#30DaysofDinner Meal Plan: Week 4

week4mealplanWe all know the month of September can be hectic. Kids are heading back to school. Fall sports and after-school activities are starting up. While getting into the routine of it all after the slow months of summer, it’s easy to feel like each member of the family is going in a different direction.

The 30 Day Dinner Challenge gives you the opportunity to focus on spending time as a family around the dinner table during this busy season.

To help you through the #30DaysofDinner, we’ll be sharing a new meal plan here each week so you never run out of ideas. Make sure to follow our #30DaysofDinner board on Pinterest to get even more recipes for easy dinners, delicious sides, and even a special dessert or two!

Monday:
Save a little time this Monday by fixing the Monte Cristo Chicken from September’s menu. Just pop it in the oven and your family will be enjoying this savory dinner in no time. Serve with these Baked Asparagus Fries from our #30DaysofDinner Pinterest board.

Tuesday:
Nothing says comfort food like homemade Mac’n’Cheese. Surprise your kids with this simple to make but sure to please recipe from The Hour That Matters Most.

You’ll need:
5 cups cooked elbow macaroni
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup cubed American cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325º. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Boil pasta as directed on package. Drain. Melt butter in heavy sauté pan, and whisk in flour and salt, just until golden brown. Add pepper to taste. Add cubed American cheese, blending until melted. Add shredded cheddar, and blend until melted. Add cooked macaroni and toss to coat. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle top with bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until knife comes out clean when inserted.

Pair with these Garlic Grilled Tomatoes from our #30DaysofDinner Pinterest board.

Wednesday:
Our Creamy Chicken Risotto from August’s menu is a one-pot dinner that is sure to become a family favorite – if it isn’t already! Serve with a mixed green salad and these cheesy pull-apart rolls.

Thursday:
Go for a kid-friendly Greek-inspired dinner with these Greek Meatball Sandwiches from Dinners, Dishes and Desserts

Friday:
Your kids will love this Garlic-Ranch Chicken Pizza from I Heart Naptime, especially if they get to help make it! Homemade pizza is the perfect family night treat at the end of a long week.

Saturday:
Kids have plans Saturday night? Try fixing the Thai Seafood Soup from September’s menu for a special date night at home.

Sunday:
Make Sunday night dinner extra special with this Ratatouille Fondue recipe from The Hour That Matters Most. Have the kids help you make dinner and watch Disney’s Ratatouille before or after for a fun themed night.

You’ll need:
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced yellow onion
8-oz jar of roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
2 cups chopped precooked chicken sausages
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup nonfat sour cream
1 cup chicken broth

Directions:
Mix all ingredients and seal in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours. You can also simmer the thawed mixture on the stove top in a large pot over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 hours, stirring often. Serve warm with sourdough bread.

Monday:
Break out the slow cooker for this savory Honey Garlic Chicken recipe from Just a Taste. This easy recipe is sure to become one of your new favorites.

Tuesday:
End your 30 Days of Dinner Challenge on a high note with a family taco night! Try our Chicken Soft Tacos with Key Lime Corn from September’s menu for a fun twist on the traditional taco.

Want to win a month of dinners? Find out how to enter our 30 Day Dinner Challenge photo contest here.

#30DaysofDinner Meal Plan: Week 3

week3mealplanWe all know the month of September can be hectic. Kids are heading back to school. Fall sports and after-school activities are starting up. While getting into the routine of it all after the slow months of summer, it’s easy to feel like each member of the family is going in a different direction.

The 30 Day Dinner Challenge gives you the opportunity to focus on spending time as a family around the dinner table during this busy season.

To help you through the #30DaysofDinner, we’ll be sharing a new meal plan here each week so you never run out of ideas. Make sure to follow our #30DaysofDinner board on Pinterest to get even more recipes for easy dinners, delicious sides, and even a special dessert or two!

Monday:
Busy day? Just pop the Layered Ravioli Bake from September’s menu in the oven or let your family do it for you and you’ll be enjoying more time where it matters most!

Tuesday:
Celebrate late-summer flavors with this Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie from Pinch of Yum.

Wednesday:
Please the entire family with this Mexican Skillet Pasta recipe. This Mexican-inspired pasta dish can be made in one skillet in 30 minutes or less – perfect for a busy weeknight!

Thursday:
Turn your Parmesan Herb Crusted Chicken from this month’s menu into chicken fingers and serve with marinara dipping sauce for a kid friendly meal. Simply slice the chicken breasts into strips before tossing in crumb mixture.

Friday:
Bueno Steak Tacos
from September’s menu make a great family night dinner at the end of a busy week. You can also wrap them up as burritos and take them to practice, games, or wherever your family needs to be.

Saturday:
Need an easy one-pot meal? Try this Creamy Chicken and Rice recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Sunday:
For cozy fall comfort food, try making the Three Cheese Spinach Soup from our Dream Dinners cookbook.

You’ll need:
1/4 cup butter
5 tbsp flour
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 scallion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup nonfat cream cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until golden, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and scallion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the chicken broth and milk and stir until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cream cheese, Swiss cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper and site until the cheese is melted. Add the spinach and stir. Simmer the soup for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring gently. If you are preparing a triple batch, divide the remaining soup equally between two resealable freezer bags. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Want to win a month of dinners? Find out how to enter our 30 Day Dinner Challenge photo contest here.

#30DaysofDinner Meal Plan: Week Two

week2mealplanWe all know the month of September can be hectic. Kids are heading back to school. Fall sports and after-school activities are starting up. While getting into the routine of it all after the slow months of summer, it’s easy to feel like each member of the family is going in a different direction.

The 30 Day Dinner Challenge gives you the opportunity to focus on spending time as a family around the dinner table during this busy season.

To help you through the #30DaysofDinner, we’ll be sharing a new meal plan here each week so you never run out of ideas. Make sure to follow our #30DaysofDinner board on Pinterest to get even more recipes for easy dinners, delicious sides, and even a special dessert or two!

Monday:
Start off your week with a no-hassle dinner. All you have to do to take the Firehouse Three Cheese Pasta from August’s menu from fridge to table is pop it in the oven. Serve with Finishing Touch Garlic Bread and a Caesar salad. 
Continue reading

#30DaysofDinner Meal Plan: Week One

family-dishing-up-dinnerWe all know the month of September can be hectic. Kids are heading back to school. Fall sports and after-school activities are starting up. While getting into the routine of it all after the slow months of summer, it’s easy to feel like each member of the family is going in a different direction.

The 30 Day Dinner Challenge gives you the opportunity to focus on spending time as a family around the dinner table during this busy season.

To help you through the #30DaysofDinner, we’ll be sharing a new meal plan here each week so you never run out of ideas. Make sure to follow our #30DaysofDinner board on Pinterest to get even more recipes for easy dinners, delicious sides, and even a special dessert or two!

Monday:
Take advantage of a day off from work and school by fixing Texas Roadhouse Burgers with Seasoned Steak Fries from August’s menu. Serve with a fresh side salad for a meal fit for a celebration!

Tuesday:
Try something new by fixing the Chicken in Herbed Mustard Sauce Recipe from the Dream Dinners cookbook.
Continue reading

Meeting Non-Talkative Teenagers Where They Are

As they hit the high school years, moms of teens know our once chatty kids can become aloof or too busy to connect. They have irregular work hours, a challenging class load, and are busy with friends and dates.

There are moments though, to capture.

Make a point to greet your teen when they get home, even if it’s an odd time.  My son’s curfew was 11:30PM, so I always stayed up to say, “hello” when he arrived. If he got home from work at 8:30PM and was ravaging through the refrigerator for something to eat, I would sit down with him while he ate.

When my teen did homework, I’d offer to help. Sometimes we’d do Continue reading

Who Eats with Your Kids?

The Hour That Matters MostAt a signing for our book, The Hour that Matters Most, one mom shared her transforming story about one simple dinnertime change that made all the difference with her daughter. Because her husband worked a late shift, she always fed her toddler dinner early while she bustled about in the kitchen.  Later, when her husband arrived home, she would sit down to eat dinner with him.

This mom was so fun to meet as she excitedly told me about something she’d picked up from the book. She realized she was overlooking the connection opportunity with her daughter at mealtimes and implemented a new habit.  Now, she always sits down at the table with a cup of tea and enjoys her daughter’s company. What a difference it’s made! They chat, face to face, which warms her heart and their relationship!  This mom’s found a valuable opportunity to connect with her daughter while still saving time for dinner with her husband.

4 more tips for making sure to connect with our little ones at meals: Continue reading

Fill up your Summer Season with Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is the perfect time to focus on eating plenty of delicious, ripe seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with disease defying vitamins, minerals and fiber.  An adequate intake is good for your skin, immune system, digestion, and will help ward off high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Often our lifestyle goals focus on what not to eat; what if we tried the opposite? How about increasing our produce intake? Continue reading

10 Tips for Relaxing and Enjoying your Guests

When I host gatherings, my friends and family often say, “You’re so relaxed; how do you do it?” I didn’t know I was relaxed, but, I guess I am! Through years of practice, both at home and in the catering business, I’ve found a rhythm that works best for me.

family gathering and entertainingMy style is informal entertaining. Whether we’re in the yard serving a buffet or at the table eating family-style, my aim is to focus on our guests. I want to enjoy our company instead of fussing over something I could have done earlier.

Guests will pick up on our mood and quickly notice if we’re stressed or relaxed. Our emotions set the tone for everyone else. Relaxed entertaining has everything to do with: Continue reading

Make your Own Salad Dressing

making salad dressingEach week, I pick up my bag of organic produce from our nearby healthy eatery and find renewed inspiration to mix up some fresh picked greens with my homemade salad dressing. I love that my produce is local and sustainably grown and that the ingredients in my salad dressing are natural. I’m not a purist, but, I do appreciate healthy food that doesn’t require learning ingredient names with a dictionary.

Making your own dressing is simple and fun to personalize. You can almost never mess it up, even if you don’t use a measuring spoon.  Mix it in a cruet or use any small sealed container to shake it up one last time before adding to your salad.

The following is one of my favorite dressing recipes that I keep on hand for the summer. Continue reading

Celebrating a Graduation this Year?

Here’s how to make it special!

If you’re throwing a graduation party, be free to make it unique to your graduate.

Celebrate their way.
If they don’t like crowds and shy away from too much attention, make the guest list small and let them open their gifts personally with the giver.

graduation-now-and-thenBut, if they like to be the center of attention, invite all their friends and let them take center stage! Set up a time to publicly praise your graduate and let others have a chance to affirm them too.

Show off their ‘then’ and ‘now.’ Continue reading