and there you have it…



week 2 menu plans

Skipped Monday’s blog to celebrate the holiday. Figured you all were too, but I’m back. I’ve got another week of menu’s down below. Enjoy!

8) Black bean sweet potato burgers – I’ve had people really get upset when I call these burgers and there’s no meat in them, so if it makes you feel better feel free to call them patties instead! They are not a meat burger substitute, they are they’re own thing entirely and they are yummy. If you can make up the mix and leave it for a bit they are a little easier to handle, but I’ve done them either way (I’m not always thinking ahead!). When cooking them once you put them on the skillet don’t touch them, check them, or move them AT ALL until you’re ready to flip them. Premature checking or flipping or poking may or may not cause them to crumble into pieces, which I totally don’t know from experience, but I read it, somewhere, yep, that’s it. Also they taste really good with avocado (or pepper jack cheese if you can have it!)

9) Vegan mac n cheese – So how’d you like to eat a whole bunch of healthy things and it feels like you’re eating mac n cheese? You’re in luck! It’s got onions and shallots and carrots and lemon juice and cashews and just trust me you’ll still like it.

I have to be upfront, this one is a bit labor intensive the first time. It’s worth it, I can make it in my sleep now we’ve had it so much. By the 5 or 6 time we had it all the kids would even eat it! I don’t typically put the bread crumbs on top, I don’t feel it’s needed and it’s just extra work. Also I always always at least double the sauce, I freeze whatever’s left for other recipes. If you don’t want to have so much potato in there we’ve successfully subbed it out for eggplant (I know, but it really works) or half cauliflower half potato (more than 50/50 for this alters the taste too much for me). I’ve also halved the salt and ‘butter’ with no complaints (just don’t leave it all out! left out the salt once on accident, I will NEVER do that again, blech). Also I stopped telling people it’s vegan, they give you weird looks and don’t try it. If you don’t tell them, they love it! Adults are really just little kids when it comes to food sometimes.

10) Corn chowder – This is the basic recipe I use. I like this one with coconut milk best, but I’ll use whatever non-dairy milk I have on hand. A special trip to the store for a preferred ingredient does NOT happen over here, instead, I get creative, it usually works out. I leave out the red peppers, I really like them, but the family not so much. I like turkey bacon sprinkled on top vs. the canadian bacon inside. I’ve used half n half fresh corn and canned or frozen and I think it still tastes good. I don’t think I’d do all frozen, but you can do whatever you want.

11) Huevos rancheros – This is here for the no brainer nights, so so easy. As long as I make sure each of my kids gets an egg, they will eat it.

12) Pad Thai – We had this last night! That comment on the beginning of the blog about doubling the sauce, that was from me! I changed the description on my original pin and as it got repinned and repinned no one changed the description and whamo it was all over pinterest! My one claim to fame. I do like it saucier, although these days I mostly just add more soy sauce (we use bragg’s liquid amminos) and lime juice and keep the sugar the same.

13) Homemade Pizza – no recipe here, everyone likes their pizza different. We have however stumbled on Mama Mary’s crust for the gluten free option and it’s been a big hit, we like their regular too. Over here our cheese pizza has olives, green pepper, onions, and mushrooms (Jena is still picking these off) and pepperoni. For the no cheese the boys mostly just do pepperoni, sometimes one of the other veggies, if I’m in the mood to force the issue.

14) Fish and veggies – another no recipe. We eat mostly white fish (though the kids have recently decided to like salmon too!) and I just put some olive oil and salt and pepper on it and put it on the electric skillet 3-4 minutes a side. The kids don’t like the fancy stuff so much and this one is one I make for an easy dinner win. I will put some cajun seasoning and mine and Bycemasters, yum yum. We usually eat it with broccoli or green beans.

So there you have it, week 2! Click here if you missed week 1!


week 1 meal plans

So I posted on facebook earlier that I’ve finally got a list of 30 dinner meals for the family, and there was a request for the meals. Since I honor requests (shhh don’t tell my kids), here you have it.

The hope of this list is that I can just pull from this list each week when menu planning and it will make menu planning less of a brain drain and more of a breeze! I doubt I will just rotate this list straight, certain things (like homemade pizza and quesadillas) will get used more than once a month, I can already tell you that. Also I enjoy trying something new, even if my family does not always appreciate my efforts, but its one of the few advantages of being the cook, I can cook what I want, occasionally.

Since a whole 30 days would be a monstrosity of a post, I’m gonna do it a week at a time. I try to follow the 80/20 rule with food. Meaning if we can keep 80% of what we eat in a week where I would like it, the other 20% is a wash. Breakfast and lunch are usually pretty standard and healthy around here so I took a few of the cheats with dinners (hence the hot dogs, gotta have some easy wins) and the rest will cover parties, eating out and other peoples houses (always a wild card). I need some grace in my life.

So here it is, in absolutely no premeditated order whatsoever!

Week 1 of 30 days of dinner meals

1) Black bean quesadillas – This is one of the few all over wins for the family. I use whole wheat or corn tortillas, smash up the black beans a bit to make a paste, spread bean paste on one half and avocado on the other half, sprinkle with black olives, fold in half and grill in coconut oil on a skillet. We also add onions, tomatoes, and cheese per request. Serve with salsa and sour cream. So yummy!

2) Re-fried bean tacos – I use this recipe for re-fried beans in the crock-pot, they smell like heaven when they are cooking. I make the whole recipe and freeze the rest for easy dinners later! This recipe was the first way we ever got the littlest to actually eat tacos.

3) Split pea soup – This one was a favorite for Bycemaster and myself, the kids were very much not fans. There may or may not have been incidents of actual gagging at the table the first few times we had this. They have been slowly won over and now all of them will actually eat it and 2 of them are actually excited about it! I use the recipe on the back of the Publix split pea package. We use a few pieces of bacon instead of ham unless it’s the holidays and we need to use up a bunch of leftover ham.

4) One Pan Mexican Skillet Meal – recipe here, we use exactly as stated, so so easy, love this one.

5) Potato Soup – this is the baseline recipe I use, we sub the cow’s milk for unsweetened almond milk and the flour for whatever gluten free flour I happen to have at the moment. It’s loaded with veggies and not super heavy like a lot of potato soups, have seconds with no guilt 🙂 It can be fun with toppings too, we usually pick some green onions and add cheese for those that can have it.

6) Hot Dogs – Some nights you need a no brainer. If I’m lucky Bycemaster will grill them, if not, I’ll microwave them. I usually buy the ones safe for our family when they’re on sale and hide them in my special hidey hole in the freezer to pull out on nights when I cannot adult.

7) Black bean soup – another super easy one (are you sensing a theme here). Two cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can of broth (veggie or chicken), and 1 cup of salsa. Set aside one can of beans and blend the rest, then pour in a pan to heat and add the other can of beans and a little cumin and chili powder. This one is so easy it was one of the first to teach the oldest to make. Sometimes we mix in corn or rice if I have some leftover that needed to get used. We always serve it with chips, pretty sure that’s why it’s a kid favorite.

Side note: I used to think making dried beans required magical powers. I tried and failed miserably so many different times and then stumbled on a blogger that said she made them in the crock pot, EUREKA! 4-5 hours on high, no soaking or magical powers required. I now cook dried ones and freeze them in roughly can sized containers for easy use later.

Good luck and happy cooking!

it’s all about sleep baby

So I’m reading a new book, surprise! NutureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. OMG, it is amazing! I was going on and on about it to Bycemaster last night when he ever so politely says, why don’t you blog about it? Was he getting sick of hearing about it? Possibly. Was he very kindly and politely asking me to stop? Probably. Was he right? Definitely!

Every chapter so far has been amazing. Last night was the sleep chapter, I was ironically staying up late to read. But it was so fascinating, and validating! (See kids, mommy DOES know what she’s talking about!) When they studied elementary students they discovered just one hours difference in sleep a night resulted in a two grade level reduction in performance, 2 grade levels! Here’s the quote “a slightly sleepy sixth=grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.” Sleep deprived kids also had problems with impulse control, concentration, emotional stability, and were more likely to be obese. To quote the authors again “The surprise is not merely that sleep matters – but how much it matters, demonstrably, not just to academic performance and emotional stability, but to phenomena that we assumed to be entirely unrelated, such as the international obesity epidemic and the rise of ADHD.” Wow.

After a number of melt down incidents we had over here last week and then our discovery that said incidentor (like that new word, Bycemaster would be proud) had been getting up an extra hour earlier all week, this totally rang true. It truly was a complete regression in “cognitive maturation and development,” which is really frustrating when you know how old they are supposed to be! It’s possible this experience could be exponential in adults…just throwing that out there. I mean you can see it right? It could explain A LOT. Just speculation people!

However, the fact “that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine” (I haven’t quoted someone so much since my college paper writing days!) is not speculation. Ok excuse my nerd out here, but they actually explained why this is happening and I must at least attempt to pass it on (you really need to read this book people!). So our brain processes and stores the information from the day while we are sleeping. How the person feels about a memory determines what part of the brain processes it. Your amygdala processes your negatives memories/events and positive or neutral stimuli are processed by your hippocampus. But when you get too little sleep the hippocampus suffers first and hardest. Leaving you with a brain full of negativity and little capacity to even add anything neutral or positive to the mix the next day. The situation is compounded for kids due to the different quantities of sleep stages they have at night. The surly teenager stereotype is beginning to make much more sense. I mean I know what I was like as a teenager, I wasn’t nicknamed ice princess for nothing. I was also sleeping 6 or less hours a night for years. My already existing plan of enforcing naps in my teenagers has now been set in stone.

time to do it

I’m here, sitting down to do this thing like I said I would. One problem, I’m sick of talking about this photobook, and I don’t know what else to talk about.

So here we go, first draft is done. I just need to edit it before it gets sent off for review. Usually editing is my favorite part, I like refining things down to their best, it’s what I do. I don’t know what’s wrong with me now, but I don’t want to do it, I mean really don’t want to do it. I put it at the top of my list this morning and have instead worked up from the bottom doing everything but the writing I am currently doing and the photobook. I’ve got laundry going, kitchen cleaned, crockpot going, workout done, bills done. I even finished my current reading book AND got a shower, in the morning (showers in the AM hours do not happen for me). My avoidance of this task has made me extremely productive! Yay procrastination…wait…that’s not right…

In semi related news, one of my goals for the year was to get the real camera out at least once a month and just take pictures with it. When I first bought it almost 5 years ago (you can read about those trying circumstances here) I fancied myself a bit of a photographer. I used it all the time, I got some photos I really love (like the one in the post above), and then life got busier and I started looking at all these real photographers photos and I just got discouraged and stopped. Its been years, and that super special meaningful camera has caused me nothing but guilt as it’s sat their literally collecting dust…like cough your brains out when you try to touch it kinda dust. Possibly another reason it wasn’t getting touched…

But this year I made the goal tangible, once a month. Instead of my usual vague, take more pictures (gee I don’t know why that wasn’t working..). I also gave myself permission to not be a professional and still like what I take. Besides just like writing and running and pretty much anything, you don’t stumble on the good ones without a lot of bad ones.

I didn’t end up using the picture below in the book, but it did come out of one of our neighbhood park sessions last week. I know how some people get nervous with climbing, not what I was trying to provoke! It was completely kid prompted (mom take a picture of us!) and their happy faces show it! I am super pleased with it.


Look at that. Guess I did have something to talk about.

the results are in!

Thank you all so much for your feedback on the last post. Most everyone is actually on the same page, when does that ever happen? So weekly it is! I now have to find some way of reminding myself to do it, I may end up with post it notes all over my house again. They actually work fairly well. Except last time my children collected them all from the entire house like a scavenger hunt and created a mural on their wall with them. Yeah…so maybe I’ll find another system.

Tomorrow is our last home study visit! Hopefully, assuming the fire extinguisher passes inspection. Who would have thought a silly fire extinguisher could cause so much stress, not I said the fly! I’m plugging away on our family profile book. I’ve managed to gather way more pictures than could ever fit and yet somehow still don’t have exactly what I want or need when I sit down to put the actual pages together. I’m giving myself the week to take pictures of our daily lives, so those we see on a regular basis, the paparazzi is coming to town! Also next Monday looks like the perfect beach day, so I promised myself we’d go if I got the book done by then.

I’ll leave you with this little gem I found digging through photos. It was our 3rd anniversary, I was 6 months pregnant with Grant. Which is impossible, because look at the babies!

we were so little, also I want my hair short again
we were so little, also I want my hair short again

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