Menu Plan Monday 12/17/2012…

We are gearing up for Christmas in our house! All the presents have been bought and most of them have been wrapped. We spent this past weekend in Raleigh, NC, visiting my mom and brother’s family. On Friday we will leave for my grandmother’s house to see the rest of my family. Wow! What a crazy busy time! In the middle of all of it, this is the last week of school and I am helping to put on both kids Christmas parties and a Holiday luncheon. Not the mention all the holiday baking I want to get done this week. Nothing like waiting to the last minute! Because of the busyness of the week, dinners are simple. Here is the plan:

Dinner Menu Plan

Sunday: Chicken Dressing Casserole, Green Beans
We traveled 7 hours from North Carolina this day and I was so glad to come home to this casserole waiting to go into the oven. I had made it two weeks ago and froze it. It defrosted in the fridge from Friday until Sunday and was ready to be baked. Yum!

Monday: Country Fried Cubed Steak and Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday: Pizza party with the Cub Scouts

Wednesday: Sesame Chicken and Steamed Rice, whatever green veg I can put with it

Thursday: Chicken Quesadillas with rice

Friday: On the road to Grandmas but planning on bringing leftover Chicken Quesadillas for dinner

Saturday: Christmas dinner at Grandmas – I am bringing a salad and dessert

A Simpler Christmas…

I was determined to simplify our Christmas this year in order to make it more enjoyable for all of us. I have listed a few key areas that I want to improve upon to help make this a more meaningful Christmas.

Budget

One way to make Christmas easier for all of us is to plan out the budget. For years, John and I have had an old-fashioned Christmas account. We keep it in an online bank and add to it every month so that when it is time to buy for Christmas, the money is sitting there. I am typically responsible for the planning of the Christmas budget and I try to include everything that I can think of in there. I list out everyone that we are buying for making sure to include people that are sometimes forgotten in budgeting, like the kids’ school teachers. Once we have the list of who we are buy for, giving we are going to do and activities we will be doing, I put a dollar amount into each one and make sure it adds up to what is in the Christmas account. John will get the cash out of the bank toward the end of November and give it to me to divide into envelopes. I make an envelope for gifts, giving and activities and inside each envelope, I divide up the dollar amounts using post-it notes. That way when it is time to buy, I know exactly how much I have to spend.

Gifts

In an effort to make Christmas more simple, we began drawing names on my side of the family a few years ago. We still buy for each of the kids but the adults do a name draw on Thanksgiving for the following year. My grandmother keeps a record of who drew which name in case we forget by the next year (we always forget). The jury is out on what to do on John’s side of the family. There aren’t many people to buy for (no kids except ours) so we currently buy for everyone.

Activities

The best memories during the Christmas holiday season are not the gifts that we give or receive but the activities that we do together as a family. We asked each of our kids this year to tell us what events make Christmas special for them. They decided that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the “Pink Pig”, which is a Christmastime ride, and “Back to Bethlehem”, which is a walking trip through Bethlehem that a local church sets up. Both of these events are low cost and very easy to accomodate. They were not interested in seeing the mall Santa Claus, which is fine with us since that line is long and you can’t take any pictures unless you buy their overpriced packages. One of our local churches is also holding a Christmas Cantata at no charge that we might attend and a friend of mine is having a ladies cookie exchange.

Food

Speaking of cookies, last Christmas, I made a cookie-a-day here on my blog. It is more effort than even I realized it would be before I started. I have decided this year to not repeat that process and instead just make the few cookies that I know my family loves. I have saved most of the cookie baking for this week. I asked each family member to tell me what cookie they love at Christmas and here is the plan: John has asked for Grandma Rodi’s Springerle cookies, Brittany loves the Peanut Butter Blossom cookies and Josh wants the Soft Sugar Cookies. I love the Snowball cookies and John and I might whip up a batch of Linzer Cookies together. We have already made the Big Soft Ginger Cookies for the cookie exchange and rolled out sugar cookies and gingerbread men for fun.

For entertaining, we are trying to keep it simple and fun by hosting a make your own pizza party for one part of our family and a traditional sit down potluck dinner for the other side of the family. I am not sure the plan to keep food simpler this year really worked since so much of Christmas in my heart is tied to food.

What do you do to make Christmas simpler and more meaningful? Are you successful? We will just have to wait and see how it all turns out after December 25th even though I will be gearing up for John’s 40th birthday on December 26th. Merry Christmas!

 

 

Menu Plan Monday 12/10/12

Ok, I am a late on the Menu plan this week. Christmas is just kicking my butt! I feel like my list of “to do” just keeps getting longer! It is a busy week so here is what we are having for dinner – super simple and quick!

Dinner Menu Plan

Sunday: Unbelievable Grilled Chicken, Green Beans, Rice, Salad

Monday: Pancakes and Bacon

Tuesday: Chicken Fingers, Baked Potatoes, Salad

Wednesday: (Crockpot) Turkey Chili served in Tortilla Bowls with Rice

Thursday: Chicken Quesadillas with leftover rice

Friday: Eating at my brother’s house for Christmas

Saturday: Eating at my mother’s house for Christmas

Herb Crusted Pork Chops…

These are so delicious and I am not a big pork chop fan.  I don’t cook them very often and when I do, they are normally overcooked and dry. I do that because growing up my mom always told me to fully cook pork so that I wouldn’t kill over from trichinosis. I am not sure how accurate that is but now when I cook pork, I tend to overcook pork. Sad but true. These on the other hand were still moist and tender and very well flavored. I tweaked the seasoning blend so be sure to read my notes at the end of the recipe. Even Brittany who doesn’t normally like pork chops ate most of hers. And my two manly men ate everything that us girls didn’t get to. These were bone gnawing good.

On a side note, I served these with Stove Top Stuffing and Cinnamon Apples. And a big thank you to my wonderful daughter took a picture of her plate before dinner – didn’t she do a great job?

Herb Crusted Pork Chops

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

  • 4 boneless pork chops, fat trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Rub mustard evenly over pork chops.  Combine panko, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl and dredge pork chops in panko mixture.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add pork chops, saute for 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Turn pork over and place skillet in oven for about 8 minutes or until pork reaches 145 degrees in the center.  Enjoy!

Tiffany’s notes: I didn’t have Panko breadcrumbs so I used regular Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. I omitted the parsley since my breadcrumbs already had that in them but I did add crushed dried rosemary and sage in addition to the thyme. I probably used about 1 Tablespoon total but I didn’t accurately measure any of the herbs. I don’t have any pans that are oven proof so after browning them, I put them on a sheet pan and put them in the oven. I added a few minutes to the cooking time to ensure they were throughly cooked (see above note).

Menu Plan Monday 12/3/2012

We are going Back to Bethlehem this week but without a plane ride. This event is put on by a local church and they recreate the city of Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born. They do everything in a very authentic way from Roman guards patrolling to camels and donkeys and is staff by hundreds of volunteers. The program is free to the public and they even serve cocoa and cookies afterward. It is one of the few events that my kids ask to go to every year at Christmastime. Here is the link for more info: www.backtobethlehem.com/

Dinner Menu Plan

Sunday: Chicken and Dumplings

Monday: (Crockpot) No Peek Beef Tips, Steamed Jasmine Rice, Broccoli

Tuesday: (Crockpot) White Chicken Chili and Cornbread

Wednesday: Sesame Chicken, Steamed Rice, Roasted Asparagus

Thursday: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Garlic Bread, Salad

Friday: Baked Tilapia, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Saturday: Sloppy Joes, Roasted Sweet Potatoes

 

Crockpot No Peek Beef Tips

2 lbs cubed stew beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can mushrooms (you can use fresh too)
1 pkg dry onion soup mix
1 pkg dry brown gravy mix
1 c. ginger ale or 7 up
Egg noodles or rice

Dump it all in the crockpot (except the noodles or rice) and let it cook approx 6hrs on low. Serve over rice or pasta.