Holiday Checklist, Dinner – Done!

The hustle bustle is tuning up, and soon moms across the world will have to-do lists longer than their arms.  Please let me give your bustle a little less hustle with planned out meals for the holiday season.

Daily Dinner Plan – with Crockpot options

November 30
Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Thyme, Quick Roasted Asparagus

December 1
Diner Comfort Food – Cheesesteak Style or Patty Melt Sandwiches

December 2
One Pot Chicken and Rice – you’ll have leftovers, so you won’t have to worry about hubby’s lunch tomorrow or the rice for next week’s soup

December 3
Minestrone Soup

December 4
Baked Chicken Parmesan or this yummy looking Milanese (less cheese, more calories for cookies) An even easier version is this chicken parmesan casserole you could assemble ahead.

December 5
Paula Deen’s Pulled Pork Stuffed into Baked Potatoes (make a double batch of the pork, and you’re ready for next week)

December 6
Chicken Cordon Bleu with Steamed or Roasted Veggies and a Green Salad

December 7
Baked white fish sliders with not-your-normal cole slaw and oven fries

December 8
Shredded Beef Tacos or mix it up with these Korean Style Lettuce Wraps (both of these yield awesome leftovers)

December 9
Chicken and Rice Soup

December 10
Stuffed Pasta Shells (add in sautéed dark greens instead of meat and make this dish for Meatless Monday) A great reason to make a big pot of marinara and freeze for another busy night.

December 11
Texas Chili Bar – no beans here! (brown the meat , onion and garlic, then pop in the crockpot with all the other ingredients so it’s ready when you are)

Tonight is family game night, and make your own bowls of chili couldn’t be easier! Save the extra cornbread for next week’s stuffed peppers.

December 12
Mediterranean Style One Dish Herb Chicken Bake

December 13
BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches (this is actually leftover pork from the baked potato night that I froze for a super quick meal)

December 14
Veggie Lo Mein

December 15
Tis this season for family and friends, so why not make Taco Tuesday an event? Grab a holiday flick or make an impromptu craft or gift wrapping party.  Try these Seven Layer Tostadas

December 16
Pioneer Woman’s Pork Chops with Pineapple fried rice

December 17
Chicken and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers OR My Stuffed Bell Peppers

December 18
My Potato Soup – a nod to my family heritage — so easy and yummy

December 19
Broiled Salmon and roasted veggies

December 20
Whisky BBQ Meatballs ( I use my BBQ sauce recipe, then  add mashed potatoes (or steamed veggies, or herbed noodles – the side options are endless)

December 21
Kid’s Night – Bake cookies, make treats, watch your favorite holiday movie, let them invite friends over for a sleepless slumber party – the kids hang out, then everyone goes home and goes to their own beds for sleeping

Dinner cooked in muffin tins makes everything easy to divide and easy to eat – Mary Beth’s Knock Your Socks off Meatloaf and Mac and Cheese Cups

December 22
Soupeasy dinner so you can get to those last minute items on your list

December 23
In Texas, Christmas brings Tamales – order some, or try these cheats

December 24 & 25
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day are not included since everyone has their own traditions

December 26
With new toys to try and games to play, try one of these breakfast casseroles to start, or end , your day

December 27
Supreme Pizza Pasta (toss in the slow cooker or even freeze ahead)

December 28
Grilled Venison Backstrap with Gingered Carrots

December 29
Pioneer Woman’s Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

December 30
Baked chimichangas

December 31
Stay in Date Nite – going out when you have young children is rare; I don’t want to spend it with crowds

Chicken Marsala with Garlic Whipped Potatoes & Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Forget the bubbly, this year I’m making these bourbon Blizzards.

Keep in the Freezer for One of Those Really Long Days – seriously, you don’t even need a side!

Make a Bunch and Save for Lunch

Pioneer Woman’s Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork – In the oven or slow cooker, this make it and leave it dish is great on slider rolls with sliced gouda or piled in tortillas with cilantro, queso fresco, sliced avocado, and a lime wedge for quick pork tacos – Plus there are usually plenty of leftovers to freeze and use again*

Pecan Crusted Chicken – these take some prep up front, but they are easy to make and freeze great

Browned & seasoned ground beef, bison, or turkey (use in tacos, quesadillas, as pizza toppings)

Chicken Fajita meat – try this marinade to elevate them beyond normal week night.

Bring a Little Holiday Spirit into Your Kitchen

Christmas Scones

Gingerbread Waffles – I haven’t made these yet, but they are on my must try list

Fresh Cranberry Scones

Hosting Guests? These touches are sure to impress

For their room:

  • Recently I stayed at my brothers’ and one of the most welcome treats was their selection of pillows. Doesn’t sound like much, but with everyone having their own preference, being able to choose was a luxury. Of course, I picked them all!
  • Have an extra throw blanket in the room, especially for those who travel across the country, the climate change can be shocking

In the Morning:

  • Create a coffee and tea station next to a bowl of fruit so early risers can serve themselves and relax.
  • Your guests will be convinced they’re at a B&B with these breakfasts-Homemade donuts – these puppies are all baked so you can indulge without standing over the frypan or having guilt-Blueberry Baked Oatmeal or Bobby’s Oatmeal Stuffed Apples
  • Baked egg boats would be restaurant worthy
  • Set a loaf of bread to make overnight, so you wake to Fresh Bread machine with make ahead berry butter spread
  • Save some time with this gourmet casserole

Stock Ahead for Comfy Touches:

  • make sure the bar is stocked, grab an extra bottle of wine to mull (awesome on the day guests are arriving), have some bottled sparkling water or ginger ale on hand
  • early in the month, check dry goods in your pantry so you are prepared for last minute at home meals that come with an unexpected winter storm front
  • make cookie dough and freeze, so fresh baked cookies are quick to whip up

Fix-Aead Dinners that Feed a Crowd:

It’s that time of year again! Shopping Lists, Little Elves, and Lots of Holiday Fun!

Sometimes us moms need a little help keeping it all balanced around the holidays.  With ever ending to-do lists, hard to handle relatives, and busy schedules, it can seem like a real job bringing joy and magic to the season.  I hope my December no-thought meals, What to do with that ELF list, and 2015 gift guide can make your holiday just a little happier!

What to do with that ELF? list.

Nov 29 – it’s back! – ours takes the USPS…some throw a party, some arrive toy airplane, by train, or go all out and make a hot air balloon – tonight you’re on your own.

Nov 30 – spilling DVDs and books all over living room

Dec 1 – making a paper chain

Dec 2 – hanging out of cabinet surrounded by police cars

Dec 3 – drawing minions on the bananas

Dec 4 – over the door swing on tp roll

Dec 5 – repelling at window

Dec 6 – working on the truck

Dec 7 – digging in M&M bag

Dec 8 – in a Lincoln log house

Dec 9 – making paper snowflakes*

Dec 10 – gift bows all over kitchen

Dec 11 – playing cards or board game with stuffed animals*

Dec 12 – riding t-rex

Dec 13 – hiding in the silverware drawer

Dec 14 – roasting marshmallows over a candle

Dec 15 – goldfishing with pole

Dec 16 – sack race

Dec 17 – stuck under a weight while working out

Dec 18 – hiding under a glass (staged to play hide and seek with a toy)

Dec 19 – riding in the remote control car (doll controlling it)

Dec 20 – Little people carriage ride with doll

Dec 21 – checking out a yarn moustache in the mirror

Dec 22 – posing behind an empty picture frame

Dec 23 – crepe paper over door

Dec 24 – praying over Bible/ letter goodbye

Supplies – police cars, gift bows, bananas, paper lunch sacks, goldfish, cards/game (game night supplies), supplies for paper snowflakes, small hand weight, remote control car, paper chain supplies, little people carriage, crepe paper, brown yarn, M&M’s, Bible/goodbye letter, small picture frame, Little People and doll, drinking glass

If you are like me, you know you’re going to fall asleep or forget to move the little guy at least once, so plan ahead with a little Pinterest help…

Baby it’s Cold Outside

baby girl snow 15Winter has finally made it here. The yo-yo continues with a tease of spring right before the next northern slaps you in the face.  I’m only good for one polar vortex, thank you very much.

Today was ACTUAL snow. Fluffy, flaky, snow. So pretty. So cold.

I’m cold.

I will be cold until April.
I am mourning my flip flops.
I’ve been wearing Man’s house shoes the past two days.
(If you don’t live in Texas and think I’m being a big baby.  Well…let me tell you something.  Cold is a different kind of beast down here.  And re-frozen slush is a whole new kind of inclement weather.  Just like in July, Texas HOT is just not the same kind of heat as everywhere else.  I digress…)

MUST FIND WARMTH.

You too?

Well, these dishes promise to add a little warmth and perk to your dinner table.

Spiced Tea
This was originally an iced tea recipe, but it works well served hot on those days when frigid wind pierces right through ya
Gather:
2c water
1/4 c honey (sweeten to taste)
1 bag black tea
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/3 cup orange juice
To Make:
Heat water with anise, lemon slices, and cinnamon stick to boiling. Steep tea bag. Add in orange juice. Sweeten to taste.

Share with a friend.
Y’all know what goes good with spiced tea?
Spiced rum.
Just saying.
In case your friend is cute.

Hot Chocolate
It has taken me years to figure out I like hot chocolate. Hot cocoa, not so much. It’s something about the dried milk.  Immediately takes me back to college intern days.
IMG_3478To make:
Heat 4 cups of milk to steaming over low to medium-low heat.  20140102-091024.jpg
Want a little spice and warmth?
Add 1 cinnamon stick to the milk.
Stir in 1 cup milk chocolate chips.
Feeling indulgent?
Toss in another 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate.
Warm to melt.  Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Feel it starting to work?

Now just one question…whipped cream or marshmallows?

For more drink recipe ideas check out my Something to Sip board.

Need some cold weather comfort food?
Being stuck inside has had me cooking up a storm.
I’ve tried some pretty yummy recipes lately.
Here are a few.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Gather:
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 good size chicken breast
1 – 1 1/2 cup egg noodles
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 bouquet garni (thyme, rosemary, parsley, fennel ferns…whatever you have on hand)
salt and pepper, to taste
To Make:
Sweat onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil until they begin to soften.  Add stock, water, chicken, bay leaf, and bouquet garni.  Bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer for 20-40 minutes; until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken, shred or dice and return to pot.  Serve.

Super Yum & Super Simple One Pot Chicken and Rice – I found this beauty on Big Red Kitchen; it got fabulous reviews, made wonderful leftovers, and was gloriously easy with only one dirty pan to worry about.

Blueberry-Banana Streusel Muffins
IMG_6984A modified version of my Betty Crocker Bridal Cookbook recipe. Big fluffy bakery style yummy…without even having to leave the house.
Gather:
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 very ripe bananas, smashed to a puree
For Streusel:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
To Make:
Mix streusel ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Fill a muffin tin with baking papers or grease pan.
In small mixing bowl, beat milk, oil, egg, and banana.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and salt together.
Using a wooden spoon, make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just moistened.
Fold in the blueberries.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Top with the streusel topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the muffin.
Serve warm. Will keep at room temperature several days in an airtight container, but streusel will lose its crunch.

IMG_6995

Romanesco

IMG_3481Dutch Oven Herbed Chicken and Veggies
Another one-pot wonderful dish.  Full of flavor, hands off, and a great way to use up vegetables in our co-op basket this  week.   I served it with roasted romanesco IMG_3480(olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes & finished with pecorino cheese) and fennel and orange salad (thinly sliced fennel bulb, two segmented oranges, tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil).  It proved to be a fulfilling and light dinner. 
Gather:
2 large chicken breasts, halved crosswise and butterflied (this alone was about 2# of meat)
1/2 # trimmed green beans
1/2 bundle trimmed and cut asparagus
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 thinly sliced red potato
drizzle of olive oil
salt, pepper, dried herbs de Provence (or rosemary), red pepper flakes, splash of white wine
To Make:
In a Dutch oven, sear the chicken in olive oil over medium high heat.  Add in the vegetables, drizzling with some additional oil, a generous sprinkling of dried herbs, salt and peppers.  Pour 1/2 cup or so of white wine over the entire mixture and cover.  Place Dutch oven in 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and continue cooking until chicken is done and potatoes are tender.  In all about 30 minutes. Remove chicken and vegetables to a platter, ladle over some of the wine sauce from the bottom of the pan and serve.

Swiss Style Venison Steaks
My rendition of the classic beef dish found in Joy of Cooking. I used the backstrap, but I’m sure tenderloins would work well too.
Gather:
approximately 2# of meat (usually blade steaks or rump is called for when using beef)
1 can 15 oz, sweet Italian peeled tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup beef stock (or water if you are like me and didn’t get out in sludge to get stock)
1/2 a beer
1 small bundle of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons brown sugar
salt and pepper
To Make:
Mix paprika, salt, and pepper with flour. Dredge the meat in the flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in Dutch oven, and brown the meat.
Place to the side on a platter and in the same pan, soften the onions, carrots, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Add beer and stock to deglaze the pan.
Return steaks to Dutch Oven. Top with tomatoes and herbs. Pour beer over top and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper.
Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove to a clean platter and top with sauce.
I served it with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.

Slow Cooker French Dip Style Sandwiches
Gather:
1 cup beef broth
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2# beef chuck or bottom round roast
chili coffee rub (I found this premix spice in HEB Central Market’s bulk section – LOVE it!)
1 cup beer (I use Shiner Bock for cooking)
1 small bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
To Make:
Sear the meat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic to the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the meat on top, and add the other ingredients.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is easily shredded.
Ladle some of the cooking juice into small bowls to serve with the sandwiches. Buy me a fat separator if you want the fat separated.
Serve on hoagie rolls with sharp cheese and au jus.
Enjoy the simplicity.

Kelsey Nixon also has a turkey version we recently tried. Just delightful!

Ice Day Tip:  I always save cookie in a jar gifts that we receive over the holidays for inclement weather days.  They store great, are quick and easy, and they are one less sweet to eat over the holidays.  I am happy to report that my ICE Day BIN has worked wonderfully this week.

Find more recipes like these on my Slow Cooker Pinterest board!

Creating Peace at Home – Hopefully!

The holidays seem to amplify the hustle, bustle, and chaos of our overfilled lives.   I may have a few tips to create a little peace this holiday season. If you aren’t into organizing, stick with me one more minute – pretty please.

IMG_6257.JPG
1. The Binder.  The goal is to make things move decisively and quickly.   Inside I filled my binder with tabs (what can I say…even ex-teachers still love binders with tabs).

  •  Meal Planning – menu planning templates, the freezer and pantry inventories, go to recipes for quick meals (I also keep all the ingredients on hand)
  • Kids – school calendars, handwriting template, our I’m Bored sheet
  • Shopping Lists – I use this awesome app for my weekly grocery shopping, so this tab is to keep a long running list of household items, upcoming family/friends’ gifts, school items for class parties or teacher appreciation – the app can do all that, but I prefer old school pen & paper lists for some stuff
  • Miscellaneous –  we have a running family bucket/wish list,
  • Pockets – urgent items I need to take care of (like signed papers for school, recipes in progress, in the works projects, etc.)
  • Holidays –  I added in a tab for the holidays based loosely off of the Planning for a Peaceful Christmas suggestions on Raising Arrows.
  • all encompassing holiday shopping list
  • holiday menus
  • holiday shopping lists
  • holiday craft list
  • decorating shopping list

If you see a lady with three kids and a binder in Hobby Lobby, that’s most likely me.  If I’m out, I can glance at my lists and see what I’m forgetting.

2. Bored Boxes  These are clear plastic shoebox containers filled with toys and books that have worn out their admiration at home, but if we are waiting on a sibling in the carpool line, shopping at the mall, or sitting at practice become fun and fascinating again.  We have several stacked by the door, and as we head out, we grab one.

3. Dinner Bins  If you think of a fancy or cute name, let me know and I will change it.  I took large clear organizing tubs and packed up quiet toys to hide inside.  These are things the kids unfailingly hold their attention, but we don’t play with every day.  There are three, with different items to appeal to each child, and I rotate them week to week (or when I remember).

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These are nice because the activities don’t require me to supervise, are quickly picked up, and I can make dinner in peace.

Need a little more joy?

Try my Fill Your Freezer Plan, Dinner Advent Calendar or Elf on the Shelf Calendar.  Sometimes taking the guess work out of what to cook is half the battle. I LOVE this Random Acts of Kindness chain from Coffee Cups and Crayons.