How to Repurpose Thanksgiving Leftovers

Everyone loves leftovers!

At this point, your 2022 Thanksgiving Meal is already cookin’. And if your dinner is anything like ours, there are leftovers. Lots and lots of leftovers. Which, don’t get me wrong is great, but, after a few days, you may get tired of eating leftovers.

Here are a few ways you can repurpose your Thanksgiving leftovers and make something tasty (and different).

1- Let’s start with the star of the show- The Bird.  I recommend taking the carcass and a few cups of meat (I use dark meat) and make stock. Here is my basic recipe, substitute the rotisserie chicken in the recipe for your turkey. And the best part is that you can do it in the crockpot overnight! Once you have a rich stock, you can make- SOUP! I’ll have a great Turkey Soup recipe up in a bit.

When packing up leftovers, I cut all of the remaining meat up, so there aren’t HUGE CHUNKS. This makes the meat easy to serve for future meals.

2- Gravy. Don’t ditch the leftover gravy! I add my leftover gravy to my Turkey Soup. Admittedly, I make a lot (8 cups+) of gravy.  Not a thick soup fan?

  • It’s turkey pie time! It’s a take on shepherd’s pie.  Take 1 cup of gravy, 2-3 cups of bite-size pieces of turkey, and 1 cup of frozen carrots and peas (or if you have leftover veggies from dinner). Mix all together, and pour into a greased baking dish. Then, top with 2-3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. I like to top with 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese about 10 minutes before it’s done, remove the foil, and allow the cheese to melt and get all bubbly.

3-Mashed Potatoes. Don’t ditch the taters, they have lots of life in leftovers! In addition to the turkey pie above, Mashed potato cakes are a good choice, and they are super easy to make!

  • Mashed Potato Cakes start with 2 cups mashed potatoes, 1 egg, 1 cup AP flour, 1/2 c grated or minced onion, salt, and pepper. Mix all of these ingredients together and form into patties. Fry the patties in 1 cup oil (your choice), drain on paper towels prior to serving. If you like cheese, add 1/2 cup cheese of your choice.  These are great for breakfast with eggs.

4- Cranberry Sauce/Jelly. I like topping toasted leftover rolls with it, or putting it on toast. It’s also good on turkey sandwiches. Thirsty Whale has a great cocktail recipe using Cranberry Sauce.

Talk Back: How do you repurpose your holiday leftovers?

 

11/21/2022 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgOur  Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box is arriving today and I am looking forward to making a big batch of soup! The cold dry weather we’ve been having recently has me in the mood for soup!

This week we’re leaning a lot on what we already had on-hand. My grocery trip for this week is bagels, coffee, cheese, and some garlic (I’m all out!!).

The kids and I are off school/work this week, and we plan on using some of our summer reading program museum passes, visiting the zoo, going to the library, and hanging out with family and friends.

We’ve been trying a lot of new foods lately, thanks to the really great freebies from Social Nature lately too. It’s fun to try new foods.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I try to update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. They are also into fruit and bagels for breakfast. Lately, the big kid has been digging protein shakes in the morning. This is his favorite kind. 

Lunch: I have a plastic tote in the cupboard full of self-serve snacks. I buy treats and snacks in bulk and fill up snack-sized zip-top bags. The big kid brings his lunch from home every day and the littlest buys her lunch at school about half the time. In California, all public schools provide breakfast and lunch for free.

Dinner: This week is packed as far as appointments, so I’m leaning on stuff that’s easy and tasty. I prepped fruits and veg over the weekend and made up the last Dream Dinner and portioned it into lunch-sized servings.

  • Monday: Butternut Squash Bisque, rolls, roasted veggies

  • Tuesday: Frozen entrees,  Kale Cranberry Salad

  • Wednesday: Nuggets, fruit, crackers, and cheese (the typical Wednesday night dinner)

  • Thursday:  Thanksgiving dinner with family

  • Friday: Takeout night!
  • Saturday: Soup (I have several varieties in the freezer, I’ll defrost one in the morning), garlic bread, salad
  • Sunday:  Leftovers

Recipe: Lemon Herb Chicken

This recipe has been fine-tuned and constantly evolving for a while.  It originally started as a copycat of the Greek Chicken restaurant near me. This chicken is now a million times better.

Lemon Herb Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (I use breasts or thighs)
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (I like sweet onions)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons Oil of your choice (I like olive or avocado)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Prepare the marinade:

  1. Pat chicken dry and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl juice the lemons, set the lemons aside.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together.
  4. Chop up juiced lemons, add to marinade.
  5. In a large ziploc bag, pour marinade and add chicken.
  6. Allow chicken to marinate for at minimum 2 hours- I usually let it marinate overnight.

Cooking the chicken:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 T. oil or spray pan with spray release.
  2. Cook chicken on each side until brown and internal temp is at minimum 165.

This chicken is also great grilled! I love serving this chicken with a crisp cool green salad, hummus, and pita.

 

8/23/2022 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgYesterday was pretty busy, I didn’t get around to posting our meal plan for the week. We went to the beach and had in-home therapy.

I hit the grocery store last night but I forgot bagels, so I’ll be going back this morning.

No CSA boxes until the weather cools down and I can be home when the boxes are delivered. With the heat and the lack of shade on my patio, if we aren’t home when it’s delivered, some of the more delicate foods can spoil.

We’ve been trying a lot of new foods lately, thanks to the really great freebies from Social Nature lately too. It’s fun to try new foods.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I try to update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. They are also into fruit and bagels for breakfast. Lately, the big kid has been digging protein shakes in the morning. This is his favorite kind. 

Lunch: I have a plastic tote in the cupboard full of self-serve snacks. I buy treats and snacks in bulk and fill up snack-sized zip-top bags. This is really helpful for the summer when for some reason, kids are starving all the time.

Dinner: I’ve got a couple casseroles/freezer meals this week, and other than that we’re eating easy and quick stuff so I can spend time playing, coloring, building legos, and swimming, which is the plan for the week.

  • Monday: Pancakes and fruit

  • Tuesday: Chef Salad (It was popular last week!)

  • Wednesday:  Frittata, toast, fruit

  • Thursday:  Baked pasta, roasted veggies

  • Friday: Takeout night!
  • Saturday:  Leftovers
  • Sunday:  Bean, rice, and cheese bowls

Recipe: Meaty Baked Pasta!

We eat a lot of veggies in this house, but recently I picked up a few pounds of bulk hot Italian sausage and I was jonesing for a meaty baked pasta dish. We don’t eat a lot of meat, so 1 pound for this recipe is a lot for us. If you are a big meat eater, you can add up to an extra pound of sausage to make it extra meaty.

This recipe makes a lot, but, it keeps well for leftovers and you can freeze leftovers as well.

Meaty Baked Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 box pasta (whatever variety you like best), cooked per package directions
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 T. butter or oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 32 oz of your favorite red pasta sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup parmesan/romano blend cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook pasta per directions, drain off the water, reserving 2-3 Tablespoons.
  3. In a large pan, cook and crumble Italian sausage. After it is cooked, drain it on a paper towel.
  4. Using the same pan, saute onion and pepper for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are clear and have started to caramelize.
  5. Add in garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add in zucchini, sauce, and tomato paste- cook until sauce comes to a simmer.
  7. Add meat back in, and stir to combine.
  8. Add reserved pasta water to the sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  9. In a baking dish layer sauce, pasta, cheese, and sauce. Repeat until the baking dish is full and top with the remaining cheese.
  10. Cover the baking dish with a lid or tented foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid/foil and cook another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  12. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread!

This recipe made a 9×13 baking dish, which will serve 6-8 people a hearty portion.

If you need more veggies in your life, add carrots, drained diced petite tomatoes, more peppers, and even a few handfuls of spinach!

This meal was so satisfying. I’ve had leftovers for lunch twice now.

I ended up with extra sauce, and I plan on making calzones with it.

Managing a Household with Neurodivergencies (ADHD, ASD, etc.)

Earlier this week my friend Sam posted on Facebook, “Neurodivergent Friends what are some tools you use with others that help you with daily life, communication, relationships?”

A few friends posted that they needed help with meal prep, day-to-day stuff, and as y’all know, that’s my bag, baby!

Both my kids are Neurodivergent (ADHD/ASD and ADHD), and their dad has ADHD (combined type/ C) and because of that, we’ve had to make some adjustments to our daily life and how we function. And while our processes and schedules may not work for everyone, hopefully, these tips give you some idea and hope if you need it.

Some of these directly affect/benefit the kids, and some make my life easier, which in turn makes their lives easier.

Having an accurate(ish) pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory. I have made my own sheets in the past (using Canva), but the ones from Organized Home are great.

Meal Prep and meal planning (this includes using Dream Dinners once every few months). This frees up time each night to read, hang out, bathe, and get kids ready for bed.

Meal Prep can be as easy as cut up veggies, fruit, pre-portioned foods, and easy meals or side dishes prepared in advance that only need to be heated up to avoid wasting money eating out because “there is nothing to eat”. Also having one night for take-out. And I have a whiteboard that lists our meal plan for the week- I try and post it weekly on Instagram.

The Snack Box- I also organized our fridge and pantry to be more ND-friendly. Stuff that should be eaten (healthy food like fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, etc.) is at kid eye level in clear packaging and is labeled (I use expo markers on my Rubbermaid containers), and I have a “Snack box” in the pantry that is available 24/7 for hungry faces. It’s got individually portioned shelf-stable snacks and meal components. And on days when I am too tired/rushed to cook we have “Meal of snacks” where I serve a variety of snacks on old-school sectioned cafeteria trays- fruits, veggies, crackers, cheese, cookies, and a drink (juice or iced tea is a hit).

We have a list of snacks on the fridge so the kids know what there is to snack on. It is a visual list (I drew it), and when we are out of specific items, I cover the picture with a piece of posit note.

Calendars– in the kitchen, and one in each bedroom. I update them weekly, plus the grownups use the calendars on their phones and we have a shared family calendar. Kids get reminders each day in the morning and afternoon of any appointments or events that will take place during the day. The visual and auditory reminders really help cement the appointment in their mind.

Visual reminders– next to the front door at eye level there is a sign that reminds us we need: cellphone, wallet, keys, and garage door opener. It’s laminated.

Visual schedule– this is mainly for the kids. I drew up a daily schedule using words and pictures. I wrote a post about it here.

Lists– Everyone has a “Care tasks” list each week that includes appts, returning borrowed items, and tasks to do throughout the week. You can read about my weekly Care Tasks here. 

Larger font digital clock with day of the week, date, and what part of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The kids can read a clock, but it can take time to engage their brains and count by 5’s, but the “old people clock” as it was marketed on Amazon helps them instantly and helps a lot with the “is it time for xxxxx yet?!?!”

Using your phone to stay on top of details- I saw this on Facebook in a group and I’ve started doing this. If you have an iPhone, there is a notes section in each contact. I’ve seen them used to keep track of favorite fast food at various restaurants, favorite foods/drinks, clothing sizes and brands, favorite colors, birthdays, and anniversaries. It’s such a game changer.

The fidget/stim box– we have a plastic box full of fidget/stim toys for everyone to grab when they need to focus. And everyone has some in their room too. This includes headphones to cut down on loud sounds (I buy the landscapers kind from harbor freight). We have 3 pairs in the house and two pairs in the car. For those not familiar- fidget toys can help calm the body so the mind can focus.

Some favorites include pop-its, hand strengthening eggs, fidget cubes, fidget spinners, stretchy tubes, pop tubes, and stress balls (the kind with Orbeez are super satisfying). Amazon sells really great fidget toys mutli-packs.

Medication Boxes- We refill our medication boxes each week (both AM and PM).  The three of us take our meds together each morning at breakfast time. Our medication boxes live on the kitchen counter, along with our pill minders: Jon Cena and Skeletor.

Stuff has a place– The kid’s shoes and backpacks are always by the door during the school year, ready to be cleaned out and refilled each night. My car keys and purse live in the same spot, the pool key has a special spot. The extra toilet paper and paper towels are always in the same spot (under the front bathroom sink). These are just a few examples of the ways that we remind ourselves and create routines. Creating routines can give us a sense of normalcy and be calming.

The Family Binder– One last thing that doesn’t directly “help” the kids but helps the family, especially in times of emergency is the family binder. I’ve had one since 2010 in various incarnations. I have a really old post about it here.  It’s basically my brain in paper form. It’s got all of our important papers, insurance info, important phone numbers, policy numbers, warranty information, receipts for expensive/valuable stuff, copies of most recent IEPS, copies of diagnosis paperwork, lists of everyone’s meds, doctors info, etc. Think of it as all the info you’d need if you lost power for an extended period, your house burned down, or there was a tornado.

There are a lot of other things that we do in our home to help the kids- keep them safe, regulated, and happy. The stuff listed above is just a small sample. Everyone’s home runs differently. And this was and continues to be a lot of work. The examples above are continually changing, and evolving in our home, and are a combination of 11+ years of hard work, learning, and failing. Some of this stuff I did to try and get organized in my late 20s, even before I was married and had kids.

 

 

6/27/2022 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgSummer break is here! We’ve got all sorts of adventures planned, you can check out some of our adventures here.

Summer school started, and I’m back on campus helping teachers and kiddos for the next month.

We went to Knott’s Berry Farm over the weekend and had a really fun time.

I did no meal planning over the weekend- It was all hanging out with kiddos and playing/swimming. So tonight I’ll hit the store and grab some stuff (thankfully we don’t need too many items this week).

Our veggies and fruit are delivered by Yasukochi Family Farms CSA. For $28, it’s a great deal. I don’t have to pick anything, go to the store, or carry it upstairs. I can’t go to the store and get the same amount we get weekly for $28. Seriously. It’s a deal. They email a preview of what will be in the boxes over the weekend, so I can start thinking about what I’d like to make.

With the increase in food costs, we are leaning more and more on our CSA box each week as the base of most of our meals.

We’ve been trying a lot of new foods lately, thanks to the really great freebies from Social Nature lately too. It’s fun to try new foods. I received a few more coupons over the weekend, so I’ll visit Sprouts sometime this week to pick up the new foods. I’m focusing on snacks and treats from Social Nature.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I try to update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. They are also into fruit and bagels for breakfast. Lately, the big kid has been digging protein shakes in the morning. This is his favorite kind. 

Lunch: I have a plastic tote in the cupboard full of self-serve snacks. I buy treats and snacks in bulk and fill up snack-sized zip-top bags. This is really helpful for the summer when for some reason, kids are starving all the time. The kids get free lunch at summer school too!

Dinner: We finished our last Dream Dinner last week! I’ll be ordering more next month once the new menu comes out. I’m trying to get us to eat together as a family more often and get the kids into eating more fruits and veg, so you’ll notice that our meals are pretty simple this week.

  • Monday: Nuggets, fruit (apples or oranges), chips or crackers
  • Tuesday: Meatloaf sandwiches, salad, fruit
  • Wednesday:  Sonoma Grilled Steaks, Roasted broccoli
  • Thursday: Protein shakes and fruit
  • Friday: Takeout night!
  • Saturday:  Leftovers
  • Sunday:  Peach Bourbon Chicken with Almond Green Beans

Recipe: Making Pie Crust!

Pie crust is easy to make. It has few ingredients, but there is some finesse involved in making a light, flaky pie crust.

There are no special tools needed, but a pastry cutter is nice (You can use a whisk instead, or your bare hands).

This is the pie crust recipe that I use. I know it by heart and I make it frequently. It’s great for sweet pies like pumpkin, or savory meat pies like chicken pot pie (that recipe is coming later this week).

This recipe makes 1 pie crust for an 8 or 9-inch pie plate, if you need two (top and bottom), double it.

Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon AP Flour
  • 1/3 cup shortening OR unsalted butter -It needs to be cold butter or room temp shortening. This part is SUPER IMPORTANT.
  • 1/4 cup ice-cold water (You may need an extra tablespoon or so if the weather is very dry).

 

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, add flour and fat.
  2. Using a whisk, pastry cutter, or your hands, mix flour and fat until incorporated into little (pea-sized or smaller) pieces.
  3. Slowly add water and combine to form a large dough ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help ensure that your crust is flaky.
  4. Flour a clean, flat surface, and roll the dough out into a large circle. Do not over roll it or manhandle the dough- this will make it heavy and flat.
  5. If you are making a bottom crust, press it into a pie plate, and trim the edges.
  6. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times to keep it from bubbling.
  7. If you are making a pie that will be filled and baked again like pumpkin or quiche, bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Cool completely before filling and baking a second time.
  8. If you will be using the pie crust as a top only (no bottom crust), once the crust is rolled out, fill your baking dish with whatever you are cooking, top it with the uncooked crust, pierce it a few times (to vent the steam), and bake per the directions of the recipe.

Substitutions:

If you are vegan, use shortening. Do not use spread/oleo/margarine.  They contain water and will make your crust turn out funky. Butter flavored shortening is great.

If you are gluten free, use 1 for 1 AP flour.

Talk Back: What kind of pie do you like?

Dream Dinners: Earn Free Dinners & Special Offer for your Friends!

Dream Dinners in La Mesa has a new Meal Prep Workshop program.  This is an exciting new twist on the in-store party and it’s a great opportunity for you to introduce your friends to Dream Dinners and earn fun rewards!

Here’s how it works:
As the host, you attend the workshop for free! You also have the opportunity to earn up to $75 in host rewards!

Your friends pay $50 to attend and learn about Dream Dinners. This includes three pre-prepped medium-size meals, and everyone will get to assemble the Campfire Cobbler Trio, at this private, in-store event with your friends. They’ll enjoy delicious samples of our food. They also have some exciting perks for them if they place an order at the workshop!

Call/Text 619-460-6800 to learn more and schedule your event!
If you’ve never tried Dream Dinners, it is a great meal prep company with locations all over the US. I love Marsi and her staff at the La Mesa Location. When compared to other meal prep/meal plan programs, the prices and freshness are out of this world. For more about why Dream Dinners is tops in my book, check out this post.

Cinco De Mayo Recipe Round-Up!

It’s Cinco De Mayo! Let’s celebrate the Mexican victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. Wanna learn more about the holiday’s origins? Here is the Wikipedia article.

If you are looking for some tasty recipes with a Mexican/South American flare, here are a few of mine:

Chipotle Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Easy Cheesy Enchiladas

Beefy Taco Skillet
Black Bean Veggie Soup
Beef Machacas (Slowcooker recipe)
Corn and Avocado Salsa!
Homemade Pico De Gallo (Fresh Salsa)

None of these are authentic, as they were created in my kitchen here in San Diego.

Talk Back: What are your favorite Cinco De Mayo favorites?