Meal Plan- Week 2

whats for dinnerWell I got off kinda easy this week because 3 nights we had plans after work that included dinner.

But I still managed to cook a good bit.

And this is what I made.

This dinner came together quickly because last time I made this dish I double the sauce and stuck half in the freezer. So I literally had to cook the noodles and brown the chicken. I think it took about 15 minutes total.

I saw this chicken recipe on my Facebook feed on Wednesday, went to the grocery store on my lunch break for the ingredients, and made it for dinner. Talk about (almost) instant gratification. It was delicious. I LOVE incorporating pears into savory dishes. I will be making this one again. I think using bacon and Swiss cheese would be good too (and less expensive).

  • Day #3  Cracked Pepper Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Corn with Sweet Bell Peppers

 Three cheers for marinated pork tenderloin. I bought a seasoned pork tenderloin at Trader Joes and grilled it according to the directions. Added a mix of (frozen) roasted corn and peppers. Perfect for a Saturday since I had been painting ALL day.

I made this for Joe and I after church on Sunday because the kids weren’t around. I used a simple marinade recipe I found on It turned out well, especially considering I used frozen tuna steaks.

Semi-Homemade Summer Party

I had some close female friends and family over for a little get together Monday evening after work.

I promised to serve them some good desserts.

But I didn’t have time to make a ton of fun food.

So I improvised.

A little store bought and a little semi-homemade.

And I proved that you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to host a successful party.

PS. my table “runner” is a fun ladies scarf from Target ($14.99) and I hijacked the palm leaves from a tree in my office for the centerpieces (shh don’t tell).

Dessert Party

dessert party 4

dessert party 3
Click here for info on Cookie Kiln. She ships her cookies all over the US! Tell her Rene’ sent you.

dessert party 5

dessert party 6
I had to take a picture of my cousin’s watermelon manicure. So fun :)


Dessert Pary
Everyone enjoyed the cookies from Cookie Kiln

Here are a few of the “recipes” I used.


Rene’s Semi-Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Cake

  • 1 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 1 recipe of lemon cream cheese frosting (see below)
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries, frozen or fresh

Prepare each cake mix according to the box instructions. Bake in four greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. Do NOT over bake. Once baked, carefully remove the cakes from the pans and place on cooling racks. Let the cakes cool completely. While the cakes cool, prepare the frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4- 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Using a stand or hand mixer, mix on high until the frosting is completely smooth. To assemble the cake, place the first layer on a cake stand or large plate. Add 1/3 cup strawberries to the top of the first layer. Place the next layer on top and repeat until all the layers are stacked. Using all the frosting, ice the cake, starting with the sides and then finishing with the top.

Enjoy! Best if made 1-2 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator. If you are unsure of how to stack or frost a layered cake click here for a tutorial by Real Simple.


Rene’s Citrus-Ade Party Punch

  • 1 lemon, washed
  • 1 lime, washed
  • 1 orange, washed
  • 2 cans of frozen lemonade concentrate, defrosted
  • 2 can of frozen limeade concentrate, defrosted
  • 1 can of frozen orange juice concentrate, defrosted
  • 2 gallons water

Slice all the fruit (discard the ends). Place in the freezer until ready to serve. The frozen fruit will act as “ice cubes.” In a large beverage dispenser, combine all the concentrates and water. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Once ready to serve, simply stir the water and concentrates and add the frozen fruit.

Enjoy! Variation: Use sparkling water in place of the tap water.


Summer Green Beans and the Cook Book Winner Annouced

Honey Lemon Green Beans and Turkey Pot Roast

I mentioned on Wednesday that I already prepared a few recipes from my new cookbook.

Well here is my first review.

I prepared Turkey Pot Roast (minus the carrots and potatoes) from the cookbook Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook that I am giving away today.


Overall it was a great recipe. Next time I will add more salt and definitely serve it with cranberry sauce like she suggests.

PS. The leftovers made an awesome sandwich.

To serve with the turkey I whipped up these simple green beans using 5 ingredients.


Lemon Juice,


Salt and Pepper.


Green Beans

First I blanched the green beans for 3-4 minutes.

And then threw them in cold water to stop the cooking; once cool  I dried the beans with paper towel.

Next I grabbed a non-stick skillet, and added a tablespoon of honey, lemon juice and oil,  half a teaspoon of black pepper, and a good dash of salt.

Then I added the beans to the skillet and “stir fried” them over medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes.


While those finish cooking I should mention that the honey I used is actually made by my parents’ bees.

And my mom and dad process and bottle the honey themselves.

It’s a huge undertaking…so I am told.

I think my dad’s midlife crisis involves bees.

At least, that’s what my mom says.

They sell it so if you are interested in local SC honey let me know.

Moving on.

Tada, the result was crispy green beans with a kick.

Combined with the turkey, fresh peaches, and roasted red potatoes it made a great summer meal.

Lemon Honey Green Beans

Serves 3-4

  • 1/2 lb fresh green beans, ends removed
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • dash of salt


Fill a small sauce pan about half full of water. Bring to boil. Add trimmed green beans. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain beans immediately and place them in a bowl of ice water.

Once the beans are cool, drain well (or pat dry with papertowel). Set aside.

In a non-stick skillet, add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine over low heat.

Turn the cooktop up to medium high and add the beans to the skillet. Stir fry for 5-7 minutes.

Serve immediately.


Variation: If you prefer to use frozen green beans, prepare them according to the directions but cut the cooking time in half. Pat dry. And then follow the rest of the instructions above.

Honey Lemon Green Beans and Turkey Pot Roast

Okay, on to the randomly selected winner of the cookbook.

And I am going to throw in some slow cooker liners too.

The winner is: Sheila! Email me at with your address and choice of cookbook.


And thanks everyone for participating.


Jelly shoes, the guilt trip to London and a new cookbook

I grew up in a large family of 7 children.

Things were never dull at our house.

As much of a hassle as a large family can be, we sure did have fun together.

A lot of our memories of growing up include our family vacations.

And let me tell you, we took some great vacations.

Two weeks in CA.

Two weeks in Yellowstone and the Tetons.

Lots and lots of trips to the SC beaches.

Mountain vacations in NC and TN.

And then there was the trip to Alaska for three whole weeks.


My dad always had great aspirations of us camping as a family.

Unfortunately, we are just not a camping family.

We once took a week long camping trip to TN.

We came home early.

And a raccoon ate my new jelly shoes. Made me very sad.

(Did you ever have jelly shoes? I loved mine.)

Anyway, we have a bad track record with outdoors(y) vacations so why my dad thought a three weeks in Alaska (in a RV no less) was a great idea is still a mystery.

But he had good intentions.

Somehow we all arrived in Alaska with seven people worth of luggage.

We found our hotel in Anchorage and went to sleep.

In the morning, we traveled to the RV rental place.

The nice man said, “Well, here is your RV.”

There was a very small RV filled with gas and waiting for us to take it on all our wondrous adventures throughout Alaska.

Apparently the large RV we had rented had gone to someone else… what was the point of the reservation?

We all stared in horror and then slowly climbed in.

RV camping is not for the faint of heart, especially when there are 7 people living in the said RV.

Especially when four of those seven people do not camp.

We tried to make the best of it as we traveled quickly all over the state.

I say quickly because my dad didn’t like to sit still.

He frequently would get up early and just start driving.

We would wake up later needing to get showered and dressed.

But one cannot shower while being driven down Alaska’s roads; we lacked bathing for a lot of that trip.

I did forget to mention that our “fully furnished” RV came with two bath towels the size of hand towels and two blankets?

The fact that a mutiny did not occur during this trip is purely miraculous.


As siblings, we got pretty tight.

We had to cuddle to keep warm at night.

One morning my brother woke up with a black eye.

He had gotten elbowed during the night.

I also remember telling my sister to please not sit with her feet in my purse.

These were tight quarters we were living in, folks.:)

The reflections from that trip could go on and on.

We did have fun, but my mom, sisters and I spent most of that trip inside the camper reading books.

And please don’t get me wrong, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

But because my dad felt sorry for us on that trip, he sent the girls to London for a week the following summer.

Circa 2005
Circa 2005

We call it the guilt trip.

It was SO fun.

We had an awesome hotel; my aunt, uncle and two of my cousins were great tour guides.

And we still talk about a restaurant that we visited at least three times while we were in London.

The noodle bar restaurant was a chain no less, but don’t judge.


The food was awesome.

It’s the kind of food that you feel good about eating.


Now to the main reason I wrote this whole long post…

Over the New Years holiday weekend my husband and I spent some time in Barnes and Noble.

We spotted this.

I immediately picked up three.

One for me and one for each of my sisters.

Finding that cookbook seriously made my month.

I can’t wait to start cooking up some noodles.

Oh Good, It’s The Weekend

We have to:

  • make 5 dozen lemon-lime sugar cookies and decorate them
  • make 2 batches of Christmas Crab Dip (recipe coming soon)
  • make 2 batches of fresh corn and black bean salsa
  • make 4 dozen pigs in a blanket
  • make a food “buffet” centerpiece
  • concoct some sort of non-alcoholic Christmas punch
  • finish decorating my house for Christmas
  • hide the remaining moving boxes
  • rake all the 6 zillion leaves in the yard
  • finish fluffing my house so it’s acceptable for viewing

And generally be ready for our little Christmas open house on Sunday night.

I am so ready to have the house full of family. Can’t wait.

Wish me luck.

Wedding Planning- Bridal Shower Hostess Gifts Part II

(Seriously, the cutest invitation ever!)

My sister-in-law hosted a little lingerie shower for me last night.

It was just lovely.

Low key, relaxing and fun.

But somehow I forgot to get little gifts for the ladies helping with this shower when I bought the hostess gifts for my other bridal shower.

So I ran out this past weekend (while still battling the stomach flu, lovely I know right?) and picked up a little gift to each of them.

Tyler Candles and little painted magnets that were super cute from Palmetto Home and Garden.

I purchased some polka dot “take out” boxes as gift bags (from Cost Plus World Market) and I was good to go. Yay for quick shopping.

Please excuse the stomach flu medicine and black head removal strips:)

Sorry this is blurry but the food was so yummy!

Chicken salad served in endive sections.

My Aunt Louise’s sugar cookies.

Mini “sugar free” pumpkin cheese cakes.

Spicy hummus and veggies.

Strawberries with cream cheese dip.

Best Party Favors Ever!

Appetizers are what’s for dinner

I have written before about the weekend cooking activities. You can read about them here.

Soon I won’t have to cook in two different kitchens or tote food all over Greenville county because I am getting married. Have I mention this?:)

But until then I will continue the tradition of cooking a yummy comfort food Saturday evening meal(not necessarily healthy) for my fiance’ and his boys.

I wanted to switch things up a little bit this weekend.

Appetizers for dinner.

I love typical “chain restaurant” appetizers, but I don’t make them often because I figure it’s just more calories that I don’t need.

But if I make them as dinner, well, then that solves that problem.

I have not decided for sure but these are the recipes that are in the running for Saturday evening.

Buffalo Chicken Rolls,

I have made these rolls before. Delish and so easy!

Can I just take a moment to tell you how much I love working with spring roll wrappers? They are so versatile. And I love that the recipe for buffalo chicken rolls is baked on a rack. No frying is involved at all. Love it!

Hot artichoke dip,

I will make some form of artichoke dip (because it’s Joe’s favorite), but I will make it a much lighter version. I love using Greek yogurt in place of mayo and cheese.

Tex Mex Egg Rolls,

And since I already have the spring roll wrappers for the buffalo chicken rolls I might make a few with tex mex flair.

Potato Skins,

And these potato skins sure look good too….decisions, decisions.

Fried Mozzarella Sticks,

Oh gosh, homemade fried mozzarella sticks…..I am in trouble.

Update: The mozzarella sticks were amazing and so so easy. Make them!

Baked Honey Sesame Chicken

This recipe will not win any awards.

It won’t win any beauty contests either.

It’s just a fresh cheap simple weeknight dinner.

$1 for zucchini

$.25 for angel hair pasta

$1.75 for chicken (Aldi has been having great sales on split chicken breasts!)

$.60 for green onions

I had everything else on hand.

Baked Honey Sesame Chicken

2 servings

Two chicken breasts on the bone with skin removed


4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp white wine or rice vinegar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)


4 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup honey

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 -2 tsp cornstarch


Rinse chicken and pat dry. Combine the marinade ingredients in a storage bag with the chicken to marinate. Refrigerate for at least an hour (or overnight is great too).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line the baking dish or a baking sheet with sides (aka jelly roll pan) with aluminum foil and prep with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the chicken from the storage bag and place on the baking dish breast side up. Let the chicken rest at room temperature about 20-30 minutes before you bake it.

Common sense note: Allowing the chicken to come to room temperature internally helps in bake more evenly in the oven. You will be amazed at how evenly cooked and juicy the chicken is!

Bake the chicken for 25 minutes.

While it is baking, make the glaze. Combine the first six ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, reduce heat and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the oven after twenty-five minutes of baking. Baste the chicken with the all the glaze. Then return the chicken to the oven for 20 more minutes.

Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. **This helps the juiciness (is this a real word?) factor as well. Nobody likes dried out chicken breasts.

I served it with sesame noodles and a quick stir fry of zucchini. Enjoy!


Bridesmaid Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad and Ina Garten


I was in charge of most of the food for the pampering party for my sister, her bridesmaids and all the moms and grandmoms this past weekend.

We had been working on wedding “stuff” all week. And with the 90% humidity we had been experiencing, everyone was hot and tired.

So I decided after we all went to the nail salon for our pampering that I would just have a picnic inspired dinner.

I wanted to make shrimp salad from this post but my sister (the bride) dislikes shrimp so I settled on a simple chicken salad with a lot of citrus.

In the past when I have made chicken salad I have just poached the breasts, but I am never happy with the moisture content or the texture so I determined that I would roast the breasts on the bone in their skin to keep them moist and flavorful.

Then I decided I wanted to add fresh tarragon. I had never cooked with it before, but I knew it had a light almost citrus flavor as well.

Just as I finished thinking (or talking out loud) to myself about all this chicken salad business, I flipped on the tv.

There was Ina Garten talking about how she loved roasted chicken and tarragon in her chicken salad.

I had a little moment….I was starting think like Ina. Oh the euphoria.

Let’s make some chicken salad.

Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad

Yields 24 small sandwiches

  • 4 chicken breasts (I prefer the breasts on the bone, with skin on)
  • black pepper
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tarragon, fresh and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp parsley (flat leaf or Italian), fresh and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup mayonnaise (or half mayo and half Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

Rinse and pat dry the breasts. Place in a baking pan, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes. After roasting, remove the breasts from the oven and bring to room temperature. Carefully remove the skin from the breasts and discard. Then remove the chicken from the bone and chop into bite size pieces. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the salad. *Can be made up to two days in advance.

To make the dressing combine the fresh herbs, mayo, olive oil, celery, lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours while the flavors combine and get super yummy. *Can be made up to two days in advance.

When you are ready to serve, simply combine the chopped chicken and the dressing.

Now you could serve the chicken salad on some butter lettuce or a bed of spring greens, but I opted for a more carb loaded approach. Carbs=Bread=Love.

Menu for the Pampering Party

Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad on Potato Rolls

Make-your-own Fruit Kabobs

Fresh Vegetables with Roasted Pinenut Hummus

Cheesecake Lemon Bars