Upgrade Your Dining Space: A Simple Fall Centerpiece

In the series “Upgrade Your Dining Space” there are ideas for new dining tables, new dining chairs, new chandeliers, and here is an idea for a simple fall centerpiece. If you have old centerpieces you have kept from the past it is a good idea to freshen them up by rearranging them. Take the old one apart and see if you can repurpose the pieces. Try using some pieces you already have to make an arrangement similar to the one below. If you need some new pieces try Hobby Lobby and Michael’s.

STEP 1

Fill a rectangular container with floral foam.

STEP 2

Add a natural filler around the edges to fill the gaps.

STEP 3

Add 2 groupings of objects to your container. These gourds have wire stems on them so they can be placed securely in the foam. (Love Hobby Lobby!)

STEP 3

Next, create some height at the corner with floral grass or sticks. Then fill in empty spaces with fall leaves and more natural filler.
This centerpiece will take you through Thanksgiving.

For more dining space upgrades CLICK HERE.

How to Upgrade Your Dining Space: (Part 1)

The holidays are approaching. You want to upgrade your dining space so you have a wonderful place to entertain family and friends. Where should you start? Maybe it is time to upgrade your dining table? If so, you might consider the following:

  • Think round or square dining table because it is easier to make eye contact during conversation with everyone at the table.
  • Tables with pedestal bases make arranging chairs around the table easier because you don’t have to work around table legs.

If you aren’t quite ready to buy a new table then try…

  • Using different chairs at your table because mismatched chairs add interest to the space. You can find top picks for dining chairs in “How to Upgrade Your Dining Space for the Holidays Part 2“.
  • Painting your dining space. A fresh coat of paint is an inexpensive way to update your dining space.

I will be doing a multi-series post over the next couple of weeks with more ideas on upgrading your dining space for the holidays so make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss any ideas. Click HERE to sign up!

Top Picks for Small Dining Tables:

This is a budget friendly option perfect for a small dining space. Click the image below for more information.

This is a 48″ inch pine pedestal dining table could double as a card/game table. Click the image below for more information.

This 50″ inch black table has a beautiful pedestal. Click the image below for more information.

Top Picks for Tables Larger Than 54 inches (A 60 inch round table will seat 6 comfortably.)

This is a beautiful 62 inch French country pedestal dining table. Click the image below for more information.

This rustic, round pedestal dining table made of pine and mahogany would be perfect for your dining room. Click the image below for more information.

This 54″ square table will seat 8 comfortably. Click the image below for more information.

The Best Recipe for the Night Before Thanksgiving

It is the night before Thanksgiving. Family and friends are trickling in. The refrigerator is stuffed with food but you don’t have anything to eat tonight. Before you order that pizza give Southwestern Stew a try. It is the best recipe for the night before Thanksgiving! It is a quick, delicious meal that everyone will enjoy. You can even make it the day before and warm it up if you want to. Just brown some ground meat and open cans from your pantry.

Southwestern Stew:

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 can Ranch Style beans
  • 1 can black beans (drain and rinse)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (Rotel if you like a little spice.)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can chick peas or hominy (drain and rinse)
  1. Brown and season the ground meat. Try Uncle Chris’s Gourmet Steak Seasoning. CLICK HERE
  2. Add canned foods.
  3. Warm for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Serve with corn bread.

This recipe will feed 7-8. Double the recipe if you need to feed more. For more meal ideas CLICK HERE.

Easy and Delicious Fall Recipes for Your Table

Sausage and Peppers: A warm, quick meal everyone will enjoy!

  • 3-4 links of your favorite precooked sausage
  • 2 onions
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 large can chick peas
  1. Slice onions and peppers into match stick cuts and saute in olive oil until tender.
  2. Cut sausage and add to onion and peppers.
  3. Cook until sausage is warm.
  4. Add chick peas and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and add 1/2 cup of yellow mustard and 3 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce.

This recipe serves 4. Substitute potatoes for chick peas, if desired.

Southwestern Stew: This is so easy and delicious! Just brown some ground meat and open cans from your pantry.

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 can Ranch Style beans
  • 1 can black beans (drain and rinse)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (Rotel if you like a little spice.)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can chick peas or hominy (drain and rinse)
  1. Brown and season the ground meat. Try Uncle Chris’s Gourmet Steak Seasoning. CLICK HERE
  2. Add canned foods.
  3. Warm for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Serve with corn bread.

Southwestern Stew is perfect for a warm, family meal or double the recipe to serve a crowd.

For more recipe ideas CLICK HERE.

Simple 3 Step Grocery List and Meal Plan for You

This 3 step plan will help you create a grocery list and and meal ideas all in one place. It will allow flexibility in your meal plan which is needed especially on those evenings when the unexpected happens. Using this 3 step plan also allows you to focus on lean proteins and vegetables and it is as easy as making a list! Try sitting down on Sunday and listing 4 meats, 8 side dishes, and 2 left-overs using 2 of the meats. (I’ve included an example below.) This takes just a few minutes but will give you a plan and a grocery list for the week. You can assign a meal for each night if you like or make a decision day by day depending on the time you have. Try creating 3 of these plans and then just rotate through them every 3 weeks. Don’t forget to use the wonderful online grocery services with curbside and delivery services.

PLAN:

STEP #1: Pick 4 Proteins/Meats for the Week

Example:

  • pork tenderloin (Cook enough for left-over sandwiches for one meal.)
  • chicken breasts (2 per person for left-over menu.)
  • ground meat for hamburger patties (1/2 lb. per person)
  • salmon (one piece per person)

STEP #2: Make a Left Over Plan (Plan for 2 meals using protein/meat left overs.)

Example:

  • tenderloin and grilled cheese sandwiches (NEED: bread and sliced cheese)
  • Use left over chicken in tortilla soup, casserole or on a pizza (tortilla soupNEED: chicken stock, onions, peppers, monterrey jack cheese, diced tomatoes, beans, tortilla strips)

STEP #3: Pick 8 Side Dishes (For ideas CLICK HERE)

Example:

  • roasted vegetables (NEED: broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
  • green salad (NEED: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, olives)
  • Spanish Cauliflower Rice (NEED: cauliflower bits, diced tomatoes, orange bell pepper, black beans)
  • green beans (canned)
  • mashed cauliflower (NEED: cauliflower head, butternut squash, cream cheese)
  • pea salad (NEED: frozen peas, onions, cheese)
  • cucumber and tomato salad (NEED: cucumbers, tomatoes)
  • frozen French fries(NEED: French fries)

For more meal ideas CLICK HERE or CLICK HERE to subscribe to my email list.

Do’s and Don’ts When Your Child Leaves for College

You are going to have one less sitting at the family table each evening because you’ve got a child leaving for college. This is an exciting and scary time for everyone! You planned for this time in your child’s life. You’ve taught your child values and right from wrong. Legally, your child is now an adult. He/she is 18, mature and responsible, ready to handle college, right?

Research today tells us that the brain isn’t fully mature until around the age of 25. That is a scary thought for parents who are spending or borrowing a lot of money to send their child off to college. So, what should you do? What should you say? What should you not say? How do you know your child is enjoying social life in college without the social pressures going too far?

These questions can be overwhelming and scary but DO educate yourself. College life is different today than it used to be so it is important to try to understand what your child’s life is like on a daily basis.

OTHER DO’s:

  • DO share with your child about how college will be paid for (loans, savings, scholarships, etc..). Having him/her understand the payment plan will help your child understand the importance of being responsible while in college.
  • DO get the roommate’s phone number and roommate’s parents’ phone numbers.
  • DO send your child’s health insurance card with him/her.
  • DO show your child where the nearest minor emergency clinic is located. Don’t rely on the clinics on campus. They are not 24 hour facilities.
  • DO have a monthly spending budget in place. (Many college students eat out a lot, and travel on the weekends.)
  • DO set expectations about grades, drinking and drugs.
  • DO talk to your child on the phone or face time. It is important to hear your child’s voice.
  • DO have your child give you access to his/her school accounts. (Even if you pay the bill your child must grant you access to his/her information.)
  • DO expect that your child will ask for a week long vacation during spring break. (It is part of the entitled culture we live in.) So make a plan ahead of time. Will you pay for spring break? Does your child need to get a job to pay for spring break?
  • DO discuss an “exit” plan for social situations with your child. If your child finds himself/herself in a bad situation, who is he/she comfortable calling for help?
  • DO show up unexpectedly every few months just to “check-in” and get to know your child’s new friends.
  • DO encourage your child to get a part-time job at the university.

DON’TS

  • DON’T be naive and allow yourself to think, “Not my child. My child would never do that!” Your child is trying to make new friends and fit in. He/She will do things just to fit it!
  • DON’T call him/her every day. Your child will share more with you if he/she calls when alone and not around other people.
  • DON’T call or email professors. This is your child’s responsibility.
  • DON’T assume your child will always put academics first.
  • DON’T have bills such as: tuition, rent, books, electricity, internet, etc., sent to you directly. Instead, put the money in your child’s account and have him/her “pay” the bill. This will remind your child college is expensive and needs to be taken seriously.
  • DON’T assume your child will tell you when there is a problem. You will need to listen carefully and pay attention to changes in behavior.
  • DON’T “helicopter parent”. Your child will make mistakes. Let your child deal with the consequences of these mistakes. Hopefully, the mistakes are small.
  • DON’T be afraid to step in and take over if your child is not handling the responsibility of college. Remember, not every child is ready for college at 18.

Don’t let this list scare you. It is just a reminder that parenting is not over when a child goes off to college. Parenting a college child is a very hard job!

Here is some more information to educate yourself about the social pressures in college today:

For information on the latest drug use trends in college CLICK HERE.

College Drug Use

How-To Stock Your Freezer and Pantry for Back-to-School

It is that busy time of year again: new schedules, new activities… it is back to school! It is time to get organized so you can plan healthy meals for your family and not live on fast food. How do you start? Your freezer and pantry can help you make healthy, quick meals for your family every night if you have the right items in them. Remember, that colorful foods are your friend when trying to add healthier foods to your diet. So clean out that freezer and pantry and start over with the following items that will help you create healthy back-to-school meals for your family to enjoy around the table together even on busy nights!

Must-Have Freezer Items:

  • corn
  • cauliflower bits (They freeze beautifully!)
  • peas
  • fully cooked meatballs
  • easy peel shrimp (Uncooked, shrimp only takes 3-4 minutes to cook.)
  • ciabatta bread (freezes nicely)

Must-Have Pantry Items:

  • black beans
  • green beans
  • hearts of palm
  • refried beans
  • chick peas
  • spaghetti sauce
  • fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • green enchilada sauce
  • red enchilada sauce
  • fresh tomatoes
  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • fire roasted red peppers in a jar
  • Kind bars (A healthy snack for any time of day.)

In a hurry? Try this Easy Freezer Meal using frozen shrimp, frozen peas, and frozen cauliflower bits.

  1. Thaw and peel shrimp under warm water. (Don’t like shrimp? Try the recipe with frozen meatballs.)
  2. Sautee 2 packages of frozen cauliflower bits in olive oil or butter (No need to defrost first.)
  3. Add thawed shrimp to cauliflower and cook 3 minutes on medium/high heat stirring occasionally.
  4. Add frozen peas to shrimp and cauliflower and cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Season with garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with ciabatta bread.

Need a quick side dish? Try this pantry and freezer Black Beans and More side dish using black beans, chick peas, fire roasted diced tomatoes, sautéed peppers, and cauliflower bits. (Add shredded rotisserie chicken or browned ground meat and you’ve got a complete one dish meal.)

  1. Cut 2-3 yellow or red bell peppers in strips and saute in olive oil until tender.
  2. Add frozen cauliflower bits to peppers and continue to cook until cauliflower bits begin to brown.
  3. Add black beans, chick peas and fire roasted tomatoes. (Drain and rinse black beans and chick peas.)
  4. Cook on medium heat until warm. If you need a sauce for this dish try 1/2 cup picante sauce mixed with 1/4 cup Ranch dressing.

If you like these easy, healthy recipes please click HERE is sign up for my email list so you don’t miss any new ideas.

Here are some more easy back-to-school recipes using freezer and pantry items to try.

Perfect Pea Salad Click HERE

Cauliflower Spanish Rice Click HERE

Veggie Filled Spaghetti Sauce Click HERE

Frozen Meatballs Click HERE

Sauteed Peppers and Onions Click HERE

5 Back-to-School Mistakes to Avoid in 2019

Back-to-School is like New Year’s Day. It is a time for a fresh start. Make it a priority this school year to eat together as a family most nights of the week because the secret to a healthy family is gathering around the family table. Avoiding the following mistakes will make it easier to have time to eat together as a family.

  1. Not Planning the Week’s Menu: It is as easy as making a list! Try sitting down on Sunday and listing 4 meats, 8 side dishes, and 2 left-overs using 2 of the meats. (I’ve included an example below.) This takes just a few minutes but will give you a plan and a grocery list for the week. You can assign a meal for each night if you like or make a decision day by day depending on the time you have. Try making 3 different plans that you can rotate through. Need some meal ideas? Click HERE
  2. Not Using the Curbside and Delivery Services Grocery Stores Offer: Using these services can be life changing. They even save previous orders you have made so you can just re-order with one click!
  3. Not Having a Set Meal Time: This is very important. If you work outside the home and don’t get home until later try setting a 7:30 or 8:00 meal time. Your kids can do homework and snack on an apple or carrots or even bathe while you make dinner. It is all about creating a routine that works for your family and sticking to it.
  4. Over-Scheduling Your Kids: This one might be a bit controversial. Try putting each child in only one extra curricular activity each semester. Children get tired and need down time. Many times kids are expected to go for 12+ hours a day with school, sports, music, drama, homework. Some kids are putting in longer days than many adults. Having your children in every single extra curricular activity does not make you a good parent, it just makes you a tired one! “The Race to Nowhere” is a wonderful film and resource. Click Here to learn more.
  5. Not Talking to Your Family About Making Gathering Around the Table a Priority: You must get your family to buy in so they are making it a priority too. They need to understand the importance of family meal time and have some input in it so everyone has ownership in the plan. Try creating an evening plan together. Write it down on a piece of paper. Have everyone sign it. Explain that the plan can always be altered when needed to accommodate changes. (Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step toward a healthier family.)

MENU PLAN:

Pick 4 Proteins/Meats for the Week

Example:

  • pork tenderloin (Cook enough for left-over sandwiches for one meal.)
  • chicken breasts (2 per person for left-over menu.)
  • ground meat for hamburger patties (1/2 lb. per person)
  • salmon (one piece per person)

Left Over Plan (Plan for 2 meals using protein/meat left overs.)

Example:

  • tenderloin and grilled cheese sandwiches (NEED: bread and sliced cheese)
  • Use left over chicken in tortilla soup, casserole or on a pizza (tortilla soupNEED: chicken stock, onions, peppers, monterrey jack cheese, diced tomatoes, beans, tortilla strips)

8 Side Dishes

Example:

  • roasted vegetables (NEED: broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
  • green salad (NEED: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, hearts of palm, olives)
  • Spanish Cauliflower Rice (NEED: cauliflower bits, diced tomatoes, orange bell pepper, black beans)
  • green beans (canned)
  • mashed cauliflower (NEED: cauliflower head, butternut squash, cream cheese)
  • pea salad (NEED: frozen peas, onions, cheese)
  • cucumber and tomato salad (NEED: cucumbers, tomatoes)
  • frozen French fries (NEED: French fries)

Hope these ideas help your family gather around your table more often this school year! Like these ideas? Click HERE to get more.

The Best Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Recipe

Your family won’t believe there aren’t any potatoes in this dish!

Creamy and Delicious Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash
  1. Steam cauliflower florets and butternut squash cubes until tender. This usually takes 15 minutes.
  2. Mash cauliflower and squash just like you would for potatoes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 4 ounces cream cheese and 2 cups of grated cheese to warm vegetable mixture.
  4. Finish blending mixture using an immersion blender to get a creamier consistency.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For more delicious recipes click HERE.

Healthy and Easy: Sauteed Peppers and Onions Recipe

  1. Cut 4 orange or red bell peppers and 2 large onions into strips.
  2. Saute onions until they begin to caramelize.
  3. Add the peppers to the onions.
  4. Add 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to 1 1/2 cups of water and stir together.
  5. Add soup mix to the onions and peppers.
  6. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the liquid cook down to thicken. This will take 12-15 minutes.

These delicious peppers and onions are a perfect topping to chicken, pork tenderloin or steak. They are also great on a toasted crostini topped with smoked gouda cheese.