And after vacation…

We get sick … Apparently.  

So I haven’t been up to doing much the past week. On my second round of meds and still feeling rotten. 

But I have done a wee bit of knitting 

And I’ve got a fantabulous bread recipe I’m testing (and the family is devouring) I hope to share that with you soon. 

Other than that, I’m just sniffling and coughing and hoping to get well. ❤️

This yarn used to be the beginnings of a shawl. But it didn’t want to be a shawl. It wanted to be a lap blanket. Reinvention in progress. Yarn is much happier now.  

Ranch Chicken

I tried a new recipe last night.

It was a blend of two different recipes I’d found on the internet that I wanted to try – both called Ranch Chicken but very different in their approach/ingredients. So, being the daredevil that I am, I decided to make my own version by blending the basic pieces of the two.

It was a huge success. So much so that I couldn’t get a picture because my family gobbled it up!

This will most definitely go into my regular rotation for the future.  I served it with some chicken-flavored rice (a-la Rice-a-Roni type rice) and steamed veggies.  There was barely enough left for SuperMan to make a lunch plate for himself. And none for me to make a lunch plate. But I like it that way. That means they liked dinner!

A couple notes –

– I used a combination of panko and corn flakes. Mostly because I was almost out of panko but also because I was blending two recipes and one called for panko and the other for corn flakes. We really liked the crunch of the corn flakes and I’ll probably do just those next time.

– my Houston House Seasoning is a staple in my kitchen. I use it on almost every savory dish I make. It’s so easy to keep blended in an old spice container and I just sprinkle it on my dishes as I season. I like the combination of flavors that it adds to every dish.

– another staple in my cooking is Mrs. Dash Garlic Blend. I use it on almost everything. Salt free and full of flavor.  I buy the huge bottles at the warehouse store – that’s how much I use it!!

– I cooked these on top of a wire rack on a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan. That allowed the air to get all around the chicken and kept it from getting soggy on the bottom. If you don’t have a wire rack, you could just put the chicken on your cookie sheet. I think it’ll be just fine.

On to the recipe:

Ranch Chicken

1 cup mayonnaise
1-2 Tbsp. Ranch Seasoning (I use Hidden Valley Ranch – another thing I buy in bulk quantities) + more for seasoning the breading
~ 1 Tbsp. Houston House Seasoning + more for seasoning the breading
~ 1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic blend + more for seasoning the breading
2 cups Panko bread crumbs OR Crushed Corn Flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large (gallon) zip lock bag, mix the mayonnaise, ranch seasoning, house seasoning, and Mrs. Dash
  3. In another large zip lock bag, mix the bread crumbs/corn flakes, parmesan and some additional house seasoning, ranch seasoning and garlic blend
  4. Place chicken breast in mayonnaise bag and shake to ensure it’s well coated in the mayo mixture.
  5. Place coated chicken in the breading bag and shake to ensure it’s well coated.
  6. Place the chicken on a wire rack (sprayed with cooking spray) that’s been placed on a jelly roll pan/cookie sheet.
  7. Repeat with all the chicken breasts.
  8. Bake 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Mini cooking day

I try to do a cooking day every few months to prepare some casseroles and meals in advance so that when life gets crazy I have a secret weapon in the freezer to save my sanity and feed my family. I had planned to do a big cooking day with some friends this August, but life got nuts for all of us and it just never materialized.

Earlier this summer our big freezer decided it was time to go to the big appliance graveyard in the sky.  We lost a LOT of food – and a lot of the stashed meals I had. (sad face)  We were so fortunate to have a small refrigerator in reserve so we still have an extra freezer for storage and I’ve been trying to decide if I could stuff it with freezer meals or not.

I have been so busy with work and appointments for my Girl that I was really feeling the pinch of not having my secret weapon to rely on.  So, this past weekend I decided to do a mini cooking day.  I used the Labor Day holiday to my advantage. SuperMan went with me to the store and helped me shop (he’s great at finding deals) and I came home and spent a few hours doing some cooking.

Since my new freezer is small, I couldn’t do a lot of meals. I will probably  have to do smaller-scale cooking days from now on. But I did manage to make a couple meatloaves and some chicken spaghetti ahead for busy nights.  And we’ve already used one of each this week as we’ve been busy with doctor visits and I haven’t been home to cook early.

It’s a little extra work on the front end to do a cooking day, but it is SO WORTH IT in the long run. When you are stressed out, tired and frazzled it’s hard to make healthy decisions for feeding your family. I tend to want to fall back on take out meals.  That’s not only less healthy (generally speaking) it’s also a lot more expensive.

Rather than spending $30-40 on a take out dinner, I just doubled my portions for my meatloaf and chicken spaghetti recipes.  And we had dinner for probably $10-15 instead of more than double that. And it was GOOD. And I knew all of the ingredients were wholesome.

I can’ t recommend that you try this yourself strongly enough.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

Here is how you can get started:

  • Pick a couple recipes (2-3 to start with) that you know are family favorites and would freeze well.
  • Work out your shopping list – if you’re doubling your recipe be sure you double your items on your shopping list.
  • Shop your pantry and freezer first. Use up what you have before you go buy more. (save money!)
  • Go shopping for your remaining ingredients. Don’t forget disposable pans and zip lock bags. You won’t want to tie up your casserole dishes in the freezer. (This also makes it easier to gift a freezer meal to a friend if she needs it one night!)
  • Pick a day when you have 2-3 hours (at least) to work in the kitchen.
    I suggest doing your prep (vegetable cutting, etc.) the day before if you can. That’s more efficient for cooking day AND you divide the labor over multiple days so it’s not so tiring.
  • For your cooking day, fill your sink with hot soapy water so you can clean as you go (in case you need to reuse your utensils or bowls)
  • Clean everything off the counters that are not related to your cooking project – give yourself as much working space as possible.
  • If the family isn’t helping, banish them from the kitchen (if you can) for less distractions.
  • Lay out your recipes and place your ingredients next to your recipes. Lay out the utensils and bowls as well.
  • I usually start with the recipe that requires pre-cooking first – like when I need to cook chicken for a casserole, or brown ground beef.  Get those started first.
  • Assemble your dishes.
  • This is going to sound crazy, but DON’T SIT DOWN. Keep going until you finish. If you stop, it’s hard to get going again. Trust me on this one.

When you’re preparing the finished dishes for the freezer, here are a few tips for you:

  • Use multiple layers to ensure you get a good seal. I usually use plastic wrap AND foil. I have had too many experiences where I’ve only used foil and someone slid something on top of my dish in the freezer and tore the foil.  Doubling up your layers lessens the risk of a ruined meal and also helps to preserve the moisture in the dish and protect from “freezer flavors” getting in your food. *Don’t forget to write a note on top of the dish to remove the plastic wrap!* Melted plastic wrap would be a nightmare in your oven.
  • Use labels to identify what the dish is, whether it needs to be defrosted first, and how it should be cooked. Be sure to take into account the fact that you may be pulling it from the freezer and cooking it semi-frozen. I’ve found that adding a few minutes to the cooking time normally called for in a recipe helps to ensure you don’t pull out a half-finished dish from the oven. This also helps if your hubby or kids are doing the cooking – make it as easy as possible for them to be successful!
    You can also write directly on the foil with a sharpie if you don’t have labels.
  • Stack your items in the freezer – and consider adding a label to the outside edge so you can easily see what’s there without having to pull out the whole stack.

Here are some of the recipes I use in my freezer –

You can also do chili and taco meat easily in the freezer.

If you’re a freezer cooking gal, I’d love to hear any tips or suggestions you have!

And if you’re not – I hope you’ll give it a try!

Planner Girl: Favorite Planner YouTubers

I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite YouTube channels for planner videos. I have been watching them on Saturdays when I am working on my next week’s plans. I find it fun to see how other people are managing their plans – both creatively and practically.

Here are some I watch regularly:

MissVickybee – she does great reviews and I love to listen to her charming midwestern lilt. Always makes me smile.

Carie Harling – another midwesterner I love to watch. She has great ideas for planning and organizing a busy household. I found her channel when she was using the DIYFish pages and I was just trying them out. I keep watching because even though we are using different filler pages and planners I still manage to find a few gems of planning brilliance to try out when I watch her videos.

Amy Tangerine – She’s just a creative genius. I’ve enjoyed her products and her style for years with scrapbooking. Love watching her work on her Traveler’s Notebook pages to document her family’s activities. She’s actually almost got me tempted to do some scrapbooking in a Traveler’s Notebook.

TheResetGirl – Cori is one of the first YouTubers I started watching regularly. I love her style and her practical and creative use of her planners.  Her sticker designs are to die for and I love how she blends creativity and planning. My pages will never look like hers – just not my style – but I LOVE looking at hers.

The Planner Girls – another one of my absolute favorites. These two friends have very different styles and use different planners. But that’s one of the things I like. Seeing all the variety in one place. They also post pretty regularly and I love Aimee’s use of the Cocoa Daisy inserts (which is what I am using right now)

Florence Antonette  – another “rock star” in the crafty planner world. Love her style and her videos.

RhomanysRealm – I found Rhomany via “One Book July” and love her matter-of-fact approach to planning.  She’s got a great practical plan for planning and she’s also an incredibly talented artist. Her videos are always entertaining.

Alexis aka MissTrenchcoat – self-made entrepreneur. I like her ideas for managing your time as self-employed entrepreneur.  Her style is not mine, but I definitely find a few nuggets every time I watch her videos.

Gosh. I look at this list and I look like a YouTube junkie.

I promise I’m not.

But I do watch them pretty regularly – maybe once every week? Usually on Saturday or whenever everyone else is conked out at night and I can’t sleep.

I hope you check a few out – and if there are any you know of to recommend, I’d love to hear about it!

Checking in

Hi, y’all –

Sorry I haven’t posted yet this week. Have spent most of the last two days in doctor appointments for my big girl. Specialist appointments we’ve been waiting months for – follow ups to the illness she’s been battling since last fall. It’s been a hectic few days and we’re now processing and digesting all of the news and diagnoses we’ve been given.  Lots of follow up appointments to make and new things to adjust to.

Good news is it’s nothing dire or tragic. Not so good news is she’s got some medical issues she’ll most likely deal with for some time. However, she’s a tough girl and I know without a doubt that she will be able to, (in her Daddy’s words) “improvise, overcome and adapt”

So, I’ll be back to posting in a few days – thinking about sharing some of my favorite planner YouTube videos and I have a few more recipes in the works to share as well. Stay tuned. :)


Sorting Saturday 

I’m busy sorting recipes today. Getting my pile of printed recipes sorted and in binders. 

Just came across one and thought “That looks good!” (It was one of my own recipes! LOL)

If you’d be interested in seeing my recipe management system, let me know!

What are you up to today?