Spring Cleaning & Crock Pot Cooking

Starting spring cleaning today…bathrooms are getting deep cleaned. Yay! (Yuck!) The bathroom is my least favorite room to clean so I’m getting it out of the way first.

Since I’ll be busy, this is going in the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker today.

Slow-Cooker Bacon-Ranch Chicken and Pasta
Source: www.bettycrocker.com
Cook 6 hr 10 min
Total 6 hr 10 min
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb chicken breasts
6 slices bacon cooked and diced
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup water
8 oz spaghetti cooked

Directions

1 Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; place chicken breasts in cooker.
2 In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except spaghetti. Pour over top of chicken.
3 Cover; cook on Low heat setting 6 hours or on High heat setting 3 to 4 hours.
4 When about 15 minutes are left, cook and drain spaghetti as directed on package.
5 Just before serving, shred chicken with 2 forks, and toss creamy chicken mixture with cooked spaghetti.

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Meal Plan 7/16-7/22/16

Meal Planning – Done! (for this week anyway)

I took an hour or so this afternoon to work on my meal plan for the coming week (Saturday – Friday), making use of what I have on hand as much as possible. My pantry and freezer are pretty full!

For breakfasts next week, I’ll be making the Pioneer Woman’s Breakfast Burritos; 100 Days of Real Food’s Breakfast Casserole Bites; and a batch of Amazing Muffin Cups. These are easy to make ahead and then just pop in the microwave or toaster oven to reheat in the morning. Alternating between those will be Peanut Butter & Banana, Peaches & Cream Oatmeal, and PB&J smoothies.

Lunches generally consist of leftovers and I’ll make a batch of some kind of soup (this week it’s Chicken Tortilla along with some Cheese & Chile Corn Muffins) that I can heat up as needed.

Suppers this week are:

Saturday: Grilled Burgers, Potato Salad, Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Sunday: Broccoli Cheese Soup, Sweet Cornbread

Monday: Broccoli & Mushroom Quiche, Skillet/Fried Corn, Roasted Carrots

Tuesday: Smothered Enchiladas (for Hubby), Cabbage Enchiladas (for me), Easy Black Beans & Rice

Wednesday: Grilled Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Stewed Summer Squash and Zucchini, Biscuits (if I’m feeling so inclined)

Thursday: Leftover Buffet

Friday: Homemade Pizzas (Chicken & Spinach w/Alfredo Sauce, Beef & Mushroom, Cheese)

We’ll see how much prep work I get done tomorrow. Hopefully, I can make the pie crust for the quiche and the pizza crusts for Friday since those freeze well. I’ll get the breakfast items made and my lunch soup of the week. I’ll post pictures and recipes as I make them.

Wish me luck! Happy cooking!

Lynne

Menu Planning Mond

Menu Planning Monday

I intended to post earlier in the day, but I had a lunch with sweet friends and a run and dinner with sweet running friends. But.. here’s the menu plan for this week.

Monday: Slow Cooker Greek Flank Steak (recipe below), Rice, Broccoli

Tuesday: Baked Ham, homemade macaroni and cheese, homemade yeast rolls

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches, Oven Roasted Parmesan Potatoes, Salad

Friday: I’ll be out of town for the weekend so Hubby is being left with leftover French dip sandwiches fixings, homemade chicken salad and sourdough bread to get him through Sunday. Can’t let him go hungry while I’m relaxing at the beach, now can we? 🙂

Y’all have a great week!
Lynne

Greek Flank Steak Crock Pot

Source: www.thefoodieaffair.com

Prep10 minCook8 hrTotal8 hr 10 min

Serving: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 34 teaspoon salt
  • 34 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • (1¼ lb) flank steaks cut in half
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth

Directions

Place onion in a 5 – 7 quart slow cooker. Stir together oil, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Rub mixture over steaks and place on onions in the slow cooker. Add broth, cover and cook on low 8 hours. cut steak across the grain into thin slices (reserve half steak for another meal) Serve remaining steak with onions and gravy from slow cooker.

Annual Kitchen Organization Challenge, Part 1

Hi, all!

I’m back and ready to get started on kitchen organization and decluttering. Especially the decluttering part. I have reached a point in life where I just want less stuff to take care of. It’s time for a reality check as to what I use and don’t use in my kitchen. I love my kitchen gadgets and when I buy stuff, it’s usually for the kitchen.

As I was looking back over previous blog posts – and getting notifications from Facebook about my memories – I realized that the beginning of the year always seems to start with reorganizing and decluttering the kitchen. So I guess I start out strong and then gather things in over the course of the year and need to declutter and organize again. I’m going to (try!) to implement this rule for myself: If you bring something new in, something old has to go out. (That scared me just typing out those words. For real!)

So…let’s get started on kitchen organization. Today is easy – no physical labor required. 🙂 What I want you to do today (or tonight) is to simply walk into your kitchen and look around. That took me approximately 4.8379 seconds as I have a small kitchen. But this was a very important step. I felt my kitchen wasn’t functioning as well as it could be…that things where’re where I needed them to be. So I stood there sipping a cup of coffee, notebook on the counter, and looked around. I thought about dinner prep and what would make that more efficient. I thought about what was near the stove and what was in the pantry.

I asked myself the following questions:

  • Do I have a designated prep space?
  • Are my pots and pans and cooking utensils near the stove?
  • Are like items in the same location (baking products, coffee stuff, etc.)?
  • Is the organization in my kitchen meeting my needs?
  • Is there ANYTHING that could be moved from the counter top to another location. (Cluttered counters are getting on my nerves!)

So, I just want to take a few minutes to look around your kitchen and determine whether or not it’s working for you. If it is, then you can just sit back and relax this week. 🙂 If not, start thinking about what you can do to make it more functional. Functionality is key in kitchen organization. Key, I tell you. The fewer steps you have to take when prepping dinner (or any other meal) saves you time, right? And saving time is good. Very good.

I spent time over the last week reorganizing my kitchen cabinets and pantry. I got some new stuff for Christmas that I needed to make room for. So I got rid of some stuff instead of overcrowding the cabinets. I’m still not satisfied, so I’ll be doing this challenge along with you this week. So take a good hard look at your kitchen and see where you might want to start making changes. 🙂 Write it down. Make a list. You have to have a plan!

I’m taking my pen, notebook, and coffee and heading to the kitchen now.

Have a blessed Monday!

Lynne

Good morning!

Good morning!

Sitting here enjoying a few quiet minutes before getting started on the day.

Praying each of you has a day in which you find joy in the small things and an unexpected blessing or two along the way. Share a smile with someone. It might make their day.

Working on our first Weekly Challenge of 2016. It involves your pantry/food storage “system.” So take a look at the way you store your food and essentials. Really look at it. Start pondering on how well (or not!) your system is working for you. Next week we’re going to make it fabulous.

It won’t cost a lot of money, but it will – hopefully – save you time and energy when you’re in the kitchen.

I’m working on mine this week. I’m taking embarrassing “before” pics. I don’t know how the pantry gets destroyed so quickly. (Well, I do, but I don’t want to name names.)

So enjoy your week. When you find yourself with 15 minutes or so to spare, clear out your “junk drawer.” And if something in there us really junk, throw it out. Yes, out. I’m going to handle that this morning.

Y’all have a blessed day!

Lynne

Menu Planning in the Works

Good afternoon, all!

I’m starting with some menu planning for the coming week and the month of January. Going to use these themes for January. We’ll see how it goes and change it up in February if we have to. (Don’t tell Hubby, but he is going to join me in eating healthier.)

*Meatless Mondays

*Tex-Mex Tuesdays

*”What’s Up?” or “What’s New?” Wednesdays (undecided on name, but it will be new recipes or it might be family member’s choice)

*Throwback Thursdays (leftover buffet night)

*Family Friday (pizza or pasta)

*Soup and/or Sandwich Saturdays

*Slow Cooker Sundays

I have been scouring the internet for new recipes and downloading them to Plan to Eat which is what I use (and love!) for meal planning and am ready to get started. (This is not a usual Sunday and we have leftovers from the THIRD Christmas dinner, so we will actually be having leftovers tonight. Which is fine by me!)

We sometimes have other leftover nights if the fridge is full, but we definitely do Thursdays. Sometimes we have soup twice in one week. (I love soup!) Sometimes I’m really just not in the mood to cook and I order pizza. True confession right there.

What do you think? Do any of you do themed nights? I think it just makes it simpler when you’re meal planning. I know that the last couple of weeks with all the stuff that we’ve had going on that I’ve not been meal planning and man, oh man, can I feel it! And I don’t like it.

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to simplify your weekdays, in my humble opinion. (That and learning to say the word “no.”)

Let’s give it a try together. I’ll post my week’s menu here as soon as I’m done.

Y’all have a blessed day!

LynneMenu

Introducing: The Schedule

schedule

noun
1. a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective,especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion;
2. a series of things to be done or of events to occur at or during particular time or period;
3. a timetable.
Synonyms: agenda, itinerary, lineup, list, docket, order of business
Antonym: DISORGANIZATION (Preach!!!)
I know some people don’t like the idea of having a schedule.
  • It’s too constricting.
  • It leaves me no freedom.
  • I like to be spontaneous.
  • I’d rather just fly by the seat of my pants.
WHY? A schedule is the opposite of constricting – at least for me. A schedule gives me a sense of peace. Please note that the schedule is written on a piece of paper. It has not been carved in stone. Please also note that the schedule is not full. There are empty spots. Free spots. Room for spontaneity. Room for fun. Room for rest. Room for a nap!! 🙂
And though the schedule does have times on it, most of them are pretty flexible. Unless it is a set appointment (like with the trainer at the gym at 8:30 on Wednesday mornings), most things can be moved around. I think of the schedule as more of a guideline…a general idea of how the days should flow if I want to get things done and not feel overwhelmed. It can also serve as a wake up call. If there are no empty spaces at all, busyness has taken hold of you and you have lost your margin…your free space is gone.
Now, I have two adult children and work part-time outside the home. When I worked full-time, the schedule looked a lot different. When I homeschooled those two now-adult children, it looked different. Everyone’s schedule will look different from yours. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay.
And some days, nothing on the schedule happens like it should. Nothing. That’s also okay. Probably very stressful, but okay. But if you generally keep a schedule and stick to it most days, one day will not throw you into a downward spiral toward total disarray and disorganization. You just get up the next morning and start over.
See that antonym for schedule at the top there? Disorganization. Know what the synonyms for disorganization are? Chaos. Confusion. Disarray. Disorder. Disruption. And my personal favorite: unholy mess. Who wants THAT? Not me!
I have my schedule. I have a chore chart. I use the Daily Docket which is a “to do” list. I try not to do chores on Saturday because my main work day is Sunday and I like to rest up. I usually don’t do laundry on Saturdays. Unless it was raining on Friday and is sunny on Saturday and I can hang my sheets outside.:) Some weeks things don’t go as planned and I spend the whole day Saturday doing laundry and other chores. Then I’m tired. And grumpy. And I drink excessive amounts of coffee. (Excessive even for me!)
If you work full-time, Saturday may be your laundry day. But if you can find a way to do it during the week, do. When I worked full-time and had two under the age of three and a half, I threw a load in before I went to bed at night, then put the load in the dryer when I got up and let them dry while we got ready for the day. Then I folded them after dinner. You have to do what works for you.
Every couple of months, I’ll spend part of a Saturday deep cleaning a particular room. Vacuuming blinds. Wiping down window sills and baseboards. Washing curtains. The things you don’t get to every week and really don’t need to. Occasionally, when Hubby works day shift on the weekend, I’ll have one day of a great cleaning frenzy. He usually comes home to rearranged furniture on those days. 🙂
The point is that everyone needs some sort of “outline” of their days. Some people account for every single minute. Some people just need a list that has five things that just need to get done that day, not in any particular order or timeframe. What works for you is what’s right for you.
When I started working on this new schedule a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having one. I had gotten out of the habit and I felt out of control. I was tired. I was grumpy. I was drinking excessive amounts of coffee. Then I sat down and started looking at this…at what matters to me and what I need to get done. I can’t tell you how many schedules I wrote and tossed. Lots. I really, really had to think hard about it. And these pictures show what I ended up with.
The schedule. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/schedule.pdf
IMG_3490-0
The chore chart. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/householdchores.pdf
 Chore Chart pic
The Daily Docket. http://theartofsimple.net/downloads02/
 Daily Docket pic
So here’s my challenge to you. I’ve given you the links to the schedule, the chore chart, and the Daily Docket that I use. You can Google or go on Pinterest and find many (many, many, many) more options. Find one you like. Take some time to think about it. Write down a list of your priorities, absolute must dos (like go to work!), and things you’d like to do. Make several copies of it or write in pencil.  Then make yourself a schedule. You can make your kids a schedule.
When you’ve gotten one on paper, share it with us in the comments. Or you can join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Simplify2013?fref=ts. You should join us there anyway. 🙂
I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Blessings,
Lynne
(whose schedule indicates that it’s about bedtime!)

Meal Plan for the Week

A few days ago, I posted a picture of the schedule that I have been working on for myself. I’ll share more about that tomorrow and include a challenge for you – yay! (Did you know that “schedule” is NOT a four-letter word? I think many people feel that way about one. But more on that tomorrow!)

So today – according to my new schedule – is menu planning day. I set aside an hour for that, but it took a little less than that to plan and prepare a grocery list. I took a quick “inventory” of my pantry and freezer before I made this meal plan and list. I mean, why spend money if you don’t have to, right?

Thursday is payday and that’s when I get my grocery money for the week. I budget $100 – $125, depending on whether I need money for the Fresh Market’s $2.99 Tuesday meat sale that week. My plan is to do my grocery shopping early on Friday morning right after my morning walk. (I walk at 6:30 am; you get to see amazing sunrises if you do that!) This is a test to see if that’s a better time to shop. Friday afternoon…definitely NOT! If Friday mornings aren’t it either, then I’ll try another day.

Anyway, here’s what’s on the dinner menu for Thursday – Wednesday.

*Thursday – Leftovers (always – Mama needs a night off!)

*Friday – Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken, Pasta, Broccoli or Cabbage (or both!)

*Saturday – Taco Soup, Tortilla Chips, CHEESE (and a dollop of sour cream for me!)

*Sunday – Baked Spaghetti, Corn on the Cob, Bread/Rolls (Since Sunday is a work day for me, I’ll prep the baked spaghetti on Saturday so it will just need to be popped in the oven and cooked on Sunday)

*Monday – Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup, Cornbread Muffins

*Tuesday – “Alice Springs Chicken” (like at Outback), Mashed Potatoes (w/ garlic & herb butter), Peas or Green Beans

*Wednesday – Slow Cooker Smothered Pork Chops, Rice, Roasted Veggies (cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash)

We eat leftovers or sandwiches for lunches. Thursday nights are basically for cleaning out the fridge. If there are leftovers after leftover night, I will usually freeze them in individual serving sizes for something quick for lunch or when the plan doesn’t work out. (By the way, it doesn’t always work out.)

Breakfasts are pretty much an “on your own” kind of deal around here. If I’m feeling particularly kind, I’ll make breakfast on Saturday. I have been making breakfast muffins for the week that can be microwaved or put in the toaster oven and heated. Hubby leaves for work at 4:30 in the morning. I love him, but I’m not likely to get up and fix him breakfast. Sorry. He’s not a big breakfast eater, anyway, so I hope his feelings aren’t hurt. smile emoticon

I use an online meal planner, but really all you need to do is sit down with a couple of cookbooks or cooking magazines (not your entire collection), your calendar (so you can see what days are your busiest), and a piece of paper. Oh, and a pen or pencil!
Be sure to include at least one night for leftovers if your family will eat them. You can see that I use my Crock-Pot Slow Cooker as often as possible! Best kitchen appliance ever. Ever, I say! On those busiest of days, it’s awfully nice to walk into a great smelling house with dinner simmering away.

crock pots

If you’ve never meal planned before or if you’re not used to cooking at home, plan 4-5 simple meals, a leftover night, and a night to eat out/carry out. Start with what you feel you can REALLY accomplish and go from there. Don’t plan seven elaborate meals and then feel disappointed in yourself and give up. Please. Pretty please.

Cooking from scratch really isn’t hard…and it’s easier on the pocket book than eating out. And easier on the body that processed, pre-made foods. (Though there are days when that’s just what happens and it’s okay.) Having a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday afternoon to do a little prepping (chopping veggies, mixing marinades, etc.) also helps reduce stress during the week.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’d love to help you with your meal planning!

Blessings,
Lynne