Banana Pudding Poke Cake and Introducing #BlogFilmFood

#BlogFilmFood - A monthly virtual dinner and a movie club for spring and summer | MealPlanningMagic.com Y’all, I have something super fun to let you know about. Starting this month and through the rest of the spring and summer, some blogging friends and I are bringing you a virtual dinner and a movie party! We’re calling it #BlogFilmFood because, well, that’s what it’s all about–blogging, films and food. We’ve gotten to know each other through the Houston Bloggers group or when we met up at Blog Elevated and since then, we’ve been talking about how much fun it would be to meet up for a girls hangout night. But since we’re spread all over and our family’s schedules are cuh-razy, it’s easier said than done. So when Kathy over at Penney Lane Kitchen suggested we host a get together and invite our readers, we were all on board because how much fun is a party when you’ve got LOTS of friends to share it with?

So, that’s what we’re doing. Once a month (the third Friday of the month actually), we’ll choose a movie and then bring you the virtual potluck dishes to go with. We’re taking turns hosting and the hostess will choose a favorite classic film title and we’ll create recipes centered around the film. Hopefully it will inspire you to host an ACTUAL potluck with your own friends! Kathy is our first hostess and she’s chosen Steel Magnolias for our first film. What better way for a bunch of gals from the south to bond over a film and some delicious dishes to go with than this classic film?

And now I’ll introduce you to the fantastic team of bloggers I’ve joined up with to bring you this Spring and Summer Film & Food Blogging series!
Kathy from Penney Lane Kitchen: Celebrating life’s occasions big and small.
Kelley from The Grant Life: Mixing food and family.
Kirsten from Kirsten Oliphant: An eclectic celebration of chaos.
Jessica from Family Fun Journal: Fun ideas and projects for your family and home.
Joanie from Zag Left: Enjoying food, wine, and life. Taking the road less traveled.
Kristi from Mom’s Confession: Family Recipes, Simple Crafts, Organizing Tips
Miranda from Involuntary Housewife: Putting Pinterest to the test one mess at at time.
Brenda from Meal Planning Magic (that’s me!): Self taught meal planner showing ways to eat healthier, get organized and have fun along the way.

#BlogFilmFood - A monthly virtual dinner and a movie club for spring and summer | MealPlanningMagic.com

I chose to make a dessert–because I LOVE desserts and rarely make them! I immediately thought of banana pudding when Kathy suggested Steel Magnolias. Set in modern-day Louisiana, banana pudding and the south just seemed like a natural fit to me! But wanted to make a twist on traditional banana pudding so came up with a banana pudding poke cake. I’ve used boxed cake mix and pudding mix (as you may know, I’m normally a make it mostly from scratch kind of person) but sometimes it’s ok to do a mix! I did make real whipped cream and included fresh bananas so that’s my happy medium. It’s all about Keeping It Real, right? It is delicious if I do say so myself so I hope you’ll give it a try.

Banana Pudding Poke Cake | MealPlanningMagic.com | #blogflimfood

Banana Pudding Poke Cake

Yield: 18 pieces

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 large box instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 just ripe bananas (no or few brown spots), chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • vanilla wafers for garnish

Instructions

  1. Bake cake per box instructions.
  2. While cake is baking, prepare pudding per box instructions. Divide into equal parts.
  3. Cool cake.
  4. Peel, slice and chop bananas. Set aside.
  5. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes into cake.
  6. Spread half of pudding onto cake, smoothing it down into the holes.
  7. Mix chopped bananas with remaining pudding and spread over plain pudding layer.
  8. Using a mixer, whip whipped cream on high until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar until just mixed in.
  9. Spread whipped cream over top of pudding layer.
  10. Sprinkle crushed vanilla wafers over top of cake.
  11. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  12. Garnish each slice with sliced banana and vanilla wafer if desired.
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Banana Pudding Poke Cake | MealPlanningMagic.com | #blogflimfood

Banana Pudding Poke Cake | MealPlanningMagic.com | #blogflimfood

Be sure to check out everyone else’s recipes on their blogs by clicking the thumbnail photo links below. Enjoy!

Gardening Tips For Beginners

Guest Post

Today, I’m so excited to have Kelly of the Grant life here to share her tips on growing a garden. Lately, I’ve been talking about how to eat real food and well, be realistic about it. A great way to do just that is to plant a garden! It doesn’t have to be big. Kelley is sharing Gardening Tips for Beginners. No matter if you’ve been gardening awhile or maybe this spring and summer will be your first go at it, her tips should help you get things going in no time!

Gardening Tips For Beginners | Guest Post from The Grant Life on MealPlanningMagic.com

Hey yall!  My name is Kelley and I’m excited to share Brenda’s space today.  A little about me – I am a momma to two kiddos ages 3 and 4, I love to cook, garden and try to live a more natural lifestyle.  I was born and raised in Texas and that’s where we are living now.  I love easy homemade recipes with simple ingredients, pasta, avocados and anchors.  And I share it all on my blog the Grant life.

I mentioned we are trying to live a more natural lifestyle and one of the things we have done is start to grow our own food.  Its great to know exactly where your fresh produce is coming from and its cheaper!  [Which is always better, right?]  I am not a gardening pro by any means, but I have learned a few things through our gardening journey.  Today I’m going to share my top gardening tips for beginners.

1. Pick what you already eat to grow – All the different kinds of seeds can get overwhelming when you are first starting a garden.  My suggestion is pick a fruit or vegetable that you already eat often at home and that is easy to grow.  We picked squash and after our first harvest, I was hooked!

2. Know your soil – After you have picked out your seed, test your soil.  Some plants like more acidic conditions, while others do not.  Its best to know up front what type you have so that your plants will thrive.  Or if you are like us and have crummy soil, be prepared to build a raised garden bed and purchase dirt.  Here are some easy soil tests you can do on your own.

3. Find out planting times – Plants are seasonal and not all of them grow at the same time during the year.  Find out what plants do well in the Spring if that is the time you are going to start a garden.  You can always start your garden inside and transfer it outside like we did.

4. Plan your garden – Sketch out in a notebook where you want everything planted.  Some plants grow well when grouped together.  For example, corn, beans and squash grow well when planted together.  They are called the 3 Sisters.  Its also good to have it written out in case you forget where you put what seed!

5. Schedule when to water – I know this sounds silly, but its something that I had to do!  I would forget if I had watered my plants and that’s never a good thing.  The best times to water are in the morning and the evening.

6. Maintain your beds – Once everything is growing, make sure you prune the dead leaves and remove weeds.  Look for bugs and add mulch if needed.  This doesn’t have to take long, just a few minutes once a day and you should be good to go!

And there you have it!  Simple tips to start your garden.  And if you are looking for some recipes to use with your homegrown produce, be sure to check out:

Thanks again to Brenda for letting me stop by!  Hope to see you around the Grant life sometime soon!

kelley-thegrantlife-headshot

A Note From Kelley: Hey yall! Im Kelley! Momma to Ryley and Avery. Easy homemade recipe lover. Born and raised Texan. Crunchy wanna-be. Avocado addict. And a firm believer that our everyday chaos is beautiful and normal.

Eat A To Z Healthy Recipe Challenge RoundUp – Letters E and F #EatAtoZChallenge

Eat A to Z Healthy Recipe Challenge -Letters E & F | MealPlanningMagic.com

It’s time for another Eating A to Z Healthy Recipe Challenge! Each month I and other bloggers showcase recipes featuring fruits, vegetables, grains or legumes that start with a different letter of the alphabet. It’s a link up party that I host along with Kathy from Penney Lane Kitchen (formerly Sparkles and a Stove ) and Alida from Alida’s Kitchen. This month’s letters are E and F. Yesterday, in my Weekly Menu Plan post, I told you that things have been super busy around here so this month I didn’t get a chance to make, photograph and blog a new recipe. Instead, I’m leaning on some other bloggers who have shared their recipes. Wow! I sure was getting hungry collecting all these posts. And I’m pretty sure I need to plant a fig tree so I can try out all these yummy sounding fig recipes!

Let’s get to it! Here’s the list-

Edamame and Great Northern White Bean Dip – Meal Planning Magic
Prosciutto and Fig Goat Chees Pizza – Nosh and Nourish
Eggplant Parmigiana Pasta Casserole - Cupcakes and Kale Chips
Bacon and Escarole Custard – The Tomato Tart
Turkish Stuffed Eggplant – The View From Great Island
Balsamic Marinated Eggplant Crostini with Cilantro Lime Tahini - The American Bite
Double Fudge And Fig Truffles – Spabettie
Indian Spiced Eggplant Yogurt Dip – Farm Fresh Feasts
Eggplant Rolls with Goat Cheese – Foodologie
Grain Free Thai Eggplant Tempura with Spicy Garlic-Soy Dipping Sauce - An Edible Mosaic
Balsamic Fig Jam – Wonky Wonderful
Eggplant Ricotta Grilled Cheese – The Law Student’s Wife
Fennel and Mandarin Salad with Champagne Citrus Vinaigrette – The Tomato Tart
Fig Upside Down Cake – Wonky Wonderful
Eggplant and Tomato Pasta – I Heart Eating
Tempeh Edamame Salad Rolls with Ginger Sesame Peanut Sauce – Spabettie
Super Simple Fresh Fig And Pistachio Salad with Pomegranate Dressing – An Edible Mosaic
Fig and Lemon Cake – Diethood
Marinated Fig and Arugula Salad with blue Cheese & Walnuts – The Kitchen Is My Playground
Baked Eggplant Chip Pesto Pizza - Farm Fresh Feasts
Fennel, Red Cabbage, Goat Cheese, & Tangelo Salad with Tarragon, Mint, Yogurt, & Lemon Dressing – Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Don’t forget to check out the Eat A to Z Pinterest board. There you can keep track of all the recipes that are added month-to-month but also find new recipes from last year too. What’s your favorite fruit, vegetable, grain or legume that starts with the letter E or F?

Eat A to Z Healthy Recipe Challenge | Monthly Blog Hop Hosted by MealPlannignMagic.com, AlidasKitchen.com and SparklesAndAStove.com

Be sure to check out all the other blogs shown in the link up below to discover new recipes and ideas! If you’re a blogger and have a recipe to link up, I can’t wait to see what you share!



Don’t want to miss any more recipe ideas? Be sure to SIGN UP HERE to receive updates via email or RSS feed (you can choose the reader you prefer!) And don’t forget you can always follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. They all offer a little something different and are a great way to stay in the loop on new menu plans, recipe ideas, giveaways, organizing tips and more!

Weekly Menu Plan [4/14/14]

Weekly Menu Plan and Preview of What's Coming Up! [2/24/14]
You guys, thing have been just super crazy around here. Lots going on–more than usual it seems. Between planning birthday parties, some (pretty major) home improvement projects, hosting visiting company, going out of town and my transition from serving as PTO President for our elementary school as the school year winds down to serving on the board for our neighborhood recreational swim team and also wrapping up this school year’s work on our district’s SHAC and writing articles for Produce For Kids, it’s been a busy last few weeks. So that explains the last of posting here lately. Things are looking pretty busy for the next several weeks so in the meantime I’ll be posting when I can and featuring some guest posts from some of my favorite bloggers, so be on the lookout for those posts!

Weekly Menu Plan

I do have a weekly menu plan for this week! having a menu plan is one way that helps me stay sort of sane and still feed my family decent meals. Thank goodness for the freezer and grocery stores that are nearby! Here goes:

Monday: Creamy Chicken Florentine Tortellini (from Dream Dinners) and a garden salad
Tuesday: Sage and Parmesan Pork Chops with Garlic Potato Wedges (from Dream Dinners) and roasted broccoli
Wednesday: Tortilla Crusted Tilapia (new to us), baked sweet potato fries and Kale Superfoods Salad . This whole meal is from Costco. The fish is something new I’m trying (Fooducate gave it a B- -a B rating or above is my minimum) and the salad is something we’ve had before and really enjoyed but hadn’t had in awhile. Gotta keep meals simple these days!
Thursday: Firehouse Pasta with Meatballs and homemade spaghetti sauce with whole wheat gnocchi (purchased) to stretch it out a bit and a garden salad
Friday – Sunday: TBA (we’re spending time with family for Easter so the menu is a bit up in the air)

What’s on your dinner menu this week?

Breakfast, Lunch and Snack

We’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a rut when it comes to breakfast and lunches. I think that usually happens at this point in the school year and we’re just looking forward to the finish line! I have one kiddo who really doesn’t like breakfast foods at all and the other who could probably eat the same thing every day for the rest of his life. What are some of your favorite breakfast and lunch ideas? Share in the comments below to help inspire us all!

Don’t Miss Out!

Don’t want to miss a new weekly menu plan? Be sure to SIGN UP HERE to receive updates via email or RSS feed (you can choose the reader you prefer!) And don’t forget you can always follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. They all offer a little something different and are a great way to stay in the loop on new menu plans, recipe ideas, giveaways, organizing tips and more!

For more menu planning ideas, visit OrgJunkie.

Weekly Menu Plan [4/1/14]

Weekly Menu Plan and Preview of What's Coming Up! [2/24/14]
I know today is Tuesday but I just didn’t have a chance to type up my weekly menu plan to share with you yesterday.

Let’s get right to the plan!

Weekly Menu Plan

Monday: Sicilian Turkey Burgers with Pesto Mayo on Pretzel Buns with carrot sticks.
Tuesday: Creamy Thai Shrimp with Coconut Rice and garden salad
Wednesday: Creamy Chicken Risotto and garden salad
Thursday: Easiest Ever Slowcooker Chicken to make a Chicken Ceasar salad
Friday: special outing—pizza night!
Saturday: TBA (plans are still up in the air for this day)
Sunday: TBA (plans still developing for this day too!)

Freezer Friendly Meal Ideas

I cannot tell you how much I’ve been loving my frozen meals from Dream Dinners! I love knowing that we can have a good-for-us dinner on the table with minimal prep from me each night (because I’ve already done the prep during my session). Now some of you are probably sick of hearing about it because you might be saying, “Brenda, I don’t have a Dream Dinners near me!” If you check out MY POST you can find a link to a listing of similar services that are searchable by zip code.

Still need something more? Consider setting up a freezer exchange group or even do your own freezer cooking session (check out Once A Month Meals service ). Even keeping some basic freezer meals on hand for busy nights can be such a relief. Check out my Recipe Index for a few of my favorite freezer friendly recipes or my Freezer Friendly Pinterest Board for even more ideas.

Giveaway Reminder

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway I’m hosting for a chance to win Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® or Bagel Thins® PLUS a $25 Visa gift cardto spend on ingredients. Click here for more details and to enter. Hurry, the giveaway ends on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.! Good luck!

What’s on your weekly menu plan this week?

Don’t Miss Out!

Don’t want to miss a new weekly menu plan? Be sure to SIGN UP HERE to receive updates via email or RSS feed (you can choose the reader you prefer!) And don’t forget you can always follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. They all offer a little something different and are a great way to stay in the loop on new menu plans, recipe ideas, giveaways, organizing tips and more!

For more menu planning ideas, visit OrgJunkie.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to Once A Month Meals service ). . If you subscribe to their service, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you as thanks for the referral.

Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® and Bagel Thins ® Product and $25 Gift Card Giveaway!

Hey y’all! I’ve got another giveaway for you this month! Remember last week, I told you about the Egg, Bacon and Avocado Pocket Thins® Sandwich? Well now I’ve got an opportunity for you to win coupons to purchase your own Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® or Bagel Thins® PLUS a $25 Visa gift card to purchase ingredients to fill up your breads! These are SO yummy, I know you’ll want to give them a try.

Pocket Thins + $25 Visa Gift Card Giveaway - ends 4/3/14

Entering it easy–just add a comment below that lets me know what you’d fill your bread with! For extra entries, you can choose to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, tweet about this giveaway. I’ll be using Rafflecopter to choose the winner so see the entry form below to get started with your entries (it will help keep track of when you follow on Facebook or Twitter and notify me that way). Winners will be notified via email within 48 hours of the giveaway ending and given 48 hours to respond. If I do not receive a response within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY ENDS THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2014 at 11:59 PM CST

Make sure you don’t miss future giveaways, recipes and other meal planning organization ideas. Be sure to CLICK HERE so you can subscribe to all the updates. It’s simple and you’ll also receive weekly inspiration in you inbox!

My Favorite Things (New Feature!) – March 2014

This month I’m starting a new monthly series called My Favorite Things. I’ve used to do something similar years ago but tried doing it weekly and that was just too much to keep up with so I often missed a week. I hope that by making it monthly, it will occur more regularly!

As a food blogger and just someone who likes to be in the kitchen, I often get questions about what products I love and how they help me in the kitchen. I’m also lucky enough to receive samples of products from brands that want me to try them out. Each month I hope to bring you new ideas and products that will help you in your kitchen, too.

This month I’ve got two great things that are now some of My Favorite Things. Let’s get started!

Pacific Foods Soups

Just so you know, I’m already a big fan of Pacific Foods. I keep their chicken broth on hand (I buy it at Costco) pretty much all the time because it’s a great organic option for all kinds of recipes. But I especially love their boxed milks like the hazelnut milk. It’s SO yummy in smoothies, coffee or hot cocoa. So when they sent me some of their new soups to try out I was excited to give them a taste! I tried their newest offerings: the Organic Vegetable Lentil & Roasted Red Pepper Soup and the Organic Spicy Black Bean and Kale Soup. I’ll be honest, I’m not normally a fan of lentils, but this soup was so delicious even my daughter (who is kind of picky when it comes to beans altogether) liked it too! I’m also a spice wimp so was a little apprehensive about trying the Black Bean and Kale soup but it was delicious as well. It did have a bit of a kick but I added some oyster crackers (from ALDI’s!) and that toned it down a bit for me. It’s probably not all that spicy to most people but I am super wimpy!
Pacific soups

What’s great about these soups is that they come in a convenient size box, just like a typical ready-to-eat canned soup, but are packaged in BPA-free Tetra Recart cartons so there’s no tinny aftertaste. And with a shelf life of 24 months and an easy-to-store container it’s so easy to just heat and serve for a quick, filling lunch or dinner. They’re actually two servings worth! Knowing that they contain all-natural, organic ingredients makes me feel a little better about spending a bit more on a quick and easy meal option.

Pompeian Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

pompeian oil
I first met the folks at Pompeian at a food blogging conference last year and since then I’ve become a big fan. I use olive oil a lot when I’m doing all kinds of cooking so I was excited to receive some of their olive oil and also balsamic vinegar to try out. We LOVE to roast vegetables, especially broccoli. And the olive oil is perfect for this–it’s so light and I love that it is healthier for you too. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on your roasted vegetables, over a salad or on a sandwich (I especially like it on this Spinach and Sautéed Vegetable Panini) and it adds a delicious boost of flavor! These items have both become staples in my home now.

My Amazon Store Is Open For Business!

Did you know I’ve got an Amazon store? I set it up a few months ago and it’s a great way for you to check out the products that I love and use in my own kitchen. Right now it only has items in it that I actually use in my own kitchen or have used at friends and family’s houses and are on my wish list! So you can trust that these are tried and true items that I would recommend to anyone. There are all sorts of categories and price ranges (some of the pricier items may need to be added to your wish lists, too!) but I hope it will give you a good idea of what things you can use to save time and money in your own kitchen. You can check my shop out by clicking here.  (Disclaimer, I am an Amazon Affiliate so anything purchased through my store gives a small percentage of the sale to me but there is no extra cost to you!)

Newsletter on the Horizon

Also, I’m working on setting up a new email newsletter. This will be different than the feed some of you are subscribed to which just sends you an email each time my latest blog post whenever a new post is published. I’m hoping to include different content than what you can find on my blog (like food related book recommendations for one thing) that is exclusive to subscribers, so stay tuned for details on how you can subscribe to that. One day I hope to offer an ebook or two also that will be free for subscribers but that takes time that I don’t have much to spare these days! I’m thinking it will be a weekly or maybe only every other week thing so don’t worry about it clogging your inbox!

I hope you’ve liked My Favorite Things! What are some of your favorite products or tools for the kitchen? So be looking for it the last Saturday of each month!
Disclaimer: I did receive free products to review but I am already a happy customer of the two companies featured this month so I was glad to share the information with you all! I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own. I am also an Amazon Affiliate which gives me a portion of the sale made through the links I provide you here. Thanks for your support!

Egg, Bacon and Avocado Pocket Sandwich with Orowheat Pocket Thins #ad

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored post for which I was compensated monetarily and with product. All opinions are, however, my own.

Egg, Bacon and Avocado Pocket Sandwich | #ad | MealPlanningMagic.com
I don’t know about you, but it seems like I can never have enough simple meal ideas. Whether it’s for lunch or for a quick dinner or breakfast on-the-go, sometimes I need a meal that is easy to prepare and tastes good too.

I recently tried Oroweat® Pocket Thins® Flatbread which is super easy to fill with just about anything.  I decided to try them for breakfast and made up some scrambled eggs and bacon (which I then chopped up) and sliced up some avocados. A delicious Egg, Bacon and Avocado Pocket Sandwich! I added them all to my Pocket Thins® Flatbread and drizzled on a little salsa for a super easy breakfast. My daughter especially loved them and these will be a regular on our breakfast menu. What I love about the Pocket Thins® Flatbread is that unlike a tortilla, all the ingredients you put in, stay in while you’re eating them! (no more spilling out the back end!) They’re also great filled with egg salad, rolled up sliced lunchmeat and cheese with some sliced vegetables like cucumbers or tomatoes and maybe some torn lettuce pieces. Drizzle in your favorite salad dressing and voila! You’ve got an easy to eat, light lunch or dinner.

Both of my kids also enjoyed the Oroweat® Sandwich Thins® we tried. My son made a classic peanut butter and jelly for lunch (which I think he has had every day since we opened the package) and my daughter took one half of the thin to school one day to roll up with a slice of chees and a hot dog for her lunch. Let me tell you, those Sandwich Thins® didn’t last long in this house! (as you can see from the package–they were gone before I could take a picture!)
Egg, Bacon and Avocado Pocket Sandwich | #ad | MealPlanningMagic.com

Did you know that all Arnold®, Brownberry® and Oroweat® Sandwich Thins® Rolls are cholesterol-free foods, containing zero grams of Trans Fat and no high fructose corn syrup? And they all only have 3 PointsPlus VALUE® for Weight Watchers! I got the 100% Whole Wheat versions.

Here’s a little more info. about these product:

Arnold®, Brownberry® and Oroweat® Sandwich Thins® Rolls come in 100% Whole Wheat, Healthy Multi-grain, Honey Wheat, Flax and Fiber. Official Pocket Thins® come in 100% Whole Wheat, Healthy Multi-grain. And Thomas’® Bagel Thins® Bagels come in Plain, 100% Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Raisin and Everything. (We especially like the Cinnamon Raisin toasted then spread with a little butter or cream cheese or whole wheat with sliced lunchmeat, cheese and tomatoes and lettuce–yummy!)

Be sure to check out their websites for more Recipe Ideas by clicking here or also here.  Or follow them on Facebook at Sandwich Thins® on Facebook or Bagel Thins ® on Facebook

What would you put in or on your Pocket Thins® or Sandwich Thins®?

Disclaimer: Sandwich Thins®, Pocket Thins® and Bagel Thins ® provided me with coupons for free product and a gift card for my recipe ingredients. All opinions are my own.

Real Food and the Two-Thirds Rule (plus three more ideas!)

3 Simple Real Food Tips and the Two-Thirds Rule | MealPlanningMagic.com

This week as part of the Keeping It Real tour for this month, I’m going to talk about real food. What does that term “Real Food” mean to you? Well, last week, I asked on my Facebook page what it meant and several people replied that it means not from a package or a box. Or even just fresh fruit and vegetables. I think it means all of the above. Whether you have a clear idea or no idea or are somewhere in between, the one thing I want you all to remember is that we all have to start somewhere!

I’ve got a few tips to help you get started making and serving more real food to your family.

The Two-Thirds/One-Third Rule

When I teach a meal planning workshop I like to tell parents to try the “Two-Thirds/One-Third” Rule. I think this is a rule I made up but I’m not totally sure because I’ve been a proponent for so long!
The idea is this: make 2/3 of the foods on your plate familiar foods and 1/3 a new food. Maybe that means frozen chicken nuggets, French fries (maybe sweet potato fries) and garlic roasted broccoli.  Or maybe that’s pizza, sliced cucumbers and maybe a garden salad with a new homemade salad dressing. Of course, you’ll want to try to keep things balanced with variety, but hopefully you get the idea!

Three Easy Ways To Eat More Real Food

Here are a few other simple ideas to help you add more fresh and real foods to your menus.

Cook it a different way. For years I almost always steamed vegetables for a side dish.

Like Every. Single. Time.

It’s easy to do and requires little preparation time. But other than steamed corn and peas, my family never really loved steamed anything else. One day I tried roasting our broccoli and oh my gosh! We all gobbled it up! My kids actually request it regularly now! My husband, on the other hand, prefers his broccoli raw so when I’m preparing it I just leave a little to the side for him. See, everyone has a different preference but I was stuck in the steamed veggie rut for so long I thought it was just the veggie itself that was doomed.

Provide variety. When I first started making salads regularly with our dinners, I had a toddler and a preschooler. My husband ate them pretty regularly but my kids did not love lettuce so much.

But I kept making them.

And serving them.

Several times a week.

In addition to the lettuce, I’d mix things up by adding other vegetables like sliced carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, avocado, etc. Usually the kids would just have one of the cut up vegetables. I remember it was probably at least a year later that my daughter said she wanted a “real salad”. That meant with lettuce. Flash forward several years later and now they are both fans of “real salads”. But not always. My son has been known to have a “salad” of all cucumbers or maybe cucumbers and tomatoes or carrots. That’s ok! We let them pick and choose how they make their salads. But whatever way that is, they’re getting fresh veggies! Win-win!

Use your silent electronic kitchen assistants. I LOVE, love, love my slow cooker. And my rice cooker. And my bread maker. (By the way, you can find my favorite models in my  Amazon Shop by clicking here). These are all my silent kitchen assistants that let me prepare real food for my family with little hands on time from me. Best of all, they all have a “keep warm” setting or some have a “cook later” setting that means we don’t have to eat it the minute it is done and it will be ok!

Do you need all of these? Nope. (I’ve acquired mine over several years or received as a gift). But even if you have just one of these, make sure you’re using it to its full potential. I probably use a combination of the first two for sure at least three times a week. I even have an ice cream maker that I splurged on several years ago and while we don’t make homemade ice cream all that often, when we do it sure is handy to let that thing just churn away for a half hour or so hands free!

For more real food recipe ideas, be sure to check out my Recipe Index by clicking here.

What other tips do you have for getting real food to the table more easily at your house? Please share ideas and recipes in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  For more information on what that means, click here.

Weekly Menu Plan [3/24/14] & $100 Target Giveaway!

Weekly Menu Plan plus More Recipe Inspiration | MealPlanningMagic.com

Thank goodness for freezer meals. Whether they’re from my own creation or from Dream Dinners, I know my family is eating a whole lot healthier than they might otherwise. Our spring is just filling up with school activities, sports and other things going on.

So, my Weekly Menu Plan is going to reflect that again this week. I’m STILL trying to clean out our freezer (it seems like it is never ending). This has actually been a good thing for my current budget since my average grocery trip bill has been around $35 for the last few weeks. Of course I need to factor in the money I spent for those meals in the freezer but overall, we’re still averaging about $65-$75/week for our family of four.

This is what my weekly menu plan is looking like for this week (everything is from Dream Dinners this week):

Monday: Parmesan Crusted Chicken with almond green beans and maybe a rice pilaf or garden salad
Tuesday: Chicken with Honey and Orange Marinade, broccoli casserole and brown rice pilaf.
Wednesday: Mini Meatloaves with roasted broccoli or garden salad (this was on the menu last week but plans changed!)
Thursday: Pulled Pork Casserole with Cornbread topping (from Dream Dinners) and pork or bean tamales with sour cream (from local vendor) and a garden salad
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Out to eat
Sunday: Leftovers and/or soup and sandwiches

What’s on  your menu this week?

$100 Target Giveaway!

I also wanted to let you know about a giveaway some blogging friends of mine are hosting right now for a $100 Target gift card! Actually, I know them in real life too and they’re pretty cool so I know you’ll want to go check out their blogs at Sparkles and a Stove (she shares crafting ideas, recipes and more) and Kirsten Oliphant (who blogs about a little bit of everything including home stuff, living with kids and sometimes food, too!) I don’t need an excuse to go to Target but if I had an extra $100 to spend there, I’m sure I’d have no trouble finding things to spend it on. Lately, I’ve had my eye on some things in their home department and well, I pretty much can’t go there without cruising through the kitchen section at some point. What about you? Be sure to go to their blogs to enter to win or click below to enter (you can even follow me on Pinterest as one of your entries–that is if you’re not already following me there!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you have a great week!