadng getting mushy. They got an A+ for freezeability, though.

 My Thoughts

I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing in the beginning for a couple of reason. First of all, I was nervous about my cooking being "good enough" for other families. Secondly, I like to cook and I was afraid that I'd miss cooking each night.

Turns out, I loved it! I was a little shocked the first week at how long it took to prepare my contribution, about 3 hours start to finish. There was a definite return on investment the rest of the week, though. I didn't have to spend more than 30 minutes preparing dinner each night. Being able to get extra things done around the house in the time it would normally have taken to make dinner was nice. I still still put a homecooked meal on the table for my husband and little one which made me not miss the cooking as much as I thought I would. 

My husband and I really liked trying new things and having a peek at what's on normal rotation in the other families' homes. I requested several recipes from the "cookers" and plan to add a couple of the dishes to our own usual rotation.

If you have any other questions about our meal swap, please comment on this post or e-mail me and I'll be happy to respond.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - 11/1 - 11/7

It seems strange to plan a full week of meals this week! For the last month, my friends at church and I have been doing a meal swap. It was definitely a success! Everyone wants to do it again, but we've decided to wait and resume after the first of the year. It's hard to believe that schedules are already getting busy with the approaching holidays. I've received several e-mails and comments asking me for more informtion about the meal swap. Ask and you shall receive. :) I'll be posting more information about it on Wednesday.

I happed to pull out an old issue of Cooking Light magazine last weekend. I usually find 3-4 recipes in each issue that I want to try and 1-2 earn the husband's approval. I hit the jackpot with this one, though. All of our new recipes this week came from the October 2009 issue.

Monday: Italian Beef Sandwiches

Tuesday: Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with Ketchup Topping

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: dinner on the road (I'm hoping for Bonefish Grill.)

Saturday: attending my cousin's wedding (I've been told they're serving Polish fare!)

Sunday: pizza when we get home from the wedding weekend

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pouch Project

Growing up, it drove me nuts when my mom would refuse to buy me a piece of clothing that she deemed ridiculously expensive because, as she'd say, "I could make that for next to nothing." I definitely respect her thriftiness now that I'm older and trying to live frugally.

The other day I had a need for a good old fashioned zippered pencil pouch. It was actually much harder than I thought it would be to find one at the store and, when I did, it was $12.  Highway robbery! I bet you can guess what I said out loud right there in the aisle. "I could make that for next to nothing."

And that's exactly what I did yesterday. I used the Zakka Inspired Pencil Pouch tutorial over at Noodlehead. Anna does an amazing job of writing clear, step-by-step instructions and taking pictures to demonstrate every step along the way. Even as a novice seamstress, this tutorial was easy to follow and fun to make. I skipped the applique step and substituted the linen with another cotton print. I also added some height to better suit my intended use. It needs a bigger key ring so I'll pick that up the next time I'm at the fabric store.

I'm really proud of the finished piece:

Total, I'm guessing this project cost around $2. Amount saved: $10!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/25 - 10/31

Monday: beef stroganoff (made by H)

Tuesday: lasagna (made by J)

Wednesday: whatever E made (I forget!)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hot dogs @ the campground

Saturday: Mexican black bean & sausage soup @ the campground

Sunday: late luncheon @ church

* * * * *

I made a dish called California Chicken for meal swap this week. It's one of my mother-in-law's go-to recipes and quite a crowd pleaser. Thank goodness it's pretty easy, too. I was out of town all day Saturday and too tired to cook after the baby went to bed. Of course she decided not to sleep Saturday night so I was up early and cooking Sunday morning on 4 hours of sleep.

California Chicken


-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon celery salt
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-1 tablespoon cooking oil, such as olive or canola
-3/4 cup pineapple juice
-1/4 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium.)
-2 teaspoons sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine all dry ingredients. Dredge chicken in the mixture.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet. Brown the chicken on both sides.

4. Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce & sugar. Place chicken in an oven-proof dish. Pour liquid over the chicken.

5. Bake the chicken for one hour, basting every 15 minutes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/18 - 10/24

Quick post today! I've gotta get in the kitchen and get to work on my contribution to meal swap for this week.

Monday: Spaghetti & Chicken Meatballs (made by me)

Tuesday: Puffy Chicken (made by H)

Wednesday: Chili (made by J)

Thursday: Chicken Tacos (made by E)

Friday: Cheeseburgers or Pizza

Saturday: leftovers for my husband; A and I will eat at scrapbooking

Sunday: whichever we don't have on Friday

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For the Birds

Mommy & Me Discovery group at church yesterday was wonderful. The kids' devotional was all about empathy. We talked about what it meant, why God wants us to be empathetic and different ways that we can show empathy in our everyday lives. While Audrey is still too young to really "get" the lessons or participate in the conversations, I don't think it can hurt for her to hear them and I love listening to the older kids share their thoughts on the day's topic.

Our hands-on activity was to make pinecone bird feeders. Our group leader explained to the kids that this time of year is harder for birds to get to their food and that sometimes they're hungry. She asked the kids how they would feel if they were hungry, but there was a gate in front of their food. Our pastor's daughter, age 3, said "I'd just open the gate and go get it." Out of the mouths of babes. :)

We made the bird feeders with just pinecones, yarn, peanut butter and bird seed. The hardest part was keeping the kids from eating the peanut butter before it actually made it to the pinecone.

Audrey and I took our birdfeeder out in the yard today and hung it in a tree. I picked one we can easily see from the living room window. I have a feeling we're going to feed more squirrels than birds, but they gotta eat too, right?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 10/11 - 10/17

Week 1 of meal swap with my mom's group at church was a HUGE success. My husband and I liked all three meals we were given: stromboli, enchiladas (The Pioneer Woman recipe) & curry chicken. The pork chops I made were a hit with everyone, too. My friend's 4-year-old told her, "They're yummy in my tummy" while eating dinner and then asked for more the next day at lunch. Even one of the husbands (who's a pretty picky eater) approached me before church service on Sunday to tell me they were good.

Here's what we're eating this week! I'm excited to try all of it.

Monday: Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage (made by J)

Tuesday: Chicken & Noodles (made by H)

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos (made by E)

Thursday: Sweet & Sour Chicken (made by me)

Friday: cheeseburgers & homemade potato skins

Saturday: wedding

Sunday: leftovers

My contribution to the meal swap this week was Sweet & Sour Chicken. I doubled this recipe from The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. Just one modification on my part. It's quick, easy and one of our favorites. My husband isn't a big fan of Chinese food, but he loves this one and requests it on a regular basis. I hope the other families like it as much as we do!


1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound trimmed boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" wide strips (any color bell pepper works, really)
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic (reduce to 1 Tablespoon if using jarred)
1/4 cup bottled sweet & sour sauce (I use Kroger brand)


1. In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and mix well. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated.

2. Place a large nonstick skillet or nonstick wok over high heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic softens and the vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the garlic may burn. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

3. Return the pan to high heat and add another teaspoon oil and half the chicken in a single layer. Cook until the pieces are lightly brown on the bottom. Flip the pieces and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the cooked chicken the the bowl with the vegetables. Return the pan to high heat, add the remaining oil and cook the remaining chicken.

4. Return the vegetables and chicken to the pan to reheat if needed. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the sauce, and mix until well combined. Divide the stir-fry among 4 bowls, and serve.

Number of Servings: 4

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Year of Audrey

My baby girl turns 1 today.

It seems like just yesterday that we were headed to the hospital, but I don't remember life before her.

October 2009 - about 2 hours after birth, snuggling with Daddy

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010 - 1st cereal
March 2010 

April 2010

May 2010 - Mother's Day      

June 2010 0

July 2010

August 2010 - county fair

September 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with Creamy Herb Dressing

You may have noticed that I didn't include my contribution to the food swap on this week's Menu Plan Monday post. That's because I made batches for the other families, but not for ours. We just ate it a couple of weeks ago and I didn't want to repeat it so soon. I did want to share the recipe with you all. It was a hit with our family and I've gotten rave reviews from the two other church families who ate their meal swap portions for dinner last night.

I made the Creamy Herb Dressing first and popped it in the fridge so the flavors could marry.
1/4 cup sour cream2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions: Put all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl. Stir until well blended. (NOTE: It may look runny when you first make it, but it will thicken up.)

Then it was on to the Panko-Crusted Pork Chops!

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs)
4 boneless center-cut loin pork chops (4-ounces each, about 1/2 inch thick)
1 tablespoon canola oil (not pictured)
non-stick cooking spray (not pictured)


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine the first 6 ingredients (flour through cayenne pepper) in a shallow dish. In a seperate dish, combine the egg whites and soy sauce. In a third shallow dish, spread the panko into an even layer.

3. Dredge pork in the flour mixture.

 4. Dip pork in the egg mixture.

5. Dredge pork chops in the panko breadcrumbs.

6. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan and brown; about 3 minutes on each side.

 6. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Place pork on the baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes. Flip pork chops and bake for another 3 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

 7. Plate pork chops, top with creamy herb dressing and serve.

Sorry about the crappy photo lighting, but I think you get the picture. (Pun intended.)

This dish paired well with just a side salad. The pork chops were very filling and we didn't miss a the starchy side. If you did want one, a baked potato or baked sweet potato would probably be good choices.

Source of Original Recipe: Cooking Light

Recipe Notes: The original recipe made 2 pork chops so my amounts are doubled from that. The cooking times are also modified here because the pork did not reach a safe internal temperature following the original recipe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday : 10/4- 10/10

This week is pretty exciting for us in the food department. It's Week 1 of a meal swap program I'm taking part in along with 3 other ladies from our church.

We sat down one day last week to plan what each person would make and work out logistics. Every week, each person will make three batches of the meal they're scheduled to bring that week. Then, each person will deliver their food to the others on their designated day. Two people will deliver their meals when we see each other at church on Sunday. The other two people will deliver their meals when we meet for Mommy & Me Discovery group on Tuesday.

It works out to be cook once, eat four meals (assuming you make a batch of your meal for your family, too). I'm super excited! We have our menus planned for a month's worth of meals. If it goes well, we plan to do another round next month and into the future.

Here's our menu for this week:

Monday: pepperoni & mushroom stromboli (made by H)

Tuesday: chicken enchiladas (made by J)

Wednesday: curry chicken (made by E)

Thursday: pancakes & sausage for my Peanut's 1st birthday (her favorite)

Friday: cheeseburgers & homemade potato skins

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Peanut's 1st birthday party! (ribs, frittata, green beans w/ ham & potatoes, corn bread, veggie tray, fruit salad, whatever my mother-in-law and sister-in-law decide to bring & CAKE!)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coffee Catastrophe

Did you know that this past Wednesday was National Coffee Day?

It also happens to be the day that the lovely machine you see below went kaput. Oh, the irony.
 To make it even better, my almost-1-year-old decided that this would be a good day to break her streak of sleeping through the night and wake up at 3am, laughing and talking to me as I tried to rock her back to sleep. I don't do well on 4 hours of sleep and I don't do well without my coffee. Put the two together and it's exponentially worse. A raging headache and little NoNaps McGhee went strong all day. Good times. I did resort to hot tea. Four cups of it to be exact, but it just wasn't the same.

Maybe you're thinking "catastrophe" is a strong word to describe anything relating to coffee. Clearly you've never met me. I'm an 8-cup a day *cough*minimum*cough* coffee drinker so yes, it really was that big of a deal. We live in an extremely rural area. The only coffee options within a 20-mile radius are the gas station and the grocery store. Both are repulsive. The grocery store offers free coffee from 7-9am, but I'm fairly certain it's leftover from the employee breakroom the day before. The gas station isn't undrinkable, but it's certainly not good and you have to time it just right to even get a cup before the old men drink it all.

Yesterday I hit the motherload. I recently started working a few hours every Thursday morning. I'd previously spotted a little coffee shop along my route there and decided now was prime time to give it a whirl. The cafe just happens to be a Crimson Cup location! If you've never heard of Crimson Cup, you should check it out. As their website describes, they're "a network of 400 independent coffeehouses, grocers, colleges & universities, and food service operations across 28 states." Their coffee is grand and their efforts to promote and support local coffee houses are even better. The staff was super friendly and my nonfat venti frosted pumpkin latte knocked the socks off the pumkin spice lattes I've had recently from that other famous coffee franchise.

You would think that 20 ounces of delicious espressoness would get me through the day. Not so much. After work, I swung back through the drive through and got a large cup of their signature blend coffee. It's pretty bad when you amass two large, matching cups from the same coffee house in less than 4 hours. Oh well. It got me through the day as a happy human being.
Today I was torn. I didn't want to make the 30-minute trip for decent coffee, but I also didn't want to do without or drink sub-par caffeine and I really didn't want to go another day without. As luck would have it, I remembered that the little Amish store just down the road sells locally-roasted coffee by the cup. As soon as the wee one woke up, we had breakfast and headed that way. 

They only have one size and that's small, but for 50 cents a cup you can afford more than one. I'll let the picture speak for itself and yes, that's all for me. There also may or may not have been a cup consumed before this picture was taken.
 My husband should be home tonight and we're headed to get everyone accessorized for a wedding we're attending tomorrow. Peanut needs tights, my husband wants new shoes and I have high hopes of getting a new coffee pot. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 9/20 - 9/26

Hello bloggies! I've missed you all the past few weeks. First, there was nothing even remotely exciting going on to blog about and then there was so much fun stuff (and not so fun stuff) happening that I didn't have time to blog. I'm going to try to get back in the swing of things this week, starting with our meal plan for the week. I'm linking up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and checking out others who have linked up for meal ideas.

Monday: tater tot casserole, salad

Tuesday: corn, black bean & zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday: sweet & sour chicken, brown rice

Thursday: panko-crusted pork chops with creamy herb dressing, steamed broccoli

Friday: turkey pizza burgers, steak fries, salad

Hope everyone had a good weekend and a great start to the new week!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 8/30 - 9/5

My husband is back to day shift this week, thank goodness! That means a much more normal eating schedule and, more importantly, a non-zombie for a husband!

Monday: homemade pizza (sausage, mushroom, banana pepper, extra cheese and onion on half

Tuesday:chicken meatball subs, sliced tomatoes and cottage cheese

Wednesday: beef and noodles, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans

Thursday: bruschetta chicken bake, salad

Friday: chili and/or hot dogs at the campground

Saturday: fish fry at the campground

Sunday: smoked turkey & pork loin at the campground

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goin' to the Zoo

Friday, Peanut and I took a field trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I've been wanting to take her for a very long time, but it's been a scorcher of a summer and it just didn't seem like it would be fun in the extremely hot weather. Thankfully we got some relief from the heat last week and I decided it was a good opportunity to make a break for it.

I wasn't sure if she'd really "get it" because she's still pretty little. She absolutely loved it from the word go! That little mouth was gaped open with wonder from the moment we entered the gate.

It could not have been a more perfect day! The weather was fabulous and I felt like it was a great bonding experience. I'm with her pretty much 24/7, but seeing her in an environment other than home or our other usual places (grocery, craft store, families' houses) was extremely eye-opening. It really made me appreciate her as an individual with a personality all her own.

I thought she'd probably pay the most attention to the biggest animals because they're easier to see. Wrong! She couldn't have cared less about the lions, tigers, elephants and other animals that seem to be kids' favorites. Nope. Not my kid. What did she like? Things I never thought she'd give a second glance.

The manatees were probably her favorite. It's a really great exhibit. We were in there for a pretty long time.

She also really liked the otters:

I thought she was going to try to escape from my arms and into the penguin exhibit. I can see how that one might interest little ones if the penguins were swimming or jumping in and out of the water. They were all asleep when we were there, but she was still fascinated.

The flamingos might have been the favorite that surprised me the most.

We covered a lot of ground over the three and a half hours we were there. I wasn't sure how long she'd last without a nap. My plan was just to see whatever we could see before she fell asleep and then head for the car. She stayed wide awake the whole time! Our only breaks were for the restroom/diaper changes and water refills. Here are just some of the other animals we saw:

elephant family
aldabra tortoise
Angolan colobus
komodo dragon
koala bears
black rhino
Our last stop was at the zoo's newest exhibit, the polar bears. The setup was pretty incredible and we got lucky that one of the bears was feeling playful.

After seeing the bear from above, we went down to the lower observation tunnel. The bear was sitting right on top of the glass. Audrey thought the bear behind was hilarious!

He even waved to us!

Being the pushover loving mother that I am, I caved and bought her a stuffed manatee in the gift shop. We originally went in to get change for the smashed penny machines, but she kept reaching out for this one particular toy and saying "Awww! Awww!" She slept with him in her car seat the entire way home.

I'd say the day was a hit for both of us, well worth the hour and forty-five minute drive to get there. I'm also really glad I went ahead and bought a season pass. It's good for a year from the date of purchase so we'll be able to go as much as we want this fall, see the Christmas lights display this winter and then go even more next spring and summer.

Kudos to the Columbus Zoo for such a great experience. The animals are clearly well taken care, it's fantastically educational, the facilities are clean and the park is beautifully designed. I can't wait to go back!