Monday, June 29, 2015

Trisha's Table Cookbook Review

It's no big secret that I love cookbooks, or just reading in general. I love to leisurely thumb through cookbooks and even read them cover to cover.

I've always enjoyed Trisha Yearwood's cookbooks.  I don't personally own her first two, but have borrowed them from my local library before. I love how they are each centered around old family favorites. Her recipes are easy to follow and ones that my own family enjoys. So when her newest book arrived on my doorstep,  I was pretty excited.

This time around Trisha focuses on a bit healthier dishes, incorporating lots of fresh produce. She shows us how she's adapted the 80/20 rule in recent years. It's okay to splurge occasionally as long as we make sure to eat healthfully the remainder of the time.

I love the nice variety of chapters listed in the book. I haven't had a chance to do any testing yet, but there are a few that quickly caught my eye.

This spinach frittata looks like a wonderful addition to the breakfast table. While I tend to reach for something sweeter in the morning, I do appreciate a filling egg dish such as this one.

Chicken salad is one of my favorites for lunch, it's something I can quickly mix up in the morning before work. Trisha's version is made with Greek yogurt along with lots of yummy fillers such as: almonds, dried cranberries and apples. I love the idea of serving it over toasted french bread slices.

I'm always a sucker for a sweet treat and these no-bake bars are calling my name. They couldn't be any easier and I love how they incorporate pretzels for that sweet and salty combo.

I think I'll enjoy having this new addition on my bookshelf. Have you gotten your hands on this new one yet? Tell me which recipe is your fave!

In case you missed it, be sure to check back on Wednesday for the beginning of a new month long series; 31 days of family meals. The whole month of July will be devoted to new main dish recipes perfect for your family! I hope you'll join me!

*This post contains affiliated links. I was provided a copy of this cookbook from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

31 Days of Family Meals

At the beginning of the month I shared my plan for July with you, a new series devoted to main dish recipes. One whole month of nothing but family friendly meals! Are you just as excited as I am?

This will be the second year I blog the whole month of July based around a theme. Last year it was freezer cooking. It was a ton of fun, you can check it out here.

So what can you expect to see? Good question! Lots of insanely delicious food for sure. I plan to provide a variety of dishes.  Everything from getting your grill on, simple slow cooker, meatless mains, breakfast for dinner, delicious sandwiches/wraps, stove top, and even make ahead dishes.

I love all the fresh produce in abundance during this time of year. Most of these meals will incorporate such items. There will also be plenty of super simple dishes, ones where you're not slaving over the stove in a hot kitchen. Because really, we all have better things we could be doing with our time.

So get your menu planner ready! Beginning next Wednesday we're going to have a great time. Feel free to let me know anything specific you'd like to see featured and I'll try hard to work it in!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Green Bean Bundles

So did you enjoy a wonderful day with the dads in your life? We had a very nice, relaxing day. It started off with church, a little bit of yard work and then grilling. Later we made our way to my parent's home to see everyone for a bit. All in all what I hope was a good day for my husband.

In planning my menu for the day I decided to add these green beans to the list. Now I know for some of my family members, they're not big fans. But just maybe the bacon would leer them in. It didn't exactly work, the little ones just wanted bacon. I couldn't really blame them though.

That just left more for me as I love green beans. I remember mom preparing our beans with a little bacon and brown sugar growing up. I'd always eat more, just to get that little piece of flavorful meat.

Now that fresh produce is starting to be in abundance, I love preparing side dishes that we might not eat on a regular basis. You could surely use canned beans here but fresh taste so much better I think. This side dish is incredibly simple yet full of flavor. One that your whole family will enjoy!

Green Bean Bundles

1 lb fresh green beans
8 slices bacon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil and set aside.

Wash and trim ends of green beans. Wrap one slice of bacon around a bundle of 10 beans. Repeat with remaining beans and bacon. Place bundles onto baking sheet.

Mix butter, brown sugar and garlic together in a bowl. Spoon mixture over beans. Cover pan with foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Then uncover pan and bake for 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and serve bundles right away.

Makes 8 bundles.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Strawberry Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

My little brother was married over the weekend. For much of the week I think everyone was on edge regarding the weather for the outdoor ceremony. Despite everything that could have gone wrong, the whole day turned out perfectly. It was a lot of fun celebrating their new life together and we were honored to be apart of it all.

I was in charge of cake and cupcakes. They were both so easy going and pretty much let me take control over everything. My mom and I decided to surprise them with this fun fishing themed cake topper. They both love being on their boat and fishing! The only thing my brother requested was sprinkles in his cake, ha! So the cake was vanilla sprinkle with strawberry filling. Cupcakes were vanilla, lemon with strawberry buttercream and Snickers.

Here are just a couple pics from our day:

So moving onto these new bars. With all the strawberries we picked last week, I was looking for some new ways to incorporate them into a dessert. I had told my mom I would help out with desserts for the rehearsal on Thursday evening. I had some extra cream cheese in the fridge and my favorite sugar cookies came to mind.

But instead of cookies, bars seemed much easier. I pressed the dough into a 9x13 pan but if you want a thicker bar feel free to use a smaller pan. As for the frosting, I added some of our ripe strawberries. It was the perfect addition! If you're lucky enough to have any U-Pick farms near you, I hope you take advantage of strawberry season!

Strawberry Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2-1/4 cups flour

For frosting:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup diced strawberries
3 cups powdered sugar
Splash of milk, if needed for thinning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9x13 inch cookie sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg yolk and extract. Gradually add in dry ingredients and mix well.

Press into prepared pan, bake for 25-30 mins in oven, or until bars are set. Remove from oven and let cool.

To make frosting: Cream butter with powdered sugar. Add in fresh strawberries and mix well. Add a splash of milk to thin frosting if needed.

When bars are cool, spread frosting over bars. Cut into squares to serve. Store extras in fridge.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

DIY Frozen TV Dinners

Growing up, mom and dad did a pretty good job making sure we had nutritious, well-rounded meals each day. Most were cooked from scratch, but not always. I vividly remember my little brother throwing a fit because he wanted boxed macaroni and cheese for dinner every.single.night. I'm sure we even had the occasional TV dinner.

There's something so tempting about those small packages you find in the frozen section of your grocery store. I know when our oldest was little we relied on the chicken nugget kind for her dinner occasionally.  They're cheap, convenient and for whatever reason, she loved it. I cringe when I think of feeding them to her. But hey, no one is perfect.

With my love of freezer cooking and always trying to make meal times easier for our busy family, the idea of these meals popped in my head about a month ago. I can get the same benefits from any other frozen meal but actually taste good and be good for me.

I thought these would be great choices for lunch, especially if reheated in the microwave at work. Or if I have some different options, dinner time can be a little more fun. Everyone can choose their own meal and we'll reheat in the oven.

Your choices are unlimited and that's what is nice. I went with a ham ball dinner for my first option, complete with mashed potatoes and broccoli. You can offer a salad or maybe fruit to complete your meal. Next on my plan is to create a chicken strip with macaroni cheese type of dinner, I think this particular one will appeal to most children.

As far as assembly goes; you have some choices. You can use microwave safe divided containers. Or you can purchase small foil pans to reheat in the oven. Because I'm goofy and don't like my food touching and to make them look authentic, I found some cardboard scraps laying around the house, cut them down to the correct size I needed for my pans and covered them with foil. You can certainly just place your portion sizes right inside the foil pan though.

I went back and forth as to whether I would use fresh veggies that I blanched, but in the end for time's sake just went with frozen. Again, you can use whatever works best for you and your family. I honestly didn't spend long at all putting these together one morning. The ham balls are so easy to mix up and I let the potatoes boil while those baked in the oven. I was able to add 5 dinners to our freezer plus left a decent amount of ham balls out for us to enjoy for lunch that day.

Which type of meal would you add to your freezer stash first? Let me know in the comments below!

DIY Frozen TV Dinners

Supplies needed:
Cardboard (optional)
Choice of pan or containers
Main dish and 2 sides
Marker for labeling meals


1) First you'll need to choose your main dish, some good options might include: grilled chicken, meatloaf, chicken strips or ham balls.

2) Choose two sides: mashed potatoes, twice baked potato, broccoli, green beans, corn, peas or macaroni and cheese.

3) After your food is all prepared ( I wouldn't worry about cooking any frozen veggies, just add them directly to your pans) you will want to have your containers ready to go. If you're making the foil dividers; cut your cardboard down to the correct size so they fit right into your pan. The cardboard doesn't have to be real thick. Cover those with foil and place into the pans.

4) Portion out your meals into each container. Let all food cool completely before covering. If you don't have lids, make sure to cover with saran wrap and then foil to eliminate any freezer burn. Using a marker, make sure to label your meals with the contents and date.

5) Store meals in freezer until ready to use. When you want to reheat one, let thaw overnight in fridge, preferably. Then you can either reheat in oven or microwave depending on which type of container you've used. Meals should keep in freezer for up to 3-4 months.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mom's Asian Coleslaw

What a weekend! It was definitely busy, but such a good one. Our two oldest girls danced in their annual performance. It's something they work towards all year long at the dance studio, but man, it's so worth it. To watch them up there on stage. I am one proud momma!

Afterwards we invited our family back to our house to grill out for dinner and enjoy a little bon fire. My husband and I, with the help of our own mothers, prepared tons of food. Probably a little too much. Talk about leftovers!

This salad was featured in our menu. The recipe comes from my mom and I know I've seen plenty of versions out there. I haven't made it in quite awhile and it's such a light salad for this warm weather. It was a perfect choice.

Just about everyone I have ever served it up to loves it. Even kids. I love the light oil and vinegar dressing in this coleslaw. You'll definitely want to plan ahead when you make this. The salad needs to marinate overnight or at least a few hours for best results. Regardless, you'll want to add this to your menu soon, it's one your whole family will enjoy.

Mom's Asian Coleslaw

1 package coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage, carrots)
4 green onions, sliced
1 package ramen noodles (discard seasoning packet)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar

In a large bowl, combine slaw mix, green onions and noodles. In another bowl, mix together oil, sugar and vinegar. Pour over slaw mixture and toss together.

Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least three hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle sunflower seeds over salad.  Salad is best enjoyed within a couple days of making.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Freezer Meals

Now that it's June, it's officially summer in my book! When the temperatures start to rise, I don't want to be slaving over a hot stove if I can help it. We try hard to keep the oven off as much as possible. That's when I like to rely on the crock pot, grilling outside, no cook dinners or simple meals that can be heated quickly.

Today I've rounded up a few of my favorite freezer meals to have on hand for summertime. Keep these in your stash and you'll be thankful. Whether you're busy with baseball games at night or just plain tired after working all day, these will help your evenings go by much smoother.

Crock pot chicken tacos - Throw a couple bags of this easy chicken mixture into the freezer and let it cook all day in the crock pot. It doesn't get much easier than that. You can serve on tortilla shells or large lettuce leaves and top with your favorite toppings.

Meatloaf burgers - Or really any of your favorite burger recipes. Patties are great to have on hand for the grilling season. We love having hamburgers for dinner and this is one of my favorite recipes.

DIY frozen pizzas - Just because it's summer doesn't mean we have to give up pizza, right? You can certainly bake these in the oven, using one of those pizza pizzazz or on the grill. I love having these in my freezer and you can use any of your favorite toppings.

Zesty Italian melts - Another great sandwich and so simple to make. These reheat quickly in the microwave or oven.

 Burritos - These were a staple in our house growing up. Mom was always adding these to the freezer for us. They reheat quickly in the microwave, or if you like a crunchier texture use the oven.

Marinated Chicken- You'll want to have some different types of these on hand for quick and easy meals. Round out the grilled meat with salads and your favorite garden veggies. Even having fully cooked grilled breasts on hand make for easy sandwiches or wraps. Feel free to use your own favorite marinades, essentially all you will need to do is pour the marinade over the meat once placed into a freezer bag. When you thaw the meat, you'll have a delicious supper all ready to grill up.

Cilantro lime chicken
Zesty grilled chicken
Chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing
Precooked grilled chicken breasts

I hope I leave you feeling inspired when it comes to summertime meal planning. Remember, it doesn't have to be complicated. Taking a little bit of time on the weekends to meal prep can make a huge difference for the upcoming week!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

Rhubarb has been making an appearance at the markets since they opened one month ago. It's about time I got my hands on some.

I've also come to really like making scones, they were always one thing that intimidated me. I'm not sure why because they are one of the easiest baked goods to make.

I love when I can enjoy time in the kitchen on Sundays after church and lunch with the family for some leisurely baking time. I'm not feeling rushed and can take my time making whatever my little heart desires. This time, it was scones. Strawberry rhubarb scones, because the two go so well together.

Served with a little strawberry jam, they make for a special breakfast. You can certainly make a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze to drizzle on top, but I really love the jam. They're also lovely plain, if you're rushed for time in the morning, just grab and go.

You'll be happy to know scones also freeze well. After they have cooled, place them into a large container or freezer bag and store in the freezer. When you're feeling like having a scone, simply let thaw and enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cubed
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup diced rhubarb

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in heavy cream and egg and mix together well.

Using a wooden spoon, mix in strawberries and rhubarb. Turn over onto a floured surface and knead dough until everything comes together.

With a floured rolling pin, roll dough out into a circle. You may make this a thick as you would like. Cut dough into triangle shapes with a sharp knife.

Transfer scones to baking sheets lined with silicone baking mats. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until scones are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for at least five minutes before removing.

Serve warm, with jam if desired. Makes 12 scones.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Bucket List

Summer bucket lists are popping up everywhere, I love reading about what other families have planned for their vacation time. We've always put together some sort of list, whether it just be a few things that we hope to do with the kids and I thought I would share ours today.

I love that the girls help me in making our annual list, I think it's important to involve them in our fun. And while our list has quite a bit on it for this year, a lot of them are simple activities that will not be costly to us. I also won't be disappointed if we don't complete everything, that's not what our list is all about.

2015 Summer Bucket List

Make homemade ice cream- This was the first choice given by our youngest. I was given a nice KitchenAid attachment for Christmas a couple years back and am embarrassed to say, I have not even used it yet. Time to get working!

Go on a picnic- a real picnic, using the picnic basket my husband gave me way back in high school.

Visit the dairy farm- Our youngest had so much fun on a recent field trip that I'd like to take all the girls back for a hands-on tour. We'll get to help feed calves, milk the cows and make ice cream.

$3 Movies- Our local movie theater has a great selection of family movies for a cheap rate throughout the summer. We'll be taking advantage and going to a couple.

Swimming- We purchased family passes again to one of our favorite local pools/waterpark. I am looking forward to soaking up the sun with my family.

Volunteer at Food Bank- It's something that our family really enjoys to do. Even the girls.

Strawberry Picking- Another fun activity that we make a point to do each and every year. I will freeze most of the berries so we can enjoy through the winter, make jam and other goodies. Of course we'll also eat berries until we tire of them!

Have lunch with dad at work- We'll make a point to surprise dad with lunch at work throughout the summer.

Library summer reading program- It's important that we keep reading while we're not in school, we tend to visit the library each week regardless of the time of year. I like to have our girls take advantage of this free program.

Parks- The girls love to visit new parks when we get a chance. We'll try to play at new ones each week when time allows.

Pay for person behind us at ice cream shop- While we don't typically eat fast food, we do love to get an ice cream cone when it's hot outside. It's always fun to surprise the next family by paying for their treats.

Bake treats for the fire station- A couple years ago at Christmas we delivered some cookies from my cookie exchange to the fire station down the road. The girls have been asking to do it again ever since. So it's on our plan for this summer!

Go up to the river- My parents have a little getaway place and we always make a point to spend at least one weekend up there. It's a quiet little town where it's just peaceful and nice to get away from all the busyness in life.

Now that you've seen my family's list, tell me, what fun activities do you have planned for your summer?
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