Weekly Meal Plan {Week 78}

2017 calendar
It’s Monday again.  We survived a busy, but rainy and wet weekend.  I hope all you moms were spoiled yesterday and had a very happy Mother’s Day.  I had a great day with my husband and kids that started with coffee in bed and ended with a dinner cooked by the three of them and brownie sundaes for dessert.  Monday  means that it’s time for another weekly meal plan.  If you are looking for some dinner time inspiration, my weekly meal plan is the place for you.  Each week I showcase what was on my previous week’s meal plan, with pictures, recipe links and my family’s review of each dish.  There are so many food blogs, cookbooks and recipes out there and I am always on the lookout for new family-friendly recipes to try.  If you are new to meal planning, read more about how I make my weekly meal plan. Here is a look at what was on our menu this past week:

Saturday: My husband made sliders and fries.  He made homemade frizzled onions and added blue cheese dressing.

Sunday: We went out to dinner with my family to celebrate my brother and mother’s birthdays.  We went to an Italian restaurant where I ordered this Chicken Casaletto.  The chicken was stuffed with broccoli rabe, sausage, cheese and roasted peppers and covered in a mushroom sauce.  It was so tasty!

Monday:  I made 30 Minute Teriyaki Chicken with Sesame Ginger Broccoli from Half Baked Harvest.  I don’t like ginger, so omitted that from the sauce and  I also used canned pineapple.  I roasted the broccoli, but since I bought thin sliced chicken breasts I didn’t cook everything in the oven after.  I found my sauce didn’t thicken very much, but we drizzled it over the rice I served with it, so it didn’t go to waste.  This was a kid-approved, easy dinner.

Tuesday: I made Zesty Slow Cooker Chicken Barbecue from allrecipes which I served on rolls.  This was super easy to throw together in the slow cooker in the morning. Then, in the afternoon I shredded the chicken and let it sit in the slow cooker on warm until we were ready to eat.  I served this with fries and my parents, who came over for dinner, brought a salad.  Unfortunately, dinner was so rushed that I didn’t take a picture!

Wednesday: My husband was home from work early and made Spaghetti and Meatballs.  This is one of my daughter’s favorite meals and she had been requesting it for awhile.  He didn’t follow a recipe for making the meatballs, just kind of threw ingredients together, which is his cooking style.  I bought jarred pasta sauce since there wasn’t enough time to make homemade.

Thursday:  I made Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast also from allrecipes.  Honestly, I’m not even sure if the cut of beef that I picked up was a pot roast.  It was a small roast that noted on the package it was good for slow cooking.  The ingredients make a tasty gravy which we spooned on the meat and on the mashed potatoes (not homemade, I used Simply Potatoes brand).  I also heated up some frozen veggies to serve with.  This was another busy night where there was no time to cook and barely enough time to eat!  I would make this again but use reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup, since I found the gravy to be a tad on the salty side.

Friday:  I decided to do something different instead of our usual pizza!  We had  a lot of barbecue chicken leftover from earlier in the week, so I (actually my husband!) made calzones.  He heated up the leftover chicken and then put it in pizza dough with some shredded cheddar cheese and chopped red onion.  He then cooked them on a pizza stone and served them with leftover BBQ sauce for dipping.

What are you having for dinner this week?


Five on Friday {Mother’s Day Weekend}

I am so happy that it’s Friday.  This has seriously been one of the busiest weeks ever.  I volunteered every day this week at my son’s school book fair.  Plus, this week was my daughter’s band concert, swimming lessons for my son, Open House night at the elementary school, multiple doctor/dentist appointments before and after school, piano lessons, and a Girl Scout and Cub Scout event!  I am exhausted!  But, I survived and will hopefully get to relax a little this weekend.  After all, Mother’s Day is on Sunday, right?!   Speaking of which, Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mom readers.  I hope you have  a great day celebrating you!  Here are five from this week:

Family Fun – Last weekend we enjoyed family time at a Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.  We got to see lots of performances including sword demonstrations, Japanese drummers, traditional dancers and more.  Unfortunately, the weather was a bit chilly and it started to rain at one point.  But, we made the best of it and had a good time.

Cooking – My slow cooker has gotten a lot of use this week!  Check out this Monday’s weekly meal plan to see what was on our menu, including this Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast with gravy.

Watching  This past week we watched Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find them and Hidden Figures.  I didn’t read either of the books first and didn’t really have any idea of what either movie was about.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed both movies.

Reading – I just started A Gentleman in Moscow yesterday afternoon.  It’s the book of the month for a Goodreads group I’m in, otherwise, I hadn’t even heard of this book! LOL!  I usually enjoy historical fiction, so I’m hoping this one’s a winner.  I’ll hopefully get in some decent reading time this weekend.

Eating – At the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival we ate ramen, skewered beef and this Okonomiyaki.  This was our first time trying it, but won’t be our last.  It’s a savory pancake made of cabbage and egg and topped with two different sauces and pork belly. Yum!

ICYMI this week on the blog:

2017 calendarMonday I shared our weekly meal plan.

Life According to Steph

Tuesday I posted my April 2017 Reads and joined the Show Us Your Books link up.

I’m linking up with Katie, Andrea and April!  Have a great weekend!


April 2017 Reads

Life According to Steph

It’s the second Tuesday of the month, which means that it’s time for Steph and Jana’s Show Us Your Books link up!  I love being able to showcase the books that I read this past month as well as get lots of book recommendations  to add to my already too long to read list!  April was a slow month of reading for me.   Like, only five books read slow.  Fortunately, they were almost all great reads!  I realize now that most of them dealt with death and grieving, which did not make for light reading.  In order from least to most liked, here are my April 2017 reads:

3 Stars:


The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1) by Jennifer Bell – Imagine an underground world where ordinary objects have special powers.  This is where siblings Ivy and Seb find themselves after they escape from intruders who are looking for something in their grandmother’s house.  Down in Lundinor the two must try to save their parents who have been kidnapped by producing the Great Uncommon Good.  This is a fantasy, middle-grade fiction read that is being dubbed “part Tim Burton, part J.K. Rowling.”  While I wasn’t a huge fan of this one myself, I think it may appeal to middle school readers who enjoy fantasy, adventure books.

4 Stars:


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough –  Louise meets David at a bar one night and they kiss.  A couple of days later she discovers he’s her new boss.  Soon after that Louise meets Adele and the two become quick friends.  But Adele is David’s wife.  There’s a twisted triangle of secrets that kept me interested in reading.  This was a quick, suspenseful read.  I debated between a 3 1/2 and 4 star rating but don’t want to give spoilers as to my reasoning.


Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Elsie is married to Ben less than 10 days, when he is killed in an accident.  Throughout their whirlwind romance of less than six months, she never met Ben’s mother, Susan.  Susan actually never knew that Ben was married or that there was an Elsie.  Susan and Elsie get off to a rocky start as they come to terms with Ben’s death.  The book is told in alternating chapters between the past and present.  Out of all the books about death that I read this month, this was the hardest for me to read.  I think Ben’s young age and the unexpectedness of his death had me freaking myself out imagining myself in this situation.  I am now caught up on reading all of TJR’s books and am looking forward to her new one coming out this summer!


I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi – Maddy is a stay-at-home mom to 16 year-old Eve and wife to workaholic, Brady.  As the book begins we learn that Maddy committed suicide and is looking for a replacement for herself.  With no note or reasons why, Eve and Brady grieve and try to come to terms with Maddy’s death.  I enjoyed that each chapter is told through Maddy (narrating from the beyond), Eve and Brady’s perspectives, so you get to see all the characters’ perspectives.

5 Stars:


Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner – Carver Brigg sends a text to his three best friends that might have been the cause of the texting and driving accident that kills them.  Filled with guilt, he then discovers that he may be facing criminal charges.  Feeling alone, he and his friend Eli’s girlfriend Jesmyn become close as they grieve.  This was an emotional, YA read.  I think it sends an important message about the dangers of texting and driving.  I also love the concept of Goodbye Days.


Weekly Meal Plan {Week 77}

2017 calendar

Did you have a great weekend? It just flies by so quickly! Monday’s here and it’s time to start another week.  Monday  means that it’s time for another weekly meal plan.  If you are looking for some dinner time inspiration, my weekly meal plan is the place for you.  Each week I showcase what was on my previous week’s meal plan, with pictures, recipe links and most importantly, my family’s review of each dish.  There are so many food blogs, cookbooks and recipes out there and I am always on the lookout for new family-friendly recipes to try.  If you are new to meal planning, read more about how I make my weekly meal plan. Here is a look at what was on our menu this past week:

Saturday: We ate the leftover Chicken Enchilada Pizza my husband had made Friday night.

Sunday: My husband and daughter ate dinner at the Girl Scout Father/Daughter dance.  My son and I had Smash Burger for dinner.  This Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger was surprisingly tasty!

Monday: I made Raspberry Ricotta Croissant French Toast from Half Baked Harvest.  My kids love breakfast for dinner.  Before seeing this recipe, I had never thought to make french toast using croissants.  This recipe was easy enough to make and very tasty!  I used thawed frozen raspberries, instead of fresh, which worked out fine. I also used four large croissants, instead of the smaller ones the recipe suggested using.  I had a lot of egg mixture leftover, so I made some regular french toast using bread.  I served the french toast with bacon.  Of course this dinner was kid-approved!

Tuesday: I fried up some breaded chicken cutlets and served with homemade mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli.  A simple supper, but one that was really enjoyed by the family!

Wednesday: I made Turkey Meatball Spinach Soup from Damn Delicious.  Actually, my son made most of it and I supervised.  He did make me roll the meatballs though.  This recipe was quick and easy enough for an almost 9 year-old to make.  However, I found the meatballs lacking flavor.  If I was going to make this again, which I probably won’t, I’d add some egg noodles to the broth, because….we love carbs!

Thursday: I made Slow Cooker Pork Tinga from Bread Booze Bacon. This recipe is adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe.  I love a good slow cooker recipe and this one wasn’t bad.  I double the amount of pork the recipe called for and realized I should have doubled the sauce mixture.  Mine was barely saucy at all.  I bought tortillas which we served the pork on but I also made rice which we added as well.  There was a good amount of leftovers which we just ate over the leftover rice.

Friday:  I made our usual homemade pizza.  Just plain cheese this week!

What are you having for dinner this week?


Five on Friday {Happy Cinco de Mayo!}

Yeah for Friday and happy Cinco de Mayo!  Unfortunately, this has not been the greatest week for me, as you will read below.  I’m glad that it’s over and hope to have a hopefully enjoyable weekend!  This weekend my son has soccer and we are going out to dinner to celebrate my mom and brother’s birthdays! Here are five from this week:

1. Mother/Son time – Last Sunday my husband and daughter went to her Girl Scout Father/Daughter dance.  I took my son down to the local park so he could play on the playground and play some Pokemon Go.  Then I took him out for some ice cream.  This local ice cream shop has board games available to play, so we played a couple of rounds of Guess Who? (yes, there were two pictures missing from my board!) while he ate his ice cream.  On the way home, we picked up some Smash Burger for dinner.  Lucky boy got to eat dessert before dinner!

2. Dentist Problems – Excuse my rant here.  I had a dental cleaning this week.  Since we got new insurance at the beginning of the year, I had my husband call ahead and make sure the office had all the correct info needed before my visit.  Except, when I got there, they had made an error and gave me a difficult time, when they were at fault.  Needless to say, I ended up stressed out before my exam.  I’m already not a fan of the dentist and this didn’t help.  Luckily, I had a good visit and no cavities.  And then yesterday, while eating lunch I chipped a tooth!!  Now, I need to go back tomorrow!  Waah!   I like my dentist a lot.  However, I’m not a fan of the office staff at all.  I’m debating whether to switch dentists for one with a friendlier staff…..but not sure if it’s worth it.  Decisions, decisions.

3. Allergic Reactions – I’m fortunate enough not to have any food, pet or seasonal allergies.  Last Saturday at my son’s soccer game, I was sitting in my camp chair and noticed tons of little black caterpillars all over me.  I flicked them off my arms, the camp chair, my jeans, etc.  This went on the entire hour and a half of soccer!  The next day, I started breaking out in itchy, mosquito bite-like bumps in the areas where the caterpillars were (my arms and upper chest area).  At first, I didn’t think much of it.  But the number of bumps increased and I was so uncomfortable from the itchiness.   After some research, my husband and I concluded that the tiny caterpillars were gypsy moth caterpillars and I had an allergic reaction to them.  Yes, there’s such a thing, and I am lucky enough to be one of the few who are allergic.  After several days of Benadryl and anti-itch ointment the bumps have subsided and I’m doing okay.  But it’s been an itchy, uncomfortable week.

4. Reading – I’m currently reading The Circle by Dave Eggers.  It’s a Book of the Month read for a Goodreads group that I’m in.  It’s science fiction/dystopian and definitely not a book I’d pick up on my own. However, I’ve been sucked in and am really enjoying it.  And I just discovered that  Tom Hanks and Emma Watson star in the movie that is currently playing!  I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD but I do want to watch it.

5. Bargain Shopping –  I haven’t been doing much shopping since we’re trying to stay on budget and cut unnecessary expenses. Yesterday, I was shopping  for a birthday present for my mom at Kohl’s.  I ended up finding this spring/fall windbreaker type jacket (Don’t mind the unflattering pic of the jacket.  There’s a reason that I’m not a fashion blogger, LOL!!).  It was marked with the original price of $90. Since I found it on the clearance rack, I decided to price-check it, and discovered it was $9.00!  With my coupons and discounts, the jacket cost me a whopping $6.50!   I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

ICYMI this week on the blog:

2017 calendar
I shared our weekly meal plan.

Tuesday I wrote about why you need a seasonal family bucket list.

Currently 2017
Wednesday I co-hosted the monthly Currently link up.

I’m linking up with Katie, Andrea and April!  Have a great weekend!



Currently May 2017

Currently 2017

I am so excited to be Anne’s guest-host this month for the Currently link up!  It’s hard to believe that it’s already May. The school year is almost over and summer will be here before I know it.  This month is super busy with fun! We will be celebrating my mom and my brother’s birthday and of course, Mother’s Day.  There are class trips and extracurricular activities.  And the month ends with a long Memorial Day weekend.  Here is a look at what I’m currently:

Baking –  Yesterday I made an adapted version of these Raspberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins.  These muffins are tasty and a hit with the kids! I’m not much of a baker, but I usually make a weekly batch of muffins.  They are just so easy and convenient to have on hand.  I give them to the kids with yogurt and fruit for a quick and easy breakfast or lunch. Then I freeze the extras, which are super easy to defrost when needed.

The Travelers

Listening To – I love listening to podcasts.  Besides my regular rotation including Happier with Gretchen Rubin, For Crying Out Loud, Heather Dubrow’s World, Spawned with Kristen and Liz of CoolMom Picks and Call Your Girlfriend, I’ve recently added The Travelers into rotation.  Although the podcast is no longer producing new episodes, there are 222 old ones for me to get through!  I love hearing how people get into traveling and their tips.  Once the kids are grown up I plan on doing some serious traveling!

Loving –  My library book haul!  Yesterday was library day and I came home with this haul!  The Perfect Stranger is my current read, but the rest just came in.  All of them except The Circle are new releases and two of them are 14 day books!!  I know what I’ll be doing the next two weeks!  I love my reading time…..now I just need to make sure I fit more of it in!

Planting – We haven’t actually started planting anything yet, but have plans to!  The weather has been rainy and chilly.  Once we get some free time and nicer weather, we want to plant some flowers around the outside of the house.  I’m also debating whether to do some container gardening.  My husband made the container planters, pictured above, last year.  Unfortunately, we don’t have great sun exposure on our back deck and the plants didn’t do as well as I would have liked.  We got this idea from my parents who have full sun exposure in their yard and get amazing results with these container gardens!  Plus, I’m not sure how much we’ll be home this summer, so we will most likely pass on the container gardening.  I will be planting herbs though.   A summer fave is fresh basil and mozzarella on a ripe tomato!  So, I have to make sure I have plenty of basil.

Remembering – Thank you family calendar and Happy planner!  Without these two life-savers I could not remember all that is going on this month.  With the end of the school year quickly approaching there is so much going on.  Girl scout events, cub scout events, class trips, the school book fair that I’m helping out with, doctors appointments…..the list goes on and on.  Every night I check the family calendar and write out everything that needs to be done in my Happy planner.  If it’s not on the calendar and in the planner, it’s not getting done!

Now it’s your turn!  Link up and share what you are currently up to!


Why You Need a Seasonal Family Bucket List

Recently, our family started creating a seasonal family bucket list.  By definition, a bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before they die.  Quality family time is important to us. However, as our kids have gotten older our time together has become limited.  Social time with friends takes precedence over family time and their schedules are packed with lots of extracurricular activities. These seasonal bucket lists have become a fun way for us to enjoy quality time together.  Here are some reasons why you need a seasonal family bucket list as well!

New Experiences

How many times have you thought, oh, we should do that one day (when referring to any number of activities or events)? That was us until we realized that the “one day” would never happen unless we actually scheduled it in.  By definition, a bucket list is a list of things that one has not done before.  Therefore, each family member selects an activity or experience that is new to him/her and the whole family gets to enjoy the experience together. It’s been so much fun to see the joy on my children’s faces as they get to experience new things!  And of course we take lots of photos to capture the memories!

Seasonal Fun

Every three months we create new bucket lists and make them seasonally appropriate.  In the summer we’ve gone berry picking, been to a Renaissance Faire, gone clamming and attended a local baseball game.  In the fall we have been hiking and geocaching.  In the winter, we either do outdoor winter activities (like snow tubing) or indoor activities (like going to an ice hockey or basketball game or doing an indoor adventure ropes course).  In the spring we took a trip to Philadelphia and went to a cupcake festival.  The ideas are endless!  But the point is that you get out and enjoy them!

Limited Number of Activities

Making a seasonal bucket list means that you’re not doing something every day of every weekend (unless you want to!).  Each family member gets to choose only one activity per season that they would like to do. So, in our family of four we have four activities that we consider must-dos each season.  Weather-dependent, we try to schedule them out throughout the three months and make sure they get written into the calendar.  For the four of us, that averages to one activity a month.

Quality Family Time

In our personal experience, when the kids are home they tend to bicker a lot. Somehow, when we are out and about doing things, almost no fighting occurs.  We truly get to experience quality family time.

Can Be as Expensive or Inexpensive as You Want

Although we are big believers in experiences over things, we are still on a budget.  Our kids don’t have lots of “stuff.” We’d rather spend money having memorable experiences than buying new toys that become unused after a couple of weeks.  Even completing our bucket lists we have found ways to save money.  Instead of going to major league sports events, we have attended local ones. For Christmas, we asked our families to give us a state park pass and a membership to a local historic organization as gifts.  Other ways to stay on budget include looking on Groupon and local sites for both activity ideas and discounts!  Trying a new restaurant at lunch instead of dinner can help keep costs down too, since prices tend to be cheaper and restaurants often offer lunch specials.

Some seasons we don’t complete our bucket list.  And that’s okay, we just move the items to next year’s list.  In fact, this winter was one of the first times we completed every activity on our family’s seasonal bucket list!

I would love to hear if you create family bucket lists and if so what activities have you done or would like to do?



Weekly Meal Plan {Week 76}

2017 calendar
Happy first day of May!  Why does the weekend fly by so quickly?!  It’s Monday again, which means that it’s time for another weekly meal plan.  If you are looking for some dinner time inspiration, my weekly meal plan is the place for you.  Each week I showcase what was on my previous week’s meal plan, with pictures, recipe links and most importantly, my family’s review of each dish.  There are so many food blogs, cookbooks and recipes out there and I am always on the lookout for new family-friendly recipes to try.  If you are new to meal planning, read more about how I make my weekly meal plan. Here is a look at what was on our menu this past week:

Saturday:  We were out at the Sheep-to-Shawl Festival and ended up dining out in Tarrytown.

Sunday:  We celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a party with her friends.  We had two boxes of leftover pizza from the party, so leftover pizza for dinner it was.

Monday: I made Korean-Style Pork and Rice from the March 2017 issue of Cooking Light.  This dish was super quick and easy to make.  The only change I would make was not adding the two tablespoons of gochujang sauce to the pork mixture.  The dish was super spicy!  I only gave my son a couple a little bit of the meat mixture and he ate mostly rice for dinner!  My daughter ate her portion with a lot of juice to cool off her mouth!  I like a little bit of heat and found this to be a bit spicy even for me.  My husband really liked it and took the leftovers for lunch!

Tuesday: I made Hoisin Sloppy Joes from the May 2017 issue of Cooking Light.  In contrast to Monday night’s spicy Asian dinner, Tuesday’s meal was on the sweet side of Asian cooking!  This was another quick and easy dinner to make.  I’ve learned in the past not to buy regular hamburger buns when making any type of sloppy joe.  The bun just gets soggy and falls apart.  I’ve been buying small kaiser rolls from the bakery section of the grocery store and they seem to hold up well.  Instead of the 1 1/2 teaspoons of Sriracha chili sauce, I only used 1/4 teaspoon.  I learned my lesson from the night before! Cutting the heat from the dish made it much more appealing to the kids. and they enjoyed these sandwiches a lot.  I served fries with these sloppy joes.

Wednesday:  I made the rest of the homemade pierogies from our last Polish-themed supper club.  I had frozen them after we first made them, knowing we had enough extra for a future meal.  So, I boiled and then sauteed the pierogies with some onion in butter.  I served them with some heated up kielbasa.  Unfortunately, a lot of the pierogies had fallen apart when they were boiling.  They were good, but didn’t taste as great as they did the first time we had them.

Thursday:  I made Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta Bake from Emily Bites.  Seeing this picture now on the screen I realize it’s a little blurry.  However, it’s the only one I have of the inside of the casserole.  I had frozen bags of leftover ham from Easter and used one of them for this pasta bake.  It’s filled with pieces of ham and chicken breast in a Swiss cheese cream sauce. It’s finally topped with a breadcrumb, butter and shredded Parmesan mixture.  This was a hearty and filling meal!  It took a little bit of time to cook the chicken, chop the ham, shred the cheese, make the sauce, cook the pasta and then bake it in the oven for 30 minutes!  It was enjoyed by everyone though and there was enough left over for a couple days of lunches.

Friday:  I cooked a Mexican-themed meal with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for a badge.  The meal included a homemade salsa, chicken enchiladas and Mexican rice.  There was leftover enchilada filling, so when we got home, my husband used some of it to top the homemade pizzas that he made.

What is on your menu this week?


Five on Friday {Last Weekend in April}

And just like that, April is over!  Let’s celebrate that we’ve made it through another week!  Tonight, I’m leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop in cooking a meal for a badge earning activity. This weekend my son has soccer and my daughter has her Girl Scout Father/Daughter dance.  Here are five from this week:

Celebrating: Last Sunday my daughter had her Minute to Win It birthday party with her friends!  After a lot of planning and stress (on my part) the party was a success!  There were lots of games and friendly competition, pizza, a make-your-own-sundae bar and cupcakes.  We also finally picked up her free birthday treat from Barnes & Noble.  I think I can finally say that we are officially done celebrating her birthday!

Family Fun:  Last Saturday we went to the Historic Hudson Valley Sheep-to-Shawl Fest.  Visitors learned each step in the process of turning wool into cloth, using 18th-century techniques. Despite the chilly and rainy weather, we had a great time.  There were lots of hands-on activities for the kids and we got to see an unhappy sheep get sheared.  This woman was teaching us how items like onion skins and flowers were used to dye the yarn.

Reading:  Recently, I’ve been feeling unmotivated to read.  By the end of the day, I’m exhausted and only read a few pages before I’m ready to fall asleep.  I’m about half-way through my current read Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Once I finish reading this book I will be caught up on all her books until her newest one comes out this summer.  In this book Elsie, a twentysomething, loses her husband in an accident (not a spoiler!).  It’s a sad read and when I finish this, I’m going to need a good mystery/suspense!

Watching:  Last week, I was watching television while on the elliptical at the gym.  I saw Rachael Ray interview Phil Keoghan, host of the Amazing Race.  I didn’t realize this show is still on and is currently airing season 29!  I decided to DVR the show and realized that I could watch the couple of missed episodes on demand.  The kids decided to sit and watch with me and we soon got sucked into an Amazing Race watching marathon.  I think we watched three episodes straight!  They are now hooked and I hope this will help them catch the travel bug!  In the meantime, we now have another weekly show to watch together.

Performing:  Last night my son had his 3rd grade recorder concert.   He also played with the advanced recorder ensemble that he’s part of.  He had to try out for the ensemble and has had weekly before-school practices for the past couple of months.  He did a great job!  Luckily, my children have inherited my husband’s musical and artistic genes, as they are both great musicians!

ICYMI this week on the blog:

2017 calendar

Monday I shared our weekly meal plan.

Wednesday I posted a review of Giada De Laurentiis’s children’s book New Orleans! from her Recipe for Adventure chapter book series.

Have a great weekend!  Linking up with Katie, Andrea and April!


New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure, #4) Review


New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure #4) by Giada De Laurentiis
Illustrated by:  Francesca Gambatesa
Published: 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap (imprint of Penguin Random House)
Pages: 144
Price: $6.99 (paperback)
Source:  Borrowed from library
Rating:  4/5 stars

This is the fourth book in Giada De Laurentiis’ Recipe for Adventure series.  Most of us know De Laurentiis as a chef and judge on the Food Network and from her cookbooks.  With the Recipe for Adventure chapter book series she shows us new talents.  These books are not award-winning works of writing.  However, De Laurentiis presents engaging stories that introduce children to the world of food and travel.  The series is targeted for readers ages 7-10.   In the series, siblings Emilia and Alfie are transported to different cities around the world.  They get to taste all kinds of new foods and visit famous sights as they help a new friend solve a problem.

In New Orleans!, Alfie and Emilia are transported to the city via a bowl of their Zia Donatella’s gumbo.  There, they meet up with the La Salle kids, who play in a jazz band and run their family restaurant.  Alfie and Emilia help their new friends try to save their family’s restaurant.

While in New Orleans Alfie and Emilia get to try all kinds of food including blackened catfish, red beans and rice, collard greens, grits, beignets, Po’boys and more! Cooking terminology like the holy trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper) and roux is introduced as well.

Children also learn about the city of New Orleans as they read.  The Louisiana Purchase and the history of the city is mentioned, as well as Hurricane Katrina and the importance of jazz. While there, Emilia and Alfie visit many popular sights including the French Quarter, the Mississippi River, the Garden District and the bayou.

This book, like the others in the series, has an element of fantasy.  Emilia and Alfie magically appear in New Orleans and later are then transported back home.  Other parts of this book, like the La Salle children living on their own while their parents travel with their riverboat gigs seemed unbelievable.  Also, none of the children really questioning the absence of Alfie and Emilia’s “aunt” whom they mention they are staying with but is never seen, is a bit suspect.

Two recipe cards are included at the back of each book.  In New Orleans! recipe cards include Zia Donatella’s Gumbo and Bananas Foster.  My kids and I made both of these recipes.  Knowing that these are Giada De Laurentiis recipes, I knew they were going to be good!

Zia’s Gumbo:  Both kids helped me make this gumbo.  Adult assistance is a must with this recipe, as there is quite a lot of vegetable chopping involved.

The kids helped remove the andouille sausage from the casing.  My daughter cut the celery and pepper (as pictured above) and my son was in charge of stirring the ingredients in the pot. Andouille sausage is a bit spicy and I was surprised at how much heat this dish had.  It was very tasty and the kids ate it, but they did comment on the spice.  I want to point out that this gumbo takes close to an hour to make!  I did not realize this when we decided to make this on a weeknight.  I highly recommend saving these recipes for a weekend activity.

Also important to note, this dish does NOT reheat well, as seen in the first picture.  When reheated, this gumbo remains thick and chunky.  When we first made it, as seen in the picture above, it was nice and liquidy.

Zia’s Bananas Foster: A traditional Bananas Foster has dark rum and banana liqueur that gets ignited.  I think part of the enjoyment of this dessert is the table side flambe.  Obviously, Zia’s Bananas Foster is kid-friendly and alcohol-free!  Due to time constraints, I ended up making this dessert on my own for the kids.  This recipe was much easier to make in terms of ingredients and time.  As seen in the picture, I mistakenly bought mini kisses, thinking they were tiny.  They were indeed smaller than a typical Hershey’s Kiss, but a little larger than I had wanted for this dessert.  The family loved this Bananas Foster.  The kids often have ice cream for dessert, but this was an extra special treat!

Overall, New Orleans! is a fun book that introduces readers to both the food and sights of the city.  The recipe cards add a nice touch and are a great way to get kids cooking in the kitchen.  It’s also a great way to motivate them to try new foods.  I recommend this book as well as the others in the Recipe for Adventure series!