Menu Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone! This is going to be a great week! This will be the next to the last time you will hear from me this week as we will be welcoming our fourth little blessing into our home! I will be posting a very special book review for Until We All Come Home by Kim De Blecourt, probably tomorrow or Wednesday. The book itself is set to release in November. You can check it out on Amazon, just click here. I read this book in less than 24 hours. It is a book about a family’s journey through adoption: a true story. I cried, and still cry, when I think about all they went through and endured as a family for a full year before gaining legal custody of their son. God is so good! Please stop back by and read this review this week. I will also post a video linking back to the book’s trailer. In that video you will get to see the precious little one they welcomed into their home. I was blessed by this book and I know you will be too.

As I recover, I may post randomly here and there just to give you updates. Don’t expect much from me though as I am taking this time to recover and bond with our newest little guy. I can’t believe we are going from a family of 5 to a family of 6. It seems a little surreal and overwhelming yet at the same time I could see one or two more. This past weekend we spent finishing up those last minute items that needed to be taken care of before he arrives: haircuts for the Things, sanitizing bottles, and washing car seat covers. I am so very glad I decided to end homeschooling last week. I needed the break and my Things needed some extra attention from me as we ready ourselves. They know the change is coming fast and each of them are competing for attention, love and reassurance. The older ones already know that I will be in bed recovering the first week. The littlest Thing has no concept of what is to come. Either way, I am very thankful for the Man who will be taking 3 weeks off from work to be here and support me. I am SUPER thankful for my sister who is going to single handedly wrangle my three Things while I am in the hospital. This isn’t her first rodeo with us so she knows what to expect: still, not being the mom she will be tested and tried by the boys. Of that I am certain. Please say a few prayers for her this week!

This is our menu plan for the next two weeks. A little over half of these meals are already prepped in the freezer so that who ever is cooking (the Man or my sister) can just dump the contents into the slow cooker. I did a freezer session about two months ago to help prepare our family for the next two weeks. When I do any sort of freezer cooking, I post my menu plan and the recipes on this Facebook Page. This last time I had a freezer session I threw together some crock pot meals, pre-made meatballs, fried extra chicken, made way too many carrot spiced muffins for lunch, made a week’s worth of mini sausage pancakes. I feel like they are fully prepared in my absence this week. This gives me relief so I that I can focus on my health our our new child. The links are provided below, just click on the meal you want the recipe to.

Breakfast:

Sausage muffins (freezer already made just warm up in the microwave for 15 seconds)

Cereal

French toast sticks

Sticky buns (prepare the night before)

Pop tarts

Snacks any 2 of these:

yogurt

granola bars

sliced cheese

pretzles

graham crackers with Peanut butter

bananas

fruit roll ups

Lunch:

  1. Caramel rice cakes with peanut butter spread, grapes, 2 carrots, raisins and gold fish
  2. Cinnamon Raisin bread sandwich with peanut butter and banana (only banana on Thing 1 and Thing 3’s), veggie straws, apple slices
  3. Apple sandwich (apple slices with peanut butter and raisins), ham and cheese slices (1 sandwich sliced into sticks split with the 3 kids), 2 carrots with ranch
  4. Hot dog slices, apple slices, 2 carrots, cheese- dippers for ketchup and ranch
  5. Ham and cheese skewers, a spiced carrot muffin (already made in freezer), yogurt
  6. PB & J with fruit, gold fish, cheese yogurt
  7. Spiced carrot muffins, edamame, ranch veggie straws

Repeat for week 2

Dinner:

1. pizza

2. French toast stuffed with nutella

3. Fried Round steak, mashed potatoes, gravy and salad with a banana cream pie for dessert

4. Crock Pot potato soup

5. Crock Pot Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes

6. cereal or left overs

7. Fried chicken and mac and cheese (already made and frozen)

8. Tex Mex beef wraps (already prepped just ready to be dumped into the crock pot)

9.-11. Garlic herbed roasted chicken (already prepped just ready to be dumped into the crock pot)

3 meals in one- Roasted butter herbed whole chicken and veggies

Mix butter and herbs desired in a small bowl. I added salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, a dash of crushed red pepper and fajita seasoning. Layer your vegetables at the bottom of the freezer bag, smother butter over your chicken and lay on top of veggies. Make sure to rinse your chicken and remove the bag of parts from the chicken before freezing unless using a cut up chicken. When you are ready to slow cook your chicken, dump the contents of your bag into your slow cooker and set to low and cook for 8 hours. This meal will count as one as we will 1/3 of it- then I will use the left over chicken to divide into two additional meals- tortilla soup and chicken salad sandwiches.

12. Sphaghetti and meatballs (the meatballs are already made and frozen)

13. Finnish pancakes

14. pizza

15. Crock Pot Chicken and dumplings

16. Thursday- Cinnamon French Toast bake

Everyone enjoy their week! Don’t forget to check back to read the book review!

Book Review: Unexpected Dismounts

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy Rue
Reviewed by Tara Norman, Radiantlit.com
Genre: Christian, Fiction
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication Dates: 2011

Unexpected Dismounts by Nancy Rue, is book two in the The Reluctant Prophet Series about Allison Chamberlain, a prophet who receives “Nudges” from God to reform drug addicted prostitutes. Unexpected Dismounts takes Allison Chamberlain on a new journey where she may have to admit in a court of law that she is crazy in order to keep her son, Desmond. Her choice will not only have an impact on her life, but the sisters at Sacrament House, Desmond and her role as a prophet.

Allison’s story made me weak in the knees. As I journeyed with Allison through the back alley’s of St. Augustine, Florida to save young women’s lives my heart raced with motorcycle accidents, dirty cops and “Satan” trying to steal Desmond. Allison starts to feel like maybe she wasn’t the one who was supposed to be the prophet. She tries to take matters into her own hands to solve her problems. Those who support her recognize her self-preservation technique and quickly call her out on it. Allison’s Nudges turn into labor pains as she discovers God pain, her pain and her son’s pain. She realizes what it feels like to love and be loved by a man. Something that we discover Allison has not done in a long time. Nancy teases us with romance between Allison and Chief. Just when I thought Nancy was getting ready to wrap up the story I had legs like jello as another surprise pops into Allison’s life. Allison’s calling is not for the faint of heart.

Nancy kept this book very real. At first I thought I was going to have a hard time identifying with the plot but Nancy describes things in such vivid detail that I casted each character in my head. If this book makes it to a television series (which I think it would be a great drama series) I have your characters picked out for you. Unexpected Dismounts portrays broken lives that had hit hard bumps in life but with God’s help, getting back up and on the harley was not impossible. Through the character of Allison Chamberlain we see that no matter where we came from or what we came from, God can use us in powerful ways to edify His Kingdom. I am hoping that Nancy will finally put Chief and Allison together in the next book. I would love to see what those accomplish together!

*Rated PG-13.

*Review Copy Provided by David C Cook Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

Book Review: The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All by Beth Pattillo
Reviewed by Tara Norman, Radiantlit.com
Genre: Christian, Fiction
Publisher: Guideposts
Publication Dates: April 5, 2011

Every mother wants to see her daughters happy and settled. Caroline Dodge is no different. Caroline Dodge is a hopeless romantic when it comes to anything Jane Austin related. Her last dying wish is for her two daughters, Ellen and Mimmi to travel to England together and attend a walking tour of Hampshire, England, to explore where Jane and her sister lived. The two sisters assume their mother’s wish is for them to learn about all things Jane Austen and become an Austenite like her.

Once they arrive in Hampshire, one last package from their mother has to be opened. The sisters were instructed not to open the envelope until they arrived in England. Ellen opens the package to reveal that their mother leaves them Cassandra’s (Jane Austen’s sister) diary. Reading through Cassandra’s diary, Ellen and Mimmi discover that the two main characters in Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, were inspired by Cassandra and Jane’s relationship. They also find themselves identifying with the Dashwood sisters. The Dodge sisters work together to solve several riddles they found in the diary. Just as they are reconciling and making headway with the riddles, the diary is stolen. Several people from the tour come to mind as the thieves: Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot, the Jane Austen expert: Ethan Blakemore, a debonair descendant of Jane Austin who recently inherited an estate: Daniel, Ellen’s first real love from college who is now an antiques dealer that showed up on the tour per Caroline Dodge’s request before she died.

Beth Pattillo’s The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is a modern-day spin on the Jane Austen classic with a bit of mystery mixed in. I immediately started assigning the Jane Austen characters to Beth’s characters. I love Jane Austen’s work and own all of her works in leather bound copy. I was very interested to read this book and was hoping the fictional story-behind the story- would be just as romantic and witty as Jane Austen’s books. I fell in love with the plot and the thoroughly loved learning about where Jane grew up. Two other books precede this one: Jane Austen Ruined My Life and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. I fully plan to get these other two book as well. Well done, Beth Pattillo. It’s never easy to write a story behind THE story.

Rated PG-13.

Review Copy Provided by Guideposts. Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

Book Review: When Sparrows Fall

When Sparrows Fall A Novel by Meg Moseley
Reviewed by Tara Norman, Radiantlit.com
Genre: romance, inspirational
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Dates: 2011

Waking up in a fog, head pounding and blurred vision, Miranda Hanford feels a rush of panic. Like an ocean it washes over her and then subsides. What was it that had her so scared? Miranda remembers her six children, her deceased spouse and fights to remember what happened.. She falls back asleep.

Meg Moseley’s When Sparrows Fall is a story about a homeschooling mother to six who struggles to gain back her freedom and independence and find a new beginning with her family and God. Miranda’s life, once booming with hope and promise, is placed on hold during the period her husband was alive. He snuffed the color out of her life and removed anything that would serve as earthly from their homes. In the beginning, Miranda thought that by following his desires she was being a submissive wife. Little did she know she was losing herself and the true meaning of God’s word in her marriage.

A simple cup of coffee is one of the very first things Miranda allows herself to take part of that her deceased husband would not allow. Taking medicine for the pain from her fall is a freedom that she is ready to try, but she needs to stay in control of herself. She needs to fight for her family, her freedom, and to keep a well-kept secret hidden. As her children find their way into a world they never knew, Miranda finds peace and God in a prayer that she is finally able to utter out loud. Through the help of her alienated brother-in-law, Jack, Miranda and her six children find themselves being introduced to the modern world of haircuts, Dr. Seuss, jeans, sugar, car washes, and more.

Meg Moseley captured my heart with this book. I could not set it down. At one point I was so emotionally involved in the story of Miranda and her children that I cried with her. As I kept reading page after page I yearned to know Miranda’s secret. I needed to understand what she was so afraid of. Meg did a wonderful job planting that as a teaser throughout the book. I am hoping Meg will take this book further with future stories about Miranda, her family, and their ongoing experiences moving into the future while dealing with their past. Meg’s writing is easy to follow and captivating. I am looking forward to reading more from her.

Rated PG-13.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

Book Review: Lilies In Moon Light

Lilies In Moon Light A Novel by Allison Pittman
Reviewed by Tara Norman, Radiantlit.com
Genre: romance, historical
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Dates: 2011

After a wild night at a party, Lilly Margolis awakes the next morning to find herself in the arms of a stranger and the good graces of a very wealthy woman. Lilly, sales girl for Dalliance Cosmetics, finds a new life with her new friends the Burnsides.

Allison Pittman creates a wonderful love story between Lilly and Cullen Burnside. Lilies in Moon Light is woven with careful detail to revivals, baseball, the war and women who were choosing to be modern. When Lilly meets Cullen it’s the worst of times for them both. Cullen’s mother is sick and is unable to remember one day from the next. Cullen carries the burden of the family business, his mother and the scars from war that have forever been etched on his body. Lilly ran from her life, in Pennsylvania, with her mother where she was raised to believe she could never be good enough for anyone to love, including God. Cullen and Lilly take a road trip from Florida to Pennsylvania. Along the way, they realize that they must undergo their own healing before God will truly bring them together.

Lilies in Moon Light is a wonderful story about forgiveness, healing and love. I loved the details from this book. One of my favorite lines is buried in a side story during the road trip to Pennsylvania. Cullen and Lilly are going to a tent revival and Rusty Tatters, a minor character in the story, says to them, “Nothin’ like the cookin’ of good Christian women seekin’ the spirit of the Lord” (Pittman 234). Having grown up going to tent revivals, I know that statement is true and giggled that Allison inserted that little fact into the story. My second favorite line was a line that as a southerner, I found humor in. Rusty says to Cullen about Lilly, “I ever find out you made that girl cry, I’m gonna pop you like a chigger” (Pittman 253). Allison was able to add so much personality to this book through various side stories and characters. The story of God’s love and forgiveness paralleled with Cullen and Lilly’s love story made this book hard for me to set down. I can not wait to read more books by Allison Pittman.

Rated PG-13.

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.


Book Review: $5 Dinner Mom, Erin Chase, Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook Review

The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook by Erin Chase
Reviewed by Tara Norman
Genre: Cooking
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Dates: 2010

I follow Erin Chase, the $5 Dinner Mom, on Twitter. When I read she had a new cookbook coming out, I got very excited. I don’t own any of her other cookbooks but I have tried a recipe or two of hers floating around in the food blogging world. I am all about saving money and making the most of our meals so this cookbook was right up my alley. When the cookbook arrived, I snapped a picture of the cover and posted it on Facebook. A friend of mine, Krystal Manges, went out and purchased a copy and together we experimented with the recipes and traded thoughts.

Krystal tried 9 recipes. I am going to post the thoughts she shared with me beside the recipes she tried.

Breakfast:

Overnight Spiced Granola This recipe was extremely quick and easy to make. It tasted very good as well. Several people tried it and loved it.

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles This was an easy recipe to make. I had trouble finding a small can of Pumpkin so I had a lot of that left over. The whole family loves this one and were begging for more.

Overnight Honey Granola I liked this one better than the Overnight Spiced Granola

Lunch:

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry Easy to make. Was a good recipe tasted good. Everyone in the family liked it.

Baked Parmesan Chicken Fingers Tasted good. Easy to make. My daughter loved this one.

Taco Macaroni & Cheese The recipe was not a favorite. There was way too much macaroni noodles and not enough sauce. It wa a little too spicy for my taste.

Chili-Cornbread Cups Recipe Tasted really good. The only problem was I ran out of the cornbread topping and had to make a second batch. I did not have enough muffin pans so I put in a pie dish and topped with the cornbread topping. It worked really well. I thought with the muffin tins there was not very much mixture in the bottom and it was mostly cornbread.

Shrimp Scampi It tasted ok. Again there was too much Spaghetti and not enough sauce. I even doubled the sauce and still did not feel there was enough.

Lasagna Roll Ups The recipe tasted really good. I followed it on the amount of sauce to put in each noodle and ran out. So the last few were short on the sauce. I took the left over sauce from the jar and poured over the top of the roll ups before putting in the oven. This was probably our favorite of what we tried.

Other thoughts from Krystal:

The problem that I found was that the sauces were never enough. I could not keep in the $ amount stated, but as you said it was because she always bought her items on sale.

I really liked that the recipes called for things that I normally have around the house or use so I was not having to buy a lot of things that I would only use once or twice.

I tried 14 recipes and will enclose my thoughts about each recipe.

Breakfast:

Raspberry French Toast Loved it. Fresh. The kids weren’t fans of the fresh berries on top so it was my secret that there was some hidden in the toast.

Overnight Honey Granola A favorite for us. EASY! The smell of the granola was amazing the night I made it, my daughter actually woke up and came to ask me what I was cooking that smelled so good! The recipe made so much I spread it out for breakfast, snacks and lunch.

Blackberry Muffins Healthy and loved that I made it from scratch. Thing 3 fell in love with these. He ate four in one day. I kept them in a zip lock bag on the counter and anytime he was in his high chair snacking I would find him opening the bag and trying to scarf one more down before I could stop him. I still have no idea how he reached over and grabbed them.

Lunch:

Twice Baked Potato Soup I wasn’t a fan of this one. The directions for the crock pot versions should have really been tweaked. I am wondering if anyone actually made it the exact way it is written or if they did what they normally would have done when making potato soup. More of an explanation to follow.

Macaroni Salad One of my absolute favorites! Fresh and light. I whipped this together in no time!

Baked Lime Talipia Not a fan. The fish just lacked flavor. It needed more spice.

Cheesy Drop Biscuits I loved that they were easy to make but honestly, no one liked them but the baby. They just lacked flavor even with the cheese and I added some butter when they came out.

Cucumber Dill Sandwiches Awesome recipe. I have made this two or three times now.

Chicken Pesto Sandwich I fell in love with her Pesto recipe. So easy and so good! I was happy that she included how long it would keep in the fridge because I truly would not have known any different.

Guacamole Veggie Pita Too light for us so we added ham to this and it was perfect. The saltiness of the ham gave this sandwich the added pop that it needed to make it just right for us.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir fry LOVED this recipe. We omitted the red pepper flakes for the kids portion and added it to ours. Loved the salty spicy kick.

Baked Parmesan Chicken Fingers This was another slow cooker fail. I ended up taking them out of the slow cooker and baking them but they smelled divine and tasted really good.

Oven Chili Fries I like them but the kids did not.

Peanut Butter Surprise I threw some of the Overnight Honey Granola on a peanut butter and honey sandwich. The kids loved it!

At first, I was very confused about how she came up with the $5 per meal. It took me a while to realize how she kept coming up with her prices for vegetables and meals. She never pays the full price for anything. She matches her coupons with her sales price. Awesome! Also, she is giving you a price based on the amount the recipe calls for. For instance, 4 bacon slices ($.50). A package of Hormel bacon at regular price will cost about $2.39 or about $.16 per slice. or $.64 for 4 slices. So if you used a coupon or got the cheaper bacon her price makes sense.

Early in my adventure with Erin’s cookbook I realized she doesn’t use a lot of spice and her slow cooker directions just didn’t work out. The lack of spice I understand because it helps shave the cost off of her meal and makes the recipes easy to shop for and pantry friendly. The slow cooker recipes should have been better written. When I was cooking the Twice Baked Potato Soup, it has the option to use the slow cooker version of the recipe. Y’all know me, I am a slow cooker junkie so I opted for that route. At the bottom of the recipe it said to turn to a different page for the slow cooker version. The slow cooker version reads, “Twice-Baked, Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup (page 202)- Place all ingredients in the slow cooker with an extra cup of liquid and cook on low for 8-10 hours.” I thought when I read this, that can’t be right. I re-read the instructions on page 202 and there was no mention of slicing or dicing the potatoes in the ingredients section. So she wanted me to literally throw everything (6-8 whole potatoes not peeled or diced and some milk) together in the slow cooker. My common sense told me, “You are going to waste those potatoes and all that milk because this is not going to turn out,” the reviewer/blogger side said, “You need to do just as it says so you will know for sure.” So I did and the night ended with a frozen pizza. Even when making them the other way she steamed the potatoes for an hour in the oven before dicing them for the soup. Why do I tell you this story? Because that happened twice with her slow cooker versions of a recipe. Her recipes are basic bare bones recipes. They require you adding your flavors and zest and common sense when it comes to putting it together in the slow cooker.

Other than the slow cooker mishaps the rest was great. Her lunch recipes are absolutely fabulous! I looked forward to lunchtime. It was hard, but I have it narrowed down to one or two favorites. Her Macaroni salad and her Chicken Pesto Sandwich knocked my socks off. I make my husbands lunch for him in the mornings while I down a few cups of coffee before the Things wake up and each morning when I was making his lunch I would go ahead and make one for me too. So we both tried all of her lunch meals. I did add to her recipes. I mostly added the things we liked: spice, cheese and more meat and veggies. I was ok with that because in any recipe you are going to add or take away. It’s just part of the cooking process and making a meal fit your family’s palate.

Erin touches on all the things that I would touch on if I was writing a cookbook. She sets the tone of the cookbook by centering it around planning ahead. Menu planning, organization and freezing take up the first 20 pages of her book. Brilliant of her to stress the importance of this because most people wouldn’t normally buy a Breakfast/Lunch Cookbook. Most want to invest in dinners because when they think of entertaining or planning a dinner, they actually plan a menu. It’s not common practice to menu plan for lunch or breakfast which means most of us are spending extra money eating out for these two meals. Her book suggests that you not only menu plan for your dinner but for your breakfast and lunch to avoid these costs (and calories). She makes it easy by offering overnight breakfast recipes. Her overnight granola was awesome. I was able to use a whole batch of granola in our breakfast (added in yogurt), as a quick snack, and part of a sandwich for lunch (Peanut butter surprise). She clearly explains how make things in bulk (such as waffles) and freeze some for another time. I am a meal planner myself and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE make one freeze one recipes so I found this part of her cook book very insightful. All in all, her recipes are easy to follow, healthy and fit our budget. I was happy with the cookbook and now have a few favorite “grown up” sandwich and lunch recipes.

Below is a quick slide show of some of the food I made with her recipes.

Rated G
Review Copy Provided by St. Martin’s Griffin. Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

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Book Review: Uncertain Heart

Uncertain Heart (Seasons of Redemption, Book 2) by Andrea Boeshaar
Reviewed by Tara Norman
Genre: Inspirational, historical
Publisher: Realms, A Strang Communications Company
Publication Dates: 2010
Set in 1866 in Milwaukee,Wisconsin, Uncertain Heart tells the story of a young woman inspired to do more with her life than become a farmer’s wife. Sarah McCabe dreams of being an independent rich socialite and thinks the fastest way to do that is to move to the city of Chicago to become a music teacher. She is attracted to the culture and pace of the city and prefers it to the farm life that she had growing up.
Before going on to Chicago to become a music teacher, Sarah becomes a governess to Captain Brian Sinclair’s four children. Upon first arrival she meets Captain Sinclair’s right hand man, Richard Navis. Sarah falls in love with both men and is unable to distinguish which man is right for her. Richard is everything her father and brothers would approve of. He knows the Lord, dependable, selfless, a farmer and a hard worker. Captain Brian Sinclair is the exact opposite and is everything Sarah desires. He is wealthy, cultured, and is a business man. The morals and beliefs of the two men set them apart. Torn in two with love and lust for both men, Sarah looses her discernment between what’s right and wrong. Yearning to prove to family and herself that she is an independent woman, she believes that she can handle Captain Sinclair and his inappropriate behavior. When her character is questioned by the town, she realizes that she has been manipulated and her reputation is beyond repair and is forced to write to her parents to tell them of what’s happened and ask for help. 
Andrea sneaks in a surprise ending leaving the reader unsatisfied, yearning to find out what happens with Captain Sinclair, Richard and Sarah. I simply could not put Uncertain Heart down. I was spellbound by the love triangle and absolute faith that many of the characters had. Andrea had a wonderful way of relaying what an intimate relationship of God translates into daily life.
I am so glad I chose this book. It was a pleasant surprise and is a must read. I can not wait to find out what happens in the third book! Since these books are stand alone books I did not feel behind because I was not able to read Book 1 first. 
Rated PG-13
Review Copy Provided by Realms, A Strang Company. Thank you.
I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.