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Five on Friday {First Week of Camp}

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Happy Friday!  Summer is in full effect and it’s been a busy couple of weeks here.  I am loving summer hours at work, where I get to leave at 12 PM on Fridays. The kids were with my parents in Rhode Island for the last two weeks and came home this past Friday. It was a quiet couple of weeks here without them. Last Saturday my son turned 10!  The four of us celebrated his birthday Saturday and then Sunday we had a family party.  And finally, the kids started their first week of camp. They were excited that they both passed the deep water test.  However, my son isn’t loving camp.  We are only one week in so I hope he starts enjoying it more.  Here are five from this week:

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1. Reading – I just finished reading Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee.  This contemporary fiction book deals with mental illness and its impact on family.  It was a really good read.

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2. Watching – I’ve been watching a bunch of different shows.  My husband and I finally finished watching the last season of Orange Is the New Black.  I also watched the first episode of Glow on Netflix and we’re almost finished watching Wild Wild Country.

3. Eating – We did a lot of good eating this past weekend, but I barely took any pictures!  My son requested that we eat at The Melting Pot for his birthday.  This has been a family favorite restaurant for awhile and was delicious and fun as always.  I loved this decorated plate they brought out for him!

4. Dinner Date – Last night I had dinner with a friend.  Although our sons are friends, it’s rare for us to get to go out.  So, it was nice to get to catch up.

5. Playing – We love playing board games and have a bunch of them.  My son though has recently been on an UNO playing streak.  This past week we have played lots of rounds of the classic game.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I wrote about our visit to the Turkey Hill Experience.

Wednesday I posted about the Hershey Farm Restaurant & Inn in Lancaster, PA.

Sharing with Friday Favorites! Have a great weekend!

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Cooking Lately

If you’re a regular blog reader you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a weekly meal plan for the past two weeks.  Believe me, I’ve still been cooking up a storm during the week.  I just haven’t had time to post our meal plan here.  So today, I’m sharing some of the meals that I’ve cooked over the past two weeks.  Again, I hope this post helps you find something new to make for dinner.  Mix up your weekly dinners and try a new recipe!  You and your family might like it!  So on to what’s been cooking lately:

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole from Broma Bakery – This was a family favorite and my daughter already asked me to make this again.  My only criticism of this recipe is that it should be called Taco Tater Tot Casserole.  After looking at some other “cheeseburger” tater tot casserole recipes, I noticed that the others had mustard, ketchup and pickles.  This recipe had none of that but does have taco seasoning.  I forgot to serve this with sour cream and it was still tasty.  This is a hearty, comfort dish that I’ll save to make again in the fall once the weather gets cool again.

Cowboy Spaghetti from Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals – I’ve made this recipe before many years ago.  Although it sounds like a weird combination of ingredients, somehow it works.  I did not use beer in my recipe.  The family enjoyed this meal and this is another recipe that I’ll likely make again, come fall or winter.

Instant Pot Sticky Korean Chicken from Half Baked Harvest –  This was a quick and easy chicken dish.  Instead of the gochugang sauce the recipe called for, I used a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce.  Even that was probably a bit much, since the chicken turned out pretty spicy.  My chicken ended up pretty saucy, which I didn’t mind because I spooned it over the rice.  However, I used a pound of chicken and there was no leftovers and not even enough for seconds.  Next time, I’ll reduce the amount of chili garlic sauce and double the amount of chicken.  I served this with rice and veggies.  This will be made again!

Cajun Chicken Alfredo Shells from Closet Cooking – This was probably one of the more time consuming meals to make over the past two weeks.  The night before I was going to make these my husband pre-cooked the chicken for me in the Instant Pot.  While the shells cooked, I made the sauce and got the chicken and broccoli mixture together.  These were pretty tasty, but I think more work than it was worth.  Luckily, there were leftovers which my daughter and I took for lunch the next day.  I served these shells with a Caesar salad.

Wafflewiches from Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals – If you are looking for a super quick and easy meal, these Wafflewiches are it!  It’s a different take on the Monte Cristo, using waffles instead of French Toast.  My kids rarely eat a cold cut sandwich, but both enjoyed these wafflewiches.

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Lime Slaw from Pinch of Yum –  Shrimp are quick and easy to cook.  The sauce and slaw was easy to throw together and it packed a lot of flavor!  There was a bunch of slaw and sauce leftover, which we are using in fish tacos!

What have you been cooking lately?

 

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Five on Friday {The First of 2018}

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Yeah, it’s Friday!  It’s also the first Friday of 2018!  I love the start of the new year.  To me, it equals a fresh start and a year of possibilities.  While I stopped making resolutions years ago, I have decided that this year I am focusing on self-care and myself.  Although it was a short week of school for the kids, it was a rough one.  Staying up until almost 2 AM on New Year’s eve and then having to go back to school on Tuesday was a killer.  Luckily, (or unlucky!) they got to enjoy a snow day yesterday from the “bomb cyclone” that hit the East Coast.  We stayed nice and warm inside!  We have a pretty relaxing weekend and the kids will hopefully get readjusted to their regular schedules.  Here are five from this week!

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1. Reading –  I am currently reading I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll.  This is a mystery/thriller, right in my comfort genre and a great way to start my 2018 reading.  According to Goodreads, I read 90 books last year.  This year I set my goal for 75 book.

2. New Year’s Eve – Normally, we celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with tasty snacks and family game night.  This year, we had our monthly supper club on New Year’s Eve.  We had our annual pizza theme and cookie exchange with all the kids.  I made an eggplant parm pizza and my husband made a shrimp scampi pizza.  There was also a buffalo chicken pizza and a mussels fra diavalo pizza (and a plain cheese pizza for the kids).  It was a delicious evening!

3. Snow Days – There’s nothing like a snow day.  I know I loved the unexpected day off more as a child.  But even as an adult, I enjoy being forced to stay inside in comfy clothes all day, relaxing.  Yesterday was the first snow day the kids had this school year, and it was a doozy!  The winds were really bad and the temps are so cold right now that going out to play in the snow wasn’t even an option!

4. Instant Pot – My husband and I received an Instant Pot for Christmas.  I’m excited to learn how to use all the different features.  So far, my husband has made hard-boiled eggs and mashed potatoes in it this past week.  We are loving it!  If anyone has any Instant Pot recipe recommendations, send them my way!

5. Puzzle Time –  I haven’t done a puzzle in ages.  This year my son has become the biggest Harry Potter fan.  Santa brought him a Harry Potter puzzle and we (mostly me!) have been working on it.  I forget how relaxing it is for me to work on puzzles.  I sit and listen to a podcast and it’s just so enjoyable.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I shared more about my year of self-care.

Thursday I posted The Tweens Read December 2017.

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

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Five on Friday {Happy Halloween}

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I know I’m a couple of days early, but wishing everyone a Happy Halloween.  I hate when Halloween is on a weeknight.  Can’t they make it the last Friday or Saturday of October?! Don’t mind my random rantings.  I’m sure you’ll hear more in next week’s Five on Friday when my kids stay up way too late and eat too much candy on Tuesday. My daughter has a Halloween dance at school tonight.  Tomorrow we are going to have a mother-daughter day and head into the city to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway!  Here are five from this week:

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Reading – I am a big Colleen Hoover fan.  Her newest book, Without Merit, came out October 3rd.  When it came in from the library I had to rush over and pick it up.  I read it in two days.  Although it was a good read, it is not one of favorites of hers.

A display at the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze 2017.

Family Fun – Last Friday evening we went to the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.  It’s a 7,000+ pumpkin display housed on a local historic site.  Artists hand carve the pumpkins and create elaborate displays.

Supper Club – We had our monthly Supper Club Sunday evening. This month’s theme was Caribbean.  I made plantains two way –  tostones with a garlic mojo sauce and these sweet plantains.  I know they are simple dishes, but they are so good!  On the rare occasions that we eat Caribbean I need one or both of these.

Watching – This Is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, Real Housewives of Dallas, New Jersey and Beverly Hills.  I haven’t been watching a lot of television so, I’m getting behind on all those Housewives episodes!

Blog Goals – I’ve been setting up monthly blog goals and I’ve been doing really well these past two months.  Yesterday I finally got around to ordering business cards.  Do you know how many events I’ve been to and have been asked for a card? I’ve had to embarrassingly admit that I didn’t have any.  They will hopefully be here by next week!  This month I also signed up as an affiliate with Amazon.  I know it’s not a big money maker, but at this point, every little bit helps!  If anyone wants to help me out, feel free to click on an affiliate link or the amazon ad on my sidebar before you make your next Amazon purchase! (shameless plug over!) Eventually, I’d like to design a new header and logo, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

I'm a mom trying to get dinner on the table every night. Here are 5 essential cookware pieces that I think are useful for any beginner home cook.

Monday I shared 5 Essential Cookware Pieces for the Beginner Home Cook.

The 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in 7 pictures.

Tuesday I posted the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in 7 Pictures.

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

 

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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?

Weekly Meal Plan {Week 67}

2017 calendarIf 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, the 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 family-friendly recipes that are quick and easy!  If you are new to meal planning, read more about how I make my weekly meal plan.  Here’s a look at what was on our menu this past week:

Saturday – Last weekend we were in Rhode Island and had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  Although it’s a chain, we love the pizza and salads.  My husband and I shared a Thai Chicken Pizza and this California Cobb Salad. Both kids had a BBQ Chicken and Hawaiian pizza from the children’s menu.

Sunday – This was a very pizza weekend!  We brought the leftover homemade Every Day with Rachael Ray Salami and Brussels Sprout pizza from Friday evening with us to Rhode Island and had the leftovers for dinner Sunday evening.

Monday – We got home from Rhode Island Monday afternoon and stopped for a late lunch at a Turkish restaurant in Connecticut.  Since we were stuffed from lunch we didn’t have an official dinner.  We snacked on crackers and cheese and chips and the kids had some yogurt as well!

Tuesday – The kids were home from school and I was feeling lazy.  I “made” linguini with clam sauce (from a can!) and served it with some garlic bread.  I don’t often cook dinners like these, but it was nice not to cook from scratch.

Wednesday – I made Mediterranean Quesadillas from Closet Cooking.  These quesadillas had artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, spinach and feta.  I used frozen, boxed spinach that I defrosted, instead of fresh, baby spinach.  I knew my son wasn’t going to eat these, so I had him grate some cheddar cheese and made him a plain, cheese quesadilla.  These quesadillas were super quick and easy to make and very tasty.  I served honey carrots with them.

Thursday – I made Fast and Easy Soy Chicken from Kimchi Mom.  I marinated the chicken early in the day, hoping it would be more flavorful.  I feel like I’ve made similar chicken dishes to this.  However, it was “fast and easy” like the recipe title notes and kid-approved.  I served this with rice and roasted asparagus.

Friday – I apologize for this week being heavy on the prepared food dinners.  I guess you can say I was feeling lazy?! So lazy that I didn’t even take a picture of this meal!  Instead of our normal homemade pizza, tonight we had tortellini and sauce.  Super quick and easy and no real cooking involved.  We had the leftover garlic bread from Tuesday evening with the tortellini.

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2017 Word of the Year

Once again I decided to choose a word of the year.   Last year’s word was “happy.”  Overall, I think I had a pretty happy year.   This year it took me a lot longer to finalize my word.  I debated between gratitude, prosperous or success before I finally chose “growth.” Merriam-Webster defines growth as:  a stage in the process of growing.  And that is what I plan to do this year.

There is a quote that really resonates with me, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there” – unknown.   Although I may have been happy this past year, I was definitely way too comfortable.  I adjusted to life as a full-time stay-at-home-mom, while my husband worked on building his new business.  I think that the family has enjoyed the benefits of having me home.  However, my husband is situated with his job and the kids are half-way through the school year.  It’s now time for me.

This year I plan on focusing on my personal growth.  I am five months into my gym membership and still going to classes several times a week.  However, I’d like to work on building my arm strength so I can complete a couple of yoga poses that are currently challenging me.  Overall, I think my diet isn’t too bad.   I would like to incorporate more fruit and veggies into the rotation though and be better at having at least one meatless meal a week.

I’ve owned a DSLR camera for years now and still shoot in automatic mode (hides face behind hands).  Since I upgraded to the iPhone 6s last fall, I’ve almost exclusively been taking pictures with the camera on that. However, this year I am intent on learning to shoot in manual mode.

I love to read.  I would like to read at least one non-fiction book a month focused on personal growth.

This blog has always been a hobby of mine.  It’s a way for me to write about the things that I enjoy and use my brain.  While I’m not looking to make money from this blog, I would like to continue to grow my readership and social media following.

And finally, I have decided that this is the year that I go back to work.  I left the education field for good at the very beginning of 2016.  At that point, as I’ve mentioned, me being home was best for the family as my husband focused on growing his business.  Financially, it would be beneficial to the family if I brought home a salary.  But I’ve also been feeling restless being home.  I am really trying to be intentional about my employment though and looking for possible jobs that would be rewarding and fulfilling rather than just something to bring home a paycheck.

So, 2017 looks to be a great year.  Having a word of the year helps keep me focused and living with intention.  I hope that this year brings me lots of growth!

What is your word of the year?

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Five On Friday {Big Birthday Weekend}

I am so happy that it’s Friday!  This week has been super busy and I’m exhausted!  No time for relaxing though. This is a big birthday weekend for my husband.  Tomorrow he turns the big 4-0!  We celebrated as a family back in October when we took our cruise to Canada.  However, I of course have something special planned.  Since he reads the blog I’m not going into any more detail yet! Here are five from this week:

Blue Mountain Reservation

1. Holiday Pictures – I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I’m actually on top of things in terms of the picture for our holiday cards!  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen several pics of Blue Mountain Reservation, a local county park.  We recently found this gem of a park and have been geocaching there.  This lake and surrounding area is so beautiful that we went last weekend and took some pics, one of which we will hopefully use for our Christmas card picture!

Bowling

2. Mother-Daughter Bowling – Sunday my daughter and I went to a mother/daughter bowling event with our local Girl Scout community.  It was a fun time getting to spend time with the other moms and daughters.  My daughter and I made a friendly wager that the one with the lower score would have to treat the other to ice cream.  I bowled a 154 and won.  I picked up two gallons of Friendly’s ice cream that was on sale this past week for $3 and told her that would work for me.  The who family can enjoy ice cream for days for less than the cost of one sundae at an ice cream shop.

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3. Reading – I just finished reading Never Ever by Sara Saedi.  It’s a YA retelling of Peter Pan that was really good!  I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series when it comes out.  I just started Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty.  I liked Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret.  I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one so I’m trying not to let that sway my opinion of it.  I am only on chapter 5 as of now but hoping to make a dent in it this weekend.

Book Fair

4. Volunteering – Most of this week was spent volunteering at my son’s elementary school book fair.  I enjoy anything involving books and it’s fun helping kids pick out books.  Last week I helped set it up and today I’ll be helping to pack it up.  Between household chores, errands and getting in gym time, I’ve had some long, busy days this week!

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5. Watching – I’ve been so busy this week that I haven’t had much time to watch a lot of television.  I watched the Real Housewives of Orange County reunion.  My husband and I also watched the first two episodes of the Crown.

ICYMI this week on the blog:
Monday I shared our weekly meal plan.
Tuesday I reviewed The Wishbone Wish, a children’s Thanksgiving chapter book.

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

October Six-Pack

October Six-Pack

The monthly six-pack gives my husband and I a chance to sample some new-to-us beer and ciders.  The October six-pack has a pumpkin beer theme, perfect for fall.  Since many of the beers and ciders featured below are seasonal, they may not all be available now.  Here is a review of October’s six-pack:

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Blue Moon:  Harvest Pumpkin Ale –  Harvest Pumpkin Ale was first created by Blue Moon in 1995 under the name Pumpkin Ale and was the first pumpkin ale available nationally.  This ale is crafted with pumpkin and spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.  My husband didn’t think this beer had much pumpkin flavor.  However, I had a taste and could definitely pick up hints of the spices.

Harvest Patch Shandy

Leinenkugel’s: Harvest Patch Shandy – This is a wheat beer blended with natural pumpkin spice flavor including notes of nutmeg, allspice and clove.  My husband could taste the distinct flavors of pumpkin spice in this beer.  However, a shandy usually refers to a beer mixed with a soft drink or juice.  This beer had neither so the name was a bit confusing.  My husband has enjoyed other beers from Leinenkugel’s but this one wasn’t his favorite.

New Belgium Pumpkick

New Belgium:  Pumpkick –  This beer is only available from August through October, so you may not be able to find it in stores anymore.  This is a seasonal ale brewed with pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice with additional flavors of cranberry juice and lemongrass.  My husband found this beer to be very flavorful.  He could taste the not so subtle notes of pumpkin pie flavor.  Overall, he gives this beer two thumbs up!

Samuel Adams 20 Pounds of Pumpkin

Samuel Adams:  20 Pounds of Pumpkin – This is a new seasonal ale from Samuel Adams.  It’s brewed with pumpkin and spices including cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, giving it according to my husband, “a dark and spicy flavor.”  My husband found this beer to be very enjoyable.  However, he and I both agreed there was absolutely NO pumpkin flavor to it.

Smith & Forge Hard Cider

Smith & Forge Hard Cider – This cider is produced in Memphis, Tennessee and is made with five varieties of Washington State apples.  I found this cider to be sweet and very apple-y tasting, which I liked.  I prefer sweet ciders over dry ones and this one was perfect.

Woodchuck Amber

Woodchuck Hard Cider:  Amber –Woodchuck Cider is crafted in Middlebury, Vermont.  Amber is the company’s original cider, which means that this is the cider that I was probably drinking back in college!  This cider has a great apple taste that isn’t too dry.

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Weekly Meal Plan {Week 55}

2016 Calendar

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  We had a great weekend.  The weather was a bit chilly but sunny.  My son had his last soccer game of the season.  My daughter enjoyed some time “hanging out” at her friend’s house.  My husband and I enjoyed a dinner out with friends.  Plus, with the time change, we got an extra hour of sleep.  This week the kids have Election Day and Veteran’s Day off from school.  My son gets an additional day off for Parent-Teacher Conferences.  So, this week I don’t have to worry too much about quick and easy meals on our meal plan.  Here is a look at what was on our menu this past week:

Shredded Pork Nachos

Sunday – I cooked a pork shoulder in the slow cooker.  My husband then shredded it later that night and made BBQ Pork Nachos.  He put the pork along with red onion and cheese on tortilla chips.  We love nachos for dinner!

Shredded Pork Burritos

Monday – Monday was Halloween.  Dinner had to be quick and easy so the kids could go out trick-or-treating with friends.  I made Pork Burritos using the leftover pork from Sunday night’s nachos.  I added the pork with cooked rice, black beans and shredded cheese in a large tortilla and then heated it up in a skillet.

Breaded Fish

Tuesday  – We had some leftover fish in the freezer that we had caught on a chartered fishing trip over the summer.  I breaded and fried the fish and served it along with some roasted potatoes and broccoli.  The kids love breaded fish and this dinner was enjoyed by all.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Wednesday – I made Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Soup from Cooking Light, April 2016.  I also made a Beer Cheese Bread to eat with it.  This soup was quick and easy to make.  Instead of mixing the ingredients in a blender first, I put everything in the sauce pan and used my immersion blender.  This saved time and clean up!  Both kids ate this soup but weren’t huge fans.  However, I enjoyed it a lot!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Thursday – I made Slow Cooker Beef Stew from Damn Delicious.  I’ve made beef stew in the slow cooker before, but this was a new to me recipe.  This recipe required a little bit of prep in the beginning, including searing the beef.  Thursday afternoons are super busy for us.  I can spend the time in the morning prepping the slow cooker but there isn’t time in the evening for cooking.  So, this recipe worked for us.  I found this recipe to be just okay in flavor.  The kids enjoy beef stew and my daughter had seconds of this.  I’ll continue to make beef stew but not this recipe.

Ham and Cheese Pizza

Friday – We had our weekly homemade pizza.  However, this week I only made Ham and Cheese Pizza from Cooking Light, October 2016.  I knew this was a pizza that the kids would eat and I had enough ingredients to make two.  The recipe called for deli ham but my ham was cut too thin and dried out.  I’d recommend dicing up a ham steak.  The mix of cheeses and the ham made the pizza a bit salty but I liked the addition of the apple to add some sweetness.

What is on your menu this week?