Planning a Mermaid/Under the Sea Themed Party? Dollar Tree To The Rescue!

I’m working on planning a mermaid-themed party for a certain little girl in my house. Thankfully, Dollar Tree has some great supplies on the cheap! These are available in-store and online.

First off, check out these cool iridescent shell-shaped eggs. Perfect for hiding candy or tiny gifts like bracelets or rings. In the store, there are a lot of beaded necklaces, like there.

There are mermaid-themed party paper goods too. Plates, cups, and napkins. One thing I love about Dollar Tree is that with the rising costs of everything, I’m able to host cute themed parties and stay on budget.

I’m loving these cute mermaid buckets, they would be great for goodie baskets. If you aren’t sure what to put in them, I’d suggest mermaid facial masks, nail polish in “mermaid” colors- there are tons of colors in stores, mermaid tail shaped hand soaps,  Nail art sets, nail files (there are ocean/mermaid themed ones in the stores, and bath bombs- some stores have mermaid tail-shaped bath bombs. All locations have bath bombs in various scents and sizes.

Don’t forget to hit up the home decor area to look for beach, ocean, and mermaid themed signs.

As for snacks and menu, we’ll be serving:

  • Strawberry lemonade, complete with frozen strawberries (available in the stores) as our beverage.
  • Cold Pasta Salad using shell pasta (recipe is forthcoming)
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Fresh Fruit cut into star shapes- Watermelon, pineapple, apple (with a hole cut in the middle where I remove the apple core)

I love using the plastic “crystal” serving ware from Dollar Tree too. It makes the party look fancy, without worrying about little hands breaking anything special or vintage.

And for those wondering, we only invite 4-6 of Bitty’s good friends to parties. I can’t have a house full of 20+ kiddos. My neighbors would never forgive me. We may have a viewing of The Little Mermaid while we eat.

And of course, I’ll be making invitations on Canva for free, saving the image as a PDF, and either printing them out to hand out or emailing them to friends parents/guardians.

12/12/2022 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgI’m pausing our  Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box subscription until January as we have a lot going on, and I’m having a hard time cooking all the veggies each week.

Over the weekend I made roasted veggies using Urban Accents Veggie Roaster seasoning blends. I use the Citrus pepper for green beans, and carrots, Italian Squash, and onions. For the baby Brussels Sprouts I use the Balsamic Onion kit. 

I also made spiced apple sauce, which is a kid favorite.

We’ll be having those throughout the week with our dinners.

I cleaned out the fridge and reorganized the freezer, and this really helped me see what we have on hand.

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 looks to be on the slower side, but we’ve still got a lot of holiday fun stuff going on. It’s cold here at night (for California), so I’m turning the oven on to make dinner with greater frequency.

  • Monday: Chicken Pot Pie (recipe later this week), roasted veggies

  • Tuesday:  Baked mac and cheese, Spiced Apple Sauce

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

  • Thursday:  Shakshuka, Sourdough toast, fruit salad

  • Friday: Takeout night!
  • Saturday: Breakfast for dinner (egg and veggie scramble, toast, fruit salad)
  • Sunday:  Leftovers

Recipe: Chicken Gnocchi Soup

A few weeks ago my mom and I cooked a dinner for 50 people as part of our local SCA group’s winter event. Most of the recipes were historical in nature, however, this Chicken Gnocchi soup is not strictly historically accurate for our group (pre-1603ish), as most people in Europe didn’t consume potatoes or potato gnocchi. The gnocchi did exist, however, it was usually made from cheese, flour, and eggs (example and recipe here).

This soup is a great complete meal. It freezes well and makes a great gift.

I’ve scaled down the recipe to make it a little easier to prepare for the average size family.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. Butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T. Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 cups of chicken cooked and cut into bite-size pieces- leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect for this.
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1 lb. package of Potato Gnocchi
  • 12 ounces of your favorite milk (I used 1/2 and 1/2)- evaporated milk is a good choice too.

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, melt butter, and add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, and herbs/bay leaf- cook until fragrant.
  3. Add broth, and scrape brown cooked bits off the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add chicken, and simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.
  5. Add in Potatoe Gnocchi and allow to cook on medium for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep gnocchi from sticking together.
  6. Finally, add in your milk of choice. Bring soup back up to a simmer for 10-ish minutes.

Serve topped with parmesan cheese. I also like this soup served with a salad like this one.

Dietary Substitutions:

  • If you are Dairy Free, use Dairy Free milk. I recommend nut milk like unsweetened almond milk.
  • If you are a vegetarian, use vegetable stock and substitute chicken for 1 can of rinsed and drained chickpeas/garbanzos.
  • If you are vegan, do the 2 above recommendations and saute veggies in olive oil instead of butter.
  • If you are Gluten Free, use GF Gnocchi, like these.

Repurposing Leftovers: Turkey Soup!

Leftover Turkey. It’s coming. Here is my favorite way to repurpose leftovers and make a really yummy soup.

The best part is that you can add anything you’ve got left over and it’s yummy.

Turkey Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 cups of turkey stock (I use the recipe here and substitute the turkey for chicken)
  • 4-ish cups of leftover turkey chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2-3 cups of leftover roasted veggies (Or if you don’t have any: 2 carrots, peeled and chopped, 2 ribs celery, chopped, 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1-2 cups turkey gravy (optional, but makes the soup thick and richer)
  • Optional, but yummy: 1 cup uncooked Noodles/pasta. I like Rotini or Elbow Macaroni.

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, add stock, meat, and veggies. Simmer on medium until the soup has reached a gentle boil, and if using fresh veggies the veggies are fork tender.
  2. Add in noodles/pasta, and allow to simmer 10-ish minutes, until pasta is cooked.
  3. Now it’s gravy time. Gently pour in the gravy, and bring the soup to a gentle boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Serve soup immediately. It’s really good topped with reheated leftover stuffing/dressing.

This soup reheats well and can be frozen for future meals.

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: Chicken Fajita Stew

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I made soup the other morning. This stew is easy to make. It’s hearty, filling, and is a great way to incorporate veggies into your diet without much fuss.

Oh, and it’s great with crunched-up tortilla chips and cheese on top!

Let’s get into it!

Chicken Fajita Stew

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 cups of chicken stock (I made my own, but you can use canned chicken stock or broth)
  • 1 T. Butter
  • 2 Onions, diced
  • 2 Bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 ribs of Celery, diced
  • The kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 2-ish cups). You can also use frozen or canned (no salt added)
  • 2 Yellow Italian Squash, cut into slices and then quartered
  • 2 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can of heirloom beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • Roughly 3 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1T. each: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder,  oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are translucent.
  2. Add in stock and remaining ingredients. Simmer over medium/low heat for 30-45 minutes, or longer if you like.
  3. Serve with quesadillas or top your soup with tortilla chips and shredded/crumbled cheese.

All of the fresh veggies came from our CSA Box! To learn more about our favorite CSA, Yasukochi Family Farms, check out my post here.

This recipe makes 10-12 servings. It freezes well, and yes, like most soups, it’s better the next day.

This recipe is naturally gluten-free.

 

11/15/2022 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgOur  Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box didn’t arrive yesterday (our main community gate was having functionality issues), so I didn’t meal prep or plan yesterday.

This week we’re leaning a lot on what we already had on-hand. My grocery trip was to pick up bagels and milk.

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:  Colonial Chowder, Garlic bread

  • Tuesday: Frozen entrees, roasted veggies, mashed sweet potatoes

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

  • Thursday:  Roasted brussels sprouts, riced cauliflower, bbq chicken breasts

  • Friday: Takeout night!
  • Saturday:  Hearty Veggie Soup 
  • Sunday:  Leftovers

Recipe: Veggie Cheese Tortellini Soup

We’ve been doing a lot of meat-free nights around here lately. To be honest, meat is really expensive lately, and the kids and I don’t eat it often anyway.

I was craving soup over the weekend, so I rummaged through the cupboard and fridge and dug out some ingredients that made a super easy and filling soup.

Veggie Cheese Tortellini Soup (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 2 t. oil of your choice
  • 1 package TJ Farms Seasoning Blend (From Dollar Tree). Contains Onions, bell pepper, celery, and parsley
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced*
  • 1 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 tomatoes*, deseeded and diced 0r 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 6 cups of your favorite stock- I used veggie stock
  • 1 bag of washed spinach leaves*
  • 1 bag shelf stable cheese tortellini
  • 2 T Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat oil.
  2. Add bag of seasoning blend and carrots. Cook until onions are clear, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, cook over medium until fragrant.
  4. Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, and Italian seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer on low for 10-20 minutes.
  5. After soup has simmered and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add in spinach leaves and tortellini, cover, and cook on low for an additional 15-20 minutes. The pasta will swell as it cooks. Discard the bay leaf prior to serving.
  6. Serve topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and hot, crusty bread.

All ingredients that have an * next to them came from our Yasukochi Family Farms CSA box. I love these boxes- Farm Fresh produce is delivered to our door once a week, no traveling to the store, worrying that I am overpaying for produce, or that I am going to pick the wrong melon or corn.

If cheese tortellini isn’t your speed, here is a shelf-stable mushroom tortellini that sounds tasty! If you want another type of filled pasta, use the suggested cooking time on the package instead of the time in step 5.

This soup is even better on the second day, and freezes well!

November: 2 Dream Dinner Bundles!

Looking to simplify your meal planning this month? Dream Dinners has your back! This month Dream Dinners has 2 Special Bundle Deals this Month

8 Medium Meals for $199

  • Mini Chicken Pot Pies
  • Sherry Cream Chicken Over Rice
  • Cattleman’s Pie
  • Thanksgiving Burger w/ Rosemary Shoestring Fries
  • Layered Verde Chicken Enchiladas
  • Honey Pecan Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Applesauce
  • Layered Ravioli Bake
  • Chicken Paella

6 meals for $149 

  • Mini Chicken Pot Pies
  • Sherry Cream Chicken Over Rice
  • Cattleman’s Pie
  • Thanksgiving Burger w/ Rosemary Shoestring Fries
  • Layered Verde Chicken Enchiladas

This offer is not available on-line. To place your order call/text 619-460-6800 or email lamesaca@dreamdinners.com.
*This offer is only available for a limited time. Contact your store by Wednesday, November 16th at 5 pm to place your order. The bundle offer includes 1 of each entree listed. Any changes or substitutions will be subject to the current retail value of the entree.