Weekly Menu Plan, Winter Games Inspired Menus and Valentine’s Day Ideas [2/10/14]

Weekly Menu Plan

For this week’s Weekly Menu Plan, I’m focusing on using up what I’ve got in my pantry, fridge and freezer. It’s a little challenge I’m setting for myself to use up what I have to save more on groceries. Be sure to check back here tomorrow so you can get details about joining up too!

Last week I told you why I love Dream Dinners and this week’s menu includes some meals from there. Here’s what’s on the menu for this week:

Monday: Slowcooker Lasagna Soup, garden salad
Tuesday: Tuna Rollups with homemade cream of mushroom soup, steamed vegetable
Wednesday: Pub Style Chicken with Mashed Potatoes (from Dream Dinners)
Thursday: Beach Street Shrimp Scampi with Pasta (from Dream Dinners)
Friday: TBA–something special for Valentine’s Day!
Saturday: Out to Eat
Sunday: Leftovers

Olympic Winter Game Inspired Ideas Olympics Inspired Menu & Activity Ideas

We’re big fans of the Olympics at our house. We love to sit and watch as much of the coverage as we can. Last week I wrote a post for Produce For Kids with some ideas to help you bring the Winter Games into your home too! You can also check out my Olympics Fun Pinterest board that includes a growing collection of even more Olympics ideas.

Produce for Kids-Winter Games Ideas

Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day is this week! Ack! I haven’t done much thinking about Valentine’s Day unless you count all the ideas I’ve been collecting on my Pinterest boards. There are some really creative ideas from others so I say, why reinvent the wheel, right? Check out the boards by clicking on the picture below.
Valentine's Day Pinterest Board - MealPlanningMagic.com
What’s on your menu this week? Will you be doing anything fun for Valentine’s Day for your family? I hope you have a great week!

Weekly Menu Plan Plus #ProduceForKids Twitter Party and New Website!

Weekly Menu Plan plus Halloween planning & a Produce for Kids Twitter Chat

How can we already be to the 21st of October? Seems like this month has flown by and Halloween is just around the corner. This week’s weekly menu plan includes dinners all from the freezer. Mainly because I’m trying to clean out the freezer to make room for the upcoming holidays! Here’s what’s on the menu:

Monday: Chicken and Baked Potato Soup (recipe is similar to THIS ONE), breadsticks and garden salad
Tuesday: Pecan Crusted Pork Chops (recipe similar to THIS ONE)  & Mashed Potatoes and roasted broccoli
Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas (here’s an easy one to try)
Thursday: New Orleans Jambalaya (recipe similar to THIS ONE)
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: special event—out to eat
Sunday: Potstickers, edamame and steamed rice

Halloween Holiday Planning Tips

Hallloween is just around the corner! If you celebrate, you need a plan to make the most of this holiday. Remember when I talked about choosing shared family calendar that’s right for you? Well, that will help you add those special events and activities you want to do with your family. I don’t know about you, but days can fly by and then I realize it’s the day before Halloween and we don’t even have a pumpkin to carve! Make a list and schedule those things on your calendar. Whether that includes a family outing to the local pumpkin patch or just planning some an hour or two to bake holiday treats together, you’ve got to write it down! Of course, plans can change but at least you’ll have a framework to start with. If you’re looking for some Halloween inspired treats, check out my Halloween Food Pinterest board. Looking for something a little more fall-ish? I’ve also got a collection of fall foods and all things pumpkin on Pinterest too.

Halloween Pinterest Board Ideas-MealPlanningMagic.com

 

Produce for Kids Twitter Party & New Website

As you may know, I’m a Produce for Kids Parents On Produce board member. Join me on tomorrow, Tuesday, October 22nd at 9 pm EST for a Twitter chat to learn more about how Produce For Kids and it’s new website can help you with the daily struggles and triumphs of healthy eating as a family. They’ll also be giving away four gift baskets from Sprout® TV, filled with Chica-inspired items! RSVP by CLICKING THIS LINK and join the conversation at October 22 using #ProduceforKids to follow along and join in!

ProduceForKids.com Twitter Party

Not on Twitter? That’s ok! You can check out the newly updated ProduceforKids website. It’s a one-stop resource with more recipes, activities and ideas that help provide healthy eating solutions for families of all sizes. There is something for everyone—parents and kids including:
New Ideal Meals: With over 120 complete meals ideas for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner and dessert, you’ll have plenty of healthy meal options featuring fresh produce as the main ingredients. What could be easier than that?

Parents on Produce® Blog: Known as “Real Advice for Parents by Parents,” Parents on Produce is a blog where parents can find simple tips to make healthy eating stress-free and fun, and take the guesswork out of ways to prepare healthy meals that kids will actually eat and love. Parents are encouraged to comment on blog articles and share them through social media outlets to keep the healthy eating conversation going.

Produce Tips: Curious about how to pick, store and prep different fruits and veggies? Check out the Produce Tips section of ProduceforKids.com for tips straight from the growers to learn how to maximize the life of produce.

The latest news: Want more information about when the Produce for Kids grocery store campaigns start or which supermarket chains are participating? Curious about other companies spreading the healthy eating message? Check out the news section for updates from Produce for Kids and its partners and how purchasing fruits and vegetables at your local markets can help your community!

Kids Only: Produce for Kids is a proud partner with Sprout®, the 24-hour preschool television channel. Kids can enjoy new health-related games and fun activities from Sprout on the Produce for Kids website. Toddler favorites Sportacus from LazyTown™ and Chica from The Chica Show make appearances on the site and give little ones the chance to play games that relate to living a healthy lifestyle, including eating right and being active.

Produce for Kids Forum: Have questions for the Produce for Kids experts? Want to talk with peers about getting the kiddies to eat healthy, trade exercise ideas and cooking tips, or chat about the joys of motherhood? The Produce for Kids Forum provides a place to ask questions, chat and learn from others. Current conversations include healthy back-to-school snacks and produce tips.

Be sure to stop by and check it out!

Don’t want to miss an update? 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!

So what’s on your menu this week? For more meal plan ideas, visit OrgJunkie.com.

Happy Holidays from Meal Planning Magic!

Happy Holidays to you all! Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas I hope it has been enjoyable time spent with family and friends!

I had hoped to get a couple more posts written up before the New Year but it hasn’t happened yet due to the hustle & bustle of the holidays and some of my family (myself included)feeling under the weather the last couple of weeks. We’re on the mend now though!

But I will be taking a break from blogging and social media from now until the first week of January! Time to regroup and relax. I’ve got lots of great ideas to share with you in2013 so I hope you’ll check back and we’ll continue this meal planning and real food journey together!

Hints & Recipes for Healthy Holidays


Many of us are in countdown mode for Christmas. It’s just a week away after all! I wanted to share a few links to articles on the Produce For Kids site that I’ve written or thought you might enjoy for a healthier holiday. As you may remember, I’m a Parents on Produce board member and love to share ways for kids and families to eat tasty, healthy food.

Here are a few article links to get you started:

Healthy Holidays Start With a Plan


Top 5 Idea for Holiday Leftovers

And looking just a little further down the calendar, we’ll be at the new year! Take a look at these Healthy Family Resolutions to get your started on a list of your own!

Here are a couple of easy and tasty recipes to get you on your way to enjoying the holidays–healthfully.


Apple Pumpkin Muffins


Holiday Breakfast Wrap


Apple Pear French Toast


Slowcooker Veggie Lasagna

Be sure to check out their Pinterest boards for some more tasty ideas!

Healthful Holidays
Delicious Decor
Healthy Parties
Appetizer Ideas

With just a little planning and inspiration, you’ll be on your way to a healthy holiday that can taste great too!

Last Minute Thanksgiving Food Ideas – Top 10 Pinterest Inspiration

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a round up of some ideas I have found on Pinterest. I thought some of these Thanksgiving ideas were just too fun not to share! They are great for last minute additions to your holiday table. And the bonus? They’re healthier and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand already (or can easily get your hands on them!) And they’re perfect for getting the kids to help with too. Enjoy!


I love these Thankful Rolls By The Girl Who Ate Everything!


These fruity turkey muffins are easy and fun to eat! By Parenting.com


Simple and yummy chocolate and fruit turkey fondue By Clean and Scentsible


Easy Turkey Fruit Snacks By Mom Endeavors


Check out this fun Popcorn Turkey Bag By One Charming Party for a holiday twist on this favorite snack!


How about these Thankgiving Gobble Breakfast Pancakes on Thursday morning? By Little Nummies


Who says it needs to be all about the fruits? Check out this Turkey Veggie Tray By Mom Endeavors


Or try this Turkey Veggie Tray By Eating With Food Allergies


Super Easy Fruit Turkeys with mini-skewers By Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons


These are SO easy! And what a yummy snack for kids (or anyone!) Apples And Peanut Butter Turkey Cups By The Party Animal Blog

So what’s your favorite, easy Thanksgiving food or snack? I hope you’re inspired to try one or two of these…I know I will be making a couple for our holiday table!

Holiday Food Can Be Fun AND Healthy with Fruits & Veggies!

Who says eating healthy during the holidays needs to be boring? Check out these fun vegetable and fruit tray (or tree) ideas I found while looking for some ideas to use myself! I hope you’ll be inspired to try some yourself!

VEGETABLE IDEAS

Snap Pea Veggie Tray by Little Nummies


Tree-Shaped Crescent Veggie Appetizers by Pillsbury


Cheddar Veggie Tree by Cabot Cheese


Christmas Cuke Cups by Super Healthy Kids


Christmas Tree Vegetable Platter by Betty Crocker


Vegetable Tray with Nacho Cheese Dip by Betty Crocker

FUN WITH FRUIT!

Fruit Christmas Tree with Grapes by Recipes For Vegans


Christmas Tree Fruit Tray with Honeydew by Kitchen Fun With My Three Sons


Fruity Christmas Tree by Ginger & Garlic Blog

And be sure to check out this easy Fruity Kiwi Berry Tree by Almost Unschoolers blog (I couldn’t get a picture of it just yet!)

I hope you’ll be inspired to serve up some healthy holidays of your own!

Halloween Chocolate Cat Face Cookies–And Other Goodies!


Earlier this week I asked my Facebook fans if they had any food traditions. Since I love baking and I love tradition, it’s a natural combo for me. And every Halloween for as long as I can remember, I’ve been making these Chocolate Cat Face Cookies. The original recipe came from a newspaper clipping my mom cut out many, many years ago and they were something we made when I was younger. And I’ve been making them ever since! And last year I even won third place in a regional magazine’s recipe contest….cool! Now I make them with my own children and they are old enough to practically make them themselves. They are SOOO easy! This year my daughter helped me make them. Well, really other than putting them in and taking out of the oven, she pretty much did it all herself!

Chocolate Cat Cookies

1 box cake mix, chocolate or devil’s food flavor
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup chocolate chips (for eyes)
1 jar red hot candies or red mini-chocolate candies such as M&Ms (for nose)–we prefer the M&Ms as they’re easier for younger children to eat

Mix together peanut butter, cake mix, eggs and ¼ cup water. Add more water as needed if dough is too stiff. Roll dough into 1 ½” balls. Roll ball in sugar and place on cookie sheet. Then press ball flat with bottom of a glass. Form into cat faces by pinching two ears at the top of cookie. Use a fork to form the whiskers on either side of face. Add chocolate chips for the eyes and one red hot or red chocolate candy for the nose. Bake 7-8 minutes at 325º. Makes about 55 cookies.

Just a few simple ingredients to gather.

Found these holiday mini M&M’s at Wal-mart. Fun!

Use a scooper to make the cookie balls a uniform size. This one is about one-inch wide.

Roll the balls in sugar.

Flatten the cookies using the bottom of a smooth glass.

Pinch the dough to make two ears.

Use a fork to press in the whiskers.

Chocolate chips make the eyes.

Mini M&Ms for the noses.

All the cookies cooling on the racks. Be careful–they are soft and can sometimes cause “squished” faces when you take them off the baking sheet.

We love Halloween around our house and look for lots of fun ways to be creative. Most recently I’ve been finding lots of ideas on Pinterest (such a great place to collect and save ideas!). Even last weekend my 2nd grader attempted to make a combo of the cakes shown below for a decorated cake contest at a fundraiser at our school. Unfortunately, we had some issues. Mainly because I turned away for a few minutes while he was adding the licorice “hair which ended up being too close to the edge of the cake and started to crumble before we even left the house. He ended up not wanting to enter the cake (and put his name on it!) but he really did a great job with the decorating in general! And it still tasted good.


You can find a link to the instructions for this cake by clicking here.


Find the link to make this cake by clicking here.

If you’re still looking for some Halloween inspiration for weekend activities, check out a few of these that I’ve found on Pinterest. And come follow me there to keep up with all the fun additons I make—nearly daily!

Happy early Halloween and have fun with your family in the kitchen!

Guest Post and Halloween treat fun

I’m guest posting today over at Raise Healthy Eaters. There, I answer 6 Questions That Will Transform Your Meal Planning. Be sure to check it out!


This week we also made one of our favorite Halloween cookie treats! Chocolate Cat Cookies are something I have been making since I was a little girl. My mom found the recipe in the newspaper and I’ve been making it all these years. We’ve modified it a bit since then but generally it’s about the same. My daughter made them for a contest at school and the recipe link is also from a contest I entered and won a prize! Woohoo! They are super quick and easy to make. I hope you like them too!

It’s Holiday Cookie Time!

A few weeks ago we finally updated our kitchen with new counters (it’s been something we’ve been planning for awhile). We hit a few snags along the way including a week with no running water and still no working cooktop (going on three weeks now). But my old oven still works and until the new one comes in I’ve been busy baking my holiday cookies for upcoming cookie exchanges, holiday gifts and just general baking.
Our new oven is set to arrive soon, (the new cooktop and old oven aren’t compatible anymore–15 years later–surprise!) but I was worried I’d be totally without an oven in case we hit yet another snag and then how would I get my baking done? So I’m stocking my freezer with baked goods too so I’ll be prepared! Consider it a Holiday Baking OAMC!
Is the thought of baking that much a little overwhelming but you’d still like a variety of holiday cookies to serve and enjoy this season? How about hosting a cookie exchange? It’s fairly simple to do and best of all you bake one type of cookie and end up with a wide variety of cookies without all the baking! Not sure how to start? It’s simple and you can check out the basic how-to’s at this Cookie Exchange Site.
Don’t forget that holiday baking time is a great time to start a tradition with your kids or grandkids also! When I was little, after my grandmother would arrive for the holidays, we made our cut-out sugar cookies and decorated them with her. I’ve continued that tradition with my own kids (and their cousins, aunt and grandmother!). Ever since the kids could sit in a high chair we’ve decorated our cookies on “Cookie Day”. Now that my kids are a little older they ask WHEN we’re having our special day not IF. They look forward to it too and it is a lot of fun!
So, whatever method you choose I hope you enjoy a little baking this year and enjoy an extra indulgence or two also! Let me know if you’ve ever hosted or been to a cookie exchange and what’s your favorite part…or if you have any special holiday baking memories or traditions (just post your thoughts in the comments section). Happy Baking!
Check out last year’s post for more musings on cookie baking and some helpful forms for the holidays at Meal Planning Magic Holiday Style! Baking 101.

Meal Plan Magic Holiday Style! Baking 101


Not to put the pressure on but the holidays will be here before we know it. Now, don’t start freaking out right now and think “Oh my! I’ll never be able to get everything done that I want to!”. It’s a familiar mantra that many of us tell ourselves each year. No matter what holiday you celebrate, food is no doubt a part of it.

Of course what you choose to do or not do is a personal decision you CAN enjoy the holidays a bit more if you’re organized and of course, plan for all the occasions for food!

This is this first in a three part series about meal planning for the holidays. This week I’m talking about holiday baking. For many, the holidays are really the only time they bake. For me, it’s when I bake the “fancy” cookies and candy for enjoying at home, parties and gift giving.

What I love about holiday baking is that most all the cookies I make can be made ahead and frozen up to three months in advance (usually). Then I can pull out what I need when I need it and not stress when company comes by at the last minute. But you’ve got to have a plan. Have you ever gotten all ready on a Saturday afternoon to have a bake-a-thon and then realized you ran out of butter or flour or some other key ingredient because you just didn’t figure out how much you would need total? Or forgotten about making that favorite candy that your sister-in-law loves until you show up at the family gathering without it?

I’ve got some tools to share with you that can help you get a little more organized: At OrganizedChristmas.com (not just for Christmas–they have other holidays there too), you can download free forms to help you get organized. Check out the Baking Planner or Pantry Inventory forms. They’ve taken the thinking out of what you need to remember when looking through your recipes and making your grocery lists.

Another easy way to get a variety of cookies is to host a Cookie Exchange. There are lots of ways to do it. I’ve hosted several over the years and sometimes it is an evening event for ladies only, sometimes a daytime event where kids are invited or held at the last regular meeting of a group that I’m in before we break for the holidays. How does it work? Check out Cookie-exchange.com or Entertaining at About.com to get some ideas.

My sister hosts an annual Cookie Exchange and hers is an event that everyone looks forward to. She even holds a contest for the most creative cookie and the most creative cookie container. Hot chocolate, wassail and other beverages are served and it’s a fun girls night out for everyone to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle!

Where do you get all the ideas? Well, everywhere! As you can see from my picture, I’ve got LOTS of holiday baking inspiration (and that’s only about half of them!) I’m a sucker for those pretty looking magazines and mini-cookbooks at the checkout stand. It’s always a treat to get a new one (or two) each year. So go ahead and splurge on a new one for yourself this year (BTW, some retailers like Target and Sam’s Club offer 10-30% off the cover price!)

So whatever your plan—big or small, make things a little easier on yourself and take some time to make a plan. You’ll be thanking yourself later I’m sure!

Coming next week: Potluck Party Planning and Food Gifts.

Happy baking!