flip it, change it … rearrange it.

I caved. I put up all of my Halloween decorations. Plus fall decorations (minus a few Turkey’s; one holiday at a time THANK YOU).  The last Halloween I decorated for was 3 years ago, in 2012 we had our wedding and then moved, again in 2013 we were packing to move into our new house… so yeah. With that being said some of the items have seen better days, candles melted, things were beyond squished, and I couldn’t figure out a few other things, lol! So I guess when things are looking a little sad it’s time to find new decorations to replace them.  It’s good to update what you already own, kind of like food…

Look at what you’re eating and see if there’s a way to revamp it; cut out food that doesn’t look fresh, bring in colorful veggies, or buy 1 beginner cookbook and make a promise to try a few new recipes. Trying something new for the first time can be scary but the outcome becomes better and better each time, you have to start somewhere.

That was my experiment for the last few days, I took known favorites and did something new with them.

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We often have fish and pork chops so those were at the top of my list to have a make over.  For the fish I used a lemon vinaigrette recipe but changed one of the sides by using cabbage instead of radicchio. I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out but it was sooooo good! The sauce was so flavorful; it made the cabbage/bean side edible (we know those 2 items have ZERO flavor). The fish was lightly coated in flour and quickly pan cooked to create a slight crust then I finished it in the oven at a low temp. for maybe 15 minutes. We needed a starch and I had a bag of baby red potatoes, whipped up an easy version of rusty mashed potatoes. I quartered the potatoes, placed them in a bowl filled with water (covering the potatoes), and microwaved them for 15 minutes while the fish baked.  I then gave them a rough mash, added garlic powder and cheese, done! Oh, also milk and sour cream to help with the mashing.

On to the pork chops where I used a Trisha Yearwood recipe. The cut of chops were awful and made it quite difficult to make them pretty. I didn’t have thick chops but usually with the thin cut I can put “stuffing” in the middle and wrap the meat around, securing with a tooth pick.  This meat was paper thin and tearing from every way possible.  I made it work somehow and it turned out okay. I didn’t have any sides in mind so I scanned my pantry and grabbed hese tomato-basil noodles, given to us from a friend (the house we watched over), then over to my fridge which had leftover veggies.

Classic ingredients made over; it was rough trying something new but in the end I’m glad that I did because next time I know what to do and not to do – you learn each time you cook!

I made a special breakfast on Sunday … my husband surprised me with breakfast last weekend at a yummy cafe so I surprised him this past weekend. I’ve made a frittata once before and we loved it so here’s another one! I used the foundation of one that the Pioneer Woman cooked, changing some ingredients.  Really though, you can use whatever you want in one of these! I used: canned/pre diced potatoes (this is a Sunday morning we’re talking about, ain’t no one got time for dicing!), canned mushrooms (read previous statement about dicing), onions (I cut those myself, thank you), and red peppers (from a jar too). I added cheese, LOTS OF CHEESE – parm & cheddar. I had to up the cooking time to 45 minutes, the eggs were not setting like I had hoped, no biggie though.

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I guess this could be one of our favorite dishes too, spaghetti and meatballs. I took my world famous meatball recipe (as in, famous in this house) and added shredded parm cheese … soooo good.  Just remember that with parm cheese you don’t have to add a lot of salty, it’s a very salty cheese.

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THESE WERE FUN! Spaghetti squash burrito bowls. AWESOME-SAUCE!  The blog post where I got the recipe from was lacking some instructions but I figured it all out.  Bake the squash ‘meat’ side down on a lined baking sheet – 425 for 45 minutes, the ‘meat’ will scoop right out, no effort needed. Use whatever veggies you might order at say, Chipotle or Freebirds, and boom, done! I used canned corn, canned black beans, 2 green bell peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 red onion diced, cilantro, fajita seasoning, cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  Layer everything like a lasagna in the squash shell: cheese, veggies, squash, cheese, veggies, squash, more cheese, salsa & sour cream. We each went back for 2 helpings – it didn’t leave us feeling gross but we were definitely full. I’d suggest 1 squash per person, you serve the burrito bowl in one of the halves. This recipe is staying in rotation. LOVE!

Go find “old” recipes and brainstorm how you can make them over. Add a new sauce or try to make a meat dish into a vegetarian dish (swap a steak for shrimp), even if it’s 1 ingredient that you change (I added parm cheese to my meatballs, they tasted new to us!) it can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to change up your routine.

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You’ve been fooled!

I’ve been pondering on what my next rant should be … Lays brought back their new flavor contest – cappuccino flavored potato chips? God we  (Americans) are such fatties! Eating that chip screams “I’m too lazy to drive to Starbucks and pay $8 for a cappuccino but let me get to the store and buy a bag of greasy potato chips”.  I bet you raved to your friends on the money you saved with your smart purchase.; your cholesterol is hating you right now though.

Hhmmmm… something that caught our (me and my husband) attention, the other day we saw 2 very large women who were wearing work out clothes (it’s up for debate if that was their choice stretchy outfit for the day or if they were actually coming from/going to work out) anyway, they came out of Jamba Juice, which is described as a ‘health focused chain for fruit smoothies’, with the largest smoothie size the store offers.  It appeared to be a red smoothie, so I’m guessing something containing strawberries.  Let’s say it was the Razzmatazz smoothie: 500 calories … if they opted for the “make it light” version then they are coming in at 310 calories although the sodium doubles.  Let that sink in, 500 calories is usually 1/3 of someone daily caloric intake, someone who eats healthy I should add.  These women surely eat over 2,000 calories a day – fast food for every meal (there was a McDonald’s cup in the cup holder… so yeah, I’m gonna guess they frequent fast food establishments) + a 500 calorie smoothie will get you to 2,000 calories faster than you can blink an eye.  It’s so disgusting that this store is claiming to be healthy.  Why even offer something that is 500 calories? How about make those smoothies but only in the smallest size, still 290 or ‘make it light’ 180; that’d be doing the general public a better service. While these women may think they are being healthy the store has them fooled; makes me shake my head.

Fruit contains a high percentage of natural sugars; people who aren’t diabetic don’t have to worry about such a thing but take a step back and see what you’re snacking on or drinking … just because your grocery cart is all blueberries, apples, watermelon, carrots, etc. doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing it right’. Check the nutritional info on those items you will be shocked at the carbs/calories/sugars/fats.  So that “sugar free” apple pie you’ve been eying – yeah, it’s not really sugar free.  The baker may not have added extra sugar but apples have enough natural sugars to make a yummy pie all on their own.  Think about that the next time you tell yourself “it’s okay to eat that, it says sugar free”.  Your intentions are in the right place but read the nutrition label and educate yourself.

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Ahh, I feel better after that! On to some yummy recipes that you should try.

 

I made the best meatballs last week … after making them I don’t know how many times, I have finally, scientifically, come up with the yummiest recipe.

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I used ground mild Italian sausage, a precooked & cooled quinoa/yellow onion mixture, panko, FRESH garlic & shallots, s/p to taste.  I used to do ground pork and other spices (a recipe I found on pinterest) but I began to change things and wound up with this beauty.  It seems silly but a perfectly season meatball just hits the spot.

What else… ah, my husband loved this one, a sweet potato and black bean “burrito” or wrap.  We had plenty leftover for a few lunches.  When we ran out of wraps the mixture went into a bowl and sprinkled some cheese, it was good on its own. A vegan meal and the meat wasn’t even missed!

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Of course, as promised, a meal honoring Elvis (I posted about it on my instagram account) – as August is the month he passed away in.  How does one make an “Elvis meal” healthy … I’m pretty sure he was prediabetic but never knew it. Come on, he was pretty large at the time he died. Love him anyway, he’s the king. I have a cook book of his favorite meals “Are You Hungry Tonight?”.
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Click on the photos of the recipes to enlarge them.
HERE ARE MY CHANGES
SOUP: 2% milk, doubled the celery and onions, low sodium broth, I left the potato skins on since they do contain some vitamins
There’s not much you can change about the soup, it was freaking delish though.
BLT & CHEDDAR SANDWICH: the smallest amount of mayo possible, romaine lettuce (we almost used spinach but it had gone bad 😦 ), turkey bacon, whole wheat bread; make sure you look for the label “WHOLE WHEAT” not just “WHEAT” – yes, there’s a difference.
We toasted the bread, plain, then stacked the ingredients.

We wanted to have classic comfort food but we know that comes with regret, do what you can to swap ingredients but keeping the integrity of the meal.  That was such a yummy dinner, indulging every once in a while won’t hurt you.

So we all have those “need to clear the fridge” days, right? When you have a few items that are about to go bad and you really don’t want to toss them, that was last week for me.  Eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, and the end of some salsa.  Well, I whipped together an easy brunch.

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I’m ready for tonight’s dinner … a 3 cheese pizza topped with turkey bacon and caramelized onions. YUM!

 

EAT HEALTHY! BE HEALTHY! THINK HEALTHY!

I ran out of ketchup.

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My parents would be shocked.

I was saddened by the discovery.

My husband just laughed.

At 3:30pm yesterday I realized I didn’t have enough ketchup to make a bbq sauce; I didn’t even have enough to make 1/2 of the recipe. I had maybe 2 TBSP of ketchup remaining and that surely wasn’t going to cut it. There was a day when my mother always had a back up bottle in the pantry because I literally drank ketchup.  I too began stock piling ketchup, buying the mega 4 pack at Sam’s however as of lately with all of my new cooking adventures, I find myself using less and less of this fabulous condiment. I mean, to give you an idea of my ketchup addiction: I wouldn’t even touch a steak without ketchup – I don’t care if I was at home or at a 4 star restaurant. I could give a hoot about the eye rolls in my direction. I LOVE KETCHUP. My favorite dinner is chicken nuggets with too much ketchup for every bite.

You know you’re obsessed when:
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This is the first time I’ve ever run out of ketchup and I’m sure it’ll happen again but it made me stop and think – I hardly buy ketchup anymore, it’s not on my weekly shopping list anymore… maybe monthly if that. Wow, what a difference a year makes. Yes, in 1 year I’ve almost kicked my addiction of ketchup. I still use it but as sauce bases or for the obvious hot dog dinner.

I digress; hubby picked up an emergency bottle on the way home from work and dinner continued.
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burger recipe here                                                                       green bean salad recipe here

A ‘montage’ of pictures for the last 2 weeks of meals …
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slow cooker ribs                                                       meatball subs – leftover from a spaghetti & meatball night 😉

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mac n’ cheese & pork chops w/ caramelized onions/apples               slow cooker stuffed peppers

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potato salad (Martha, you disappointed me… this was not very good; from her “Great Food Fast” book)

IMG_6521 PIZZA NIGHT! No recipe… just used my imagination 🙂

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stuffed portobello caps (George Foreman recipe)                                pork chops … try this yummy marinade
goat cheese, evoo, black pepper, pesto, & I added tomatoes

Patience is key, young grasshopper

I pinned this recipe a year ago… ONE WHOLE YEAR! My intentions were to make it for St. Patty’s Day (last year) and clearly I never got to it.  This year I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity.  Don’t cringe at the thought of corned beef and cabbage egg rolls, I know it sounds strange but it was really good – mind over matter, people.

Instead of doing the usual slow cooker corned beef over cabbage, which there is nothing wrong with … but since I’m on this cooking adventure I just had to try these egg rolls.  We opted to bake instead of fry – a great step to a healthier alternative.

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I cooked the beef on Sunday in my slow cooker while we took a day trip to the San Marcos Outlets, Cabela’s, and Salt Lick – which has THE BEST pork ribs. Anyway, back to our holiday dinner. Prep the meat a day beforehand, you won’t be rushing around the day of! The day of: sauté thinly sliced cabbage and onions; boil potatoes (to turn into mashed p’s) … that’s it! I used the leftover egg roll stuffing to make “sides” – nothing goes to waste in this house! Egg rolls are really easy to make and then a 1000 Island dipping sauce, yum! Think of it – a reuben uses 1000 Island so why not for these?  Some of the egg rolls were: beef/cabbage/cheese and beef/cabbage/mashed p’s/cheese. LIGHT spray the wrappers with cooking spray, put in the oven at 400 for 20-ish minutes (or until the wrappers turn golden brown). Remember, everything is cooked already – you’re just crisping the rolls. I had leftovers for lunch yesterday and dipped them in ketchup. I love ketchup, like really love ketchup. It was our wedding favor after all!
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So I know I said I’d be visiting our favorite dishes from here on out but I have to brag about this one because it was the best version to date.  Cheeseburger Pie – which is Josh’s request 100% of the time when I ask what he wants.  We kept having issues with the “crust” so I looked on the interwebs and found a Betty Crocker version; other than Martha, this is a woman I can trust when it comes to fixing disaster recipes.  I had definitely been using too much Bisquick mix.  Also, I added mushrooms, onions, and hamburger seasoning (thank you Bolner’s), oh and topped the “casserole” wish shredded swiss cheese before pouring the mix – cook that baby at 400 for 25 min. BEST CHEESEBURGER PIE SO FAR! I’ve been making it for 4 years now – it just goes to show that recipes take time to perfect.

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Use an actual pie dish for the perfect portions.

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This week’s line up in no particular order:* copy cat Panera broccoli and cheese soup with pork chops (covered in caramelized onions) – I’ll let you know how the soup turns out
* spaghetti and pork/quinoa meatballs
* chicken cordon bleu pizza (using a Bisquick crust) – new recipe, I will blog about it
* grape tomato/shallots with ravioli + salad
* Shakshuka over rice + bread for dipping (Friday/our Lenten meal)

Calling all sous chefs …

3 new recipes hit outta the ball park … all keepers!  One was inspired by my weekly blog snooping and the other two by my usual weekend activity of watching the Food Network.  See, good things can come from being lazy 😉

Tuesday’s dinner was so flavorful that we went back for seconds … we got through a half of (a second) burger each – tsk tsk, I know – but they were sooooo good! Make them and I dare you to not want a second one. They are easy to make by hand, no device needed to help you like the Stufz.  My husband saw it on a commercial and suggested it as a gizmo that I’d like, I bought it for him (for me) as a Christmas gift.  Basically it was a waste of $10 and took more time to figure out the contraption than it took for me to form 4 patties by hand.  It’s not hard to use but it’s not a non-stick surface, the meat is impossible to deal with! Don’t buy it. 

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Oh, the side! How did I forgot about the side dish? I guess it’s 4 new recipes then 🙂  As much as I think Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show is silly, she had Art Smith as a guest and cooked up his delish garlic-cheesy mashed cauliflower. I added too much garlic (is there really such a thing as ‘too much garlic’?) but other than that it was so creamy.

I haven’t cooked with ground beef in quite some time and I noticed a smell … a distinct odor … that lingered around the kitchen and my hands. Blech. I never realized how much it stinks but now that we’ve pretty much cut it from our diet, my Spidey Scenses do not like it. The sous chefs, did however. They came running from each corner of the house to investigate what their noses were picking up.

Maybe it’s not the bigger kitchen/house that’s keeping them out from under my feet … could it be that I’ve stopped using ground beef so they aren’t interested in the dropped food anymore?

Wednesday’s dinner: chicken wings and onion rings.  I was craving a “bar food” night sans grease and belly aches … these two recipes were dlish, healthy, and cheap! Geeze, now it’s up to 5 recipes … I can’t keep anything straight! The week went by too fast for me to even keep up with what I cooked. Anyway, I marinated the wings for a few hours prior to baking so when it came time to prep the onion rings I only had to focus on one thing.  This meal couldn’t have been any easier: hot sauce, honey (for the wings), panko, Old Bay, s/p … dinner’s ready! The onion rings are a bit labor intensive but so worth it; nothing difficult but they do take time.

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Yes you are seeing that bottom picture correctly … that is a packet of mayo from Chick-Fil-A, haha! The tangy cheese dipping sauce for the wings called for 2 TBSP of mayo and we don’t eat that anymore, so where do you buy 2 TBSP of mayo? A fast food restaurant, of course! And by “buy”, I mean treat yourself to a yummy lunch and pick up a mayo packet on the way out. That was the most expensive packet of mayo at $7.07 that day 😉

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Still love my Pampered Chef dredging station … 1: flour  2. egg/milk/flour mixture  3. panko/Old Bay;S/P – bake and plate. Now enjoy!

Thursday was a night I’ve been waiting for, a one-pot-meal: Mini meatball sandwiches. Thank you Ree Drummond – you fabulous Pioneer Woman, you.  Not only is it a one pot meal it also took under 30 minutes, bing bang boom – DONE! I used ground turkey instead and finished off the sausages that were called for with the stuffed burgers.  Once again the sous chefs came running. Honestly, I don’t understand why the stink of groud beef is so delightful to dogs 😉

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On top of that, I got my husband to help me! Man, maybe I do need to switch back to ground beef, lol!

Actually, he was starving so I said “I’m so glad you’re offering to help”… and cue his eye rolls. I didn’t want the stench on my hands again so it worked perfectly.

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It was quite nice, let the meatballs cook for 20 minutes while I relaxed. What a fantastic dinner idea; perfect for parties too – a few bites is the rule for party/finger food. We had plenty left over so by the time you’re finished reading this blog post, I’ll have scarfed down a few sandwiches as a much deserved late lunch.

 

This little piggie was full, full, full.

We officially gave our property management a 60 day notice to us moving out! WOOHOO!!! We were approved for our VA loan and the lead contractor on our house says Nov. 20 is a firm closing date. We have our rental until the end of Nov. so we can take our time moving the small stuff, no rush!  I will have an amazing kitchen and an actual music studio/office and Josh will have his man-cave 🙂 .  We can’t wait to spread out.

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In the mean time, I will put up with my current small/nasty kitchen for another 30 days and cook delish meals, to the best of my ability.  Having friends to help is a Godsend, chatting & drinking takes away the constant thought of how disgusting the kitchen is.

Let’s get to it, my menu changed mid-week because we decided to go to dollar beer night at the Rampage hockey game (Friday) so I needed an easy dinner.  Chelsea made her sword fish on Thursday, spaghetti squash moved to Friday, and I made the chicken marsala on Monday. If you know food won’t go bad feel free to moves things around, no one said your menu was set in stone.

Friday – spaghetti squash with quinoa/pork meatballs
You will need to put in some extra muscle for this meal. Holy cow, I seriously worked up a sweat between trying to cut the squash in half and then scraping the seeds + “spaghetti” out; I was so tired when dinner was done.  I couldn’t cut through the first squash, thank goodness Cory was here. The second squash was easier, smaller ones are not as tough but then you don’t get as much “meat” from them.

I got this recipe from Emily, a college classmate – her blog is all about cooking on a budget and the meals are healthy! So for all y’all complaining on FB “eating right is expensive… it’s too hard to find healthy meals that taste good… I don’t know how to shop for healthy foods” STOP IT!  Quit your belly aching and do some reading, educate yourself and you’ll quickly realize changing your diet is incredibly simple. I mentioned it a few weeks back, just by changing my diet I lost 6 pounds in 1 month. Just to note, I am a somewhat active person but I don’t go to the gym.

Anyway, back to the squash + meatballs.

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Spaghetti squash has zero flavor so you must add seasoning. Emily’s recipe called for sour cream, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes.  While I did not have sour cream (I hate s.c. at this point, I had to make 3 trips to the store because I kept running out of it last week. I refused to go back again.), I used a TON of cheddar cheese which melted nicely, get some s & p on there with the red pepper flakes – you’ve got yourself a tasty dish!  The quinoa meatballs were incredibly easy and took 20 minutes from start to finish. You’ll spend most of the time on the squash so the meatballs can be saved until the end or they will dry out from sitting around.

Monday – chicken marsala
WOW what a simple dish! I always thought it was this complex Italian meal that would take hours. Nope, maybe 30 minutes! For a protein and vegetable, of course we added a side salad, but this is a complete meal that people will be impressed with.

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What can be easier than coating butterflied chicken breasts in flour, cooking them on the stove for 5 minutes on each side (you can do 1 at a time and just stack them in a dish so they stay warm), throw 2 large packages of mushrooms in the same pan when the chicken is done … boom, dinner is ready.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, and butter – honestly though, I started at 7 and we were at the table by 7:45. The extra 15 minutes includes pulling out the ingredients, setting everything up, etc. plus setting the table and serving our plates.  Now this recipe calls for prosciutto which I left out, didn’t miss it.  My wallet appreciated the left out ingredient as well 😉 .

Tuesday – sloppy joes
HOMEMADE! None of that canned Manwich crap (which is incredibly delish but not the best healthy eating choice out there)
I’ll have to get the exact recipe from Chelsea but I believe she combined a recipe she already knew with a recipe from the Pioneer Woman’s blog.  BTW, love the Pioneer Woman. I think she might be the next cook I turn to for more inspiration.  Rachel Ray, while I love you and your “burger of the day” … I can’t stand how many ingredients your meals call for (like she’s actually reading this, HA!).

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Use any kind of meat, we had turkey and fake meat (hence the double stir action happening); halve *uncooked* biscuits, put cheese on one side, pile on the meat, and put in the oven to bake (until biscuits are golden brown). These were amazing and not sloppy! I know, totally defeats the name but these would be awesome for football Sunday’s or parties. Everything is contained in its own little biscuit of goodness. I ate 3 plus a side salad, Josh ate 5 (he’s so gross! LOL!) – between 4 adults I think 16 sandwiches were made and we have 2 leftover. Hello! Talk about being piggies last night. Whatever, you can indulge every once in a while.

Tonight’s line up is pretzel bun hot dog minis (stacked with cheese & sauerkraut), Thursday is shrimp scampi pizza (courtesy of Chelsea), and Friday calls for homemade pierogies + sauerkraut.

STAY TUNED & HAPPY COOKING!!!!

easy like sunday morning

Not that I’m channeling my inner Lionel Richie but Sunday’s are pretty easy … make my coffee, find the cook books and websites for my weekly menu inspirations, and just sit back – let my thinking cap go to work.

In no particular order … mostly because I don’t know Josh’s work schedule yet … this is what the week has in store for us, well, food wise at least.

Automatically Monday:  Leftovers and Salad (I need to clear the fridge out so I can go grocery shopping!!)

Spaghetti Squash and Quinoa/Pork Meatballs
– will post the spaghetti squash with my ‘daily blog’

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Broccoli Bites
— Reference: “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’ ” & “Remember Playground Slides? Those Were the Days”

Tilapia Burgers and Baked Veggie Medley
— Store bought burgers; will post the veggie medley with my ‘daily blog’

Chicken Marsala and Eggplant Gratin