July Meal Plan

meal plan
Meal plan hanging on my fridge. 

Wow!  It has been a long time.

These past few months have been crazy with a first birthday party, 5th wedding anniversary, family visits, and general life busyness.  With all of these fun, yet chaotic events,  I decided I really needed to get my life schedule in order.

I’ve been a working mom for almost a year now and still have no idea what I’m doing.  Does it get any better?  Moms of multiple children–HOW DO YOU DO IT?  Our laundry room is filled with mountains of dirty clothes, there is dust an inch thick on the bookcases, the floors get the spot mop treatment instead of a soak down, and we are lucky if dinner is more than a steamed bag of vegetables and grilled chicken.

Enter the monthly meal plan.  I’ve tried meal planning so many times during our marriage and have always failed.  My sisters are the master meal planners and have gourmet dinners 6 nights a week.  This month I decided to make a monthly meal plan and stick to it.  I also took inventory of my pantry and did a big grocery haul at the beginning of the month.  So far so good!  I made a Pinterest board “July Meal Plan” and printed off a freebie July calendar and got to work.  I scoured numerous trusted Pinterest boards and websites to come up with an array of recipes.  I really scored big using Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  If you haven’t checked out her site, you definitely should!  She has so, so many awesome dishes.

Here is what I’ve made so far:

Crock pot Creamy Ranch Chicken–This was an easy throw together crock pot dish that made plenty of leftovers for us!

Chicken Gyros with Soft Wrap Bread–Make the bread!  I know it seems like extra work, but it was delicious.

Buttermilk Waffles — These waffles were easy to make.  I substituted half of the white flour for whole wheat and I couldn’t even tell.  We had some leftovers and I put them in the freezer for later.

Crock Pot Beef Stew and Soft Pretzels–This has been one of my favorite meals so far.  The beef stew is a little bit of work up front (waking up 30 minutes earlier to get it done), but it was so worth it.  There are no words to describe these soft pretzels.  Buttery, chewy, deliciousness–make them.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce–This is a staple in our house.  The Pioneer Woman knows what she is doing!

PIZZA!–I’ve declared every Friday night to be pizza night.  This month I’m trying out this whole wheat recipe.  It was pretty good.  Next time I think I will roll it out thinner and pre-bake it to get a crisper crust.

Korean Beef with Rice–I make this fairly often but usually use a different recipe.  This dish had a thinner sauce and was pretty spicy.  We enjoyed it.

I’ve also made my mom’s lasagna recipe and we had a few leftover nights.

I must say, it has been really nice to go home, know exactly what we are having for dinner and that all of the ingredients are in my pantry.  I’ve already started planning for August.  You can check out my August Meal Plan board for some inspiration.

If you have any suggestions for recipe ideas, please pass them along!

Working mamas–if you have any tips and tricks on maintaining a household while working, I’d love to hear them.

signature

Bread baking is good for the soul.

Bread
What is it about getting your hands and counters (and all other surfaces) covered with flour that is so rewarding?  This weekend I made my grandma’s Italian Bread recipe and it was good for my soul.  Although it is a simple recipe with minimal ingredients, it is a timely task.  I had a few free hours on Sunday and decided to crack open the bread section in my grandma’s cookbook and knead out some stress.

Cup after cup of flour went into the whirring mixer and a beautiful dough emerged, ready to knead. This bread has to be kneaded four times with a resting period in between each.  My grandma always laid out spoons on her counter to keep track of which kneading she was completing.  Something so simple–yet so needed!  I would have been lost without the spoons.

I popped the loaves in the oven and waited impatiently while the heavenly scent filled my house.

What I love about this recipe is that it makes four loaves of bread–plenty to share!  After the bread came out of the oven, my husband and I delivered two warm loaves to our parents and took two loaves to our small group dinner.

Why is that the most basic of ingredients can brighten someone’s day? Growing up my grandma made bread all of the time.  We loved getting the phone call that she had fresh bread waiting on her counter for us to come and get.  We cherished each slice and anticipated the next loaf from her oven.

Even though bread making isn’t a dump and bake type recipe, I’m hoping to make it more often and share it with those around me.

Is there a recipe that you love to make and share with others?

Italian Bread

Makes 4 loaves

Ingredients:

8 cups flour (sometimes I mix whole wheat and white, like I did in the picture)

1 T. salt

3 T. sugar

3 T. cooking oil (I used vegetable)

2 pkg. dry yeast dissolved in 3 cups warm water

Method:

Mix salt, sugar and oil into yeast-water mixture.  Start beating in flour until all 8 cups are used.  Cover.  Let rise 4 times, for 10 minutes each time.  Punch down and knead each time.  Once 40 minutes has passed and you have punched and kneaded every 10 minutes, divide the dough into 4 equal portions.  Roll each portion with a rolling pin and roll up jelly-roll fashion.  Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet, brush tops with oil, and cut diagonal lines on the top.  Let rise for 1 hour.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  This is optional, but I do brush the loaves with melted butter once they are done baking to keep them soft!

Here are the tools I love for baking this type of bread:

USA Sheet Pan  

The USA Sheet pans are made in the USA (obviously) and are the best!  They are affordable and durable and very non-stick.  The owners are amazing people, too.

Bench Scraper

I’m not sure how you roll out anything in flour without a bench scraper.  These make clean up SO easy.

French Rolling Pin

I’m partial to french rolling pins.  I like that they have no handles and that you can put as much pressure on the dough as you see fit.  Much easier to manage, in my opinion.

Kitchen Aid Mixer

I think this goes without say.  🙂

 

signature

Cookbook Obsession!

I’ll admit it.  I am totally obsessed with cookbooks, and my collection is outgrowing the shelves on my bookshelves.

My family laughs when they see numerous cookbooks on my Christmas list.  I love flipping through the pages of any style cookbook and reading the ingredient lists and looking at the final product pictures.  I’ve been known to spend hours going through stacks of these recipe books, reading and detailing each page.  Now, I hate to say it, but I will: sometimes I never make anything out of the cookbooks I have.  EEK!

There’s just something total relaxing and heart warming about pouring over the books of collected recipes from different individuals who have spent so much time perfecting these dishes and probably even making them numerous times for their own families.

I DEFINITELY did not get this obsession from my grandma.  She has a few cookbooks but really only made anything out of one.  On the day of her wedding, her mother gave her a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and it pretty much became her Bible.  It scares me to turn the pages of this book because they are so fragile and well loved that they often disintegrate in your fingers.  I’m pretty sure she has the majority of the recipes in this heavy cookbook memorized and perfected.

I’m trying to utilize my own cookbooks like my grandma did her Better Homes and Garden book.  The cookbook I am starting to make multiple recipes out of is the Pioneer Woman’s latest, Dinnertime.  I received this book from my in-laws, of course off my Christmas list.

If you have not checked out the Pioneer Woman’s blog, you definitely should.  She is witty and practical and has SO many delicious (and easy) recipes.   Her cookbooks are all beautifully laid out with pictures of each step of the recipe.  She has personal notes about each dish and even great pairing recipes.  I’ve made many of the dishes and my husband has enjoyed them all.

If you are looking for a new trusty standard cookbook to turn to or a gift for a dear friend, I 100% recommend this book.  I know it will become a family favorite in your household.signature