Holiday Meal Planner

Can you believe it is almost the end of October?! We will be planning holiday meals in no time!

I like to prepare a much as I can before the meal. You know those holiday Hallmark movies where the family is together in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each of them is preparing something. One person is making the pumpkin pie, another is preparing the turkey to roast, someone is peeling the potatoes. Yea well it doesn’t work like that in my family and I’m betting it doesn’t in yours either.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some help getting things ready to serve but for one thing, my kitchen isn’t that big AND I do not have enough ovens for multiple things to bake at one time!

So I thought I would come up with a planner, to help me, and to help you. We all lead busy lives and some of you may be awesome at throwing a big sit down holiday dinner in a flash, but I am not. I need to and like to prepare ahead of time, so here goes:


2-3 Weeks Before

  • Plan your menu. If you’re thinking of serving new dishes, practice cooking them prior to your dinner so you and your guests won’t be disappointed.
  • If you are going with the traditional turkey, decide if you are purchasing a frozen or fresh bird, place your order if necessary.
  • Inventory your plates, utensils, glassware and serving dishes. Start shopping if you need to replenish!
  • What linens are you planning to use? Make sure you have enough tablecloths, napkins, and placemats. Launder and iron now.
  • Will you need extra tables and chairs? Whether you are renting, borrowing or buying new, start now.
  • Most importantly (other than the turkey!), make yourself lists. Write down EVERYTHING! Your menu, wine/drinks, things to do, things to buy, you will be thankful you did!

One Week Before

  • If you have not done so already, prepare your grocery list. Then rewrite in the location order of your market or in the order as: produce, canned items, bakery, bread, pantry items, and so on.
  • Clean out your kitchen before you grocery shop. Make sure your pantry and fridge are free of any unused leftovers or outdated products. Wipe down the shelves in the fridge.
  • Inventory your spices and herbs, discard out dated or old containers.
  • Clean your house and decorate if you have not already done so. Eliminate clutter and if your family likes to play games, make sure they are ready to go.
  • Make a plan for your cooking preparations. Use a calendar if you like or just make a list.

Sunday Before

  • If you have purchased a frozen bird, and depending on the size, you may need to put in the fridge so it can start to thaw. Never leave the turkey thaw on the counter!
  • The recipe for my Turkey Rub is here.

Monday and Tuesday before

  • Shop for your groceries.
  • Tie up any loose ends from above that you have not yet completed.
  • Make the cranberry sauce. My recipe is here.
  • If you are cutting up and cubing your own stuffing, do that now.
  • I like to chop up any vegetables that I need on Tuesday. Whether it be the onion and celery for the stuffing and turkey, or veggies for my family to snack on as an appetizer.
  • I work full time and usually cannot take off the day before so I like to make my pies and cakes Tuesday evening when I get home from work.  My pumpkin Pie recipe is here. And my Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe is here.

Wednesday Before

  • If you have not done so already, bake your desserts. Store in a cool place or refrigerate.
  • Prepare any appetizers that can be made ahead, cover and refrigerate. My Three Cheese Roasted Red Pepper Dip is here.
  • If your vegetables are not chopped and ready to go, do that now.
  • If you are cooking a fresh turkey, pick it up from the market.
  • Prepare any side dishes ahead that you can. I make my mashed potatoes now, place them in a large casserole dish, dot with butter and cover with foil.
  • If you are making your mashed potatoes tomorrow, peel and cut them now, place them in a bowl of water, cover and refrigerate.
  • Set up any extra table and chairs, set the table, place any table décor out now.
  • If you are planning to use a cooler for bottled water or beer and extra wine bottles, do that now and sit outside in a safe place.
  • If you’re planning on hot chocolate by a fire pit, my recipe is here. Or my Hot Cider Float recipe is here.
  • Inventory your lists and make sure you are on track!
  • Take a hot bath, pour yourself a drink and relax with a good book!


  • Prepare your stuffing and turkey and get them in the oven.
  • Reheat your sides.
  • Prepare the gravy.
  • Don’t forget ask for help getting things on the table!
  • And you are done! Enjoy your day and your guests and have a wonderful time!

I wish you the Happiest and Loveliest Thanksgiving and Christmas!

PS: And remember, your holiday will not be perfect! Don’t worry if something doesn’t work out as planned, laugh about it! I can’t tell you how many rolls I have burned because I put them in the oven last and forgot to set the timer!!

Shrimp and Corn Bisque

Now that the weather has FINALLY taken a turn towards autumn and the days and nights are a little cooler, it makes me want to be in the kitchen baking treats, bread and…making soup!

This bisque has been a favorite for a while now.  It’s very easy quick and easy to make and it is practically fool proof.


You can add more cream if you like or substitute the light cream for heavy.  You could add cheese, more shrimp.  You could use sherry.  And you could always add kale or spinach too.

It is very versatile and easy to change up to what you are craving.

As always, I love some warm bread with my soup, and a glass of wine of course.


So, first you want to devein your shrimp and remove the tails.  If you are using large shrimp, cut them in half so they are more bite size.

Dice up your potatoes into small cubes, again bite size BUT if they are small cubes they will cook quicker.  I use diced frozen potatoes, the work is already done for me!!

The corn I use is just frozen yellow corn,

Using the herbs is optional of course but I still have plentiful amounts of thyme and rosemary so I have been adding them to lots of recipes!  You could use whatever herbs you have on hand and love.



Here’s the recipe:

3 cups shrimp, deveined and tails removed, chopped if shrimp are large

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cups potatoes, diced in small bite size cubes

1-1/2 cups corn

1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste

one 32 oz carton of chicken stock

1 cup light cream (or heavy cream if you prefer)

2 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary, strip the stems and chop the rosemary

slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken the soup

In a heavy soup pot, sauté the shrimp, onions and potatoes for about 10 minutes, salt and pepper.

Add the stock, tomato paste and corn, using a light simmer, cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add the cream, herbs and the slurry.  If adding kale or sherry you can add it now.

Once the soup has thickened, turn off the heat and serve.

Garnish with shredded cheese, bacon, sour cream, whatever you like.

Serve with crusty bread or I made Rosemary Focaccia bread to go with this soup.



Hamburger Vegetable Soup, More like Cheeseburger Soup!

This soup is yummy!

This soup whips up quickly and is so easy to make!

And I used to make this soup many many years ago when my kids were little. It was my go to soup on autumn days when my boys played elementary football.

And my daughter disliked it!!! But I still made it and everyone else loved it and I never had leftovers.  I remember one day inviting one of her friends to come over for dinner after the game and she specifically commented that I better not be making “that” soup again (*rolling eyes).

So, on with the soup, I snapped these pictures at work when I heated the soup for my lunch.  So please excuse the awful photo’s!!


It’s just hamburger, onion, canned vegetable soup, sprigs of herbs and cheese. So maybe I should be calling this Cheeseburger Soup.

I still on occasion make it for myself, but I prepare it just a little differently.


Now I like to add sprigs of herbs like thyme and rosemary. And cheese, but not just any cheese! I use that processed cheese that comes in a foil wrapper!!! And I am not ashamed of it either!

And man oh man is it even more delicious than when I made it for my little munchkins.

So, there is no way to mess up this soup, it’s just that easy. I usually plan on about a ¾ pound of hamburger and 2 cans of soup for 4 people.

Brown your burger and onion, add salt and pepper. When that’s done, pour in the cans of soup, herbs and the cheese. You can add as much or as little cheese as you want. I only like enough to make it creamy. You only want a light simmer, just enough to heat up the soup and melt the cheese, and then it’s done.


Hamburger Soup

½ pound ground hamburger

½ small onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 cans of your favorite vegetable soup

Thyme, rosemary or whatever herbs you have on hand

½ cup processed cheese, cubed (more or less to your preference)

Brown the meat and onion. Then add the canned soup, cheese and herbs, bring to a light simmer. When the soup is heated and the cheese is melted, serve.


Shrimp and Penne Pasta with a Tomato Basil Sauce

My basil plants are growing like crazy this year!  I think I have basil bushes, and I am not complaining, I LOVE basil!!  But, I can’t use it fast enough.

I made this  tomato basil sauce a few times already.  So yummy!


It’s a thick pink sauce and works best on a penne, you can use whatever pasta you have on hand but when I make a thick sauce like this, I bring out the penne!

This recipe makes 2 servings.  Since I made this for just myself I plenty of leftovers.


It’s a pretty easy and basic recipe, easy to increase for more servings.

If you don’t care for the sauce being thick, substitute tomato sauce for tomato paste.  You really cannot mess this up!

My store had frozen shrimp on sale, cooked, shelled and deveined, so that’s what I used this time.  You can use whatever you want or have on hand, just make sure you cook the shrimp first before you make the sauce.

The first time I made this, I used raw shrimp, so I started with a little olive oil in the pan and sautéed the shrimp until done.


To the cooked shrimp, add the tomato paste, half and half, and chopped sundried tomatoes, stirring to blend together and heat through.  If the sauce is a little too thick, add a little bit of the pasta water.

Toss in the torn basil and serve.  Top with shredded parmesan and more torn basil.



Here’s the recipe:

Cooked shrimp, about 8-10 large or about 1-1/2 cups small

1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes

1/2 cup half and half, plus more to thin out if you like

2-3 T tomato paste, or use about 1 cup tomato sauce for a thinner sauce

about 15 fresh basil leaves

Grated parmesan cheese for topping

Start your pasta, when the pasta is almost cooked, start your sauce.  If using raw shrimp, sauté in olive oil until cooked. Add all of the above ingredients to the shrimp, except the basil.  After the sauce has combined and is heated through, tear up about 10 basil leaves and add to the sauce.

Drain the pasta, place in 2 serving bowls and spoon the sauce over the pasta.  Top with remaining basil leaves and cheese.

Follow me on Facebook for more random babbling. Live well friends!

Mojito’s and Mint Tea

I love when my herbs are growing and blooming!  But I REALLY love it with the mint has come in!

Last year I planted mint in a large pot, and it did very well.  It came back beautifully this spring.  But I had to plant another pot this year because I love it so much!

I have made my usual mint tea twice this spring and now I make mojito’s!!

You can check out my recipe for the mint tea recipe here Fresh Mint Tea.  Although I plan to use some green tea bags the next time I make it, green tea is so healthy for us and I’m trying to incorporate more of it in my diet.

For the mojito, first I made a simple syrup by using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring the water to a light boil, stirring until the sugar is melted.  Remove from heat and add about 5 large mint leaves to the syrup to “steep” while it cools.

I cut a lime in half, set half of it aside and the other half I quartered and squeezed the lime juice into my glass with about 10 mint leaves.  Muddle to break up the leaves, for just about a minute.  Then I added the lime quarters that I squeezed the  juice from and muddled them for a few seconds.  Fill glass with ice.

After the simple syrup was cool, I added 2 ozs to my glass.  Then 2-3 ozs of white rum and topped off the glass with seltzer water.
Add a lime slice to the rim of the glass and float a sprig of mint on top as well.

Mint Mojito


  • 15 mint leaves, more for a more minty taste
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 ozs white rum
  • 1 lime
  • seltzer water

Make a simple syrup with the sugar and water by placing in a small sauce pan and bring to a light boil, stirring to melt the sugar.  When the sugar is melted stir in 5 mint leaves and set aside to cool.

Cut a lime in half; take half the lime and quarter it, squeeze juice into glass. Add 10 mint leaves and muddle.  Add the squeezed lime quarters and muddle lightly again.  I added another half of a slice of lime to the glass and to the rim.

Fill glass with ice, add the rum and mint infused simple syrup.  Top with a splash of seltzer water.

Live well friends and have a minty summer!  Be sure to follow me on Facebook for daily babbling and rambling!



Caring For Yourself After Surgery

I just had surgery for a rotator cuff tear, all three layers were torn. The doc also scraped bone spurs from the shoulder joint. On my dominant right arm nonetheless!

I knew I would be in a sling for 6 weeks, I knew therapy was going to be rough, I knew I’d have pain and I knew I’d have to depend on my left arm that also has a small rotator tear as well as a bicep injury.

But, was I really “prepared” for my recovery??? I thought I was…

I piled books I wanted to read, photo’s and albums to clean up and organize, cookbooks and magazines to sort through and find new inspiration…. At 4 weeks into my recovery and I had little to no motivation!

What I HAVE tried is painting canvases with my left hand! It’s almost a challenge to see just how much I can depress myself with how awful they turn out!! Sort of makes me laugh too.  And playing with paint always brings me joy!!

But what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of time I would spend spiritually in prayer and meditation. The peace I find I have now is slowly bringing me to a new place in my life post recovery. It’s also helping me get through long days.

I’ve been very blessed with family and friends that are such a great help by bringing me meals, visiting, and taking me for groceries, to doctor appointments and therapy.  My daughter is such a huge blessing!

But even with all this, I still found myself on many days, lonely, depressed, and BORED!!!

So, I thought I would use some of my boredom trying to type with a non-dominant hand and maybe find some pointers for those of you that may be facing some downtime while you recover from some sort of health issue.

  1. Prepare your home. Whatever that may be for your recovery. For me, I was instructed to sleep in a recliner for my recovery but I don’t own a recliner so I slept on my sofa for many uncomfortable weeks. I brought a few bed pillows, a warm throw blanket, and I placed a large tray beside me. I used the tray to hold my cell, water bottle, remotes, tissues, lip balm, hand lotion, my library card (see #3) and a few books. My laptop was placed on the dining room table along with my checkbook and all of my bills/finances.
  2. Prepare food. My friends from work provided almost all of my meals the first few weeks which was such a huge help and greatly appreciated! But I also made a few things for the freezer, I purchased some frozen food items and I stocked my pantry. Unfortunately I had a lot of nausea after the surgery so it took some time for me to actually want to eat anything!!
  3. Books, magazines, etc. I knew my recovery would be long and painful and that I would physically not be able to do much so I placed about 15 books on my table. If you like to read I would suggest giving yourself a wide variety to choose from, when the boredom sets in you will appreciate the many choices. I kept my library card handy too because I like to “borrow” ebooks, an awesome way to spend time is browsing book online from my library!!
  4. Prayer, meditate, spiritual time. I have 2 daily devotionals that I have been reading. Also, my prayer book that I made. It includes favorite prayers, verses, and people that have either requested prayers or that I am praying for. And I have a bible app on my phone compliments of my pre-teen grandson!! My prayer time has increased tremendously since surgery!
  5. Any plans to be made?? I planned my gardens, flower and veggie. I ordered some plants online, and made a list of what I wanted to purchase when it’s time to plant. Sadly I will have to hire someone to actually dig up the gardens and do the planting as my shoulder most likely won’t be ready for that just yet!
  6. Prepare for bad days. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have them. I have days where I swear I am going to die from boredom, I have days that I swear I am going explode just from the discomfort of this awful sling that I am confined to wearing. Those moments are when you will need your prayer time the most. Try to breathe, try to relax, and remind yourself this is only temporary. I also needed to tell myself there are many others with a much worse and permanent situation. Even though I was told it would be a year before I would be back to my normal self, I knew things would get better. Put your situation in perspective.
  7. Don’t spend all of your time in front of the TV. The boob-tube will only add to your depression, you will find yourself lethargic and lifeless! This was difficult too since I cannot do much else, but I often turned off the TV. Find other ways to occupy your mind…prayer, meditate, read, games, catch up on phone calls, crossword puzzles.
  8. Exercise? Check with your doctor first!!! My left shoulder is also injured but I am allowed to do some bicep curls with a light weight. Get some bands to do leg exercises. Get out and walk! Just PLEASE use caution and do not do anything to further injure yourself and check with your doc before you do anything!
  9. Accept the help you are offered. This was VERY difficult for me to accept because I am always doing things to help others. A friend of mine very bluntly told me that it is now MY time to let others care for me. The day I came home from the hospital was all it took for me to realize I had no other way to live with my dominant arm in a sling unless I had help! I cannot take my shirt off (much less my bra) without help!!!!
  10. And finslly….Just RELAX! Take this time to heal, let others love and care for you. And most of all love and care for YOURSELF!!

Ok I gotta go, my son is bringing me tacos for dinner!!

White Bean and Kale Soup

I wanted to make soup and I wanted something different than what I usually make, so I went through my pantry to see what I had on hand.

I found the beans, broth, tomatoes and potatoes (in the freezer), the only thing I decided I needed and didn’t have was the kale.

So I started with getting the beans a quick start and headed to the store for kale.

When the beans were ready I put them in my soup pot along with  frozen diced potatoes, covered them with a carton of chicken broth and brought it to a simmer. I added salt, pepper, onion powder, a few red pepper flakes and some turmeric.

I’ve been trying to add turmeric to quite a lot of my foods, its so healthy for you!

When the potatoes were tender I added diced fire roasted tomatoes, a little more broth, chopped kale and left that simmer for about 15 minutes and it was done!

I don’t usually eat a lot but I devoured a full bowl of this soup!!


White Bean and Kale Soup

Half a bag of small white beans, about 8 oz

2 cups diced frozen potatoes

1 32 oz carton chicken broth, plus more if you want to thin the soup as it cooks

1 cup fire roasted diced tomatoes, I use canned

About 1 big handful of chopped kale

Salt & Pepper to taste

A few red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp turmeric, optional

Soak beans, drain and place in soup pot along with the potatoes, pour in the broth and bring to a light simmer.  Add spices, cover and let simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir often.

Add tomatoes and kale, let the soup simmer lightly for another 10-15 minutes.  Add more broth as you prefer to keep soup from getting too thick.

If you make this soup I hope you love it as much as I do!!

Live well!