welcome fall.


I ache for the oppressive Savannah heat and humidity to fade into cool, clean, crisp days when the leaves begin to see a touch of rich warm vibrant colors and the skies clear of the summer filth and haze becoming brilliant blue once again.


And, I can breathe again.

There is nothing like a dutch oven filled to the brim of bubbly hot and fragrant tomato basil soup with specialty gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to welcome fall.

This glorious meal is on the menu this week.


I can't wait to smell the tomatoes and garlic drizzled with olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper roasting in the oven; see the plump tomatoes bubbling in the steaming pot of chicken stock; and pick the fresh basil and rosemary from the window garden giving the herbs a brisk chop thereby releasing their rustic, sweet aromatic smell, then adding them to the brimming pot where the flavors will mingle and marinade. 


It is mouth-watering goodness.

The best finisher to this gourmet soup is grated Pecorino Romano cheese. My boys would say a few toasted crunchy croutons but, me, I like to finish this soup with the deep nutty flavors of Romano cheese.


But, the culminating meal-finisher-extraordinaire is the crusty grilled cheese sandwiches where the 'crusty' equals rich sweet creamy butter, shredded Parmesan cheese, and lots of finely chopped garlic pressed together and lathered on thick sourdough bread slices. The glorious sandwiches are then filled with sweet smokey delicatessen ham and spicy chipotle cheese and a layer of flavor-bursting Roma tomatoes sprinkled with Italian seasonings.  



Can't wait.

Welcome fall. You've been a long time coming.


 Deeply entrenched into the Word of God as I continue an in-depth study of 1 & 2 Peter with a small group of ladies, I felt the urge for even more. Not wanting to miss any Bible study Beth Moore has to offer, because she takes me to the brink and sends me careening over into the far-reaches of the Word of God, I downloaded her brand new video series, Entrusted and ordered the companion study book. I will dwell in 2 Timothy. I cried when I read the introduction to the study.


Where will this study take me?

And there's more.


Just as summer moves into glorious fall I must move into a season of speak-able gratitude. Laying on my heart, pressing in hard, is the unmistakable desire to acknowledge the One who gives it all.

Every. Single. Gift.

Beginning in October, and for as long as necessary, I am going to record one-thousand gifts God has blessed me with. Inspired by the words penned by Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience and One Thousand Gifts, I, too, will pen one-thousand gifts.

I want to see Him move.

I want to know He is God.

I want to hear a fresh sound from Heaven.

I want to feel the very Presence of God.

I want to be changed.

Welcome fall. It's a brand new season.






august menu plan

August 2016 Menu

For August's menu it's all about bringing back the old and introducing some new. 

A couple old favorites that we haven't had in a very long time, maybe even a half a year or so is Evil Meatball Subs. These delightfully decadent and evil subs are made with ground chuck and - wait for it - wait for it -


Smothered in a peppery, spicy tomato sauce on crusty rolls, these subs are truly evil.

Chicken Enchiladas is another favorite we haven't had in months. So long ago the men in my house are asking, "When are we going to have chicken enchiladas again?" I promised to put them on the menu this month. They're an old favorite filled with chicken, green chilies, sour cream, and cheese smothered in more cheese. They are delicious!

Shrimp and Grits with Andouille sausage and red eye gravy. This is mostly an old favorite of mine. Jeff likes it and the boys will eat it (they eat the grits separate from the shrimp and sausage gravy - they're nuts! But, I still love them). This is a Diner's, Drive-Ins, and Dives highlighted restaurant recipe that I was so glad it was posted on Food Networks website. I made little change to the original recipe because it is just so good as is.

Spaghetti. I know, right? It's crazy, but we hardly ever eat spaghetti anymore. Just plain, ole spaghetti with meat sauce. So it's back on the menu.

Not surprising, I have one new recipe each week to look forward to: Smothered Green Beans, smothered with bacon and onions, of course; Funeral Potatoes. Seriously, I've never made this old time traditional side dish that people take to funerals - so I'm told. I do remember a wonderful dish served at Jeff's Dad's funeral that was yummy! I think it had cream cheese in it. It was a rich and cheesy potato dish. Wish I had the recipe. Balsamic Honey and Mustard Pork Chops, an exciting mix of flavors but very simple to make. Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken, I mean - come on, bacon and jalapeno and cheese - YES! And, finally, Blackened Shrimp with Cajun Garlic Butter. You had me at blackened. And if that wouldn't have done it - Shrimp!

Menu Plans | July 2016

July 2016 Menu Plan

Summer is for salads. No less than three main dish salads plus three side salads planned for the month of July. I will make extra Sunday morning Elevate breakfasts of Cowboy Quiche and Monterrey Sausage pie for us to munch on through the week for our own breakfasts. Lots of sandwich-type meals in store: Reubens, an old favorite - and super easy, Patty melts to die for, and a new recipe: a steak sandwich with grilled onions and arugula - yum! Simple fare like the new recipe of Shrimp with Honey Garlic sauce with a loaf of crusty bread for scooping up the sauce and a salad; easy on the budget with salads and breakfasts for dinner, easy on the preparation, or cooking like Jalisco Taco Salad, and just plain ole' good.

I decided not to shake things up this month because our lives are already shaking up elsewhere. Amidst the rampant changes, simple fare sounds just fine to me and adds to my calm.


50 States 50 Recipes | Alabama

I have begun my newest cooking project 50 States, 50 Recipes in which I research those iconic recipes each of the fifty states are often known for, such as, Key Lime Pie from Florida, Kentucky's Hot Browns, or Alaska's King Salmon...I'm perusing Pinterest, favorite recipe blogs, and pulling out my dusty cookbooks and adding those state recipes to our monthly menu, cooking up the new fare, and serving them for my families meal or even as a small group dessert. I haven't given myself a time limit, like all 50 states in a year, but, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes just about that to eat through all 50 states tastes. I already have three states recipes selected for the month of May. But, today I begin with...
First up, I baptized some chicken, as the tale goes, in an Alabama White Gold BBQ Sauce. I was inspired to create this tangy, peppery, non-tomato based sauce from quite a few different recipes I scoped out on the internet using the original Alabama White BBQ Sauce as a basic recipe. Alabama White BBQ Sauce is an iconic northern Alabama staple for various barbecue meats including chicken and pork, created in Decatur, Alabama by Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in 1925. Normally, a tangy BBQ sauce is not our families favorite but after one taste of the mouth-watering, basted-with-white gold BBQ sauce-grilled chicken, we were hooked. Super moist, smokey chicken grilled slow and steady, which we smothered in the sauce at the table. Delicious!
Alabama White Gold BBQ Sauce
2 Cups Mayonnaise (Duke's is best)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated, or prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk all ingredients together.

Use with Grilled Chicken: Pour half of the mixture over thawed chicken and marinade for 2-3 hours. Reserve remaining sauce. Grill chicken slowly, basting with marinade. Serve with remaining sauce. Store remaining in refrigerator.

 Alabama  |  Alaska  |  Arizona  |  Arkansas  |  California  |  Colorado  |  Connecticut  |  Delaware  |  Florida  |  Georgia  |  Hawaii  |  Idaho  |  Illinois  |  Indiana  |  Iowa  |  Kansas  |  Kentucky  |  Louisiana  |  Maine  |  Maryland  |  Massachusetts  |  Michigan  |  Minnesota  |  Mississippi  |  Missouri  |  Montana  |  Nebraska  |  Nevada  |  New Hampshire  |  New Jersey  |  New Mexico  |  New York  |  North Carolina  |  North Dakota  |  Ohio  |  Oklahoma  |  Oregon  |  Pennsylvania  |  Rhode Island  |  South Carolina  |  South Dakota  |  Tennessee  Texas  |  Utah  |  Vermont  |  Virginia  |  Washington  |  West Virginia  |  Wisconsin  |  Wyoming     

May 2016 Menu Plan.

May 2016 Menu

A busy and event-filled month ahead juggling our lives, maybe by the skin of our teeth and added to the mix a ton of new recipes because I JUST CAN"T NOT add new recipes to our family's lives and taste buds and repertoire. An anniversary celebration getaway, a boys-only camping trip, family delightfully invading our small, humble abode for the graduation celebration slash pary of the last of my Mom's grand children, John and Jarrod - finally! Besides the new recipes as I continue my tour of 50 States 50 Recipes hosting Kentucky, Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, I have three new recipes just because they sound good and different.

I love spending the time hunting down Pinterest and researching new recipes from food blogs or cookbooks. So often, I nudge the recipes to make them just my own, for our tastes, our likes and dislikes, expanding our palettes with things like Bacon and Eggs Fried Rice (with peas) with Chinese Chicken and Sausages or Bacon and Smoked Gouda Cauliflower Mash, both I believe, will be winners.

Gradually, I am filling my own recipe album, which as I type this I realize I need to have copies made for my kids' recipes books, full of delightful family favorites with main dishes, breakfasts, sandwiches, soups, appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, many of which I'm serving up in the month of May 2016.

april menu planning.

April 2016 Menu

After 5+ years taking a couple hours of time at the end of every month, sometimes over a couple days in 15-30 minute stretches, creating the next months menu has been a lifesaver. The menu solves the "What's for dinner? question that inevitably arises in the late afternoon after work when time has flown. The menu solves the "What needs to go on the grocery list?" question. Without a list shopping would be wasteful and costly. Meal-making would be frustrating and cumbersome. A monthly menu plan works!

The Color-coded key and how I prepare a monthly menu:

Color-coded key 

I've changed the colors over the years for aesthetic reasons but currently I have Date Night, Sunday Dessert, Special, NEW Recipe, Dinner, Elevate Breakfast, and NEW State Recipes:

Date Nights are just that, Jeff and I are on a date and Joan, John, and Jarrod fend for themselves. Date nights are imperative for our relational health. I put it on the 'menu' because, in the beginning when we first began date nights they were only once a month and it was the best way to put them in to our schedule. The boys have been pro-supporters of our date nights as it usually means for them frozen pizzas and binge television.

Sunday Dessert. Jeff and I host a small group at our home and I've been making Sunday dessert to share with our small group. If someone offers to bring a dessert I just ditch that Sunday's dessert, or make it the next week. I pull ideas from my wealth of dessert recipes, scour Pinterest for new dessert ideas, or consult recipe books as I have quite a few. While I have 'scheduled' Sunday dessert this month (April 2016) I am going to offer our group a sign-up sheet for bringing a snack or dessert. After reading Mark Ingmire's book, Small Groups that Work I realized I was doing our group a disservice by not 'allowing' them to participate in this.

Special. I probably should just call it what it is. Out to eat. Over the last couple months and beyond, we have been going out to eat after church on Sunday's. Here's why. Sometimes we get up early to fix breakfast for children's ministry volunteers, we attend church service, then we service with children's ministry the next service. Add to that we host a small group on Sunday. Then there is my pain levels which are sometimes non-existent, sometimes 1-4 pain level, and sometimes 5-8. I just don't know what I'm going to be facing. While I'm working full time, the cost sacrifice has been worth it. So we go out to eat if possible. If we aren't having small group that day for some reason or we're having a small group dinner then, of course, we don't go out to eat.

NEW Recipe. This is the fun part. I scour the internet, mostly Pinterest, which takes me to food bloggers who've created tons of fabulous recipes. Some of these new recipes have been "keepers" as my family calls them, and I incorporate them into our monthly, bi-monthly, or tri-monthly rotations. This month, an Angel Hair pasta with Shrimp recipe is sure to be a winner. I am looking forward to this Stir-Fry Chicken in a Chinese Garlic Sauce. Sometimes it is only one new recipe over the course of a month of great meals but other months it is one new recipe a week. After all, variety is spice...as they say.

Dinner. With year's worth of planning menu's, and a created recipe book that I continue to add to regularly, I fill each day with a dinner recipe. Favorites that we rotate each month, breakfasts for dinner, obscure meals we haven't had in months, sometimes years, our Family pizza night, our Homemade Taco night. Soups, pasta dishes, grill meats, crockpot meals, it's all up for grabs.

Elevate Breakfast. As I indicated above, Jeff and I prepare, twice a month breakfast for our church's children's ministry volunteers. Because everyone loves the food, and because some volunteers serve all morning at church, the children's ministry has recruited volunteers to cook for their - volunteers. Because we are also volunteers we reap the rewards of our service, too. I have found quite a few favorites and just rotate them the 2nd and 4th Sunday morning of each month unless we're out of town.

NEW State Recipes. The month of April 2016 begins a new blog series, 50 States 50 Recipes. I am researching those iconic recipes by state, those foods that states are known for: Key Lime Pie (Florida), Gumbo (Louisiana) and will incorporate those foods into our dinner recipes and dessert recipes over the course of the next year or so. I begin with Pennsylvania and Alabama.

How I prepare a monthly menu:

These are some of the questions I ask myself when planning a monthly menu: What activities are on the schedule that will impact dinners? Some of these might include Boy Scout campouts, Weekend getaways, appointments that will require the boys to cook dinner, etc. Knowing what's in the next months schedule is imperative for preparing the menu.

What recipes go on each month? Or, what recipes haven't we eaten in a long time? As I mentioned previously there are a few recipes we repeat each month, such as homemade pizza for Family Pizza night, homemade Tacos (with Jalapeno Poppers and without), breakfast for dinner (such as Omelets and Hashbrowns, or Biscuits and Gravy with Scrambled Eggs, or Pancakes/Waffles with Sausage). I might pull a smoked Boston Butt out of the freezer (we normally have a couple stashed from the bi-annual Boy Scout Troop 7 Boston Butt cooks) every couple of months which provides us with three very different meals plus lunches. Then, I scour previous menus, my recipe book, and begin filling in days. Basic plug and chugging. 

I don't duplicate recipes over the course of the month. I used to. When we were eating tacos once a week I would fill in tacos every Tuesday, but that was a long time ago. Now, it's a different recipe every day of the month.

It is from this monthly menu plan that I prepare my weekly grocery shopping list... 

menu plan | february 2016


Not many new recipes this month. But, I did go back for months and tried to bring some oldie recipes, but goodies, into our menu plan. I've been creating monthly menu plans since 2011, but only began storing them since 2012. While the colors may change every few months or so, they have evolved only slightly from the beginning. My menu planning process is pretty simple but it still takes about 2-3 hours to put one together. That may seem like an enormous amount of time to put a 'simple' menu plan together but it is an entire month plan, not week by week. Monthly plans relieve me from having to spend the time throughout the month that I probably just won't have on a set day, where as I can, towards the end of each month begin preparing the next months in one sitting, or in bits and pieces. Here's what I do:

1) I plug in Taco Night, Family Pizza and a Movie Night, Date nights, and any Boy Scout campouts, or weekend activities that may impact meals. We eat Tacos once a month and homemade pizza once a month and both are on Saturday's now. Once upon a time my homemade Tacos were once a week - and on Tuesday's for Taco Tuesday. But, - life.

2) If there are any meals I absolutely want again, soon, I'll go ahead and add those somewhere, usually towards the end of the new monthly menu.

3) Recently, because of my health, mostly, being so poor, Sunday's, after church we go out to eat. This can only happen as long as I have a job. Before this Sunday's were for those meals that like Sunday dinners: homemade soups with homemade bread, homemade Salisbury steaks with onion gravy and mashed potatoes, you know, those comfort food kind of dinners.

3) Because Wednesday's we have church (we serve up in Elevate, the kid's ministry at our church); the meal has to be something that can travel well because I bring Jeff's meal to him at church. For instance, Wednesday's would not be a breakfast for dinner night. Scrambled eggs or omelets and hashbrowns don't travel well. A casserole is a good bet or spaghetti, etc.

4) I visit Pinterest and my Food Love board for NEW recipes I want to try. There is usually one or two a month that will be a new recipe.

5) Then, I go back through my previous published menus and search for some good meals and just start plugging those in. I try to add salads if the meal doesn't have vegetables in the dish but some dishes, like my Italian Chicken Skillet which is on the menu for this week is loaded with zucchini, roasted tomatoes, and mushrooms, so, with spaghetti it is a complete meal. But, if I'm serving my Spicy Sausage Bundt, for instance, I'll either steam broccoli or make a Caesar salad to serve with it.

6) There is always a 'sandwich' dinner or two. This month there is Hot Italian Subs, Turkey Bacon Melts, and Patty Melts scattered throughout the month. Sandwich-type meals can be easier, sometimes. 

7) I make dessert almost once a week - for our small group on Sunday evenings. This was another reason we began going out to eat on Sunday's. Between my poor health, two breakfasts a month for the Elevate volunteers, and small group desserts, Sunday's became too much for me to handle.

And that's my menu planning. 

I grocery shop once a week, for the week ahead (usually on a Friday afternoon after work, but sometimes Saturday morning). With the menu all planned out, making a grocery list is a cinch. We only stock up on things when they are on sale and ONLY if it is something we regularly use. Because our dinners are from scratch, the type of sales the stores carry don't benefit us often. One thing we are considering heavily this year is purchasing a whole cow from a local grass-feed farm. While the initial outlay of funds will be costly, our weekly grocery bills will reduce dramatically on those 'beef-heavy' weeks.

October 2015 Menu.


Yes, it says September Menu 2015 but it really is October's menu. I forgot to change the month at the top. 

A bunch of new recipes to try this month: Pumpkin Bread (only because Elizabeth made this recipe while we were up visiting and I only had 1 piece of bread and I'm dreaming of this Pumpkin Bread), Bacon Onion Horseradish Mashed Potatoes (yum, horeseradish!), a couple of main dishes: Kielbasa, Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes Hash, Herb Roasted Cheesy Bacon Potatoes, and Chicken with Sundried Tomato Sauce, and then a couple more Small Group desserts: Country Apple Fritter Bread and Blueberry Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Coffeecake.

And a month chalk full of deliciousness!

august twenty-fifteen menu.


Typical month with several new recipes on tap, like White Castle Sliders, Garlic Parmesan Yellow Squash Chips, Barbacoa Tacos, and a couple others. Plus, some all-time favorites and new favorites, like Parmesan Meatballs with Spaghetti or Shrimp Scampi with Parmesan Garlic Mashed Potatoes- divine!

July was a month of very few date nights because we were so busy with summer activities - all good, but man, I miss our dates, which are back on the schedule for August.

july 2015 menu plan.


We have an interesting month headed our way with return trips home, short weekend trip, and a week long trip for Jeff and the boys. A couple of new recipes, all of which I am looking forward to making. I am making it easy on myself while the boys are gone to church camp and we are going out to eat a couple of times - unusual for us during the week - but I'm good with it. I'm also making super simple meals for Mom and I while Jeff and the boys are at Boy Scout camp.

We also have an 18th birthday to celebrate: Dinner out, maybe a cake (maybe not:), and Mission Essential shooting range!!! Really looking forward to that because Jeff bought me this sweet little shooter that even my rheumatoid arthritic hands can hold.