Monthly Archives:

January 2018

The Feathered Nester’s Vegan Meal Challenge

Recently, my daughter challenged me to incorporate more vegan meals into my meal plans. I was intrigued by her suggestion and certainly recognized the health benefits in doing so. So, I am accepting the challenge.

Obstacles to the Vegan Challenge

The only obstacle is my hubby’s meat loving ways. I’ll never forget the time when as a newlywed I made him Marinara over pasta (without meat). Oh my, you’d have thought I’d served him dog food! He believes dinners should be meat-centered meals.

The other obstacle is that we aren’t big vegetable eaters. So if I take the meat out of the meal, I’ll rely on beans or cheese as our protein source for the vegan meals. And, I’ll sneak in some hidden veggies when I can.

This Week’s Meals

So, in honor of the challenge, I am adding two vegan or meatless meals to this week’s recipes. These meals are Trim Healthy Mama friendly, too.

The weekend breakfast meal is fluffy scrambled eggs with ham. The ham is optional, of course. I learned the secret to making fluffy, perfectly scrambled eggs from watching Martha Stewart’s cooking show many years ago. The tips are: number of eggs to skillet size ratio, mixing them to the right consistency, and using a rubber spatula to cook them.

I’ll be posting a live video on Instagram Saturday and Sunday showing how I do this. Here’s my link: and if you’re not familiar with the Stories feature of Instagram, you go to the top of your feed where it says “Stories” and look for my face bubble with the words thefeatherednester below.

As a bonus, on Sunday, my hubby will be smoking a big brisket and I’ll post live updates of it on IG stories, with a blog post to follow next week. It would be perfect to serve on Super Bowl Sunday!

South of the Border Pinto Beans


Chicken Piccata

I’ll serve with green beans for me and mashed potatoes for my hubby.

meal plans


Traditional Marinara Sauce with Penne

Use Dreamfield’s pasta, Zero Pasta, or Trim Healthy noodles for those following THM.



 Slow Cooker Teriyaki Ribs with Coleslaw


Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Ham
Photo from A Taste of Home


The Recipes


South of the Border Pinto Beans

The spices and jalapeño pepper give these beans a zesty kick. You can control the level of spiciness by removing all of the membrane and seeds in the jalapeño pepper, or adding in some for more spice. 

For a vegan main dish, add quinoa or rice. 

Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 150 kcal


  • 1 lb dried pinto beans
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large jalapeno, chopped with membranes and seeds removed
  • 1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano (regular oregano is okay)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 32 oz container vegetable or chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1-2 smoked hammock (optional)
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar


  1. Rinse and soak black beans overnight, or use quick soak method (using instructions on bag of beans). 

  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, then add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic and spices and sauté for 1 minute. 

  3. Stir in stock, 3 cups or water, beans, and ham hock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour. Stir in vinegar, then simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until beans are tender and the liquid has thickened. Remove ham hock and use a fork or knife to remove the meat from the bone. 


Chicken Piccata

This is a easy weeknight recipe, fridge to table in less than 30 minutes.

Course Main Course
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 4 boneless thinly sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. diced onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup no-salt added chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. capers, rinsed well
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced (optional, for garnish)


  1. In a large skillet, sauté chicken breasts in olive oil on medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side. While cooking, rinse and dry capers to remove excess sodium.

  2. Remove chicken breasts to a plate or platter, tenting loosely with foil. Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook 1 minute. Add lemon juice and chicken broth, stirring until smooth. Simmer until bubbly. 

  3. Remove skillet from heat and add butter and capers. Using tongs, dip each chicken breast into the sauce, coating both sides. Serve with slices of lemon as garnish (optional). 


Traditional Marinara Sauce with Penne

Traditional marinara sauce contains simple ingredients. For best results use San Marzano tomatoes, available in most grocery stores. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes certified D.O.P. if possible
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste


  1. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.

  2. In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.

  3. As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt. Stir.

  4. Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from marinara recipe.


Slow Cooker Teriyaki Ribs with Coleslaw

Perfect for a busy day, you can throw these ribs in your crockpot in the morning and have dinner ready when you get home. 

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 495 kcal


  • 1 rack/slab baby back ribs (about 2.5 lbs)
  • 2/3 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 package coleslaw
  • 1 bottle coleslaw dressing


  1. Sprinkle ribs lightly with pepper, place in crockpot, and cover with 1/3 cup of  teriyaki sauce. Turn once to ensure that the ribs are coated on both sides with sauce. Cover with the lid and turn on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Remove from crockpot, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. 

  2. While the ribs are resting, add vinegar, garlic, and remaining 1/3 cup of teriyaki sauce to the juices in the bottom of the crockpot. Turn crockpot to high setting and allow to simmer until thickened, about 5-10 minutes. 

  3. Add bagged coleslaw to a bowl, and toss with dressing. 

  4. Brush thickened sauce from crockpot onto the ribs, and serve with coleslaw.


Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Ham

Making delicious, light and fluffy scrambled eggs is much easier than you imagined. The key is in using the right sized skillet for the number of eggs. So, if you half the recipe, be sure to use a very small skillet (8" or less).

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream OR water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 c diced ham
  • 1 Tbsp butter (do not use margarine, you can substitute oil)


  1. Crack the eggs into a medium sized bowl. Add the water or heavy cream. Use a wisk to gently mix the eggs until they are a uniformly sunny yellow color throughout. 

  2. Melt the butter in a 10" to 11" non-stick skillet until it's foamy looking. Pour in the eggs. Slowly slide the rubber spatula around the sides. 

  3. When the edges of the eggs are beginning to set a little, use the spatula to slide the eggs from the edge of the pan towards the middle, going around the pan. Continue doing this as the runny portions move back towards the edges of the pan, until all the eggs look like big curds. 

  4. Add the diced ham and gently stir into the eggs. Serve. 

Recipe Notes

When you are sliding the eggs from the edge of the pan to the middle, the direction looks like spokes of a bicycle wheel. 

More Tips, Meal Preparation, What’s Cooking Daily

For cooking tips, additional meal preparation, or to know what’s cooking in my kitchen daily, follow me on Instagram or Facebook (link) and watch my stories there. To stay up-to-date on blog posts, subscribe to my blog by entering your email address where it says SUBSCRIBE on the upper right. Your email address will only be used to notify you of new blog posts.

Upcoming Posts

Valentine’s Day gifts for him and her, creating a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, the So Close to Amazing book review, and a new Worth the Splurge.

Stay cooking my friends. Oh and let me know what you think about the vegan meals…and I’ll share how they’re going over in my home!

Get-A-Way to Pismo Beach

The hubs and I took a mini-vacation to Pismo Beach last week. Pismo Beach is a beach town in the middle of California’s Central Coast in San Luis Obispo county. We’ve gone there annually (and often twice a year) for over 16 years now. Typically, we go in January for our anniversary or in the fall for one of our birthdays.

Out and About in Pismo Beach

Since we’ve been going there so long, we’ve established traditions that we do on virtually every visit to Pismo Beach. Over the years though, we’ve added new adventures to keep things fun. Here are some of our traditions (websites are linked):

  • We always take a walk through town to check out the shops and see what’s new. The main part of Pismo, near the pier is an easy walk. One of our favorite shops is a local pet store where they always have puppies. Although we’d never buy one, it’s so cute to watch them play together! The breeds rotate, so it’s fun to see what breeds are there when we stop by.
Pismo Beach
photo from
  • Going to Splash Cafe is a must. They have the best clam chowder I’ve ever had. Sometimes we go there everyday for lunch during our stay. If you go during peak season or on a weekend, there might be a line down the street of people waiting. It’s that good. Recently, though, I found that our Costco is selling their clam chowder in their frozen seafood section!

  • Pismo Beach has a huge monarch butterfly grove at the edge of town. January is one of their peak months. There are so many butterflies that they literally cover all of the eucalyptus leaves. The trees look like they have brownish butterfly leaves instead of green eucalyptus leaves.
  • Rosa’s Ristorante Italiano has really good Italian food and we always have a dinner there when we are in town. Their menu offers a wide-variety of dishes and the service is always excellent.
At Rosa’s
  • Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana is another popular Italian restaurant, but they experienced a fire at their main restaurant about a year and a half ago and have been undergoing rebuilding. They’ve had a separate location with express take-out pizza for many years now and we often get a pizza to-go on one of our nights there.
Taken in 2014. The pier is undergoing an extensive renovation now and is closed.

What’s Around

One reason we rarely tire of going to Pismo Beach is that there are lots of other beach towns nearby. Sometimes, we split our stay between towns, or we alternate towns when we’ve gone semi-annually.

This time, we stopped in Avila Beach and walked around on our way home. We really impressed with how lovely their “downtown” area is. They closed off part of the main beachfront street in order to expand outdoor dining, offer nighttime entertainment, and casual eateries. We’ve stayed here in the past and are really looking forward to another visit next time.

Close to the highway (a few miles from the beach) is Sycamore Mineral Springs. This resort and spa offers private mineral hot tub rentals and lodging with hot tubs on their patios. It is such a relaxing place to stay.

Nearby is the Avila Valley Farm, a quaint farm with farm animals and tractor rides. Inside the barn, they sell fruits and vegetables, baker items, ice cream, and kitchen and home decor.

The nearby towns of Morro Bay, Cambria, Cayucos, and Arroyo Grande have annual festivals and events, and activities that allow make them unique, too. Paso Robles is wine country, and only about 30 minutes from Pismo. They have a vast selection of wineries, sure to satisfy the pickiest of wine lovers. San Luis Obispo is home to California State Polytechnic University and has an eclectic and fun college-town vibe. We enjoy strolling around their historic downtown, with its local shops and eateries.

Wineries on Highway 46 east

There is so much more to do, so I’ve embedded links to websites in each of the cities and towns above.

The Central Coast of California

Before moving two years ago, we lived in the northern part of the Central Coast for 30 years. So, we are very knowledgable about that area, and I’ll do a future post on it. People love visiting the Central Coast because addition to the ocean and beach, it’s cool in the summer and mild in the winter.

Here is a little more information on the Central Coast:

Welcome to California’s Central Coast

10 Things to See and Do on California’s Central Coast

Recommended Places to Stay

  • The Seaventure – ideal for couples with a spa on the balcony and oceanfront. Most of the beachfront pictures here were taken from our balcony at The Seaventure.
  • The Cliff’s Resort – pet friendly rooms and their oceanfront suites are gorgeous with jetted spa bathtubs and large balconies.
  • Inn at the Pier – just opened in November and is offering great deals! They have a large rooftop area with plunge pool, spa, a bar, and lots of comfortable seating.
  • Seacrest – recently remodeled and highly-rated by guests.
As always, we had a great visit and are looking forward to our next trip down soon.

This Week’s Poultry and Seafood Recipes

How’s your New Year going so far? Amazing I hope! If you made goals or resolutions, are you still working on them? I mentioned earlier that one of my goals for 2018 was to embrace a healthier habit each month. This month it’s to eat more poultry and seafood. So, this week’s menus are based on poultry and seafood main courses.

Oh, and all recipes are now printable!

The Menu


Chicken Chili (with a THM “E” meal option)


Herbed Shrimp with Cilantro Brown Rice

Pan Seared Chicken Breasts with Roasted Green Beans


Turkey/Chicken Meatloaf with Steamed Broccoli

Orange Sweet Rolls


The Recipes



Chicken Chili

This is a quick and filling recipe. For those following Trim Healthy Mama, leaving out the cheese will make this an E meal. 

Course Main Course
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 3 cups chicken stock or bone broth (low-sodium recommended)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (can sub with more chicken stock)
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 3 cans (14oz) white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans diced green chiles, mild or medium
  • 3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded/grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro


  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, heat olive oil and saute onions until just turning golden. Add garlic and spices, cooking until garlic is fragrant, stirring continuously. Add stock and wine, and simmer for 5 minutes. 

  2. Stir in chicken, beans, and chiles. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. 

  3. Turn heat to low and add the cheese slowly, stirring until it melts. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in lime juice and add cilantro, simmering for 5 minutes. 

  4. Top with favorite garnishes, like chopped tomatoes, green onions, sour cream, or broken tortilla chips. 

Recipe Notes

For those following Trim Healthy Mama, use breast meat and leave out the cheese for an E meal. 

Grilled Shrimp with Fresh Herbs

If you don’t have fresh herbs, substitute 1 tsp of dried. Preparation time includes 60 minutes of "marinating" (passive)time.

Course Main Course
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. good olive oil for grill


  1. Combine everything except for the olive oil and allow to marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Heat the grill and brush well with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Grill the shrimp over direct heat for 1-2 minutes on each side, until pink. Remove from grill immediately when done.
  3. Serve over rice.

Cilantro Brown Rice

Adding lime juice and cilantro to rice gives the formerly bland dish a real kick! Give it try for yourself. This recipe uses brown rice, but you can substitute white rice. 

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 minute
Servings 4 people


  • 2 cups Prepared Rice (I recommend Minute Brown Rice if you're pressed for time)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro


  1. Cook your rice, according to directions. This recipe calls for 2 cups of prepared rice.

  2. Stir in lime juice, lime zest, and chopped cilantro. Serve.


Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts

Course Main Course
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 4 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper divided
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Let chicken stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  2. Heat a large stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Place chicken in pan, rounded side down, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn chicken over; reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes more, or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes on a plate or platter covered with foil.

  3. Add remaining oil, onion, and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Next, add flour and sauté 30 seconds. Stir in stock; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 3 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining pepper, salt, butter, and sugar. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. 


Roasted Green Beans

Who'd have thought roasting fresh or frozen green beans would take them to a new taste level? Give these a try to see for yourself. 

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 bag (16 oz.) frozen petite or thin green beans
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450. 

  2. Spread beans in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Use hands to toss the beans to spread oil evenly, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 20 minutes or until dark gold.

Turkey Meatloaf

It's hard to make a tender, moist meatloaf with ground turkey or chicken. This recipe delivers, though. I use sprouted bread to make my own breadcrumbs (see pic in directions). I cube about 4 slices of bread, layer on a baking sheet, and let dry overnight. Then I add them directly into the meat mixture in the food processor.

Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions (I use frozen)
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 1/4 lbs. ground turkey (can sub ground chicken)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I make my own with sprouted whole wheat bread)
  • 1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 3/4 cup ketchup (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  1. Melt butter in a skillet. Cook onion and garlic in melted butter for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place mixture in a large bowl to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine turkey, bread crumbs, egg, 1/4 cup of the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper with onion mixture. I use a food processor, pulsing until mixed. 

  3. Press meatloaf into an 8x4-inch loaf pan. Spread remaining ketchup on top.

  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. (Internal temperature should reach 165 degrees.)

  5. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Orange Sweet Rolls

Prep time includes rising (passive) time.

Make ahead/overnight option: This dough can be made the night before through step 4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise in a warm environment, about 1 hour.

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 2 hours


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2-3 drops orange oil

Orange Icing

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • juice from the orange (2-3 Tablespoons)
  • 1 tsp orange extract


  1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, toss the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast together. Set aside.
  2. Heat the milk and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm to touch (about 110°F). Stir in the orange juice, 1 Tbsp. orange zest, and the egg. Combine the butter mixture and the flour mixture and stir until it forms a soft dough that is smooth and bounces back when you poke it. If not, stir in 1 Tbsp of flour at a time until it is. 

  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 1 minute. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rest for about 10 minutes.

  4. After 10 minutes, roll the dough out in a 14x8 inch rectangle. Mix the softened butter and orange oil together and spread on top. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and remaining orange zest. Sprinkle it over the dough with a spoon.

  5. Roll up the dough tightly and pinch down the edge to seal it. Cut into 10-12 even rolls (using dental floss will make cutting easier) and arrange in a lightly greased 9-inch round cake pan or pie pan. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminum foil or plastic wrap (so the risen dough won't stick to it) and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free environment for 60-90 minutes. After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F.

  6. Bake for 25-28 minutes until lightly browned. If the rolls brown too quickly, cover them with foil.

  7. Make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, remaining orange juice, and extract together until smooth. Drizzle or spread over warm rolls.

Give me some feedback on the new recipe format! Keep eating healthy my friends and enjoy your weekend.

Sunday Spaghetti for Dinner

I am dubbing this recipe, Sunday Spaghetti, for several reasons. First off, for you working moms it’s an ideal weekend meal to wow friends and family with. Secondly, it takes several hours to make, though most of that is just simmering on the stove. And lastly, it makes your whole house smell like a fine Italian restaurant while it cooks. Your family will run to dinner!

What Makes This Spaghetti So Good

One of the things that makes this recipe really good is the blend of meats. The meatloaf blend (I am in love with this stuff, it’s so versatile!) provides a tender meat base and the Italian sausage provides complex flavoring.

Several hours of simmering allows the tomatoes to literally caramelize, providing depth and silkiness. Together with the meat, they make a heavenly sauce. If you have a smaller group to feed while they’re raving about how good it is, you’ll be smiling inside knowing you have the other half of the sauce in the freezer!

Paired with a side salad and garlic bread, an ordinary Sunday (or Saturday) will become memorable with this dinner.

Believe me, Sunday Spaghetti should be cooking in your kitchen soon! Bon Appétit!

Recipes are now printable!


Print Recipe
Sunday Spaghetti
This recipe is ideal for busy weekends because you can "fix it and forget it" on the stove. It is sure to wow with it's rich and satisfying flavor.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Cook Time 5+ hours
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Cook Time 5+ hours
  1. Using a large Dutch oven or stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, and salt, and cook until softened. Stir in ground meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink. Drain off visible fat.
  2. Stir in milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until milk evaporates and rendered fat remains, about 30 minutes. Stir in wine, bring to simmer, and cook until wine evaporates, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and 3 cups of reserved juice. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, so that only occasional bubbles appear at the surface, and cook for at least 4 hours. The sauce will have cooked down a few inches.
  4. This recipe is enough for 2 boxes of spaghetti or pasta.
Recipe Notes

I use 1 cup of frozen "seasoning blend" to replace the onions and celery.

Be sure to drain off fat after cooking ground meat, otherwise your sauce will continue to retain the excess fat.

This recipe makes A LOT of spaghetti sauce! If you're serving less than 6 people, freeze the other half for later.

Share this Recipe

What’s Cooking This Week

I’ve been a little distracted with rearranging and redecorating this month, so my kitchen needs a little love. What better way to give it love than by creating some delicious meals? That’s what I aim to do this week.

When it comes to meal planning, I generally turn to my favorite cookbooks. Right now, I am using these four cookbooks. I rotate them frequently.

I shared on Facebook and Instagram that I got a new cookbook, Love Welcome Serve, last week. So that will plan into what’s cooking in my kitchen this week.

Prep Tips for Cooking Ease

For those of you interested in doing as much meal prep as possible the night before, I’ve listed easy “Night Before Tips” for my recipes. One tip is to cook your chicken breasts in batches and save or freeze them for later use in casseroles and soups. Another tips is to hit the freezer section and stock up on chopped onions, bell pepper and onion blend, and seasoning blend.

It doesn’t matter what brand you use, these all can be found in the frozen section. The Seasoning Blend contains onions and celery. This week’s meals are also low-carb friendly!

What’s Cooking This Week


Beef Crockpot Stew
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with Ranch Salad
Spaghetti Pie (with a Low-Carb option) with Green Salad
Chicken Dumplings



Beef Crockpot Stew

Night Before Tip: If your crockpot has a removable crock, put the stew meat and broth in the crock, along with the seasonings (not the cornstarch) and place the lid on, upside down. Put your prepared vegetables in a ziplock bag and place them on top of the lid. In the morning, all you have to do is to add the bagged vegetables to the meat, put the crock your crockpot, and set the crockpot.


  • 1 1/2 pounds of stew meat, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 carrots, thickly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 4 cups of beef stock or bone broth (low sodium recommended)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. each of onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. of nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch (this equals 15 carbs total, but you can replace with a lower carb option if needed)


  1. Add all the ingredients except peas and cornstarch into the crockpot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  2. About 30 minutes prior to serving, mix cornstarch and 1/2 cup of COLD water together. Mix until smooth. Add to crockpot and allow to thicken the liquid before serving.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with Tortilla Salad

Night Before Tip: Poach your chicken ahead of time. Consider making enough for the Chicken Dumplings, too. Using a skillet with a tight-fitting lid, add chicken breasts. Cover with water and several generous pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, put on the lid, turn down the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Let cool and dice or shred meat.


  • 8 Mission Carb Balance tortillas (highly recommended, they come in white and whole wheat)
  • 2 cups cooked (about 2 big or 3 small breasts), shredded chicken
  • 2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 3/4 chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 (4 oz) cans diced mild green chilies


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 pan
  2. Mix chicken, 1 cup cheese, and 1 can of chilies. Warm your tortillas slightly in the microwave, wrapped in paper towels for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add about 1/3 cup on each tortilla, give or take. Roll it up, and place in pan.
  4. In a sauce pan, on medium heat, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat until thick and bubbly.
  5. Turn down heat to low or simmer. Stir in sour cream and the second can of chilies. Do not bring to boil, you don’t want curdled sour cream.
  6. Pour the sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake 20 min, then broil for 3 min to brown the cheese.

I generally buy bagged salad for the convenience. I recommend adding tortilla chips and ranch salad for this entrée.

Spaghetti Pie with a Low-Carb option and Green Salad

Low-Carb option: use Konjac noodles (amazon link) like Trim Healthy Noodles (, or Dreamfield’s Angel Hair pasta (available in grocery stores). This recipe was inspired by Love Welcome Serve’s Layered Spaghetti Pie, but has been modified to a lower-carb version.

This is a great brand to use to lower carbs. It doesn’t have any added-sweetness, including sugar.


  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 cup onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 2 jars (23-24 oz) of Bertolli’s Rustic Cut Pasta Sauce (or similar no-sugar added pasta sauce)
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • generous pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 14 oz of Trim Healthy Noodles or Dreamfield’s Angel Hair Pasta
  • 2 cups of ricotta cheese (or sub with strained cottage cheese)
  • 4 cups of mozarella cheese, divided
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano


  1. Preheat oven to 350. If using dried pasta, cook pasta according to instructions. For Trim Healthy Noodles or Konjac, drain and rinse well, following instructions on bag.
  2. Add olive oil to a large skillet and saute onions until they are translucent (about 3 minutes or so).  Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Strain out fat. Add 2 jars of sauce, 1 tsp. garlic, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Add the
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, add eggs, 1 tsp. garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried ricotta.
  4. Grease a springboard pan and place on top of a large sheet pan. Spread 1/3 of the meat/pasta mixture, 1/2 of the ricotta/cheese mixture, then repeat with 1/2 of the remaining meat/pasta, all of the ricotta/cheese mix, then the rest of the meat/pasta.
  5. Top with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, over loosely with foil and base for 40 minutes.
  6. Let stand, cooling in the springboard pan for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  7. Pair with a green salad, I buy prepackaged salads for convenience.

Chicken Dumplings

Night Before Tip: Prepare the chicken the night before (see Creamy Chicken Enchiladas).

Low-Carb version: Skip the dumplings, or remove enough of the Chicken Stew for the low-carb serving before adding dumplings.


Chicken Stew
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 small or 1 large onion
  • 1 ½ cup frozen peas
  • 2 lbs. of chopped or diced chicken
  • 8 cups of reduced sodium chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • *minced herbs for garnish

Stew Instructions:

  1. Using an 8 quart or larger heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, add butter and vegetables and sauté for 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add chicken, stock, and water and bring to a boil. While chicken is cooking, prepare the dumplings.

Dumplings Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs.
  2. Stir in the butter and the buttermilk, until just combined, don’t over-mix.
  3. Scoop heaping tablespoons of the dumpling mixture and place on top of the stew, leaving a little space between the dumplings (they will expand). You’ll get about 24 dumplings.
  4. Cover and cook over low heat for about 15 mins. The dumplings cook in the steam, so don’t lift the lid. Stir the dumplings, replace lid, and cook for another 15 minutes.
Enjoy your week!
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Lessons on Décor, Inspiration, and Style

Lately, I have been on fire about décor, through rearranging and decorating. Talk about inspiration and motivation! I think it’s because I tend to get passionate about whatever is consuming me at a given time.

Many of you might not know that for the past several years I’ve been working on finishing my Bachelor’s degree. There have been some breaks, like when we moved, but it’s been a huge distraction for me.

Since mid-November until early April, I’m on a school hiatus. After that, I have two classes to finish in a six-week period, and then I graduate in May. I can’t wait!

This hiatus has enabled me to focus on our home for the first time since we permanently moved in 2 years ago.

I have décor goals, which I’ve shared here on the blog and on Facebook and Instagram stories. Between now and when I return to school, we will have our living room walls textured and painted. That IS happening. Maybe I’ll get to our guest bathroom, too.

First Lesson Learned

After taking down Christmas, though, I got seriously inspired. We rearranged the furniture in our living room and I love how it looks! I learned something important from that. 

When you walk into a room, what you want to see is what you like most.

Seeing what you really like is important because it gives you a good feeling when you enter a room. Your mind sees is as an overall impression of the room.


As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like our reclining leather sofas. One of them was the first thing you saw when you walked in the room. Since we rearranged our living room, I see my upholstered chairs and a cabinet that came from my grandmother’s house first. I love it!


I think I might even love it enough to keep these leather sofas a few more years. At least until my grandkids (and future grandkids) get out of the really grubby hands stage. Leather is so easy to clean. I have my heart set on light-colored fabric sofas or a sectional.


Second Lesson Learned

Another thing that I’ve learned is to go slowly. When faced with a table, buffet, shelf, or a room that you want to decorate take your time.

When decorating a specific area, start with one item and add complimentary objects (colors or a theme) slowly to see the overall effect.

My dining room buffet looked so empty after taking away the Christmas décor. I love to repurpose or “shop my own home,” so that’s what I did.


When you have a style reflected throughout your own home, it’s easy to take objects from one room to use in another. When I exhausted that option, I turned to Home Goods, Target, and Hobby Lobby for décor.


Third Lesson Learned

I’ve also learned to stay true to my style. When I selected the leather sofas, it was because I thought we’d go with a “lodge” theme in our living room. That brings me to the next lesson I learned.

If you are going to experiment with a new style, color, or theme, do so with accessories or inexpensive furniture.

If I would have saved myself so much furniture grief if I had done that.  Ironically, when it comes to color, that is my motto. I love to buy colorful pillows, table runners, throws, and inexpensive drapes/curtains.

I am strictly an amateur decorator. But, hopefully you’ll benefit from these three things I’ve learned.

We used a designer and it was a great experience. She was instrumental during our kitchen remodel and I’m not saying I won’t take that route again. I think what’s given me the courage to try this on my own right now is that I really liked how our last house looked, and I get so much inspiration from Instagram.

Decor Inspiration

Speaking of inspiration, I just started reading this book, The Inspired Room by Melissa Michaels. I’ll share what I learn from reading the book as I apply it to my home. I can’t wait to share it with you!



To see the before and after photos of our home remodel project:

Stay inspired my friends!

PS, let me know in the comments if you’d like to know where I got a particular item pictured.

And a Very Happy New Year to You!

Happy New Year!! It’s been a great week since Christmas. I’ve been posting pretty regularly on Instagram (LINK) and Facebook (LINK), but its time for a blog update.

Christmas Day

On Christmas we had our girls, their guys, and the grandkids over. This year we had a plan.  We had the kids open their gifts and to enjoy the morning with them. Once they went down for naps, we opened our gifts and finished dinner. The good was great: rib eye steaks, lobster, and all the sides. It went pretty much according to plan. We made a lot of fun memories on Christmas.

The Holiday Bowl

On the 27th, the hubs and I headed down to San Diego to take in the Holiday Bowl. My husband is a native Michigander and avid Michigan State fan. When we were in Michigan in September, we went to a Michigan State football game and had a fabulous time. So, I decided to surprise him with tickets to the Holiday Bowl to see Michigan State play.

There were SO many Michigan State fans everywhere in San Diego. Many more than Washington State fans. We stayed in the Gas Lamp Quarter and took the trolley to the game. It was a lot of fun and we can’t wait to return to San Diego again soon.

The Holiday Bowl parade was really cute!


We loved staying in the Gas Lamp Quarter


The food at Rockin’ Baja Lobster was delish


The final score at the game

Our Annual Christmas/Gift Exchange

The day after we got back, we had our annual family Christmas and gift exchange. I planned craft activities for the kids to keep them engaged while we readied dinner. They made some really cute placemats and plates. Dinner was yummy and the family time priceless.

New Year Motivations

I am so exited about the New Year. How about you? It’s almost like a new start or a clean slate when you wake up on New Year’s Day.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day taking down the Christmas decor, packing up ornaments, and putting away the tree. My rooms looked so bare afterward…

So, when I woke up this morning I had goals in mind: watch a couple of episodes of Fixer Upper (for motivation) and spruce up the living room. During the commercials, I trolled my house looking for decor items/photos to put in the bare areas of the living room.

Then, in true Renae fashion, I got really motivated and rearranged the whole living room. Thankfully, I got a little help from my husband because our reclining sofa are heavy. I’ll post pics in a post later this week, or check my Instagram or Facebook for a preview of the changes!

Until then,

New Year