Tag Archives: dinner

Kids in the Kitchen

Kids in the Kitchen

Several years ago (before twins), my first two children enjoyed helping me cook, and I enjoyed teaching them. I took pictures of them and created a digital scrapbook with some of our favorite recipes at the time. I gave these to all the grandparents and great-grandparents for Christmas that year. We use this as a cookbook frequently in our home.

I had intended to create a new scrapbook each year, but life got busy, and we had more kids, and sometimes it was hard to cook at all. I had my son take this photo so I could look back on it one day and smile. It was so exasperating at the time to have two toddlers crying and clinging to me while I tried to cook dinner, but I knew it wouldn’t always be that way.

Once all four of the little people started asking to help in the kitchen with me, I was quickly overwhelmed. They all started doing different things, and I wasn’t ready! Oh, the messes! I was also stressed about not being able to keep an eye on each one for safety reasons. A wise friend told me she has her boys take turns helping her on different nights of the week. I need to work out a calendar for my children to take turns helping.

This evening, we had breakfast for dinner, and I decided to delegate some tasks to the kids. The twins went to the barn to get more eggs, and then they took turns whisking the eggs. Big brother wanted sausage, egg, and cheese burritos. The twins wanted pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs. (Big sister is staying the night with a friend.) Then the girls took turns mixing up the pancake batter and posing for some silly photos.

While the bacon cooked in the oven, I had the girls help cook the eggs in each pan. They swapped pans when the eggs were almost set. Silly girls! Big brother kept an eye on the bacon and removed it from the oven when it was done.

Once the girls had bacon and eggs, I started on the pancakes and let them start eating. It’s a little chaotic having two five year olds help with dinner, but their smiles make it worthwhile. Maybe I’ll start on volume two of our Kids in the Kitchen scrapbook series, but don’t look for it to be completed any time soon. At the rate I’m going, I won’t have enough photos for a cooking scrapbook for a few years! I need to get that cooking schedule for the kids figured out first.

Click here for a pancake recipe. We still use this basic recipe. Unfortunately, the girls prefer white flour and no flax seed in their pancakes, so we just use 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour in place of the whole wheat flour and ground flax seed.

For the breakfast burritos, we use one pound of pork sausage, crumbled and browned on medium heat. Then we lower the heat and add a dozen scrambled eggs. Once the eggs are set, we add about 1 1/2 cups of freshly shredded cheese and stir until it starts to melt. Don’t cook it too long, or the cheese will melt completely, and you won’t be able to tell it’s in there. My son hates that. Enjoy!


October Menu & a Recipe


I have been so busy with everything school-related that I let October sneak up on me.  Fortunately, I knew I didn’t have to worry about the first two days of this month because we had church functions both Saturday and Sunday evening.  I feel like I repeat a lot of meals every month, but those are our favorites.  I have added a couple of new recipes that I found on Pinterest, and I also added some soups because it’s getting cooler, and soups are easy and perfect for the crockpot on busy days.  I have included a recipe (below the menu) that I have made before but not in a long time.  I can’t remember where I got this recipe, but it might have come from a Pampered Chef cook book.  Planning this month’s menu was a challenge due to several meetings (mostly my husband but a couple for me), our church activities, and fall events.  Fortunately, we can have leftovers every night that we are home.  I ❤️ leftovers!

  1. Dinner out
  2. Dinner out
  3. Chicken cordon bleu
  4. Leftovers
  5. Mexican Skillet Casserole
  6. Leftovers
  7. Baked Ravioli
  8. Dinner out
  9. Dinner out
  10. Fishsticks and popcorn/butterfly shrimp (from the freezer for a quick meal)
  11. Leftovers
  12. Spicy Sausage Pasta
  13. Leftovers
  14. Grilled chicken, Lyonnaise Potatoes
  15. Dinner out
  16. Dinner out
  17. Meat & Potato Casserole
  18. Cajun Shrimp Quinoa Casserole
  19. Southwest Skillet Chicken & Rice
  20. Leftovers
  21. Parmesan chicken and pasta (see below for recipe)
  22. Dinner out
  23. Dinner out
  24. Chili
  25. Leftovers
  26. Spaghetti
  27. Chicken tortilla soup
  28. Leftovers/Dinner out
  29. Dinner out
  30. Dinner out
  31. Taco Soup

Parmesan Chicken and Pasta (lighter version)

1 lb chicken breasts

2 egg whites

1 garlic clove 

1 cup croutons, crumbled

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 TBSP flour

8 oz pasta

2 cups pasta sauce

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Trim chicken and cut to make four pieces.  In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until frothy.  Press/crush garlic and mix into egg whites.  Add crushed croutons and grated Parmigiano Reggiano to bowl.  Add oregano and pepper; mix well.  Coat chicken breasts with flour.  Then, dip the pieces in the egg white mixture, coating both sides and shaking off the excess.  Place chicken on baking stone and spray the top of each piece lightly with oil.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center.  Meanwhile, cook pasta and heat sauce.  When everything is done, place a serving of pasta on each plate.  Top with chicken, 1/2 cup sauce, and 1 TBSP mozzarella.  

September Menu

September Menu

I started working on our menu for next month over the weekend, but I was not able to complete it until Monday afternoon.  I love having a plan.  It helps me plan my grocery shopping list and keeps me from becoming stressed over what to cook each evening.  Links will be included for specific recipes.  I hope this list will give you some ideas, new recipes to try, or motivation to plan your menu.  I have made almost all of these recipes several times, and many of them are family favorites.  Maybe you will find a new favorite for your family.  

  1. Leftovers/yoyo (your on your own)
  2. Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce
  3. Dinner Out
  4. Bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit
  5. Hamburgers
  6. Cajun Chicken Pasta
  7. Crockpot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (low carb, gluten-free alternative)
  8. Leftovers/yoyo
  9. Chicken Cordon Bleu
  10. Dinner Out
  11. Chicken Fajitas (grill extra meat)
  12. Grilled Chicken Salads (leftover chicken from previous night)
  13. Leftovers/yoyo
  14. Spaghetti
  15. Leftovers/yoyo
  16. Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice
  17. Dinner Out
  18. Sausage, scrambled eggs, Pancakes, fresh fruit
  19. Cheesy Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole (crockpot)
  20. Tacos
  21. Grilled Chicken, Tex Mex Pasta Salad
  22. Leftovers/yoyo
  23. Hobo Dinners
  24. Dinner Out
  25. Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken
  26. Spicy Sausage Pasta
  27. Leftovers/yoyo
  28. Chicken Enchilada Casserole
  29. Leftovers/yoyo
  30. Baked Ravioli

Now I want to share a little tip that has made my life easier.  We purchased a new set of stainless steel cookware about three years ago.  This was my first experience cooking with stainless steel, and I hated how difficult they were to clean, especially after browning or sautéing meat.  

Even after soaking and scrubbing, the pots and pans would have cloudy white spots all over the inside.  About a year ago, I read somewhere that tomato products would fix this problem, so I tried squirting some ketchup in the pan and adding a little water.  

I heated this mixture over low heat for a few minutes and gently scraped with my nylon spoon, and all of that cooked-on residue came right off!  I have used pasta sauce, tomato paste, salsa, diced tomatoes, etc.  Once the acid in the tomatoes has worked its magic, simply wash and dry the pan as usual.  Now I love using my stainless steel cookware!

No-Spend Month: Day 21


Wednesdays are very busy for us this semester.  We stay at school later to allow the big kids time to do their homework (while I grade papers) because they have science and social studies with Grandmother on Tuesday and Thursday and also because the little girls are home on Tuesday and Thursday so I can’t help them as much.  The little girls stay in childcare at school until the older two are finished with their assignments, and the twins finally stayed long enough today to take a nap on the nap mats I made for them.  We came home for thirty minutes to eat a snack and let Big Sister change clothes.  Big Sister has gymnastics from 4:00 to 5:00, and we have just enough time to go home and eat dinner before my husband takes Big Brother to his Bible study group.  I’m exhausted by the end of the day.  Well, more exhausted than usual.  The girls had a bath and then had a little time to play before bed.  Sissy likes to carry her baby doll on her hip like Mama does, and Little Sister likes to put 20 different clips in her hair.  They are a mess!


  • The kids and I took lunches to school.  My husband ate breakfast at work and then snacked on leftovers and didn’t eat lunch today. 
  • I veered from our menu a little this week.  I didn’t cook Sunday night, so I moved that to Monday, skipped the homemade pizzas entirely, changed tonight to my backup, family-favorites:  popcorn shrimp, fish sticks, corn, plain spaghetti, fresh tomatoes, fresh cucumbers.  I’ll make tonight’s scheduled meal tomorrow and move that one to Friday because it looks like our Friday night plans will be rained out.  I love planning a menu, but I do so in pencil and change as needed.  I try to schedule around meetings and such, but I don’t have everything on my calendar that everyone else does. 
  • We needed a few things from Costco, so my husband went while waiting for our son to finish his Bible study this evening.  He took cash and spent $42.03 on groceries.
  • I got paid yesterday for teaching for the month of October.  We weren’t expecting a paycheck until next month because that’s how I got paid when I taught public school, but this is nice.  We weren’t sure what to do with that money, since it isn’t regular income, but we are still in a no-spend month, and it will be considered regular income next month, so we are just leaving it in our account and not planning to spend it.  We can use it if we have to, but I’m hoping we can make it 10 more days on what we have left. 

Thank you for following us with this extreme experiment.  Let me know if you have any questions or if you are planning to try a no-spend month or even a week.  I’d love to hear from you!

No-Spend Month: Some Recipes


I shared in my menu post that I make many things from scratch.  I also make up recipes as I go along.  When I’m trying a new recipe, I will follow it closely, substituting things that I know will work, but not changing much.  My tried-and-true recipes from nearly 20 years of cooking are the ones for which I don’t measure ingredients, I add what I want, and I prepare them a little differently each time I make them.  This provides great variety for my family, but it makes it difficult for me to simply give you a recipe.  I will share in this post some of my recipes and how I sometimes alter them to fit my mood or to incorporate the ingredients I have on hand. 

First of all, I rarely buy special ingredients like heavy whipping cream or buttermilk because I can make the recipe work without them and save money.  In most recipes, you can substitute milk and butter for cream or half-and-half.  I use close to the full amount of milk and then a tablespoon or two of real butter, depending on how much cream was required.  If making a sauce with this, I might whisk in a little cornstarch or flour first to help it thicken.  For buttermilk, simply add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice to the full amount of regular milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  

Secondly, I don’t use creamed soups in my recipes because store-bought versions have about fifty hard-to-pronounce and questionable ingredients, and it’s simple to make at home with ingredients I always have on hand.  Simply melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk in about 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour until thick.  Slowly add about 1/2 cup chicken broth/stock, whisking to remove lumps.  Then add about 1/2 cup of milk (I just pour some in, erring on the side of having extra).  Continue stirring for a few minutes until the soup thickens.  Remove from heat and add seasonings to taste–salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.  If this is going in a Mexican dish, you can add some taco seasoning or cumin, paprika, chili powder, etc.  If it is for an Italian dish, add some basil, oregano, and freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano or Parmesan.  This creamed soup can be made with vegetable or beef broth.  You can add sautéed and chopped mushrooms for cream of mushroom soup or sautéed and chopped celery for cream of celery soup.  The possibilities are endless, and the results are just as tasty and creamy (and better for you) than their canned counterparts.  Plus, these ingredients are staples in my pantry, so I never have to worry about having a can of soup on hand.  I recently made this recipe gluten-free when I took dinner to a friend.  Just use GF cornstarch instead of flour, but you’ll need to dissolve the cornstarch into the milk or chicken broth before adding to the butter. 

Pasta sauce is another easy and cheap ingredient to make. Simply use a food processor, blender, baby food maker, or salsa chopper to purée two cans of diced tomatoes, leaving it as chunky as you like.  If you want to sneak in some extra veggies, throw in some chunks of zucchini, squash, carrots, bell peppers, etc. to be puréed as well.  Pour your puréed mixture into a saucepan and heat on low, adding seasonings to taste–pressed fresh garlic or garlic powder, diced and sautéed onion or onion powder, fresh or dried basil and oregano, salt, and pepper.  My canned tomatoes already have a little sugar in them, but if yours don’t, you can add a little sugar to keep the sauce from being bitter.  To thicken up the sauce and make it look more like the store-bought version, I usually add a small can of tomato paste.  Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes or in a crockpot on low for a few hours.  If using in a recipe that will be baked, you don’t need to simmer. 

Now for some actual dinner recipes.  

Beef Tater Tot Casserole

1/2 pound ground beef

1 bag of frozen tater tots

2 recipes of creamed soup (with desired seasonings) or 2 cans cream of mushroom and/or chicken soup

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 can original Rotel (optional or use mild or a whole can)

8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Brown and crumble ground beef (I usually do this with a whole pound and then divide it, putting half in the freezer ready to go in spaghetti sauce or another casserole).  Prepare soup and combine with beef, sour cream, and Rotel.  Spray a 9″ square baking dish (13×9 works too) with oil.  Pour half of the tater tots in the baking dish.  Pour soup mixture over tater tots.  Position remaining tater tots evenly over soup mixture and top with shredded cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling.  This can also be assembled and placed in the crockpot on low for 2-3 hours, adding the cheese about 30 minutes before serving.  Makes 6-8 servings.  

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

2 recipes creamed soup or 2 cans cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup sour cream

1 can diced green chilies or 1 pouch green chile enchilada sauce* or 1/2 can of Rotel (optional)

12 corn tortillas

12 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Boil chicken until no longer pink.  Shred chicken with two forks and mix with soup, sour cream, and chilies/sauce/Rotel (if using).  Spray 13×9 baking dish with oil.  Tear 6 corn tortillas into pieces and arrange over bottom of dish.  Top with half of soup mixture and then half of cheese.  Repeat layers.  Baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Serves. 6-8.  *If using green chile enchilada sauce, only use 1 recipe/can of cream soup. 

Hobo Dinners

1 pound smoked sausage 

4 small potatoes

8 oz baby carrots

1 bell pepper

1 jalapeño (optional)

onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, your choice of seasonings

Lay out 4 pieces of foil about 16-18 inches long.  Spray with oil.  Slice sausage into bite-sized pieces and divide evenly among 4 pieces of foil.  Slice potatoes thinly or dice into small pieces (to cook faster).  Slice baby carrots in half or quarters lengthwise.  Cut bell pepper into bite-sized pieces.  Seed and slice jalapeño.  Add desired vegetables on top of each serving of sausage (each serving can be different).  Sprinkle seasonings on top and spray with a little oil.  Take two opposite sides of foil and bring together, folding them over to seal.  Fold each end up (and mark with a Sharpie if for someone specific) and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Open carefully and avoid the steam.  Serves 4, but you can easily double this recipe.  Use whatever vegetables your family likes–broccoli, squash, zucchini, etc. 

Two of our hobo dinners ready to be folded up for baking.