Thanksgiving Week Meal Plan

With Thanksgiving falling during this week my meal planning was a bit lighter than usual. Add that to a shortened work week for all of us and where no leftovers were needed for lunches meant a small break for me come dinner time. Although, I did still come up with some pretty yummy meals for the nights I did have to cook.

Here are the dinners we enjoyed this week.

Saturday: butternut squash with bacon and egg centers (My new favorite meal)

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Sunday: General Tso’s chicken and broccoli over rice (take out made at home)

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Monday: veggie marinara over cheese tortellini (meatless)

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Tuesday: Korean BBQ pork over farrow with homemade creamy coleslaw

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Wednesday: quinoa sweet potato chili (meatless) (recipe coming soon)

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Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner

Friday: left overs-stuffed squash with turkey,stuffing, and sprouts then covered with melted parmesan cheese.

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That sums up this past week in meals. As for the upcoming weeks ahead, I am excited to begin planning my Christmas menus. I am thinking about trying a goat cheese log with apricot preserves drizzled on top with some crusty bread or crackers on the side. I am also trying to come up with a yummy appetizer that is made using wonton wrappers since these have become a new family favorite.

Do you do traditional ham for Christmas?

What are your family traditions….if you care to share them?

 

 

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Some Real Talk Moments…..

As you all know Halloween rolled around, we changed our clocks, woke up and began November with cold, darkness, and ultimately then a bit of snow arrived. And if you love winter I am sure your thrilled about all these changes…..for me it’s been a long month! Besides all this change we had so much more happening behind the scenes here that I honestly found solace in some quality alone time. I decided to make a huge change to my daily routine and began going to the gym at 5:00a.m.. And let me tell you….this has truly changed my daily dynamics completely. Somehow this, that, and the other all changed and I have free time now from 5-7a.m. and its perfect time for me to get in a great workout, free my mind of the constant boxing match happening up there, and get some endorphin help to make me feel alive at a time of year I just want to crawl under the covers and not come out until mid March. Anybody else feel this way when winter rolls around?

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So let’s see, November has been good. Challenging but good. We have had work issues to deal with pertaining to all three of us this month.One job change(our son), I am waiting for maternity leaves to be over and then I will be back up to my happy stress level of kids once again, and the other issue is my husband is traveling one day and the next it is cancelled. Which results in literally driving this very organized person (me) completely crazy with frustration!!!! I am a total, get your %$#@ together or don’t plan on me being part of it, kind of person. So when he says he is leaving I plan for him not to be here…and then all of a sudden he is here which means I need to replan once again. Frustration I tell you, complete frustration.OK, that rant is over with….lets move on.

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I always feel pressured to get my Christmas shopping done since I really dislike the crowds at this time of year. To help with this task my husband and I once again made our annual bus trip to Illinois to spend the day shopping, eating, and enjoying life away from the daily grind at home. This all started a few years ago and now it has turned into a yearly event for us. He is the best package carrier ever and all I have to do is promise to feed him from Whole Foods hot bar for lunch every year. It’s a LONG day but so worth it. We always find treasures and deals we can’t find here in Green Bay and there is no stress since the bus ticket is cheap and we don’t have to worry about parking, traffic, getting lost or anything. Just shop, eat, and have fun.

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I took my first ever structured yoga class with a friend and it was life changing. Since starting yoga on a regular basis at home my back has gotten significantly stronger and has been feeling better. I thought a class taught by a professional would correct any form issues I could be having so this was the thought behind the class I took. I will honestly say that after class I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got out of it. I am planning on taking 1-2 classes a week for the time being. And I am looking at them as more of an active recovery day than anything. Movement is medicine in my situation and a day off with absolutely nothing is worse than anything so this should be perfect for me on my exercise recovery days.

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We once again broke out our yearly winter pass time activity of jig saw puzzles. This for me is a huge turning point since it really means my time outside is going to be next to none for the next five months.

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I do have something pretty big waiting in the back ground for me to begin planning after the first of the year. My husband and I have decided to renew our wedding vows for our 25th anniversary in 2018. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head but so far nothing is set in stone yet. I will say, the ceremony will be small…..simply because not a single person in our families will be joining us except our son. Why you may wonder…..well, none of them are willing to climb the mountain I wish to have the ceremony on top of. I have however, found a minister that is willing to hike this route and do the honors, so I may have to add in a bit more compensation than his usual and customary fee just for his effort.

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And one last thing to share with you…check this little morsel of yum out! I was shopping at a local grocery and they had these in the seafood case. They called them volcano shrimp. I asked what they were exactly and the employee said they are cooked shrimp wrapped in sweet potato strands sprinkled with ginger. Well, I had to give one a try. I brought it home, baked it for 10 minutes as directed, and shared it with one of my daycare kids. She cried when it was gone and I felt like crying too since it was the only one I bought. IT WAS SO YUMMY!!! Now I am determined to try and make them myself. Really, how hard can they be right? I just have to get my spiralizer back from the friend I borrowed it to and then we will have many more of these to enjoy with no tears when they are gone.

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That should do it for now. Have a great Thanksgiving.

 

What Happens When The Meal Plan Is Made, Groceries Are Bought And Then Your Husband Says I Will Be Traveling For The Week

Planning is my specialty and I love to do it but when all is said and done and a wrench is thrown into the plan after the preparations are made I get a bit miffed! This is exactly what happened this week. First, he is traveling for work, then he is not traveling for work, then once again he is traveling for work. And in between all this back and forth, I went grocery shopping and bought a weeks worth of food for all three people home at dinner time. Now, I find myself adjusting the meal plan for just my son and I with no need for lunch leftovers or another mouth at dinner time.  Typically, when my husband travels we will have some meals that he dislikes….like curry or pesto dishes. Although, this time I did not have enough time to replan and had already bought what I did so I adjusted on the fly.

Here is what our meals ended up being:

Saturday: traveling…our annual shopping bus trip was today to Illinois.

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Sunday: Asian chicken and veggie lettuce wraps

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Monday: stuffed poblano peppers

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Tuesday: sloppy joe noodle casserole and corn

Wednesday: chili and biscuits

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Thursday: quesadilla pizza melts (some meatless)

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Friday: out

Not bad considering the circumstances. Now, with Thanksgiving next week, I am excited that cooking will be a bit minimal but at the same time, making my first big holiday meal with no artificial sweeteners at all may be a bit challenging…..time will tell. Believe it or not, I am most nervous about making homemade whipped cream to go on pumpkin pie. I have never made it and you simply can’t have pumpkin pie without it. Right???

Wonton Pizza Cups

A great alternative to making an entire pizza is to make mini pizzas in wonton wrappers. These also make a great fast and easy appetizer for birthdays, holidays or just for snacking on during a sports game or movies at home. For us, I happened to have some leftover wrappers from another recipe I had made and thought why not fill them with pizza toppings and have a fast and easy dinner with a side salad. I quickly threw them together and a few minutes later everyone agreed…..I must make these again. So easy yet so good.

Here is what I did:

Wonton Pizza Cups

non stick cooking spray

wonton wrappers

cooked chicken, diced pepperonis, or cooked italian sausage…although, you could also go meatless if you wish

diced peppers

canned mushrooms, drained and chopped fine (squeeze as much liquid as possible from them)

diced black olives

pizza sauce with extra saved for dipping

mozzarella cheese

NOTE: depending on how many cups you plan to make, ingredient amounts could differ which is why I did not put specific amounts of anything.

Take your nonstick muffin pan and spray each cup with non stick cooking spray. Each cup will need two wonton wrappers. First, place the first wrapper in the cup and just put a few shreds of cheese to “glue” the top wonton wrapper to the bottom. Then lay the next wrapper opposite corners on top the first. Press them down so you have a nice area to fill with your preferred pizza toppings. Above is what we used but feel free to use what you like on pizza. Each wonton wrapper gets toppings, then about 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce and cheese on top.

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Bake these in a 375 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.

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Remove them from the pan immediately and serve them with additional dipping pizza sauce if you wish.

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Family Dinners Documented-How I Find Time To Cook

I enjoy meal planning almost as much as I enjoy planning an active vacation for my family. Ultimately, they are pretty similar if you really think about it. Make sure everyone has a bit of input, know who is all going to be present at mealtime, and make sure the meal includes at least one thing everyone will enjoy. For me this is pretty basic….I love veggies, hubby and son will give me an eye roll if there is no meat, and everyone loves comfort food. Combine all this and sometimes I hit all the wishes and sometimes I learn to ignore the eye roll and the “where’s the meat” comment and they either eat what is prepared or go hungry.

So as usual here is the past week in meals at our house.

Saturday: squash ring baskets filled with bacon and eggs….OMG was this wonderful

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Sunday: greek chicken salads and toasted focaccia bread

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Monday: creamy pesto cheese tortellini with shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach, bread sticks on the side

Tuesday: crock pot creamy mushroom pork chops over garlic mashed potatoes with roasted carrots

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Wednesday: homemade baked mac and cheese and chicken bites

Thursday: bubble veggie pizza (meatless)

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Friday: out

Some of you have asked how I can find time to prepare so many meals weekly and what my weekly grocery bill ends up being. Truthfully, I can’t tell you what my weekly bill comes out to be since they differ so much from week to week. You have to remember, I also grocery shop for the daycare children I care for every day. So, if I had to estimate our portion of the weekly bill, I would say its about $100-$120 a week. This typically makes 6 nights of meals, with at least four servings per night since my husband always takes one serving of leftovers in his lunch the next day. Add in breakfast food and odds and ends for the week and this is typically what I would estimate I spend without any daycare food.

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As for how I find time….I plan my meals weekly. I only buy what I need for these meals, and follow the plan closely. I typically know what our week ahead has on the calendar for appointments, meeting, and activities. So I make sure to plan easy meals on busy nights, crock pot meals on busy days, and more elaborate meals on nights where I know I will have more time to spend in the kitchen. If something goes haywire mid week and our nightly plans change then….well…..it’s anyones guess what could happen.

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You have to remember, now with following this no artificial sweeteners diet for my husband, eating out is risky at best. So I find it just easier to cook at home and this way he is not miserable if we eat something unknown to us that could make him ill. Plus, thankfully, I do enjoy cooking most of the time and I love knowing that what my family is eating is healthy.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

With Thanksgiving right around the corner I have been experimenting with making my own cranberry sauce. Yes, I will admit, I can and have easily devoured an entire can of the original jellied cranberry sauce on numerous occasions in my lifetime. Now, however, I know how terribly bad this was for me and no longer can even let the thought of doing this again enter my mind. However, Thanksgiving has to have cranberry sauce….doesn’t it??? Well, it does in my mind, so this is the one we are going to enjoy this year.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

12 oz whole cranberries (found in the produce dept of your local grocery)

1/2 cup sugar

1 granny smith apple-diced

1/2 cup orange juice (***See lower sugar option below)

dash of cinnamon

Clean your cranberries and put them into a medium sauce pan. Peel, seed and dice the apple and put this also in the sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup of orange juice and the dash of cinnamon.

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Simmer this mixture on medium/low for about 15 minutes. Cover the pan loosely since the cranberries will begin to start popping when they heat up.

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If you like your sauce chunky take them off a bit sooner and if you like your sauce smooth cook them until they easily smash into a smooth mixture.

Let them cool and enjoy.

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***Less sugar option: To make this dish with less sugar, change out the orange juice for water and add orange zest instead to the mixture when you cook it.

NOTE: I like my cranberry sauce quite tart which this recipe is. If you enjoy the sweeter version simply add more sugar to your desired liking.

 

 

Food Allergies and Family Meal Traditions Are High On My Priority List This Year

With the arrival of November and then December right around the corner, I have been working on revamping our holiday meal traditions. I am determined to make them cleaner and healthier for my husband to be able to enjoy without feeling the ill affects afterwards. Since finding out artificial sweetener was the cause of all his abdominal issues for the past few years, I have been working diligently at cleaning up our diets even more than before. We no longer have food in our house with artificial sweetener BUT some of our holiday family traditions that we are not willing to give up are going to be prepared a bit differently this year.

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Take for instance the stuffing to go with the turkey at Thanksgiving. Typically, I buy the sage flavored bread cubes and prepare stuffing using these, chicken broth, poultry seasoning, celery, onion and dried cranberries. This year however, I have been reading labels like crazy trying to find a bread crumb/cubes that do not contain any artificial sweeteners. Breads are a big downer since most companies use this stuff in place of the more expensive basic sugar. Thankfully, I finally found one at Costco and we gave it a try one evening for dinner. Sweetened with real sugar and molasses, this one is perfect….now…does it taste good?

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Yeah….The trial dish came out wonderful although, I did not have any dried cranberries to add to the dish. I am however, thinking that I may go even healthier and substitute pomegranate berries instead or dried cranberries. That sounds tasty and should be even less sugar in the long run.

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Another big change we have to make is to the Christmas morning pull apart cinnamon bread we have once every year. Our original recipe is here and has been a family tradition since our son was little. It is a fabulous recipe and cooks perfectly while we open gifts and is ready to enjoy by the time the gift wrap is all cleaned up. However, this year we picked up the box of Jello cook and serve pudding one night wile grocery shopping to read the label and BAMMM full of artificial sweetener. Super big downer for us. So we made our way over to the natural organic section and thankfully found one brand of cook and serve that used real sugar and nothing fake. I don’t know who was happier, my husband or my son since this is a favorite among them both and my husband feels bad that some things we have had to give up have not been easily replaceable with an alternative yet. So this year will be using this pudding mix with all the other same ingredients and still be able to enjoy our once a year family breakfast together without illness to follow.

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I also recently had a friend tell me that Annie’s Homegrown makes refrigerator biscuits. I finally found them in the grocery store I always shop in and was very happy to see no artificial sweeteners in the ingredient label. You may wonder why I even had to read it but I will tell you for certain that not all organic products are artificial sweetener free. Seriously…can you believe this??? So as always, I read the label and smiled when I got to the end. This will be perfect for the holidays since #1 I am not fond of baking and #2 they are quick and easy. Plus, I can go back to preparing my husband favorite meal of chicken potpie that we had to give up since the original refrigerator biscuits we always used have ingredients in that we are no longer consuming.

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And then we have to issue of get togethers and parties to attend with numerous amounts of foods with any variety of who knows what in them. Much like when his employer puts on food Fridays….he rarely participates and never eats something homemade without being able to read the label first. When we go to others homes we will always bring a dish or two that he knows is “safe” food. And thankfully, for both sides of our family get togethers, we do the hosting so 90%-100% of the food is prepared by us and he knows he can enjoy what ever there is at the time.

I am still trying to figure out whipped cream since we are not able to find a single one that does not have artificial sugars in it. I may give a go at making my own with heavy whipping cream and sugar to see how it turns out. Apparently, its easy to do from what I read….I may find out for myself real soon.

It’s really is amazing the products we have found that contain so much artificial sweeteners in them since this all came about. From cottage cheese, mouthwash, to cold medicines….its in so much stuff. It’s not shocking to me anymore why we are all suffering from one ailment or another….since the food, medicine, and personal hygiene things we use everyday are tainted with chemicals instead of real ingredients. My hope for everyone this holiday season is to stay safe, read your product labels, and educate yourselves on what you and your family are putting in your bodies. It’s been life changing for our family!

Do you have food allergies to work around in your family at holiday times?

When everyone is asked to bring a dish to pass do you ask them to prepare it with out the ingredient that causes issues?