Monday, August 19, 2013

Dessert - No Bake Chocolate Eclair


Yum-o-licious.  Vanilla pudding with Cool Whip folded in and sandwiched between layers of graham crackers then covered with a sweet chocolate fudge topping.  How can you go wrong?

I found the recipe on Pinterest, promptly tested the recipe, declared it delicious, and moved it off my "to try" board and into my favorites album.

Visit the LINK for the recipe.  Let's give credit where credit is due...not here!

You can still thank me for the introduction...and share your creation.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School Meal Planning and Prep

I spent much of this week planning, shopping, and preparing meals to stock my freezer so we are ready once school starts.  I'm linking the list below to the recipes I use, in case anyone else wants to get their cooking on.

 Yet to make:
  • Mushroom and Spinach Quiche (this will be my breakfast many busy mornings)
  • Sweet Mesquite Chicken (a friend recently hosted us for dinner and served an awesome chicken dish.  She used boneless, skinless thighs covered in agave syrup and sprinkled generously with Sweet Mesquite seasoning from Costco and rosemary. I will make up a few batches to have in the freezer. From the freezer, dump in a pan and bake at 375 degrees until done.)
I keep getting asked "are you ready?"  I'm not sure.  Yes and no.

I'm excited about the new year.  I'm incredibly excited to do my lessons a second time and work on improving them.  I'm excited that I know more than I did a year ago at this point and that will help me help my students better.  I'm excited to love on another group of children and, hopefully, show them Jesus' love by living it every day.

I'm excited to watch my three oldest children enter new classrooms with a new group of classmates and teachers and grow and change and enjoy everyone. I'm not ready to see my youngest baby less. I have really enjoyed being a full-time mom again these past few months.  But, he will be in the same building as me three days a week, so I'm excited to walk by and peek in to see him in that environment (I only saw him at school last year for 10 minutes when I was able to pick him up once).  [All four of my children will be in my building this year.  I am so beyond blessed!]

I'm ready for more routine. I do better with structure.  My co-teacher and I have spent hours working on improving our plans and processes, so I'm ready to implement them and enjoy it!  I'm ready to see her every weekday too.  I've missed her this summer.

Now that I have these meals prepped, I'm even feeling more ready to not be home so much.  We are planning and discussing who will do what during the week.  Joel is still working part-time as a youth pastor, but we are no longer at the same church.  We are back at our church here in Carrollton, which is a great blessing.  We miss the students we served and the few families we got to know, but not having to commute and serving right here where we've planted our family is awesome!  Just today Joel took our girls up to the youth room to work on something. VERY COOL!  In addition to serving the youth and their families, he is still a full-time seminary student.  His plate is very full.  Thankfully, my mom lives with us and is helping us get through this season of life. 

So, I guess now that I've written it out, I am ready.  Let's do this!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Meal Plan Links to Recipes

I started linking all the recipes and my computer just can't handle it.  At this point in the day, neither can I. ha!  So, I'll have to come back and add more links later.  I also need to type up some recipes for our food blog and then I can link to those.  But, these should get you started if you're looking for a meal idea! (typed in the order they appear on my menu plan for March through May)

*The items marked with an asterisk were prepared in advance as freezer meals.  I typically stock up when chicken is on sale (for me $1.99 at Sprouts is what I look for).  I prepare some raw with seasoning or sauces and cook some.  I also purchased a 5 pound whole chicken and cooked it for many of the recipes.  I purchased a 6 pound package of ground beef from Costco and two 20 oz. packages of ground turkey.  I dice all the onions I'll need for the recipes I'm planning to make.  Then I do the same with all the other veggies.  While things are cooking or baking, I prepare other dishes.  I put almost everything in a Ziploc freezer bag and then squeeze out all the air.  I lay items flat on a cookie sheet to freeze and then stand them up in the freezer.  Here's a post on my freezer cooking adventures.

Chicken Parmesan (used chicken tenders and didn't pound them, you should pound them; didn't make this as a freezer meal
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
7-Up bread (from pinterest; read through the comments and made my own mix, used fat free greek yogurt, no butter on bottom of dish, and Sierra Mist; good, but not "amazing")

*Sweet and Sour Meatballs (meatballs were prepped and frozen; sauce was made the day of serving)
Rice
Green Beans

*Balsamic Roast Beef (meat was frozen; sauce was made the day of serving; was good; a friend had given us the roast; didn't have the strong balsamic flavor I wanted, but was still yummy)
Mashed Potatoes (Joel searched how to dress up boxes mashed potatoes and found this site; he just added chicken stock to the water and it was yummy; we buy Better Than Bouillon from Costco)
Waterless Carrots (these are my FAVORITE cooked carrots!)

*Baked Ziti (from my friend Denise)
Huge Salad
Bread
Eclair Dessert (from pinterest; super simple and impressive for guests but SO easy)

*HB BBQ sandwiches (from my friend Nancy in PA)
Coleslaw
Chips

Frogmore Stew

*Jalapeno (Green Chile) Chicken casserole

*Baked Potato Bar with BBQ shredded chicken, broccoli, and toppings (placed one cup of shredded cooked chicken in a bag and labeled as BBQ shredded chicken; we will add sauce and heat through the day of serving)

*Shepherd's Pie (I prepare the beef mixture and freeze; after thawing, the meat is placed in a dish and we quickly made instant potatoes for the top)
Salad
Fruit

*Orange Chicken (this is a frozen entree from Costco; we LOVE this orange chicken and our kids request it regularly)
Stir Fry noodles
Green Beans (steamed from frozen bag; seasoned and buttered)

*Turkey Burgers (mix the turkey burger recipe and shape into burgers for freezing; thaw and cook)
Pasta Salad
Sweet Potato Fries

*Chili and Cornbread (my chili is always prepared differently; I add a few cans of stewed tomatoes, onions, peppers, chili powder, a blend of cooked ground beef and ground turkey; a can of drained pinto beans; a can of drained great northern beans; other spices; simmer and then cool and bag in 6 cup increments)

*Lasagna
Salad
Bread

*Chicken and Wild Rice casserole
Peas
Fruit

*Pizza Meatloaf
Mashed Potatoes
CA medley veggies (just a blend of veggies from the freezer section; we steam them)

*Chicken Fajitas (I always prep this as a freezer meal; one of my favorite dishes)
Mexican Rice (from a box mix)
Beans (can of refried beans or black beans seasoned with spices and cheese)

*Rattlesnake Bites (new recipe for me; made just the beef filling mixture for freezing)
Roasted Cauliflower (LOVE these; could eat it all by myself)
Carrots and Ranch

*Sweet Soy Chicken
Cheesy Orzo (we all love this recipe; been making it a long time now)
Simmered Cabbage (awesome recipe!)

*Sopa de Maiz
tortilla chips
Layered Mexican Dip

Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes or Waffles
Eggs
Sausage
Fruit

*Chicken Enchiladas (I use a newer recipe than the one linked here; I mix about one cup of shredded cooked chicken with 4 oz. cream cheese and warm on low heat until melted, then mix in 4 oz chopped green chiles. Layer in a dish: little bit of green enchilada sauce (we love Old El Paso mild green chile sauce), tortillas (corn or flour), 1/2 chicken mixture, shredded cheese, tortillas, 1/2 chicken mixture, sauce, cheese or you can roll the chicken mixture in flour tortillas and lay those in a little sauce with poured sauce and sprinkled cheese on top.  Bake all at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.)
Rice
Corn/Bean Salad

*Baked Potatoes with Chili and Cheese (chili prepared and frozen)

*Ham and Green Chile Quiche (ham is frozen from when I cooked a whole ham at Christmas; hashbrown potatoes are frozen)
Fruit

*Honey Garlic Chicken
Rice Mix
Broccoli

Hotdogs and Hot Sausages with Peppers & Onions (kids don't like sausage and it's a favorite of Joel's; just cook on stovetop, saute peppers and onions in separate pan)
Chips

*Chicken Spaghetti (new recipe; similar to another I have and tasted yummy when prepped; I prepared this and then filled our crock pot with this mixture in a liner bag; froze it and will just take out and put in crock pot to thaw and then warm through)
Salad
Bread

*Terriyaki Pork Chops

Slow Cooker Maple Chicken (new recipe to try)

*Meatball Subs (meatballs were cooked and frozen plain)
Potato Salad
Chips

Vegetable Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Salmon Burgers
Sweet Potato Fries
Carrots and Ranch

*Sweet & Sour Chicken (pretty common recipes, but this blog was found via pinterest and was helpful)
*(here's another recipe I like with the same name "Sweet & Sour Chicken")
Rice (Joel bought several prepackaged rice mixes)
Green Beans (not necessarily this recipe but it's one I like)

*Brown Sugar & Balsamic Pork (pork chops were frozen plain)

*Chicken Broccoli Casserole

*Spaghetti and Meatballs (meatballs were cooked and frozen plain)
Broccoli
Salad

*Honey Curry Chicken (chicken was frozen plain in a portioned amount for this dish)
Brown Rice
Peas

Quesadillas
Soup

*Chicken Pot Pie (chicken was frozen plain in a portioned amount for this dish)

Kielbasa and Potatoes

Harvest Chicken Salad Sandwiches (new recipe)
Raw veggies
Chips
Fruit

Chicken and Cheese Stuffed Shells
Salad

French Onion Soup

Italian Sausage & Zucchini

Chicken in Wine Sauce

Creamy Chicken Penne

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken Nachos

Major Meal Planning

I experienced a huge victory over Spring Break.  I was able to spend much-needed quality time with my husband and children and take care of some things at home.

With our transition last summer [leaving Gospel for Asia, Joel taking a part-time youth pastor position--which meant we also left our church here in Carrollton, Joel starting seminary full-time, and me starting to work full-time], Joel and I basically switched roles when it came to taking care of the house needs and earning an income.  I went to work to support our family and he happily took over the bulk of grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry.

After 8 years of being a stay-at-home mom, however, it was a lot harder to let go of than I thought it would be.  Don't get me wrong...I had no trouble not doing laundry or not cooking a meal.  I simply didn't have any time to do it.  I would leave the house at 7 am and return around 6 pm every day.  After we would eat dinner and get the kids in bed by 8 pm, I would plan, prep, or grade for the next day of school.  Then, I would try to get in bed by 11 pm so I could force myself to get out of bed the next morning by 5:30 am.  (If you know me well, you know I thrive on at least 7 hours of sleep and could really use more like 8 to be good to go.)

I love my teaching job.  I can't even describe how grateful I am for the gift God has given me in this role in this season.  However, it has taken everything I have to give.  Part of that is my own desire to do things well.  I don't do things half-heartedly.  I am either in or I'm out.  I am committed.  I am loyal.  I am devoted.  Good or bad, it's who I am and how I'm made.

So, while I simply could not do the things I was doing for the last 8 years, I struggled internally on a regular basis.  I felt extreme guilt.  I felt like a failure as a wife and mom.  I cried.  I got mad.  I was frustrated.  But, I really couldn't do much.

However, I have finally come into a rhythm.  I'm still in my first year in the classroom, so it's still all new to me.  I'm still teaching concepts and lessons I've never before taught.  But, the routines of everything are much easier.  I've learned what's important and what can wait.  I've learned how to do things faster and not to procrastinate on some tasks.

Therefore, as Spring Break arrived, I committed to spending a portion of the time at home planning meals for the rest of the school year.  I wanted to cook.  I enjoy cooking and planning the food my family will eat.  I'm pretty good at it, too, so it feeds that need to do something well.

So, that's where this post came from.  I posted my victories on Facebook and had many friends ask for the meal plan and/or recipes.  I've done my best to collect them all in these two posts.  This post is the PLAN portion.  The next post has all the links to the recipes, most of which come from all over the web.

I hope you find great success as you plan, prep, and serve your family through feeding them!  It really is a LABOR of LOVE.

March/April Meal Plan (PDF in google docs; sorry it's flipped sideways)

April/May Meal Plan (PDF in google docs; sorry it's flipped sideways)

Since I created the plan over Spring Break, my calendars are dated from mid-March through mid-May.  Our family tends to eat leftovers about once a week (a clean-out-the-fridge night).  However, I didn't plan a lot of gaps in the first month.  We also like to do a pizza night either Friday or Saturday night.  I also didn't account for those.  So, often times I will circle a date and "move" it to another day later in the month.  If you notice empty days, they were left empty so they could account for these changes.  We also have church every Wednesday.  Joel is the youth pastor so we need to be there early and the church is in Ft. Worth (about 45 minutes from our house on a good traffic day).  Our three big kids go with us and we eat a quick dinner out that night.  [My mom generously keeps Jett each Wednesday, which is great since we don't get back home until almost 10 pm.]

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tears

I had a very emotional weekend.

I cried a lot yesterday.  I mean A LOT.  It was a lot more than I think I've cried in a long time.

It's really frustrating and hard when you can't pinpoint exactly why you're crying.  It almost makes the crying insulting somehow.

I can put my finger on several things that contributed to the crying.  Perhaps there was a piece of me that was mourning.  Today is Jett's 2nd birthday.  My baby boy, my youngest, is now 2 years old.  This time has gone by quickly.  Maybe I'm mourning the passing of time.  I think it's more tied to this season of my life, though.

In my previous post, I mentioned the heyday I think the enemy has in my envy.  Today, I will say I think he has a heyday in my doubts.  Doubts is the best word I can use right now.  Insecurity is there, but that connects to envy too and this is a different beast.

I think it goes back to the mourning.  I'm still adjusting to this season of life where I teach full-time.  And, when I say "full-time", that's what I mean.  I am at school every morning around 7:15 and most days I don't leave until after 5 pm.  It's not that I want to stay so long or that I'm just so incredibly committed.  It's that I just can't seem to get it all done any faster.  Even with those hours, I still bring lots of work home and often spend hours at night planning, prepping, and grading.

Everyone says your first year teaching is a beast.  The learning curve is straight up.  Not slight incline here.  No easing into it.  After all, 42 eager little people await my guidance every single day.  They can't be put off until I have time to get it all done.  Time moves on.

My desire to have things mastered before I have to teach them is greatly challenged in this season.  I find myself googling things way too often because I'm either clueless on an answer or I'm second-guessing what I think is right.  I'm also learning a lot on the back end of many activities.  I have those "ah-ha" moments often these days as I'm in the 2nd half of the year and just now putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together.

There are moments where I'm incredibly proud of myself.  I look at my experience, my circumstances, and what I've done with it all and how I'm doing every day and I think "this is pretty amazing".  I marvel at how God has pulled things together and allows it to flow.  But, then I easily slip into moments like this weekend.  I fall apart.  I look at things other than my classroom.

I look at my family.  I feel guilty.  I scrape together a meal or pick up a pizza.  I look at the laundry I didn't wash or fold.  I empty the dishwasher I didn't load.  I pick up the little boy I've barely seen this week.  I wonder...

This is a season.  I have absolutely NO doubt God gave me this job.  I have NO doubt this is just a season.  But, this season can be hard.  I'm trying really hard to keep my eyes focused.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tell Me About Yourself


I tend to hate Facebook, Pinterest, and all other forms of social media because I instantly start comparing myself to what I see and realize I fall short in so many areas.

Even with resolutions for the new year (or insistence on a lack thereof), I'm lame.

Many times it robs the joy right out of my day.  It takes away from my marriage, my parenting, my teaching, my friendships, my holidays, my attitude.  You name it.  The enemy has a heyday in my envy.

It is ending right now.

I recently saw a challenge to combat this.  Join me, please!  Rather than think of all the things you are not, take a moment and add a comment to this post and tell me three things you are good at and one passion you have.

I'll go first.

[wow, this is a lot harder than i thought it would be.  i keep thinking of things and then adding qualifiers because i know a 'weakness' within that strength or i know someone who's better at that thing than i am so therefore i can't really claim it as a strength.  urgh!]

My name is Megan, and I'm good at leading others.  I'm incredibly empathetic.  I am very loyal.  I'm passionate about honesty and truth.