Dream Dinner Challenge Wrap Up

30
Sep
2014

Dinner-Challenge

Earlier this month I partnered with Dream Dinners  with the 30 Days of Dinner Challenge.  I was blessed with a fabulous way to provide great meals to my family by using the simple and easy meals you pre-make in their store locations.  We have had a very busy month and it was such  treat to just pull something from the freezer and not have to worry about grocery shopping or coming up with an idea and prep time.

We took care of that when we went into Dream Dinners and made our dinners in just under 1 1/2 hours!

We exceeded the challenge I took by two meals.  Our schedule is tricky – but this month I had challenged myself to 15 family meals together – we actually had 17 (and that is not including several breakfasts and lunches!)

What we ate

This is our spread from Dream Dinners – remember I am not a food photographer, but this will give you some ideas of the yummy meals we had.  We also of course had leftovers and a few other family favorites mixed in.

Steak-Provence

Steak-Gorgonzola

Outlaw-Chicken

Monte-Cristo-correct

Kentucky-Pork

Cranberry-Buttermilk

Cola-Pork

Chicken-Soft

Bueno-Steak

Wasn’t all that looking very good??

What I loved

Going to a location where we made our meals all in advanced was FAB-U-LOUS!  They cleaned it all up and I came home with 12 meals.

The best meals in my opinion were the two steak dinners – I was absolutely amazed at the quality of beef we had.  Remember here, I am rather spoiled as we buy direct from a farmer, grass-fed beef – and it is incredible.  I was very surprised at the tenderness of this meat and the sauces used were very tasty.

Going to the freezer and just pulling a meal out was incredibly easy and saved a ton of time.  We have never been real big on just heading out the door to a restaurant for dinner when I end up empty handed in the evening – we always find something.  But this made that idea of ‘going out’ because we didn’t anything an excuse we couldn’t use.

What I found difficult

To be honest, there was one thing that was a bit hard for me, since I have unique dietary challenges, mostly being gluten free.  It was hard to determine exactly what I could eat when choosing the menu items off the website, so we ended up arriving to make meals that did in fact have gluten in them.  If there had been a better description or list of ingredients I could have chosen more wisely or even brought different ingredients to substitute.  

For example, the meatloaf has bread crumbs, I could have brought my almond flour to use instead or these corn flake crumbs and substituted those.  So, for me it was a bit more challenging to eat this month and stay on track.

All in all it was a great success!  I loved making all the meals ahead of time and also finding new things to share at our dinner table.  We were extremely blessed!

Did you commit to the challenge too?  I would love to hear how it went – leave a comment.

30 Days of Dinner Challenge

4
Sep
2014

30DaysofDinnerChallenge

I am a big fan of family dinners – it is not secret if you’ve been here long.  Dinner together is a relationship building experience of bonding and memory making.  We are a blended family – meaning everyone is scattered in different homes at different times plus my husband travels – so it makes our time together even more valuable.

I am pleased to announce I am partnering with Dream Dinners in a 30 Day Challenge to have dinner together as a family.  You know, September is a crazy busy month with adjusting schedules and everyone back to fall sports and after school activities.  If you are not careful and plan – dinner can easily be forgotten.  

For me, planning is key:

1. I grab a blank monthly calendar and mark the days my husband is out of town and then mark the days the kids are home.  If it’s just me and my 4 year old, dinners tend to me a little more low key.

2. I  plan out what meals I have on hand and what I want to make through the month.

Dream-Dinners-Ready

3.  This month I was blessed to go to Dream Dinners and make ahead dinners to use during the month.  Dream Dinners is the originator and leader of the meal assembly industry – and the menu changes each month, so you’ll never get bored!  We picked our dinner choices online and then showed up to assemble them as a family affair.  It was great for everyone, and even the older kids were excited!

Here are some photos of us making our dinners – it was great.  My two oldest kids came along – and my hubby!  It was a fun evening and I loved all my helpers.

Dream-Dinners-family-fun

I had done this before with my kids when they were much younger and I was a single mom.  It was such positive experience and a fun way to build memories, so this was great for bringing those back – my kids were thrilled to go again!

We broke into teams and made dinners and it took a little less than 1 1/2 hours to make 12 dinners for the month.  The total cost was $262.72 for 8 meals that served 6, and one meal that served 3; equaling $5.15 per serving.  All the prep was done ahead of time, meals are in the freezer and ready to be taken out!   

You travel to stations set up with all the ingredients you need for the recipe and the best part – they clean up after you AND they have treats!!  We had a special preview appetizer of a menu item that will be available next month as well as freshly baked cookies.

Dream-Dinners-Family-Dinner

We made:

Meatloaf Milano with Mashed Potatoes

Chicken Soft Tacos with Key Lime Corn

Cranberry Buttermilk Chicken

Steak Provence with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Kentucky Pork Chops

Outlaw Chicken Marinar

Monte Cristo Chicken

Cola and Lime Tender Pork Roast

Bueno Steak Tacos with Spanish Rice

I absolutely loved the experience and overall ease of prepping dinners.  The only thing I would love to see is allergen information posted when you go online to sign up for the dinners you will prepare on your set time.  Being Gluten Free, I can easily make adjustments to recipes at home,  but when you are prepping things away from home, there is less opportunity to change up items or know for sure that the meal can be made gluten free.  

Will you join me?  

To Join the Challenge:

1.  Decide on the number of meals you’d like to share with your family each week during September.  Whether you plan on pledging to share 30 homemade meals this month or are looking forward to sitting down as a family for three dinners a week, you’ll reap the benefits of family meals all month long.

2.  I will be sharing my dinners on my Facebook page and Instagram using the hashtag #30DaysofDinner.  You can also share original pictures of your family’s meals on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – either homemade or a family dinner at your favorite restaurant – they all count!

3.  Tag Dream Dinners in your photo and use #3oDaysofDinner to enter the contest.  Dream Dinners will be giving away a $200 gift card each week during September – so the more photos you share, the more chances you’ll have of winning!

I am looking forward to this fun challenge!  I have committed to 15 dinners together as a family this month – that may seem a bit slim, but with a hubby that travels and kids at different homes….that is a great number for us!  

What’s your number?

I was gifted with a $200 gift card as compensation for my partnership in this challenge from Dream Dinners and all opinions are my own and were not influenced by the compensation.

Paleo/Gluten-Free Meatloaf

5
Jun
2014

Paleo-Gluten-Free-Meatloaf-recipe

Welcome, I am so glad to have you continue the “Essentially Summer” blog series, wasn’t Stephanie’s Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad recipe not the best?  She even kindly suggested you could use it as a side-dish to my meatloaf recipe!!  {BLUSH}  I can’t wait to make it!  The items I need are on my grocery list already for the weekend!!  Even though I am gluten free, I know my family will love it!

I am excited to share with you one of my family favorites – many have asked for my meatloaf recipe over the past few months as I’ve went to a Gluten-Free and mostly Paleo diet.  So, today is your lucky day!

One of my secret tricks is to hide some veggies in my meatloaf, so today my recipe has a few carrots and mushrooms that I’ve chopped to add in.  I love the color the carrots add.  I have made this as a loaf, you can make meatballs as well as mini-meatloafs using a muffin tin.

Lowfat Paleo/Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe 

Are you ready to jump in to this wonderful world of caring for your family with therapeutic grade essential oils? The time is now!

Click here to learn more or contact the person who introduced you to the “Essentially Summer” blog recipe series! 

Next up is Kate at Real Food RN with Black Pepper Burgers

Be sure to check out all the posts {so far} in the “Essentially Summer”  blogger recipe series, click here 

Essential-summer

15 Ways to Connect With Your Child

5
May
2014

15-Ways-Connect-Your-Child

We all want to make our kids feel like they are special to us.  It can be challenging with busy schedules, different personalities and seasons of life.  But when it all comes down to it, there are some simple things you can do, taking only a few minutes a day to help your child feel special, important and appreciated.

Here are 15 real tips to connecting with your child that take less time than you may think:

1. Listen to them when they talk.   Actively hear what they have to say when they are talking.  Stop what you are doing to tune in.  

2. Ask about their day at school.   When they get in the car, ask what they did, how they felt and what is going on in their life.  Instead of the “How was your day,” where you get the typical, “Fine,” answer, ask “Tell me about your day,”  instead.

3. Share a family meal.   Many families eat dinner together as a way of catching up on each other’s lives.  I find when I am parenting on my own, when my husband it out of town, it can seem ‘easier’ to skip this time and just eat while I am multi-tasking.  Oops, I do it too!  Prioritizing this time for conversation and connecting is important.

4. Make time for family time. Have a family game night or just a set aside time when you discuss current events and what is happening in the family.  I’ll just shared about Family Nights in last week, did you see it?

5. Look at them.  Maintain eye contact when you are talking to them.  This lets them know that nothing else is holding your attention but what they have to say.  You feel they are important.

6. Ask follow-up questions.   If they give you a one-word answer to your first question, ask another.

7. Show respect.  Speak to them with respect no matter what their age, this helps train them in having courteous conversations and setting up boundaries around the way to treat and speak with all people.  Knock before entering their room even if the rule is no locked doors.

8. Learn to read body language.  Your child may say they are fine but their mannerisms may suggest otherwise. Be aware of their normal behavior and be keen on knowing when things might be off a bit.

9. Tell them you love them.  You can never say it enough when you mean it – really – even when they are teenagers.  I admit, I was not very good at this and still find it hard to express heartfelt emotions with my older children.  {I am a work in progress!}

10. Encourage them to talk.   Children have opinions, too.  Ask them their opinion, allow them to disagree with you – truly take the time to listen to their side even if you only agree to disagree.

11. Be honest.  Kids can catch you in a lie and it will break trust with them.  Avoid hypocrisy.

12. Encourage emotions.  Accept their right to their emotions and let them express their emotions in a healthy way.  In their book, “How We Love Our Kids,” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich, I understood that how I was responding to my children when they needed to express themselves was not a positive response.  I was parenting as I was parented and I needed to change the pattern.

13. Encourage and share in their interests. Find ways to be involved and interested in the things that interest them.  This is challenging for sure…..but the end result will be something that will connect the two of you an build memories.  I don’t necessarily enjoy the type of music my teen listens to, but it won’t kill be to try to share in that interest by asking to listen with them once in awhile or go throw the baseball with them too. 

14.  Let them help cook dinner.  I knew you would like this one!  But really, have them help in the kitchen, having an activity that you can do side by side engages conversation and will also help with building life skills.  We all want our kids to be responsible when they leave home and that means learning some cooking skills!  

15.  Be Mushy!  Give hugs, kisses and high fives – depending on the age of your kids and what level of comfort they have.  Even when they give you a frown, know deep down that they really like it!

What are your tips to connecting with your kids?

450x90TCM-summercal-2014

Gain More by Losing the Excess

31
Dec
2013

emeals-weight-loss-meal-plans

I told you that today I was going to talk about taking better care of your body, and like I said yesterday….. it’s not all about losing weight.  Although it seems like that is on almost everyone’s New Years list, I have a real problem with so much focus being on “how much you weigh” and I want to share with you how you might consider changing a few things on how you nurture your body with regard to food choices and having a plan.

A few months ago I shared how I was rather fed up with my body.  I had been struggling with a few extra pounds and just felt out of energy and frustrated.  I know you can relate!  We all experience this at different times.

I was fortunate enough to run across this 30 day PALEO challenge and decided it was time to jump in.  I got a girlfriend of mine onboard to join me, as we both had read how Paleo can really benefit those who struggle to fight different autoimmune conditions, as well as many other benefits.  I did the 30 days, lost 8 pounds and was very happy.   It began a larger journey for me – really thinking more consciously about the food I was putting in my body as well as my family.

If you are looking to make some changes for the New Year, I suggest to make small changes so they can last.  When we try to overhaul in a BIG way, we often fail.  We lose momentum and get discouraged.  I don’t want that for you.

Get a Plan

One of the things that can be hard with changing habits is just developing new habits to take the place of the old ones!  With regard to eating….this is key.  If you know you would like to eat healthier to feel better or to lose some weight, then you have to have a plan.  I hate coming up with my own plans, I can’t wing it.  I just want to be told what to do, what to eat and what exercise to fit into my daily schedule.  One of the things that worked so well for me was following the 30 day Paleo Challenge and then switching to the eMeals Paleo Meal plan – I didn’t have to think about making it all work!

If you are unfamiliar with eMeals they are a site that will give you a weeks menu plan, complete with recipes, grocery shopping list – all done for you.  You can print the information out or have it on their great APP – which is really handy to access anywhere.

emeals-plan-how-it-works

They just released a new 500 calorie meal plan, perfect if you are looking to simply reduce calorie intake.  This meal plan includes a grocery list itemized by section of the store, 7 healthy main dish recipes and sides, and is a simple tool to help you get organized and lose weight in 2014! You can choose to get this meal plan for a family or for 1-2. Each recipe and meal as a whole is broken down with a calorie count to help you track and measure your goals. It’s never been easier – they do all the work for you!  You can join now, and enjoy any plan for 15% off using the code DINNER through January.  You can also change your meal plan too!

Stay Focused

As with any goal you truly have to be focused and committed.  If you are looking to change your eating habits, then make that the focus.  If you can add in some movement each day – do that.  If it is too much to do at the beginning then stick with one area.  If you try to do too much at once, then you will get overwhelmed and quite.  I hear this over and over again from moms…..and I know I struggle with it myself.

So if changing your eating is goal #1, focus there.   If getting your body moving is goal #1, focus there.  Do not stretch yourself thin ladies….have grace with yourself and be realistic.

Each Day is New

This is a biggie – we will fail – every single one of us – we will cheat, eat something we shouldn’t have, but life goes on.  You need to stay committed and realize that each day is new and you do not need to hold onto the mistake you made yesterday.  Begin each day new and feel the power that can come from that.  Give yourself lots of grace, encourage yourself with motivation when you are successful.  Find a buddy who you can share both your success and failures with along the way.  It was such a relief when I could share with my friend that I had cheated and “fell off the wagon” when we were trying to be on the strict 30 day Paleo challenge.

Find Your Weakness

Okay, we all have them – chocolate, salty foods, crunchy things – those items that just call our names when we know we cannot have them!  For me, it is salty chips.  They are my downfall….but you know, if I allow myself to have 4-5 chips when I crave them, I can let the craving go.  It isn’t sitting there haunting me every time I walk into the kitchen.  

What is your weakness?  Maybe this is a bigger issue for you?  If it is, I encourage you to participate in this online book study over at Proverbs 31 ministries where they will be studying Lisa Terkeursts’ “Made to Crave“.  This might be just the study you need to be set free from issues related to food.

made to crave

I pray that whatever your goal is for the New Year that you find encouragement to succeed.  Find a plan, follow a plan and be good to your body.  No one is perfect….so remember that.  Each day is new, so capture the joy in knowing that!