Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meal Plan for the Week

Here's the meal plan for this week, along with links and a grocery list!
I've made the tostadas and beef tips several times, but the other recipes were recommended by my friend Jamie! She is an amazing momma and meal planner and cook, so I trust her with any recipe!
You can check out her family blog here and her Pinterest FOOD board here!
Hope everyone enjoyed last week's simple meal plan. This week's is pretty easy too - the first 4 meals are made with 2 Rotisserie chickens! Happy cooking!

Also, the recipe ingredients are listed in C o L o R , so if you want to skip one of these recipes, just knock off the ingredients for that color and you should be good. :)

Sunday :  Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes - Recipe can be found HERE!
Serve with black eyed peas and garden tomatoes.

*UPDATE: The reviews on this recipe said it was a little bit too salty; so when
I made them I halved ALL of the spice amounts.
I felt it was still a little too salty for my taste. So next time
I will probably leave out the garlic salt completely!

*This recipe calls for Herbs de Provence; if you don't want to buy this blend, 
you can make it at home using these spices or just use regular ol' Italian seasoning.

Monday :  Tostadas, Sour Cream Rice - RICE RECIPE can be found HERE

For the tostadas, you'll need flat corn tostada shells, refried beans, 
1 lb. ground beef or a Rotisserie chicken, cheese, lettuce, and salsa.
Spread thin layer of the refried beans on each tostada, 
followed by thin layer of sour cream.
Top with chicken or beef and then cheese.
Bake in the oven according to tostada shell directions. 
(Usually 350ish for about 10 min or until cheese is all melted and bubbly.

Tuesday :  General Tso's Chicken Sliders with Crunchy Slaw - Recipe can be found HERE!
Serve with steamed edamame or an Asian stir fry skillet mix!

*This recipe calls for grated ginger, but I will use ground ginger (from the spice cabinet.)
If you use the dry spice version, just half the amount! 
Also: The Simply Asia General Tso packet looks like this:

I found it at Publix in the Asian foods section with all of the other Asian sauces. 
It is not a seasoning packet; it is an actual sauce inside the packet! Just FYI!

Wednesday :  Strawberry Balsamic Pizza - Recipe found HERE!

Thursday :  Beef Tips - Beef Tips Recipe HERE!
Served with mashed potatoes and English peas and garden tomatoes.

The recipe calls for 1 cup either water or ginger ale; 
I have always used water and they turn out great!
We eat the beef tips over mashed potatoes, but you could do rice or pasta if you wanted.
(Ore Ida Steam n Mash potatoes from the frozen section are so good 
and such a huge time saver! No peeling or boiling potatoes = winning, 
especially during these summer months!)

G R o C e R Y   L i S T :

minced garlic
1 package shredded coleslaw mix
1 package lettuce shreds
1 bunch cilantro
1 pc. ginger (unless you have ground ginger at home)
1 sweet onion
2 garden/heirloom tomatoes (this is a side item so if you don't like tomatoes, skip it)

Mexican blend shredded cheese, 2 cups
cheddar cheese, 1 small bag (or 1 cup total)
12 oz. Italian blend or mozzarella cheese
1 cup sour cream

slider rolls
corn tostada shells
pizza crust (or 1 ball pizza dough)

2 Rotisserie Chickens (this will be for 4 meals!)
*1 LB ground beef (ONLY if you prefer beef over rotisserie chicken on your tostadas!)
beef tips (enough for your family)
applewood smoked bacon

1 can refried beans
4 oz can diced green chilies
1 can yellow corn
1 can chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice
1 can rotel (or if you have salsa, leave this off)
1 jar strawberry preserves
2 10-oz cans Pillsbury biscuits
*1 bottle Sriracha chili sauce (optional; probably could use any hot sauce or leave out)
1 pkt Lipton Onion soup mix
1 pkt brown gravy mix
1 can cream of mushroom
*Herbs de Provence (if you don't want to buy this, you can make it using this recipe, or you can use Italian seasoning mix.)

Edamame, sugar snap peas or an Asian stir fry mix!
1 bag English sweet peas (could do canned if you prefer)
Ore-Ida Steam-n-Mash potatoes, 1 bag
1 bag frozen mixed vegetable medley (you'll need 1 cup so a steamer bag will work fine too)

red pepper flake
ground ginger
salt and pepper
onion powder
garlic salt

I hope this helps someone out there!

Please let me know if you realize after buying groceries that I have left something off this list! I try to go back and doublecheck every link and ingredient but sometimes my brain does flips and I leave something off! Happy cooking!

[all photos on this post are from the recipe links!]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mary Ella's 6th Birthday: A Rainbow Unicorn Party

July 2014Mary Ella started planning her rainbow unicorn birthday celebration about 2 days after her 5th birthday party. She's always loved unicorns and "rainbow" was her favorite color on every school paper until this past year, so it was due time to bring some unicorn fabulousness (and lots of color and glitter!) to the party scene.

I'm really not lying about her planning this shindig. Every time we were in a store and she saw something rainbow colored or unicorn related, it was "Oh MOM! We could use that at MY PARTY!" and would say it like her party was the next day. So we collected random things (paper products, stuff for favor bags, etc.) over the last few months. I may not remember all of my sources so some of them will be best guesses! 

One thing were NOT in shortage of was unicorns. We find one nearly every time we go to the thrift store. So decor was pretty easy. I always say one of the easiest things to do for kids parties is to 
a) pick a theme relating to something they really love (because if they love it they'll more than likely already have tons of "stuff" related to it!), and 
b) use what you already have related to that theme! Whether it be unicorns or a specific Disney princess or Legos or trains. It's so easy to just pull stuff from their rooms and use it as decor.
Not every unicorn really matched the party decor, and none of them are really all that spectacular, but they are treasures to my girl, and she can tell you where each one came from, so I loved displaying them as a focal point for the party. I loved hearing her tell her friends that the one on the far left is a music box, about how the one beside the wreath was special because we found him with a broken-off horn and how her Mimi gave her the colorful ones with the huge eyeballs. :)

Mary Ella and I did decide to transform a few of them, though. All part of the fun! What's a party without a little re-doing, right? Hehe! Here's a few thrift store BEFORE & AFTERS:

A $0.39 unicorn print (just used magic markers, paint around the outer border, and glitter.)
July 2014

These were the tiny unicorns we used to top her cake. This was a junkie' find on our way back from a weekend beach trip in May. We used acrylic paint (and tiny brushes) to add some color.
July 2014

And we've had these rubber unicorns for a couple years now. We used acrylic paint to turn their manes and tails rainbow-colored. Also touched up their 'corns' with some metallic gold.
July 2014

DSC08716And nowadays you can get just about every color tissue pom ALREADY MADE! This is a huge time saver. And the best part is they can be reused as long as your kids don't step on them. Not that that every happens around here. Target's new party aisle has hanging tissue lanterns in nearly EVERY color, even some patterned ones, as well as matching plates/napkins/striped straws. You no longer have to turn to Etsy or other sites to get this stuff. Which I think is great!

Walmart actually had these rainbow-colored tissue poms as well as the pinwheels I taped to our chalkboard. 
And guess what else Walmart had? For the second year in a row, Walmart saved the day with Mary Ella's CAKE! I couldn't decide what I wanted to do for cake, and really didn't want to make the rainbow-batter layered cake (we've done that before and while it's fun and cute, it takes a bunch of time and calls for a huge kitchen mess with all the food coloring, cake pans, etc.). So I looked online one night at the cakes that Walmart offered, thinking maybe they had a unicorn one I could just order. Well, even better! They actually make a cake REGULARLY called... wait for it... 

T H e      R a i n B o W     B L a S t       C a K e   !!!

Look at that beauty!  (Top shelf on the left!)
Enough artificial dye to kill a small country, but when I saw it I knew it was "the one."

We also did a little BeFoRE and AFteR with our cake, adding a few extra colorful touches:

Here's the BeFoRe picture of the cake -- simple, white, a few rainbow-colored speckles on top...

July 2014

and the aFTeR:


{we used M&M's and rainbow colored sprinkles and our thrift store mini unicorns.}

And the inside looked like this:


And the cake was  s o o o o o   y u m m y ,  people.  Like, one of the best cakes ever.
 So moist on the inside and the icing was perfect.




We drank Gatorade and I had ice water and Coca Cola Classic for the moms.
I just bought 5 of the $1.00 bottles of Gatorade, each in a different color.
(So basically everyone left with a blood sugar well over 500.)

{glass milk bottles from Old Time Pottery, straws from Target I think?)


I use wrapping paper for table cloths at my kids' parties because it's cheap, easy, and you can roll up the mess and chunk it afterwards. Rainbow-ish wrapping paper from Target.

I honestly can't remember where in the world the plates and plastic cups came from because I've had them so long. My guess would always be Target or Walmart? The gold stars are another mystery, but they added some sparkle to I was glad I found them in my stash of random supplies. The birthday banner is from last year too - Walmart for the win. 


(And speaking of banners, I keep EVERY banner I ever use/make. I store them in a file box like this one. I have a pink fabric-scrap banner that I've used at Emma Kate's birthday party, 2 baby showers and a teacher appreciation luncheon. So definitely save your stuff! You never know when you might use it again, even if just for a family birthday dinner !)

Addie Jane spent a few days with us before the party so I let the girls take the lead on these favor bags. Found the idea here, via Pinterest, and had everything on hand already. White paper bags and construction paper is all you need! (Oh and we added gold glitter, of course!)

July 2014


Our favor bags included just a few odds and ends from Amazon and dollar aisles. Glittery pencil, stickers, rubber bracelet and a unicorn horn lollipop.

July 2014

I used my Ikea roll of craft paper for the dining room, where the girls sat. I tried my best to draw a variety of different unicorns and had markers and crayons out so that they could color them. This was basically just something to do as they waited on everyone to arrive.



And an extra special treat was having their faces painted similar to the painting they do at Disney!
My friends Misty and Tara graciously agreed to come and do this for the girls, and they all loved it.









The girls also painted a unicorn sun catcher (Hobby Lobby) before leaving.




I still can't believe this girl is   6   y e a r s   o l d .   S I X  !!!
I'm so proud of her. She is brave, passionate, a dreamer with a great imagination and quiet confidence. She loves her friends and her family. She can be a bit sassy and stubborn, but she gets it honest. And she still pouts and sometimes still needs a nap, which reminds me that six years old ain't that old after all. :)  I love her so much.

July 2014

And just for my records:

-Her current favorite things are: unicorns, anything and all things Frozen-related (particularly Elsa), My Little Ponies, Palace Pets, playing school and making/writing books, reading Junie B. Jones and Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy, and watching {mommy-approved} how-to videos on YouTube. Like how to make Anna and Elsa cakes, how to do Elsa makeup, how to use hair chalk, how to create your own Elsa dress... you get the picture.

-She chooses playing over TV, but she likes movies.  We saw Maleficent in the theater the day after her birthday. We both loved it.

-She's lost 3 teeth and her tooth fairy money must be flaming hot because it burns a hole in her pocket the minute she wakes up. We're working on saving our money. ;)

-She loves to dress up in big girl clothes and "fashions" as she calls them. Loves to pose in the mirror with a headband or a belt or pretend-makeup on; but she is shy about doing it for other people or even for the camera.

-She likes to read but is even shy about reading in front of us. Likes to read to herself most of the time and she will ask us for help if she needs it.


She would stay on the beach all day long. Loves to swim and has been swimming like a champ this summer, although she prefers to keep a mask on to go under the water.



A few pictures from her actual birthday...

July 2014

July 2014

July 2014

July 2014

Happy 6th Birthday, Mary Ella Morgan! 
You make your mama very proud. Love you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Meal Plan for the Week!

Well, it's been a while. One day I will catch up on all the posts sitting in my "Drafts" box. In the meantime, we're enjoying the hot Alabama summer! God is so good and we've been able to spend lots of time with family and have even been able to catch up with good friends and see lots of folks we don't see on a regular basis. We stayed at the Compound for almost a week after the 4th of July and the kids have been back and forth too, taking turns at the Compound. But we don't have anything major coming up in the next few weeks, so we're ready to get back to normal, everyday summer stuff.  Like swimming and day trips and actually eating at home instead of on-the-go. 
And since most of our meals for the last couple weeks have consisted of pizza, 

Chick Fil A, 

 and/or birthday donuts, 

I thought I'd do our life spans a favor and give cooking a try.

I'm posting our meal plan for the week in case anyone needs some simple ideas. 
Key word being "simple." 
So if you're looking for something that will blow your culinary socks off, you will be disappointed. But it's summer, and its hot, and ain't nobody got time to be slaving away for hours in a hot kitchen after a hot day looking like a hot mess. --------------------->>>
Gimme them easy recipes. 
And a cherry limeade.







And, because I have 18 loads of laundry to do and would rather put it off, here's a grocery list, organized by section:

lettuce for taco salad (I buy lettuce shreds in the package)
cilantro - 1 bunch
1 red onion, chopped
salsa (fresh or in-the-jar)
avocado - 1 or 2
1 bag coleslaw mix
fresh corn on the cob - enough for your family
fresh broccoli
potatoes (whatever kind you like for a side dish. I actually buy Ore Ida Steam n Mash potatoes in the frozen section; they are so good and take 10 minutes in the microwave! Add butter and you're done! )
4 apples (or you can substitute for a can of apple pie filling; see [*] below on Thursday's meal.
1 lemon
fruit for breakfast night  (whatever your family likes)

1 lb ground beef
2 lb chicken breasts (or enough for each family member to have some for Tuesday AND you'll need some leftover chicken for the pizza on Wedneday, but only about half as much.)
pork chops - enough for your family

shredded cheese - 1 bag mozzarella, 1 bag of Mexican style
8-12 oz sour cream
2 cans biscuits

tortillas (only if your kids would rather have tacos than taco salad on Mexican Monday)
thin pizza crust

1 can chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice
1 4oz can green chilies
1 can yellow corn
1 can black beans
1 can English peas/green peas
baked beans (enough to feed your family)
1 pkt taco seasoning
tortilla chips
BBQ sauce

Steam n Mash potatoes (Ore Ida brand; only if you don't buy fresh potatoes)

mayo, white vinegar, flour, sugar, butter, cooking spray, whatever you eat on your biscuits (honey, jelly, etc.)

Now for the recipes:

MEXICAN MONDAY:  Taco Salad and Sour Cream Rice
Note: You'll want to save some of the black beans, cilantro, and corn and lettuce for Wednesday's meal.
-For the taco salad: brown ground beef and add taco seasoning, cook until done. Drain and rinse black beans; store half of them for Wednesday. Slice up avocado, chop cilantro. Serve beef on top of lettuce with beans, chopped avocado/cilantro, Mexican style shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. Crumble tortilla chips on top.
-If your kids like tacos, use the tortillas and fill them up with whatever ingredients they like.
-I haven't tried this Sour Cream Rice recipe yet, but I saw it on Pinterest and the link can be found HERE.

Baked Mexican Sour Cream Rice:
1 can (14oz) chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
4 oz diced green chilies
1 cup shredded monterey jack
1 can yellow corn, drained
1/4 c cilantro
1 cup uncooked rice

Preheat oven to 350. In a large pot, bring rice and chicken broth to a boil; reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20 min. Meanwhile, spray a 1.5-qt casserole dish with nonstick spray. When rice is done, remove from heat and mix in sour cream, green chilies, corn, cilantro and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Spread into casserole dish. Cover with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until melty and bubbly.

TUESDAY: BBQ Chicken, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob and Slaw
-For the chicken, beans and corn: Take 1 chicken breast for each family member and sprinkle salt and pepper on them. Then place each chicken breast on a small sheet of aluminum foil. Spoon some BBQ sauce on each breast. Then open the baked beans and spoon some baked beans on top of the chicken breasts as well. Break the cobs of corn in half and place the 2 small halves beside the chicken breast. Fold your foil up and around the ingredients and seal at the top, essentially creating a little 'packet.' Place each packet on a large cookie sheet. Bake the sealed foil packets for 40 minutes on 400 degrees.
-Slaw: Mix coleslaw package with a little bit of mayo, some sugar and white vinegar (just eyeball the amounts; I don't like it too mayonnaise-y so I add little bits at a time) until you like the way it tastes!

WEDNESDAY: BBQ Chicken Pizza
-You'll need your leftover BBQ chicken from last night, some BBQ sauce, and your black beans, corn leftover lettuce shreds and cilantro from Monday. You'll also need the chopped red onion, mozzarella cheese and pizza crust. Take out your crust, spread a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of BBQ sauce right onto the crust. Top with your shredded BBQ chicken, chopped red onion, and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake according to crust instructions or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove pizza, and as a cool topping, mix together lettuce shreds, black beans, corn and chopped cilantro; serve this right on top of the pizza! This is one of my favorites for sure!

THURSDAY: Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Apples and Biscuits
-You can do the pork chops any way you choose. Sometimes we grill them, sometimes we just sear them on the stovetop and finish off in the oven. Sometimes we dredge them in egg and flour and then fry them up in a skillet. Do them however you like!
-I serve these with mashed potatoes, English peas, biscuits and baked apples.
-For the apples: Core and slice 4 apples. In a mixing bowl, mix together:
2 T. flour, 2 T. lemon juice, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar. Toss apples in this mixture and then put them in a sprayed glass cooking dish. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes!

*If you want an even simpler route, place your pork chops in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper; forget buying the apples and just grab a large can of apple pie filling instead; dump the entire can on the pork chops, and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until done! Serve with the taters and peas and biscuits. :) 

FRIDAY: Breakfast
Simple as it sounds: scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits with jelly/honey, and fruit! Enjoy!

Ok, make sure you read and double-check your lists because I probably left out some major ingredient by accident. I've read it until my eyes are crossed, y'all. ;)

Happy cooking this week!
And be sure to check my new Instagram account, @mamaneedsameal, for more tips and recipe ideas.

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