20th Anniversary Trip to Maine

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What a thrill to share the trip we just returned from up the coast from Boston, Massachusetts, to Bar Harbor, Maine! To celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, the hubby and I wanted to go someplace we hadn’t been before and make new memories together. We were so excited our friends shared their itinerary from their trip to Coastal Maine last summer. There are just so many possibilities that I have a hard time making decisions. We were able to take their recommendations and adjust them to meet our time frame, a glorious six nights away from the responsibilities of home.

We flew from Nashville to Boston and picked up our rental car at Boston Logan Airport. The airline tickets and rental car were the only reservations we had made ahead of time. I had looked at hotels and tickets before we left, and availability didn’t seem to be limited for the last week of August. We wanted to be able to travel at our own pace without having to rush from one place to the next.

We drove from the airport up to Newburyport, Massachusetts for a late lunch/early dinner at The Black Cow Taproom & Grill. We enjoyed calamari and fish and chips on the beautiful covered deck on the water, then took our time walking along the pier and exploring the downtown.

After dinner, we drove up through the Hamptons and into York, Maine. This church in the Hamptons caught my eye at sunset. It’s no wonder the rich and famous vacation in this beautiful area!

Our friends suggested the York Anchorage Inn but it seemed to have drawn more of a party crowd on the night we arrived so we looked for something a bit quieter. We settled on The Lighthouse Inn and Carriage House. It a cute, old school place but very clean and comfortable. We walked down to York Beach and around the peninsula that night.

Home

We grabbed bulkies for breakfast at the Long Sands General Store on the way out of York the next morning. This classic New England deli was a really cool local place and the sandwiches were delicious.

The plan was to go on a Sailing Cruise on the highly recommended Schooner Eleanor in Kennebunk. We got word of an opening for their 11:00 a.m. cruise so we had to skip the rest of the sights in York to head on up. The boat itself is beautiful but the sailor dog took the show!

We loved the relaxing sailing tour of the coast including Walker’s Point, the 10-acre compound where President George H.W. Bush’s family has vacationed for generations. His great grandparents had a vacation home built on the property for a wedding gift for his maternal grandparents. It remains a place where they spend their summers from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. A large American flag is visible from the waters’ edge, and the presidential flag flies below it when they are in residence.

We continued our drive north on Highway 1/1A after the cruise and stopped for our first lobster rolls at The Lobster Claw in Saco for a late lunch. I had assumed they would be hot buttered lobster meat on a roll. Instead, the lobster is cold with mayonnaise on a bed of lettuce more like a seafood salad. Still delicious!

 

Next stop was the LL Bean flagship store in Freeport. It was fun to look through the huge stores for each department. I especially found the large department full of backpacks and lunchboxes fun to see as I have ordered them for years for the kids. They even had a monogram room to get them monogrammed onsite. On the other hand, who wouldn’t be entertained by a giant squishy beanbag chair?

We chose to stay at the Harraseeket Inn there in Freeport that night. It was a beautiful inn with a friendly staff. We had dinner at the inn’s pub that night as the weather was a bit chilly. Our stay included a wonderful breakfast buffet with French toast, two choices of frittata (a cheese and a veggie with asparagus), nice baked goods, fruit, breakfast potatoes, bacon and sausage, smoked salmon, and a curious dish of baked beans with pork. We had never seen those served at breakfast before.

We had planned to stop in Boothbay when we left Freeport, but opted to head on to Bar Harbor instead. It was a bit longer drive but we stayed on Highway 1/1A instead of using the state’s only Interstate Highway.

From there, we stopped in Portland for shopping. We looked at Sea Bags in one of the shops that are made from recycled sails when they are replaced. There are many beautiful colors and designs to choose from but they were a bit pricey.

Our next stop after Portland was Camden, Maine, where we enjoyed the local shops on Main Street and had lunch at the Camden Deli. We shared a sandwich, clam chowder, and cannoli but the novel experience of a traditional deli that is less common in the south was the real draw.

We toured some of the beautiful old B&B’s once we arrived in Bar Harbor but ultimately booked a room at the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel for two nights. After we got settled, we drove through Acadia National Park, stretched our legs on the Great Head Trail above Sand Beach, and picked up a map to decide which trail we wanted to hike the next day.

We were very pleased with the hotel desk attendant’s recommendations for dinner. We had lobster and fish and chips at Geddy’s Pub on Main Street after walking through the downtown area and checking out the sights.

We wasted no time the next morning going to Acadia National Park to hike the North Trail up Cadillac Mountain. It was a 2.2 mile hike up over large rocks so I was a slow-goer. As always, the view from the top was worth the effort.

We shared lobster and crab cakes and scallops for lunch at the Jordan Pond House after completing our hike and enjoyed the views of the water there.  Then, we went back into Bar Harbor to enjoy the shops and the charming downtown. The cool temperatures had me imagining how cute the town would be decorated for fall.

We loved the Side Street Cafe that night. The best part? They actually served fresh-brewed Southern Sweet Tea! The burger and lobster rolls were quite delicious as well.

We had a hard time deciding where to spend the last two nights of our trip, considering going over to the White Mountains of New Hampshire while we were so close. Ultimately, though, we chose to go back down the coast to Ogunquit because we had to rush past it on the way up to make our cruise in Kennebunk.

We stayed at the Juniper Hill Inn there right on the edge of the walking downtown. There is more traffic there as it is a popular beach town with only Highway 1 as their main thoroughfare. If you’re looking at staying in this area, we would recommend staying anywhere between our hotel and Perkins Cove.

The Marginal Way, is the main attraction in this town! It is such a beautiful paved pathway overlooking the Atlantic Ocean there. We walked down to Perkins Cove and enjoyed dinner on the water at Jackie’s Too. The food was good but the service was lacking. They actually charge for refills on soda which I found disappointing considering what you are paying for food.

Perkins Cove is a beautiful area on the water with a footbridge to the other side of the cove that raises to allow boats access to the Cove. People from surrounding beach communities boat over for dinner on the water including our former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.

Our favorite place we ate there was Barnacle Billy’s Etc. the next day. We spent it doing much of the same, walking through town exploring wonderful shops and galleries. Ogunquit was a wonderful choice for spending our last two relaxing days away from it all.

 

Our last breakfast was at the adorable Cove Cafe. It was fun to soak up every last minute together. The atmosphere was perfect but we found the food a bit pricey and overrated.

We were able to drive back through York, Maine, on the way back to Boston to see the Nubble Lighthouse. What a view!

We are so thankful for our families who stepped in to supervise things at home so we could be away. When in Maine, eat the lobster!

 

 

Happy New Year

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I love New Year’s Day. From the parties, noisemakers, confetti, champagne, and the iconic ball-drop in Times Square, New Year’s Eve seems to get all the attention. While all of that is fun and games, I adore a quiet New Year’s Day spent at home with our little family watching the Rose Parade in front of a nice fire, listening to Bowl Games droning on in the background while I prepare a traditional meal, and looking forward to the main event. The HGTV Dream Home Special, that is!

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I like to use dried blackeyed peas as fillers in my candle hurricanes in this mantlescape as a nod to New Year’s tradition. Speaking of food traditions, let’s get to the New Year’s meal.  Beans or peas are on many families’ menu as they resemble coins. Blackeyed peas are the legume of choice in the south in a dish called Hoppin’ John served with cornbread. This hearty fare also incorporates pork which is also eaten as a symbol of progress by way of the animal continuing to “root” along and wealth because of its rich fat content. Cooked greens, ranging from collard greens to cabbage are eaten to represent money. My take on the green portion of the meal is coleslaw. Why, I don’t know, but thinly sliced home fried potatoes round out our meal.

Hoppin’ John

1 onion
2 carrots
2 ribs, celery
2 T. butter or olive oil
1 lb. breakfast sausage or smoked sausage, browned and drained
1 package, frozen blackeyed peas
1 package, long grain and wild rice
4 cups, chicken broth

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Start by chopping vegetables into a fine chop.

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I used the food processor to shred the ones in this photo. Then, add them to the soup pot with butter or olive oil to saute until tender.

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Add in your browned sausage.

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And your blackeyed peas.

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And your rice, with the seasoning packet.

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Finish with your chicken broth.  You can use a carton, but I make mine when I roast a whole chicken and freeze it to use when I need it.  More about that here.

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Finished product.  Yum!  I can smell it already.

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I always look forward to this simple meal after the rich dips and desserts of Christmas have come and gone.  It is a carb-laden feast, but the healthy fare starts on January 2nd at our house.  The interior Christmas decorations have all been packed away and it is time for a clean slate.That is what we all love about a new year, isn’t it?  The old has been wiped clean.  The year before us full of possibilities for us to experience, achieve or change.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  Make the most of yours in 2015.

 

 

 

 

One Chuck Roast, Three Meals

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Does the recollection that Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away or that Christmas is only six weeks away make your head spin? Me, too. With all of the myriad of items on our collective To Do Lists, let’s make our cooking do triple duty.

We’re going to purchase one large chuck roast (or two if one will not yield leftovers for your family) and use it to make three meals, one of which can be frozen for a quick dinner during the holiday season or for a nutritious lunch in the thermos on a cold day.

Meal 1
Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast, served with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Green Peas.

Retain any fat that you trim from the roast and pan drippings in your roasting pan. Return any leftover onions and carrots after the meal is served back to the pan as well. Add about 16 cups of water to the pan and cook right on the stove-top over medium heat until it reduces to a nice rich color. Let cool. Pour broth through a strainer and into quart jars, leaving an inch or so of head space. Freeze.

Meal 2

Beef Stirfry

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Leftover roast beef, sliced (Save half of your beef for Meal 3)
1 t. minced garlic
¼ t. ground ginger
½ c. soy sauce
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into thin sticks
1 broccoli crown, cut into spears (or snow peas, zucchini, or whatever veggie you have in the fridge)
4 mushrooms, sliced

Mix soy sauce with garlic and ground ginger and pour over leftover roast beef to marinade.

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Cut all of your vegetables. Saute vegetables in olive oil over medium-high heat, beginning with the onions for about 5 minutes first.

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Then, add in the carrots and stirfry until almost tender.

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Add remaining veggies last as they will take less time to get tender, adding beef with marinade as the broccoli and mushrooms cook. Serve over brown rice for a quick weeknight meal.

Meal 3

Vegetable Beef Soup

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Remaining leftover roast beef, shredded
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 large potatoes
1 bag, frozen mixed vegetables
1 small can tomato paste
2 quarts beef broth
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar (to reduce the acidity of tomato paste)
½ t. pepper
½ t. parsley flakes

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Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until tender.

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Add potatoes and one quart of beef broth and simmer for 15-20 minutes before adding remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat until all vegetables are cooked through and flavors blend.

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Serve for a meal. Transfer leftovers to pint or quart jars, leaving an inch or so of headspace and freeze.

Frozen Meal Helpers

Beef Broth and Vegetable Beef Soup

Enjoy!

Hawaiian Chicken

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Last night, I braved the wind to face the grill again before it gets too cold. This is one of our family’s signature dinners, always a favorite.

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Hawaiian Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
½ c. soy sauce
¼ c. ketchup
1 t. yellow mustard
4 pineapple slices, fresh or canned
4 slices, provolone cheese

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Mix together a marinade of the brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, and mustard and pour over the chicken breasts in a mixing bowl. You can grill it immediately or put it in the fridge for a few hours to soak up the flavor, whatever your timeline.

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Grill the chicken until done, flipping once during the cooking process.

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Add pineapple slices to the grill for a minute or two.

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Top the grilled chicken breasts with pineapple slice and a slice of provolone cheese. Cover the grill again for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve over Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice. We always have mandarin orange salad with it, but will substitute fresh pineapple for the mandarin oranges since we just cut one up for this dish anyway.

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Top 10 Back-to-School Breakfasts, Lunches & Snacks

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Back-to-School time is here and our schedules have just kicked into gear here in Kentucky. Nutritious food choices are more important than ever as our kids return to the classroom and as we adults try to keep it all together as well. While we all have the best of intentions, having a plan and some time-saving strategies is the only way to follow through consistently.

I’ll share my list with you if you share yours with me. Our girls never developed a cereal habit at breakfast. I failed them (or myself) miserably with that one! While I have never allowed alternatives to the dinner I serve, breakfast has always seemed to involve indecision and choice. Over the years, I have tried to clean up my choices keeping the “granola bar on the way out the door” breakfast to a minimum.

Quick Nutritious Breakfast Choices

1.  Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Granola
2.  French Toast
3.  Oatmeal with Apples and Walnuts
4.  Cinnamon Toast, Peanut Butter Toast or Cheese Toast
5.  High-Fiber Cereal with Almond Milk
6.  Muffins or Sweet Breads (Banana, Amish Friendship)
7.  Bagel with Cream Cheese
8.  Eggs & Toast
9.  Banana with Vanilla Greek Yogurt topped with         Mini-Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
10.  Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Toast

Lunchbox Choices

Do you find yourself constantly resolving to stop eating out for lunch? The boredom of the “sandwich every day” lunch is a killer of our best intentions if you ask me. That said, the sandwich is the obvious first choice. We just have to have some easy options to mix it up a bit.

1.  Ham or Turkey Sandwich
2.  Turkey Wrap
3.  Tuna or Chicken Salad
4.  Grilled Chicken Salad – Plan ahead by grilling extra chicken for dinner to have “planned overs” for lunches.
5.  Soup in Thermos (Canned or Homemade Soups)
6.  Pasta in Thermos – Think bite-sized pasta with marinara or other sauces you have on hand.
7.  Quesadilla – Chicken, Cheese, or Pizza Quesadillas keep well when wrapped in foil in the lunchbox with the dippers in an insulated container (sour cream, salsa, or even marinara sauce)
8.  PB&J – Okay, we all have those days!
9.  Peanut Butter Dippers – Ritz Crackers, Celery, Apple Slices
10. Cottage Cheese and Fresh Pineapple

Snacktime Choices

1.  Fruit Smoothie – Peel and freeze bananas and other fruits in freezer bags to have ingredients at the ready.
2.  Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix
3.  Cheez-Its or other favorite snack crackers
4.  Piemento Cheese and Crackers
5.  Grapes, Apples, Bananas, Peaches, Strawberries, Melon
6.  Carrots & Ranch
7.  Granola Bars
8.  Popcorn
9.  Peanut Butter or Cheese and Crackers
10.Hummus & Pretzel Crisps

Your turn to share!  Help me out, we need some new choices in our lives.

10 Ways to Save on Groceries

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Food and household supplies are a large expenditure for most of us, yet the costs are somewhat variable.  This means it is a great place to save money in your budget.  How are you doing compared with the national averages?  The USDA publishes data on average food plans based on family size, ages of children, and four tiers of spending levels (thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal).

Click here for the most recent data:

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2014/CostofFoodMar2014.pdf

So where do you fall within the spending levels?  What could you do to improve?  Keep in mind the cheapest food prices may not be the best value if you have to spend your savings on healthcare.  Healthy choices should be considered an investment in your family’s health.  That said, the savings potential on this category is worth the extra attention it takes to save.

1.     Menu planning.  Plan dinners for the month to take the guesswork out of cooking.  Plan on “left-overs” for lunches either the original way you served the meal or “reworked” in sandwiches or salads.  Don’t forget to plan for quick week-day breakfasts and special big breakfasts on weekends.

2.    Grocery shopping.  You can’t cook what you don’t have in the house.  Check your supply of staples and make a large “stock-up” shopping trip once per month.  This is the one time I like to go to Aldi for lower prices on staples and produce in addition to my Kroger trip.  Stick with your list for fresh produce, fish, and dairy on your weekly “fill-in” trips. This type of plan will help eliminate those extra trips which tend to really add up.

3.    Coupons.  Match weekly specials to coupons for deep discounts.  To save time, check websites like www.couponmom.com to see the sale items at your store of choice matched with coupons in circulation for them.  They rank items by percentage savings.  Consider stocking up with a one to three month supply for deeply discounted items as most grocery items typically cycle sales with the best deals coming every three months.  Remember coupons are no bargain unless they bring the unit price below other brands.

4.    Pork.  Buy a pork loin when on sale for $1.99/lb. and have the butcher slice it into ¾” pork chops.  Repackage into the number of chops your family will eat at one meal and freeze.  Buy precooked half hams on sale and ask your butcher to slice thin for sandwiches.  The price is significantly less than deli meat and equally delicious.

5.  Snacks.  Purchase snacks such as crackers and pretzels in larger packages with the best unit price.  Then, package individual snacks into snack-sized zipper bags and keep in a basket in the pantry for lunches or afternoon snacks.  I use a popcorn popper to pop our own corn with coconut oil and a little salt for a high fiber, no preservative, snack about once per week.  Another of our family’s favorites for packaged-at-home snacks is Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix.

6.    Chicken Broth.  Make a Roasted Chicken once a month.  Serve roast chicken for one meal.  Use leftover meat for chicken salad, chicken tacos, homemade chicken soup or a casserole for another meal.  One chicken can yield two meals for a family of four and 8 cups of broth.  Feel free to double the recipe for a large family.

7.    Laundry Detergent. Save big by making your own.  There are many different recipes available that are easy and long-lasting.  About $10 in supplies lasts our family for about six months with some ingredients left over.  I use this one:   http://justalittlenutty.com/he-compatable-homemade-liquid-laundry-detergent/ and add Gain scent booster crystals for fragrance.

8.    Salad Dressings.  Make your own salad dressings to save money and get rid of undesirable ingredients in bottled ones.  Most are oil, vinegar, or mayonnaise based or some combination of the three.  Our family’s favorite is Honey Mustard for tossed salads and Red Wine Vinaigrette for salads with fruit and nuts with bacon and feta cheese optional.

9.     Manager’s Specials.  Kroger has a mark-down rack in the bakery where I buy the occasional loaf of French bread, croissants, or dinner rolls.  Pop them into your freezer and use within the month for freshness.  Also, look for markdowns in the meat case.  Beef roasts nearing expiration are great to stock your freezer or ask the butcher to grind them for ground beef.  I typically have roasts ground rather than using the “tubes” of ground meat even if the price is equal so that all my meat comes from the same cow.  It significantly reduces the odds of e. coli contamination and keeps the pink slime away.  Yuck!

10.Grow Your Own Produce.  Okay, I’m no big gardener.  BUT, it truly is easy to put a couple of tomato plants out in a pot on your porch or in a flower bed.  It’s not too late to pick up some vegetable plants and get them in the ground.  It can save you big not having to buy tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, herbs, or whatever you find yourself constantly making trips to the store for.

What are your family’s favorite ways to save on groceries?  I would love to hear your comments!

Roasted Chicken

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  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut into pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 T. butter or olive oil
  • Your choice of seasonings, from seasoned salt and pepper, to fresh herbs, to my choice of homemade taco seasoning for a little more flavor.

Begin by placing a whole chicken in a roasting pan and removing the neck and giblets from the body cavity.  Save those icky parts for broth-making in a zipper bag in the refrigerator.

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Cut the vegetables to use for stuffing.

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Stuff body cavity with vegetables, adding any that won’t fit in the roasting pan around the chicken.  Smear butter over the top and sprinkle with a liberal dose of your favorite seasonings.

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Bake at 375 for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.

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Voila!  You now have dinner for the first night.  Hold on to those vegetables in the roasting pan, though.  After you have served the roast chicken, pick the remaining meat from the carcass and save for a casserole, soup, sandwiches or salads.

Then, add the bones and skin back to the roasting pan with the vegetables you roasted it with and those neckbones and giblets you saved in the fridge.  Drown them in about 16 cups of water and place over medium-low heat until the liquid reduces by about half and becomes a nice rich golden colored broth.  Strain the liquid and discard everything else.  Allow broth to cool before storing in an assortment of pint or quart jars in the freezer.  Be sure to allow about 1″ of head space so your jars don’t crack.

The byproduct of homemade chicken broth is one of the best parts of this chicken!  You get to control the sodium content, eliminate the preservatives, and the cost.  Since you’ve already paid for the chicken, the broth is free.

Menu Plan Monday – May 19 – 26

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Welcome to Menu Plan Monday!  I’m sharing my family’s plan here with you.  I hope you will take a few of these suggestions and incorporate them into your plan.  Don’t get bogged down in the details but do jot down a plan for the week to make more time to focus on what is most important at the table, your family. 

Monday – Chicken and Waffles with Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday – Crockpot Chicken Fajitas with Chips and Salsa

Wednesday – On Wednesday nights, our church offers a catered meal and a reasonable price.  This allows our family table to include members of our church family as well.  Since this is a night our family is out of the house, I would offer a simple one-dish meal if this meal was not offered. 

Thursday – Shrimp Alfredo, Italian Salad

Friday – Pizza

Saturday – BBQ, Mexican Cornbread, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, Coleslaw

Sunday – Blackened Cod, Baked Potatoes, Strawberry Feta Salad

Looking Ahead

It’s grilling season!  Let’s look at our calendars and schedule a cookout with friends this month.

Until next week, enjoy!

Shared at orgjunkie.com