Viewing category ‘Meal Planning’


Breakfast ideas for work

Categories: Food, Meal Planning

1 Comment

I’m not a big breakfast eater.

There, I said it. Yes, I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day and all, I really do. But, even as a little kid, I was never really hungry until mid-morning. Actually, you can set a clock by my stomach. If I’m hungry, it must be 10:30 am, which is seriously inconvenient because places have stopped serving breakfast, but aren’t serving lunch, yet.

By the time I get hungry, I’m well into my work day and I don’t always have time to go get something. Sometimes I remember to bring something with me, but not always since I’m usually scrambling to get everyone out the door in the mornings. So, I try to keep a few things in the office that make a fairly decent breakfast.

My office has a refrigerator and a microwave, so I can keep a few perishable things on hand.  Some of the things I try to keep in the office:

1. Instant oatmeal packets

2. Grapenuts and yogurt (I try to bring enough yogurt for the week on Mondays)

3. Apples

4. Peanut butter and crackers

That’s about it. I’m getting tired of having the same things around, though. Do you have any ideas for breakfast foods to keep at work? Please share them so I can go to the store tomorrow!

Quick dinner idea: Meatball Sandwich Casserole

Categories: Cooking, Entertaining, Lunches, Meal Planning, Uncategorized, recipes, summer living

No Comments

The holidays can be a crazy time of year with shopping to be done, preparing for guests and getting kids ready for exams. We’ve been out late a lot during the week lately, and traveling on the weekends, so there’s not been a lot of time to fix dinner. Since it seems my family insists on eating every night, I figured I should try to do something about feeding them.

As a matter of fact, I even had most of these things in the pantry and fridge already, so this was easy.

Meatball Sandwich Casserole

Slices (about 1/4 inch thick) baguette French bread(enough to cover a casserole dish)
olive or vegetable oil to brush on bread

1-2 pounds (depends on what size dish you’re using) frozen cooked Italian-style or regular meatballs, thawed. Works best if they are smaller, bite-sized meatballs.
1 bag frozen chopped onions thawed and drained (I sauteed mine, but I’m sure it’s fine without)
NOTE: you’re supposed to use the onions and green pepper mix to make it like an authentic meatball sandwich, but no one here but me likes green peppers.
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (I used a tomato-basil one)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Heat oven to 350°F. Brush 1 side of each bread slice with oil.
  • Line the bottom and side of a casserole dish with bread, oil side up and slightly overlapping slices.

  • Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
  • In large bowl,  mix meatballs, onion (and bell pepper), and pasta sauce.
  • Spoon meatball mixture into crust; and bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated in center.

  • Sprinkle with cheese; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

It was a hit with everyone, and it’s been just as good the next day!

5 ways to prepare for Thanksgiving now

Categories: Entertaining, Holiday Entertaining, Meal Planning

No Comments

Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away, can you believe it? It’s been a few years since I’ve had to host dinner, but this year is my turn and I’m a little out of practice.

I stay pretty busy, so I feel like I should get started on it right away. I know cooking is the bulk of the work, it’s hard to do too much about that right now, but there’s plenty of other things you can do to begin to get ready for Thanksgiving ahead of time:

1. Plan the menu - Deciding what to cook isn’t brain surgery, but take some time now to find any needed recipes and solicit special requests from your guests. I like to create a detailed shopping list from the menu I write down. Sometimes I buy all at once, and other times I see what’s on sale and buy as I go. Now’s a good time to see if you have enough staples like butter, flour and sugar already in your pantry.

2. Plan the table - What tablecloth, napkins, plates etc are you going to use? Go ahead and dig them out and wash them if they are stored somewhere. Will you need to borrow chairs? Be the first caller to that friend who always seems to have extra. When we have a lot of people, our table space is limited, so I also mentally assign a serving dish to each menu item and estimate how much space they will use.

3. Make room in the fridge - A couple of weeks before a holiday, I try to cut back on any bulky items from my regular shopping so there will be room to store all the things I’ve prepared. Also, the day of reckoning is here: clean out the refrigerator.

4. Clean the house - If you’re like us, the house doesn’t stay clean long, but now is a good time to straighten a guest room, stay on top of the laundry or vacuum a little-used dining room. If there are any chores you can take care of now, you’ll thank yourself when you don’t have to do them AND cook at the same time.

5. Plan the leftovers - Our dinner guests are family, and I have one brother-in-law who is known for taking leftovers. He’s single and It’s just what he does and everyone plans accordingly and I just factor that into what I cook. He usually arrives with his own set of storage containers, but I try to be prepared with disposable ones that he (or anyone) can use if needed. This is also the time to match those pesky tops with the good storage containers for the food you keep at home for turkey sandwiches on Friday.

I’ve been trying to do a few non food-related tasks each day to get ready for Thanksgiving. However, I have no authority to tell you how to cook ahead of time, I’ve not mastered that part. I will be the one asking you about your fastest macaroni and cheese recipe at 2am on Thanksgiving morning.

However, my storage containers will have their lids.

Embracing the boring lunchbox

Categories: Food, Meal Planning


School is well underway, and that usually means packing lunchboxes.

I confess: the contents of my kids’ lunchboxes aren’t all that exciting.

We have 3 kids, the oldest two are in high school and the youngest is in grade school. During the week, they all do some combination of buying and taking their lunches. The youngest is allowed to buy lunch at school 2 days a week and he decides which days those will be at the beginning of the week.

The older kids either buy or take lunch, it’s up to them. They can buy lunch as long as they have the money (we put a certain amount on their accounts each month), otherwise, they pack their own lunches.

The hardest part for me about packing lunches is making sure there’s a variety of things ready to go, and to be honest, I’m not particularly imaginative at it. Blogs and women’s magazines are full of cute and creative ideas for packing lunches for school, and I think they’re great ideas, but in reality, our school lunch routine usually leans toward more standard fare.

Actually, it’s more than “standard fare”, I freely admit, our lunches are pretty boring. As much as I’d love to be that person, I probably won’t make cute food in little plastic boxes or arrange colorful food in interesting shapes to take to school. Speed is of the essence around here even though we pack lunches the night before.

Sometimes, I wonder how our seemingly mundane routines like school lunches compare to other people’s. I’ve feared we were known as the “boring lunch family” at school, but I put my fears at ease yesterday when it was my turn to be the cafeteria volunteer. As far as I could tell, most lunches looked about like the ones I send, but there was the occasional creative one.

Packed lunches around here usually consists of sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly or meat and cheese, some fruit, occasionally chips and sometimes, dessert. I occasionally try to mix it up a little, but you never know what anyone’s going to eat, and we sometimes end up with things in the pantry that never actually leave.

I routinely stock bread, peanut butter and jelly, turkey, ham, cheese as well as fruit packages of pears, mandarin oranges and applesauce, and we build on that with other things. I try to accommodate if someone has a special request, but they never really do.

Sometimes, my daughter will get her own items at the grocery store and my middle child will make “interesting” concoctions to take (peanut butter and a whole banana on a hot dog bun, anyone?), but I always keep the basics on hand, and they tell me that’s OK.

However, it doesn’t matter if my lunches are boring or interesting if the food I bought isn’t there when I go to pack it.

None of my kids can resist the siren song of the individually wrapped package (especially the teenage boy), and I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face about, “If it’s in a little package and it’s for one person, I don’t want you to eat it at home”, so I’ve had to resort to some fairly drastic measures to make sure the lunchbox stock doesn’t get eaten in front of the TV, ten packages at a time.

I have to keep a small reminder on the lunchbox items for certain teenage boys:


Yes, that does draw a little attention when guests are looking in our pantry and I have to explain myself, but it’s worth the savings.

What about you? Are your kids’ lunchboxes packed with fancy things (I’m always open to suggestions for new, time-efficient lunchbox ideas!) , or do you stick to the tried and true like we do?

Enchilada Casserole

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning


This recipe got fourteen ENTHUSIASTIC thumbs up. I don’t know that you can get a rating much better than that.

It is also very, very easy.
Read the rest of this entry

Summer meal planning - five tips for making it easy

Categories: Cooking, Crockpot, Food, Lunches, Meal Planning, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized, side dishes, summer living


Nataly emailed me last week asking if I had any no cook recipes in my repertoire and could I pretty please share them.

My first thought was, “Well, I can pour a mean bowl of cereal!” Because who among us doesn’t try to convince our children that it was THEIR idea to have a bowl of cereal for dinner every now and then.

But I got thinking about summer schedules and the heat and how most of us want to be out enjoying the weather, not tied to our hot stoves once we get home from work. So I thought I would offer up some tips to making summer cooking easier.
Read the rest of this entry

The Summer Living Recipes: Chicken Fajitas

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning, Uncategorized


I love fajitas.  I have a friend that I go shopping with every year for Christmas presents and we always go out for fajitas.

This recipe is quite possibly THE best chicken marinade, EVER. In the history of marinades. I have to force myself to only make it occasionally, so that I don’t get sick of it. That is how good it is. It is also a versatile marinade. I use it for making chicken fajitas. For grilling chicken and putting it on a salad. Or for grilling and making it into a sandwich on some nice crusty bread.

Tonight when I was putting away the leftover food I asked my son to wrap up the rest of the chicken and he said, “Can’t I just eat it?” So you know it must be good, because Lord knows teenage boys just don’t eat anything. Oh wait, nevermind. It is delicious though. I promise.


These are the cast of characters, minus the soy sauce which I inexplicably forgot to put in the photo.

I usually double this recipe and use it for a huge family pack of chicken breasts. You can do that and then freeze half of the chicken with the marinade in a ziploc bag. Or you can use the recipe as is and make a “normal” sized package.

I fillet my chicken breasts in half to make them less thick so that they will cook evenly on the grill.  Really you should do this too so that your chicken doesn’t get all burnt on the outside.

You need:

2/3 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 T Worstershire sauce
1 cup honey
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder

crushed red pepper, optional and to taste

Mix in a bowl or ziploc bag.  Add the chicken.  Let marinate overnight.


The next day slice up an onion and a couple of peppers.  Saute them until they are tender.


There is my chicken marinating in my IKEA bowl that I love.


My son took over doing the peppers and onions.  Maybe because he was tired if me taking photos already and wanted to just eat dinner.


After the chicken is cooked, I slice it into strips.  Served with sour cream, salsa, grated mexican cheese, and whatever other fixin’s strike your fancy.  Don’t you love my paper plates?  We are so  class-ay.   Honestly, without a working kitchen I can’t tolerate all the dishes for every single meal.  Al Gore would forgive me, I know he would.

Heat your tortillas and wrap ‘em up.

Insert a photo of wild children eating their fajitas.  This recipe received 18 enthusiastic thumbs up.

Here I am cooking on my grill, roughing it like a regular frontier woman. My life is soooo HARD.


No really, it is so HARD.

Quick and Easy: Spicy Peanut Butter Chicken

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning



My children love this. LOVE. There really isn’t much not to love about it as long as you like peanut butter. I have several different versions of this recipe, but this one is my children’s favorite and it is the simplest to prepare. A win-win situation of you ask me.
Read the rest of this entry

Food For Your Valentine: Chili Con Carne

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning



Happy Valentine’s Day.

My children have eaten sweethearts, chocolate, and cupcakes for breakfast. Apparently Valentine’s Day is the national holiday for putting yourself into a sugar coma.

I am not going to write about making cupcakes today. Instead I am going to share our family’s beloved chili recipe. Because let’s face it, nothing says I love you like a meal that requires beano. Flatulence: the gift that keeps on giving.

Read the rest of this entry

Comfort Food: Hearty Beef Stew

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning


In the cold winter months there is nothing I like better than a warm hearty stew. Aside from a tropical vacation where cabana boys bring me fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them, that is.

Read the rest of this entry