Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Turkey Lurkey time...

If you've never heard the song referenced in this post's title, please FEAST YOUR EYES.  Because, it is one of my all time favorites.

So, last year around this time I had this wild idea that I'd really like to host Thanksgiving at my house this year.  2013 Me was clearly a bit on the over-zealous side, but 2014 Me decided to just go with it.

As you've probably noticed, I have been a terrible, neglectful blog owner and meal planner. I've planned November, but mostly week by week.  (I will try to be back for December to finish out the year strong...maybe.)  However, I'm going to attempt to make all of that better by sharing the NMOTB menu for Thanksgiving 2014 (hopefully to be repeated in years to come.)  I'll include recipe links, but there are a few things here and there which are family recipes that I can't really share.  Not because I don't want to, but because I have practically studied how to make these things successfully. Unless you all want to swing by my house and watch me.  Bring wine.

Without further ado, I present to you The NMOTB Thanksgiving Extravaganza (AKA: How to Try Really, Really Hard Not to Give 15 People Salmonella Poisoning).

This is a picture of the veggie tray I actually made for Thanksgiving 2012. #nailedit
Appetizers Because nobody is hungrier than guests who can smell turkey but can't eat it yet.
Veggie Tray with Ranch Dip and Hummus
Cranberry & Rosemary Cheese Spread
- Assorted Cheeses and Olives
- Mixed Nuts

Dinner Because my middle name is "Casserole."
Roasted Turkey with Stuffing {I'm not going to lie, I was going to kind of wing it on the turkey (pun totally intended) since I've seen my mother-in-law put hers together many times and it always comes out perfectly, but then I started getting really nervous that I'd screw it up.  So, I'm mostly going to follow the suggestions under the link.  And have my fingers crossed.  For the stuffing, I just follow the directions on the bag.}
- Mashed Red Potatoes and Gravy {Following the recipes for both which have been handed down for generations.  Trust me on the red potatoes...they make the BEST mashed potatoes you've ever had.}
- Corn Casserole
- Sweet Potato Casserole {Never been big on this myself...I put it on my plate every year (because, THANKSGIVING), but it isn't my fave.  My husband, on the other hand, lives for it, so I'm trying this recipe out.}
- Green Bean Casserole {Our family is the traditional sort that just likes the recipe on the back of the soup can.  What can I say?}
- Macaroni & Cheese {I grew up with two Southern-cooking grandmas, so this has to be on my menu.  However, I have a lovely guest bringing it for me, so I'll ask her for the recipe to share some other time!}
- Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa with Cranberries {Warning, this recipe comes from Thug Kitchen which is the best recipe website on the planet, but has language that is probably NSFW.}
- Roasted Broccoli {We were going to have steamed asparagus, but the roasted broccoli is SO much better, my husband convinced me to switch.}
- Cranberry Sauce {Another recipe out of Thug Kitchen.}
- Green Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette {I had this dressing at a dinner party the other day, and OHMYLORD.}
- Dinner Rolls {Did you see the list of food I just said I was preparing?  I bought frozen rolls. Deal.}

Dessert Because we'll all need something to tide us over before we start digging into the leftovers.
- Pumpkin Pie {Another recipe to be made by a guest. I can't bake.  It's no secret.}
- Apple Pie {My husband is making his recipe...he insists upon this every year.}
- Sea Salted Caramel Torte with Chocolate Ganache {Right, so remember when I said I can't bake?  So I decided to try baking by making an exceptionally complicated dessert with three different components.  This won't end well.  For example: I ground the almonds for the crust and then knocked the entire 1/4 cup over into the sink.  At least my apron is cute.}
- Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Oh, and drinks.  A lot of them.  I'm convinced that the trick to a successful Thanksgiving Dinner is to get your guests good and drunk so they'll all be too hungry to notice if your food didn't turn out so well.

In all seriousness, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday.  Yes, partially because it is a holiday completely centered around eating, but also because it's a holiday that almost always begins and ends with delightful time spent with loved ones celebrating the most important thing a person can possess - gratitude. I am unbelievably excited to start my own traditions this year by hosting this delightful meal.  Here's to many returns.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Veggie luv...

As I've made pretty clear in my posts here, one of the most beneficial things I've found about meal planning is giving my family a varied and well-rounded dinner menu for the month.  Because we like our veggies around the NMOTB house, we go through produce like no other.  The only thing that bothers me sometimes is that I've been known to get stuck in a produce rut.  We generally cycle through the same 5-10 vegetables/preparations a few times a month and that can get awfully boring.

Enter, Door to Door Organics Produce Delivery.

If you're not familiar with the concept, DTDO provides a service where on a weekly/biweekly basis, you can have fresh, organic produce delivered right to your door step.  What I love about it is that the produce box is predetermined for you (though you can build a profile with your tastes/make substitutions as necessary), so it offers the opportunity to try a variety of produce you'd otherwise skip over if you're stuck in a rut (like me.)

When our box arrived (with the apt slogan, "Joy Delivered"), it was like Christmas Day.
I don't think I've ever torn into a box so excitedly before.

The medium vegetable box we ordered was literally brimming with gorgeous, fresh produce.  I also added a few things from their fresh market (they have practically EVERYTHING you could want out of a natural food store).

I might be hooked forever.

DTDO tasked me with creating an original recipe to share with you all as part of a giveaway we'll be doing this week on the blog.  Two lucky Chicago-area readers will receive a $50.00 gift certificate each toward your own box of Joy Delivered.

I wanted to share a recipe that was easy to cook on a weeknight (because in the NMOTB kitchen, those are the best meals you can ask for) as well as a recipe that would offer a way to use any number of the great organic vegetables that would come in a produce box delivery.  This recipe is totally customizable, so make it with your favorite combination of vegetables, use your favorite jarred or homemade marinara, and whatever pasta strikes your fancy.

Hope you enjoy!

{NMOTB Pasta Primavera}

- 3ish tablespoons EVOO (as if I measured what feels good)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
- 1 yellow onion (diced)
- 6 cremini mushrooms (sliced thin)
- 1 zucchini (sliced into half coins)
- 1 head of broccolini (chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 1 jar of marinara (I usually make my own, but for the purposes of this recipe, I used Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce which is GREAT and available in the DTDO pantry, do whatever you want!)
- 1 pound of the pasta of your choice (We used this fresh spaghetti and it was OUTSTANDING.  Dried pasta of any shape would be fine as well!)
- 1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed/drained)
- 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
- Italian Seasoning (eyeball this)
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- Freshly shredded parmesan for garnish

- Drizzle some of the EVOO in a large skillet and warm over medium low heat.  Add sliced garlic and heat until fragrant.

- Add diced onion and toss with more EVOO.  Heat until soft/translucent.

- Add all vegetables into pan (and toss with more EVOO if things are a little too dry, you can tell it's one of my favorite ingredients).  Stir everything up, season with Italian Seasoning and a little S&P, and cover the vegetables.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring frequently.

- Meanwhile, boil your pasta in salted water.  If using fresh, this takes less than 5 minutes, so save enough time for whatever you're making.

- Once vegetables have softened, pour marinara and can of beans into the skillet and stir to coat everything.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

- Add pasta and spinach and toss until spinach is slightly wilted.

- Garnish pasta with fresh cheese.  We used this delightful Olive Oil and Rosemary asiago.  Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the delicious sauce and a nice green salad featuring gorgeous DTDO produce!


Are you ready to make your own delicious recipe with a box from DTDO?  Below you'll find all of the great ways to win using my fancy Rafflecopter giveaway widget.  The only bummer of this giveaway is that you must live in the greater Chicagoland area to enter (unless you live in which case, there are no bummers!)  You can search for your zip code here to see if you qualify.  The giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, October 24, and I'll be announcing the winner here on the blog on Friday morning!

However, because they're so awesome, DTDO is also offering $10.00 off your first order exclusive to NMOTB readers.  So even if you don't win the giveaway, you can try out produce box deliveries at a discounted price.  Follow the link here to get started.

Follow the Rafflecopter directions below for multiple ways to enter the giveaway and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Though Door to Door Organics  provided me with a complimentary delivery for review on this blog  the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.  Obviously I barely have the time to wash my own hair daily, so I'm not going to take the time to write about a product I don't fully endorse.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I wanna catch up...

Okay, as promised, I'm here today to give you what remains of the October 2014 meal plan.  I say "what remains" because although I meal planned the first and second weeks of the month...for the life of me, I cannot remember what we ate.  Some of the time was spent on travel and celebrating our sixth anniversary, but there were a lot of dinners eaten at home that I'm still forgetting.  This is such a blogging fail, I can't even discuss it.  So, let's all pretend that the month of October started on the 13th and move on.
Something super exciting that will be happening here at NMOTB this month is a giveaway from Door to Door Organics.  This will be specifically for my Chicagoan readers, but it is a giveaway that literally could be for ANY demographic this blog reaches.  (Moms? Sure.  Non-moms?  Great.  Non-women?  Awesome. Single, married, divorced? Have at it.)  Come back here next week for all of the details and to check out the yummy original recipe I'll be sharing made exclusively from my own DTDO delivery.

Remember that for up-to-the-minute meal planning ideas and recipe reviews, you can always go follow me on Pinterest.  Somehow I manage to neglect that form of social media less than any other form.  Recipes with a "*" are ones you can find reviews for on my Tried It! pin board.

Monday, October 13 - {No meal plan. Wow.  Already this is not going well.}

Tuesday, October 14 - One Pot Pasta; Salad

Wednesday, October 15 - Slow Cooker Quinoa Tex Mex*; Guacamole

Thursday, October 16 - DTDO Original Meal: NMOTB Pasta Primavera; Green Salad; Bread with Basil Butter

Friday, October 17 - Burgers; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots

Saturday, October 18 - {No meal plan.  Attending Paige's wedding!}

Sunday, October 19 - Spaghetti; Salad; Bread

Monday, October 20 - Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad

Tuesday, October 21 - Buffalo Pork Chops; Pasta; Roasted Broccoli

Wednesday, October 22 - Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad; Bread

Thursday, October 23 - Steak Teriyaki Ramen*; Egg Rolls (Probably going to get some that are frozen because I'm keeping it real.)

Friday, October 24 - Order In

Saturday, October 25 - Chili Bar!  (We're having a big Halloween costume party and will be serving multiple versions of chili with all of the accouterments you can imagine!)

Sunday, October 26 - Vegetable Beef Soup; Bread

Monday, October 27 - Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole*; Salad

Tuesday, October 28 - Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup*

Wednesday, October 29 - Crockpot Jambalaya*; Salad; Corn Bread

Thursday, October 30 - Shrimp Avocado Pasta*; Salad

Friday, October 31 - Pizza

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Responsibility? What's that...

Also known as, the meal plan I created and never posted.
I'm trying to make this up to you all by posting not only the VERY late October meal plan, but also the laughably absent September meal plan this week.  I also have a giveaway coming up.  Can we still be friends?

(Traditionally, the busiest part of my school year is the Fall when a lot of the students I serve have their annual IEP reviews.  Last year, this somehow made me exceptionally more productive blog-wise.  This year, I have no excuse other than the fact that I'm lazy.  Or something.)

Remember that for up-to-the-minute meal planning ideas and recipe reviews, you can always go follow me on Pinterest.  Somehow I manage to neglect that form of social media less than any other form.  Recipes with a "*" are ones you can find reviews for on my Tried It! pin board.

{September 2014}

Monday, September 1 - Burgers; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots

Tuesday, September 2 - {No meal plan.}

Wednesday, September 3 - {No meal plan.}

Thursday, September 4 - {No meal plan.}

Friday, September 5 - Burgers; Tator Tots; Cole Slaw

Saturday, September 6 - {No meal plan - we have a lot of plans in September that involves me not having to cook.  I like September!}

Sunday, September 7 - Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls; Smashed Potatoes; Asparagus

Monday, September 8 - Chicken Piccata*; Angel Hair Pasta; Roasted Broccoli

Tuesday, September 9 - One Pot Shrimp Orzo*; Salad

Wednesday, September 10 - Slow Cooker Pork Roast*; Egg Noodles; Salad

Thursday, September 11 - Rotisserie Chicken; Orzo Salad

Friday, September 12 - Grilled Skirt Steak; Grilled Vegetables; Baked Potatoes

Saturday, September 13 - {No meal plan.}

Sunday, September 14 - {No meal plan.}

Monday, September 15 - {No meal plan.}

Tuesday, September 16 - {No meal plan.}

Wednesday, September 17 - Crockpot Pot Pie*; Biscuits; Salad

Thursday, September 18 - Mustard Garlic Lime Marinaded Chicken*; Roasted Zucchini; Cous Cous

Friday, September 19 - {No meal plan - we're entertaining!}

Saturday, September 20 - Lemon Herb Steak Foil Packet; Salad

Sunday, September 21 - Spicy Sausage Pasta; Salad

Monday, September 22 - Beer Marinaded Chicken*; Grilled Corn on the Cob; Cilantro Lime Rice

Tuesday, September 23 - Chipotle Bowls

Wednesday, September 24 - Crockpot Italian Chicken; Pasta; Salad

Thursday, September 25 - Chicken Sausage with Roasted Brussels in Pesto Pasta; Salad

Friday, September 26 - Grilled Italian Sausage; One Pan Fettuccine Alfredo; Peas

Saturday, September 27 - Buffalo Chicken Wraps; Chips

Sunday, September 28 - Chili

Monday, September 29 - Lemon Chicken Potato Casserole*; Steamed Asparagus

Tuesday, September 30 - Beef Tacos; Rice; Guacamole


Stay tuned later this week for an additional half of a meal plan (I know.  I can't pull it together) as well as some details for the giveaway I'll be doing in the next few weeks from Door to Door Organics!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh, Lido...

Lido missed the boat that day
He left the shack
But that was all he missed
And he ain't comin' back

Dear Lido,

A little over five years ago, there was a great buzz going around the hospital where I worked that the feral cat who lived in the courtyard had given birth to the cutest kittens.  Slowly, many of the kittens disappeared and even the mama cat was nowhere to be found - but, you remained.  My friend and co-worker at the time would sneak out and find your tiny little self hiding in the bushes or laying out in the sun and would send me pictures.

"You need to adopt this cat."

I was convinced that I was not a cat person and in truth, that I wasn't a pet person in general.  Shortly before we were married, we adopted a puppy.  The dog was needy and didn't sleep and was not a good fit for a home with two working owners.  We were able to find her a new home with family members, but I still look at our decision to adopt the dog as one of my biggest failures in life.  The entire situation made me terrified that I would never be able to be a good mother if I couldn't even care for a silly animal.

So, with that history I told my friend I would never adopt you because I didn't want another shot to fail at pet ownership.

And yet a few days later (and against all good judgment), I somehow had you sitting in my front seat in an old copy paper box with holes cut out so you could breathe, waiting to come home with us.  You hissed and spit and refused to eat for the first few days we had you.  We thought you were just nervous, but we soon learned that this fiery personality was pretty much uniquely you. 

We named you by putting my playlist on shuffle until we heard a name we liked.
And that song was "Lido Shuffle."

There were times that people didn't even know we owned a cat because we had to put you away when guests came over. Unlike normal cats, instead of running and hiding under beds when you were nervous, you would stalk our guests and slap them with your paws.  You'd hiss and growl and even bit a few people.  You were kind of a jerk, Lido.  But, you were our jerk.

When we brought The Incredible Hulk home, you didn't go near me for 8 months.  You seemed to hold me personally responsible for this new family member cramping your style.

But, you eventually figured out that he was here to stay and for the most part, you accepted that.
You also accepted that we liked him a little bit more than you.

You got a lot of second chances with us, Lido.  This must be why people say cats have nine lives.
I hope you know that we tried to keep you.

You hissed at my pregnant belly when I used cocoa butter because you didn't like the smell. You meowed anytime anyone closed a bathroom door to you, only to have us open it up so you could walk away. Affection was mostly on your terms, but when you did cuddle, you were actually kind of great at it.  (Even though you insisted on licking us constantly because you clearly you thought we didn't bathe enough.)  You loved pepperoni, a fact we discovered when we had to put you on Prozac to improve your mood and hiding it in the pepperoni was the only way to get you to take it.  (You totally knew we were drugging you, thanks for only spitting on the meds sometimes.)  You loved to sit in front of open windows and meow incessantly.  I told you to be quiet a lot, but I want you to know that I really loved that sound because it told me how happy you were.  You made us into the cat people we never really thought we'd be.

I hope you know we wish it could be any other way.
I hope you know we wanted to ignore the two doctors who told us this week that we shouldn't keep you as a pet anymore.
I hope you know this was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
I hope you know that I'll never know for sure if I did the right thing or not.
I hope you know that every day since, I've walked into the house expecting to hear your obnoxious meowing and feeling desperately sad when I all I hear is silence.

I texted the friend who helped me take you home to tell her you were gone, to tell her about the terrible decision we had to make, to tell her "Thank you" for convincing me to adopt you five years ago.  Because, was a really great five years.  
You were a crazy cat. But, you were our crazy cat.

She told me "Don't forget, Amanda.  You saved him."

She's halfway right.  Yes, we saved you from the courtyard where no one was around to feed you and you were likely going to meet the fate of your mom and all of your brothers/sisters.
But, Lido?  You saved me too.  Saved me from the feeling that I was a failure and could never take care of another living being.  Saved me from the crippling self-doubt I'd experienced.  Saved me from the selfish person I once was.
Lido, you made me a mama and I love you for it.
You weren't perfect.  But, you were ours.

I hope that when you get to where you're going that there's a pepperoni buffet and open windows for you to sit by for all eternity.  When we meet again, I know you'll probably purr and sit right on top of me, but bite me if I try to pet you.

And that's okay, because that's how I'll know it's you.

Lido will be runnin'
Havin' great big fun
Until he got the note
Saying tow the line or blow it
And that was all he wrote

I love you, Kitten Man.

One more for the road...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou...

A long while ago, my husband mentioned that he was in the mood for some sort of Cajun pasta.  It was around Lent, so I thought - why not make it a Cajun shrimp pasta and kill two birds with one stone?  The problem was finding the perfect recipe.  I wanted one that didn't use heavy cream and also one that wasn't too spicy or complicated.

Basically, I wanted something that didn't exist.

My sister-in-law shared her recipe with me (which was a huge help), but sort of like all recipes that are awesome - it didn't involve a whole lot of perfect measurements or instructions.  Those are absolutely my favorite recipes - the ones that you know are finished by a feeling rather than by a window of time or oven setting.

Those recipes are also very difficult to replicate.

SO, using her suggestions as a guideline and another recipe as framework, I set out to make my own Cajun shrimp pasta.  I'm happy to say, it was a wild success.  I'm also happy to say, that I actually wrote down what I did so I can share it with you here.

Who's hungry?

{Cajun Shrimp Pasta}

- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. of shrimp (I use frozen, forgive me.)
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- Cajun seasoning (probably about a tablespoon, but you're just going to eyeball it)
- juice from 1-2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- Garlic powder (you'll use less than the Cajun, but ditto about the eyeballing)
- Sliced mushrooms (one small can or 4-5 fresh; dealer's choice)
- 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 3/4 cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons of cream cheese
- 1/2 box of whole wheat linguine (cooked)
- fresh shredded parmesan
- ground pepper
- kosher salt

Look at the size of this pepper! Insanity.


- Start by thawing (if necessary) and marinading your pound of shrimp.  I like mine being cleaned and deveined, but if you're so inclined do all that yourself - go for it.  Toss shrimp in olive oil, minced garlic, juice of half a lemon, and Cajun seasoning.  Let it sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

- After your shrimp has had time to marinade, melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and sauté the shrimp in it.  At this point you can add another good sprinkle of the Cajun seasoning as well as some garlic powder.

- Let this simmer until the shrimp is mostly cooked and then add the mushrooms and the sliced bell pepper.  Meanwhile, you can start boiling your linguine.

- Stir everything around so it gets nice and covered in the butter and squirt in some more fresh lemon juice.

- Add milk and cream cheese to the pan.  [Side note: You can use any sort of cream cheese you want. We almost always have Chive & Onion in our house, so that's usually what I use.  The cream cheese just aids in the sauce-thickening process.]

- Let all of that cook down until it becomes a nice, creamy sauce.  I usually like to let the sauce thicken up to the point where it starts to coat the spoon when I stir it.

- Toss in the linguine, add the parmesan, and season with the kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  PREPARE TO BE AMAZED.

Monday, August 11, 2014

In the real world...

In addition to providing some reviews of all of the recipes we tried as part of our July meal plan, this month I am also providing you all with an idea of what happens in the NMOTB household after the meal plan is created (as promised.)

When people visit us and see our monthly meal plan hanging on the fridge, the follow-up question is usually, "So, do you actually stick to it?"  My answer as always been, "Well, yes.  Within reason."

But, this month I decided to actually keep track of the subtle changes we made to have a better answer for people.  Sometimes the changes we make will be to the actual meal (i.e., We have a salad instead of asparagus because I didn't see any good asparagus when I went to the grocery store) and sometimes it will be a change to the calendar because of unforeseen social engagements, travel plans that change, or simply that I just don't feel like cooking dinner.  It seemed like the changes in July were more related to the latter because it ended up being an exceptionally busy month.  In looking back, it still appears that the correct response to that FAQ is, "Well, yes.  Within reason."

July 7
Meal Plan - Beef Lo Mein using this recipe.
Reality - Beef Lo Mein using THIS recipe.  
The first recipe used beef boullion which I didn't feel like buying just for one recipe, so I did a little more Pinteresting and voila!

July 8
Meal Plan - Buffalo Pork Chops; One Pan Fettuccine Alfredo; Green Beans
Reality - Dinner with my husband's boss
We had planned to order pizza later on during this same week, so instead I just pushed back all of the meal plans by one day and we enjoyed socializing with my husband's boss at a local eatery we'd been hoping to try.

July 12
Meal Plan - Pulled Pork; Grilled Corn; Potato Wedges
Reality - Too tired to cook
I would say this happens about once a month. I plan a big meal and then realize it isn't going to work given everything else I have to accomplish on that day.  This day was TIH's fourth birthday party, so by the time we got home I didn't want to do anything.  I'm not sure what we ended up eating, but I didn't cook it!

July 13
Meal Plan - Grilled Shrimp with Mustard Sauce; Baked Potatoes; Sauteed Brussels & Corn
Reality - Pulled Pork; Grilled Corn; Potato Wedges; Cole Slaw
We pushed the meal from July 12 back onto this day and invited friends over to share it with us!  It was absolutely delightful to have everyone over and the meal was enjoyed by everyone!

July 17
Meal Plan - Stuffed Peppers; Bread; Salad
Reality - Homemade Pizza; Salad
This was TIH's birthday and he specifically requested pizza for his birthday.  Since we'd done our fair share of dining out over the course of the month already, we opted to make it ourselves.  Served with a nice slice of birthday cake, of course.

July 18
Meal Plan - Grilled Brats; Cole Slaw; Tator Tots
Reality - Snacks
Here was another example of not really being in the mood for a big meal or wanting to cook it.  Instead, my husband swung by the deli and got a few snacks (wings, cheese & crackers, etc.) and we ate that.

July 19
Meal Plan - No meal plan - having visitors
Reality - Stuffed Peppers; Bread; Salad
My husband's parents were visiting and we weren't sure how long they would be staying in town, so we weren't sure if we would be cooking for a crowd or dining out.  When we found out they were heading home early, I went ahead and moved up the meal plan for July 17 to this day.

July 25
Meal Plan - Steaks; Grilled Vegetables; Baked Potatoes
Reality - Steaks; Grilled Vegetables; Baked Sweet Potatoes
The sweet potatoes just sounded better when I was grocery shopping!

July 26
Meal Plan - Spinach & Mushroom Smothered Chicken; Carrots; Pasta
Reality - Had dinner with friends
You know me, I can't miss out on a social opportunity.  We can have this meal some other time!

July 31
Meal Plan - Breaded Pork Chops; Cous Cous; Sauteed Asparagus
Reality - Going Away Happy Hour
A very good friend and colleague is starting a new job with the next school year, so I spent the evening sharing memories over cocktails and moved this plan to August.  Great way to get a headstart!


As you can see, I wasn't too great with the picture taking this month, but we did try a lot of great new recipes.  Some of which I'm happy to say will for sure be making return appearances on future meal plans.

Grilled Fish - (not pictured) We initially planned to cook this on the grill, but decided to go with the oven at the last minute (took about 20 minutes at 400 degrees; my oven generally cooks slow.)  My husband had tilapia instead of salmon, but this delicious marinade worked very well with both.  We left the fish in the marinade for 30 minutes before cooking it.  I think it would be great grilled, so definitely worth a try!

Beef Lo Mein - SO GREAT.  In addition to being very tasty and enjoyable for the whole family (TIH included!), it was exceptionally easy to put together.  A friend of mine also said she tried it with chicken, so this recipe is adaptable to a variety of tastes (would probably be great with extra veggies or tofu as well, if you are so inclined!)  This recipe will be added to the regular rotation without a doubt!

One Pot Fettuccine Alfredo - I love me some fettuccine alfredo and I even have a great recipe I've honed over the years - but this is PERFECT for an easy weeknight side dish.  Sure, cream sauces aren't the healthiest dish in existence, but this is DEFINITELY better than something I would make from a box (which I've been known to do in a pinch.)  These meals that come together in one pan are obviously my new favorites.  I've already put this on our current meal plan!

Grilled Shrimp with Mustard Sauce - (not pictured) Great method for brining and grilling shrimp.  The mustard sauce was just "eh."  I would have rather had a spicy cocktail sauce or a tarter sauce or really any other kind of sauce.  The sauce itself wasn't bad, it just didn't really do much for the shrimp.  Now we actually have a method for grilling shrimp now - we've done it before, but it was all kind of lackluster.  Glad to have something in my arsenal that works!

Lemon Shrimp with Parmesan Rice - (not pictured) I think I did something wrong with this recipe.  For starters, it could have been that I used a boil in a bag rice brown rice instead of the rice recommended for the recipe.  The shrimp itself was great, but paired with the rice it was sort of a gummy mess.  My husband didn't seem to hate it as much as I did, but we both agreed it just wasn't our favorite recipe.  Worth giving it a shot if you can learn from my mistakes, but I'm not sure we'll be trying it again.

Spinach & Mushroom Smothered Chicken - (not pictured; not attempted) This is the second or third month in a row that we haven't gotten to this dish.  I swear it sounds delightful to me, but we keep scheduling it on days that it gets cancelled.  We'll get to it someday.

Cheesy Chicken Orzo - (not pictured) This was touted as "Grown Up Mac & Cheese," but really I think I would have liked mac & cheese from the box better.  We tried to doctor it up a bit by adding some spices and hot sauce, but it just wasn't really anything special.  It's a shame because I was really looking forward to it!

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